The Scourge of Multiplayer
Posted on Friday, November 18 2011 @ 15:29:55 Eastern
This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.
The biggest game of the year has just been released. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has been available to purchase over retail counters for a few days and now seems as good a time as ever to discuss how multiplayer has progressed from humble beginnings to the powerhouse it is today.
Way back in 1958, Tennis for Two was developed on an analogue computer and is arguably the first example of a multiplayer game. Other early multiplayer games include other sports games such as the renowned Pong, shooter games like Spacewar! and racing games like Astro Race (thank you, Wikipedia). There have been massively multiplayer games, there has been multiplayer on lone console units. Ever since there was gaming, multiplayer was a factor.
Services like Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network have made multiplayer not just a nice extra, but a powerful reason to buy a game. So powerful, in fact, that games which don’t lend themselves to multiplayer have been given that component to appease the fans and make a grab at that extra market. I’ll be honest; I’m not much of a multiplayer gamer. I dabble in some Gears Horde and some Halo Firefight; I do frequently co-op games with friends but that’s about the depth of it. You may notice a theme here: it’s the competitive side I stay away from. While competitive multiplayer isn’t completely the water to my hydrophobia, I do tend to steer clear of it for the most part, and this is why the recent shift in attention to multiplayer somewhat concerns me.
Call of Duty proves that there are a lot of people out there willing to pay for multiplayer. It proves it so hard that those people will pay £45 for the game and an additional £35 for the yearly Elite service they have rolled out with the third Modern Warfare. Ok sure, Call of Duty is a multiplayer game with a single-player campaign tacked on, but that doesn’t mean the same rule applies to every game, right?
Absolutely, there are still plenty of single-player exclusive games like L.A. Noire and the upcoming Skyrim which focus completely on the storyline and single-player gameplay… I think I may have to take back the ‘plenty’ back there, though, as the only other major game I can think of that fits that criteria is Batman: Arkham Asylum/City. Of course there are smaller titles such as the fantastic but underappreciated Alice: Madness Returns and the surprisingly sexual (given the rating) Bayonetta which are only single-player, but you could say that about the first Uncharted.
Franchises like Uncharted, Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto and even frigging Bioshock started as single-player games and then caved to consumer pressure to include a multiplayer component in later iterations. A couple of games like Halo: ODST and Rage even included a separate disc solely for multiplayer!
Sometimes these components are surprisingly innovative like the Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood Free-for-All mode where players need to stealth around blending in with NPCs until they kill their target. Of course the targets are doing exactly the same thing and incorrect kills change your target, so it can be quite challenging. Let’s face it, though, most multiplayer portions of games are cookie cut from other, more established multiplayer games.
I’m sure you’re wondering by now what my problem is; if a game can take care of single-player and multiplayer fans, then why shouldn’t it? Well, my concern is that most developers can’t afford to have one team develop solely for the single-player and one for the multi. There will invariably be a loss of focus on the single-player and there will be a conflict of interests as far as gameplay goes. A good single-player game requires different elements than a good multiplayer, and it’s hard to get both of them right - it’s not impossible, but it is difficult.
So which type of game suffers most? Obviously this issue is decided by the developers and publishers, but which would you focus on: a game where the sole focus is to get through once, and perhaps twice to get all the collectibles, or a game where the focus is to continually play a series of small matches and then later buy add-ons in the form of extra maps or weapons to continue playing the (easy to develop) small matches?
Another issue is the long term impact on a franchise’s overall feel. It’s hard to remember now, but way back in 2003, the original Call of Duty – developed by Infinity Ward – was released. You may recall that this game was based in WWII and focused entirely on single-player. Even when multiplayer was introduced in the second game the single-player story remained important. Compare this to the state of the franchise today and you’ll see that the six-hour campaign is there to justify its own existence.
Now that Mass Effect 3 has confirmed multiplayer, will it become a Bioshock 2, or an AC: Brotherhood? Only time will tell, but I sincerely hope the story doesn’t suffer to placate the masses.
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Kingdom of Violence
Posted on Tuesday, August 2 2011 @ 14:33:41 Eastern
Once upon a time the citizens of a fair and prosperous kingdom enjoyed a pastime. Their hobby was a combination of story-telling, make-believe, music, and action. Practitioners would don costumes and play out specially created stories with each other; some stories would have swordfights, others gunfights, others still would have no real world violence and would instead focus around more tranquil story elements. No matter the content the participants were normal people engaging in an interest. Those who partook in this hobby occupied a niche not understood by those outside, they would often be ridiculed and even more often used as scapegoats.
For you see, fair reader, this fair and prosperous kingdom could only be described as such if viewed from afar. As with most things, distance creates a smoothing effect allowing the observer to miss the ugly bumps lining the surface. The kingdom, when scrutinised, was just as flawed as any other and suffered intermittent incidents of violence. Sometimes the perpetrators of these violent acts would also be practitioners of this misunderstood hobby and these instances would be smothered by media outlets claiming a direct causal link between crime and pastime.
Take, for instance, the occasion when a practitioner of this hobby was queuing for a particularly rare and coveted item and was stabbed whilst standing in line. For any reasonable person it was clear the victim was involved in an argument and could have been waiting to get into a night club, such was the insignificance of the pursuit itself. For the media it provided reason to decry the existence of the hobby and denounce its participants as ticking time bombs. Take also the many occasions an unstable person has committed atrocious acts in the name of whatever warped cause they are a creator and champion of. Regardless of their precise involvement with this hobby their actions are more often than not blamed on the pastime in some tenuous manner. Did they use it to train themselves how best to fire a weapon or attack a person? Did the violence they played out in a safe and pretend manner during their make-believe sessions corrupt their formerly innocent mind? These situations are unlikely to be true. There are numerous skills to be picked up through play fighting – after all, there has to be a reason it is so instinctive so many little boys – but talk of ‘murder simulators’ is absurd and overblown. The claim of corruption is not just absurd; it ignores the countless practitioners who do not proceed to acts of violence and is insulting to say the least.
This kingdom was home to many well-known people who did not care about protecting the feelings of those involved with the creation and use of this hobby. Their concerns lay with the destruction of it. They would crawl out of the woodwork every time their noses twitched with the possibility of connecting a tragic event with the evils of this pastime and would shout from the rafters with nary a thought for the validity of their claims. They have tried to connect the sudden deaths of youngsters with extended play times when it is clear the cause was an obsession which could have just as likely grabbed onto any other pursuit as the one we are discussing here.
The kingdom responded to public concerns by restricting who could enjoy the hobby classified by age. The restrictions made sense by reinforcing the fact that adult plotlines should be enjoyed by adults but only served to further stir the nest by irritating the youngsters now unable to enjoy their favourite pastime and prompting detractors to state it wasn’t enough. The truth was though, that those who saw fit to pin any crime to the heavy lapels of this kingdom’s activity appealed only to those narrow minded and intolerant enough to be incapable of accepting progression in entertainment and for the rest of the kingdom’s inhabitants it felt disrespectful of the victims of the crime as the true cause remained unaddressed while the common scapegoat became a new victim.
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Posted on Monday, July 25 2011 @ 15:48:47 Eastern
Far away in the kingdom of Pire-at-Sea the evil ruler Arfor concocted a diabolical plan. He would create cloned citizens to infiltrate the kingdoms of Ninmar, Migat and Sogi. These clones would work for the citizens of the kingdoms for free providing the sorts of home help services the kingdoms’ citizens ordinarily paid for regularly. Anyone who wanted to could simply import a clone and avoid paying fees to the huge home help companies of Ela, Blizz and Capla.
This continued for a while until the kingdoms’ rulers began to fear not only reprisal from powerful lobbyists who wanted a monopoly on the helper industry but also an economic downturn if such large companies were to fail. They all countered in their own ways: Ninmar developed equipment only registered helpers could use, Sogi locked down the kingdom in an effort to block the clones from entering at all and Migat decided to use the threat of destruction of the clone labs. A threat which Arfor laughed off knowing his land was well protected against military invaders and the clone labs were well hidden. None of these measures had any effect and the clones continued delivering free service to anyone who requested it. Some continued to respect the basic economic principle of paying for goods and services received but the situation was becoming dire.
To keep generating profit the companies increased their rates, thus punishing legitimate customers while having no effect on Pire supporters, nor on Pire itself. The companies introduced their own anti-clone measures. They issued each helper with unique codes to call ‘home’ every hour and withheld required services if this did not happen. The measures they introduced only succeeded in further inconveniencing the legitimate user when Pire-at-Sea residents broke the code phrases.
The three kingdoms and three companies refused to bow down and made the most of any minor victory by creating examples of whatever Pire-at-Sea resident they managed to catch. The unfortunate few were rounded up and held in the stockades to be humiliated but their admirers were as numerous as their detractors. When they were released they were faced with financial ruin after the various fines and fees had been levied. This hard ass approach garnered support from no-one but the most ardent of Pire-at-Sea detractor. After all, helper fees were so high and helpers who had been trained and registered before going into business for themselves were hamstrung and inconvenienced wherever possible. How could anyone see the Pires as true bad guys rather than people standing up to unjust corporations? It did, however, lead to revenge attacks.
The offices of the companies would be infiltrated to cause disruption and gather information. Even the sovereign palace of Sogi was entered and the commotion kicked up as a result ground the kingdom to a halt for weeks. We now exist in a curious universe where followers of Arfor and Pire-at-Sea can easily circumvent any protective systems the kingdoms or companies create and where non-registered helpers are subject to so many rules that it is impossible for them to work to the same level as those registered to the companies. To ‘unlock’ these ‘second hand’ workers an extra fee must be paid to the relevant company. The worst thing? These so called extras used to be considered part and parcel of proper service!
Our connected planet has become a noose around our neck when helpers cannot function independently, instead needing a constant connection to base. And what if that connection is severed? The fully paid helper can only do half a job.
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Hacking and Piracy
Posted on Sunday, May 1 2011 @ 16:56:50 Eastern
Unless you’ve been living under that special rock occupied by people who still haven’t seen Toy Story you’ll be aware that Sony, for the last two weeks, has majorly dropped the ball regarding their online service. While Sony’s... read more...
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What's so bad about video games?!
Posted on Wednesday, January 12 2011 @ 11:42:31 Eastern
We hear it all the time: “Doom caused Columbine!”, “Mass Effect is depraved!” and “Oh my god the swearing! My poor, delicate ears!”. As gamers, dodging such attacks is pretty much a way of life; hell, take a look a... read more...
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Games and Stories
Posted on Monday, October 11 2010 @ 14:12:43 Eastern
I just finished reading an article on Cracked.com. For the uninitiated, Cracked.com is a comedy website which allows its readers to supply the site with comedic lists. Not only does this supply them with a very decent sized audience, it also supplies... read more...
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Piracy: The Reality
Posted on Saturday, February 13 2010 @ 15:45:38 Eastern
Piracy has been with us for centuries. True pirates: the ones who cannot be mixed at the aesthetic level with zombies, ninjas or robots terrorised the high seas. They pillaged and took whatever... read more...
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The technological limits of consoles
Posted on Sunday, January 24 2010 @ 08:40:13 Eastern
After reading an article in 360 Gamer (issue 72) I came to wonder just how much life is left in today’s generation of consoles, this is an expansion of the issue that article touched upon.read more...
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The Need for an 18
Posted on Monday, November 16 2009 @ 14:00:00 Eastern
In the past week footage from the upcoming Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2 (or MW2 for short) was leaked. It depicted a terrorist act and the tragic deaths that resulted. This footage has prompte... read more...
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Games Are Not Art: A Rebuttal
Posted on Thursday, October 22 2009 @ 06:45:51 Eastern
Melaisis made the meandering claim that games are art but not in the traditional sense. This is an idea that I can get on board with but his reasoning to lead to such a conclusion cries out to be debated.
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