Multiplayer is great. It brings people together and allows a very social experience in an environment that’s often perceived as being very solitary. We can now play games with our friends, or even meet new ones from around the world. Online multiplayer has been an addition to gaming that has improved its popularity and propelled it into the mainstream.
Games like Call of Duty thrive on MP, their campaign modes seemingly only there as a token gesture. Clearly very successful due to such high support from the devs and promotion, such games have their own culture and players have come to expect a quality multiplayer experience year-on-year.
But sometimes multiplayer is just out of place. There’s still demand for the single-player experience, and while some games benefit from an added multiplayer component it can outright damage others. Multiplayer is expensive and takes time to produce, meaning that time and effort that could be expended on the main game could suffer through the demand to build and support an entirely separate game mode.
Spec Ops: The Line was intrinsically a single-player experience. The multiplayer mode was totaly unrelated to main game, not even produced by same studio. In fact, the game’s lead designer hated it. He said in an interview that it was a waste of money, calling it “another game rammed onto the disk like a cancerous growth, threatening to destroy the best things about the experience that the team at Yager put their heart and souls into creating.” The game’s review scores suffered greatly because, for some reason, reviewers place high importance on the multiplayer modes of single-player games. Unfortunately this is the case for a great many games that outsource multiplayer modes, the tacked-on extras somehow discrediting the work put into the rest of the product.
But then, there’s the Mass Effect series. The first two games had no multpilayer and were certainly very single-player, story-driven games. When a co-op mode was announced for Mass Effect 3, fans were concerned that it would impact the game negatively, that the story would suffer because effort would not be spent on the main game.
And yet the multiplayer in this instance turned out very well. It was handled by a studio separate from the oe working on the main game but still a BioWare studio. Casey Hudson justified the inclusion of multiplayer in an interview with Xbox One Magazine:
“Even when we started working on ME1 it was clear that games were moving towards various forms of integrated multiplayer but we just weren’t able to find a way to implement it that made sense with the storyline and properly complemented the single-player experience.”
But with Mass Effect 3, we realized that it finally made sense. With the entire galaxy in a war for survival, it’s not just Shepard’s exploits that are interesting – there are battles all over the galaxy that would be cool to experience.”
ME3’s online mode was implemented brilliantly – it was well supported with strong servers. Weekly Operations kept players interested and encouraged them to play by presenting challenge. Co-op rather than competitive MP appealed to the fan base and free DLC provided even more incentive to play with an addictive system accessible all without having to play.
GTA V’s multiplayer seems incredibly fun, but it’s been plagued with problems from the beginning. It’s activation was delayed and did not coincide with the main release, and even when it did arrive there were complaints abounds that the game had erased people’s characters. On paper, the whole multiplayer side of GTA V looks great, but I can’t help but wonder if Rockstar should have dedicated a little more time to it rather than feeling the pressure to activate the service when it clearly wasn’t ready. Then again, perhaps it hadn’t been tested on such a large scale and they didn’t know.
Multiplayer is often included as a method to extend the longevity or replayability of games. With the current culture of trade-ins, developers and publishers are doing all they can to encourage players to keep hold of the games they purchase, and a lot of the time it works. Sadly, though, a game can often come out worse for it. It would be nice to see things like Spec Ops not tainted by a publisher’s sales paranoia. Sometimes, a game would just be better with time spent on the single-player experience. And if there’s room in the budget and enough people in the team, and it fits the tone of the game itself, then perhaps separate multiplayer modes can be included and enjoyed.
Join the multiplayer game of life with the author on Twitter @GeorgiaAmanda. Alternatively, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more pro-tier inquiries.