I’m a Killzone addict, a Black Ops nut, an Assassin’s Creed madman, a Burnout whore, a Transformers regular and an Uncharted dreamer. So competitive multiplayer definitely makes up a large part of my gaming indulgences but yet recently I’ve been wondering about the whole situation with developers/publishers and co-operative modes.
With the dramatic and arguably sudden success of online competitive multiplayer, games studios seem to feel they have to slap on a team deathmatch-capture the ‘thing’-domination-free for all sticker before they actually release a new game. Otherwise, they fear consumers won’t deem it a worthwhile purchase with a decent amount of value for their hard earned cash. Most of the time the multiplayer stuff they hastily come up with is unoriginal but perfectly functional, and while you can’t really see any reason why you should play it, the developers feel they’ve at least ticked off that magical box and suddenly it is a ‘full and fantastic product’.
To any developers out there who may by some strange luck be reading this; the reality of online gaming is that most gamers will pour their portion of multiplayer time into only one or two titles. The fact of the matter is that these competitive gaming mammoths demand an awful lot of time from the average player.
First up we’ve got to get our head around all the intricate menus and customisations, and then find our feet on the actual battle ground, learning maps, tricks, which weapons we are good with etc etc. And that’s even before we’ve begun putting practice in, because very few people will continue to plug away at multiplayer on a game they suck at.
So time is an issue perhaps more in the sense of an investment, and yet publishers seem to think that we will flock like feral animals to whatever coloured plonk of multiplayer they produce each month. They don’t seem to get it. We get attached to our online existence on certain games (those special one or two where you feel at home) and publishers expect us to just abandon them and all those hours of learning and experience just so we can start the whole process all over again on their game!
It’s completely ridiculous considering these guys are supposed to know what it’s like being a gamer. Worse yet is that fact that the new multiplayer they want you to jump into isn’t even that different from the one you’re already happy playing! This is why genuinely original online game modes draw the crowds, look at Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood – Ubisoft’s best selling game of all time.
So it is here that I make my case for a slight left turn in the development world. Studios should look to co-op modes for that edge. They should pay attention and notice the unexploited success of co-op survival modes and get creative with it. They should look at why Zombies floats so many boats. They should recognize that players get a real buzz when fellow gamers team up and unite in competitive multiplayers.
When folks collaborate and work together towards some end they get a real sense of humanity and satisfaction. Humans are social animals, it’s an observation many have made and one we can’t escape. Half the appeal of the competitive multiplayer world is the fact you know that it is a social universe as much as it is a death dealing one.
Obviously we will continue to enjoy and evolve our tastes for online action (not that kind I hope), and a handful of titles each year might draw us in for many months, but look at what Valve is doing with Portal 2, at what Naughty Dog are doing with Uncharted 3 (why are they one of the few people giving split-screen the time it deserves?), at People Can Fly with Bulletstorm and so on. Am I the only one who thinks this is where game developers should be looking at this stage? Just think about how terrible the multiplayer on Dead Space 2 is…and how fantastic a separate co –op campaign could be.