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Ridicolous notions: Multiplayer unlockables
Posted on Monday, September 8 2008 @ 14:39:59 PST

OK, we're in for a big one today, as we are assaulting one of the most set-in-stone notions that lives and prospers in the video game world, yet is absolutely ridicolous when you actually take a look at it: Multiplayer unlockables.

Or, to be more specific, games that are primarily multiplayer, but where you need to play through the singleplayer game in order to unlock essential parts of the multiplayer game.

Example? Well how about almost every fighting game ever made? I mean, take Tekken, for example. Tekken is definitely a multiplayer game first and foremost. 99.9% of those buying a game in the Tekken series buy it with the intention of playing it with one or more friends. The characters are definitely an essential to multiplayer. They and their moves are in fact the entire game. Yet, for some reason, you are forced to play through the singleplayer game if you want all the characters, even if playing it alone is entirely uninteresting to you.

Not only is it entirely flawed from the very get-go, but it turns more ridicolous once you realise that the game is more or less stuck to your home, as well as constantly having to take up memory space as long as you plan to ever play it again. You can't just bring the game itself to a friend, you also need to bring a memory card... Or even the entire console. Unless all of your friends like to invest five-ten hours (or maybe even more...) each just to have access to what should have been there in the first place.

The only thing even close to explaining this phenomena is the mindset that the player should somehow have to "earn" the full rooster of characters or weapons. Say what? Since when is "earning" a new character through singleplayer gaming relevant in any way to multiplayer gaming? The only thing it does is taking away time you should instead spend to develop and earn - note the lack of quote marks - the actual multiplayer skill it takes to find out which characters you play best with in general, which characters are working as a counter as other characters, etc.

And in pretty much every multiplayer game ever made, the only way to become substantially better against human opponents is to play against human opponents. Sure, repeating motions on difficult tricks has its place, but that's what Practice Mode is for. The real issue is to figure out if trick X should be used at all, and if so, when.

Besides being irrelevant, it's also a misplaced elitist attitude to say that only the "grinding way" is the right way. If you like grinding things, sure, fine by me, it's a free country. But just because you spent all those hours going through every tedious mission in Soul Calibur 2's Weapon Mode, doesn't mean you should be able to look down on those who'd rather just have Sophia and all her weapons available from the start. Nor demand that they must do the same.

So, developers of future fighting games (I know, I know, not a single one of them are reading this blog.), hear my plea: Let the only multiplayer unlockables be superficial stuff, like skins, clothes, a wall of medals, a neat ending scene, a coupon for a popsicle, whatever you like. Just stop forcing people to play through the single-player game, and let instead the gamers decide if the single-player game is fun enough in itself to play through.
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