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Editorial   

Rage Quit - Death of the Single Player

Get your multiplayer out of my single-player games!

As wonderful and awesome as the internet is, it really fucked things up for gamers like me.  It wasn’t really an issue in the early stages – that short period of time before it was as all pervasive as it is now.  Consoles remained offline for the most part, with only a handful of games offering any kind of online component.  Online gaming was for the PC crowd, not the console kids who enjoyed a far more streamlined and simplified gaming experience. 

Let’s be clear on one thing – I am not against online, co-op or competitive multiplayer.  Not every game can be a solely single player experience and I’m okay with it.  I hold no ill will towards franchises like Call of Duty or the plethora of MMOs out there who wouldn’t even exist without the benefits of people connecting over the internet.

But please, for fuck’s sake, keep your multiplayer out of my single player games.

E3 was particularly depressing for me this year, with historically single player affairs like God of War smugly showing off its new online multiplayer component, while other, more recently turned multiplayer franchises like Dead Space celebrate the obliteration of what made them awesome in the first place by going further down multiplayer hole.  Hell, Far Cry 3 looked fantastic, but was wounded by its disastrous multiplayer showing.

I find Dead Space’s move towards multiplayer particularly perplexing.  After tacking on a clusterfuck of an online component to the otherwise stellar Dead Space 2 – a mode that I’m pretty damn sure has no fans that aren’t blathering idiots and began the process of alienating fans – why would you decide to integrate it even deeper?

Co-op is something I enjoy in action games like Gears of War.  That’s a franchise that was designed to be played with another brother in arms, but history will plainly show that horror games – a genre that excels by making the player feel increasingly isolated – doesn’t do well when you bring someone along for the ride.  Just ask Resident Evil 5.

EA is adamant that this move was made with nothing but good intentions. “In general we're thinking about how we make this a more broadly appealing franchise, because ultimately you need to get to audience sizes of around five million to really continue to invest in an IP like Dead Space,” said Frank Gibeau in an interview with CVG.

"Who the fuck is this guy?"

It’s understandable that a publisher would want a game to sell as many copies as possible.  If the game doesn’t turn a profit, then it becomes impossible to rationalize its continued development.  What I don’t understand is how multiplayer is the answer.

Creating multiplayer functionality is not cheap.  There are extra development costs, servers to upkeep and patches to issue.  All this additional cost actually means that the game now has to sell more copies in order to be profitable.  Keeping Dead Space 2 a single player only affair would have actually made it more profitable.

At this point publishers ask, "Well how are we supposed to do DLC if there is no multiplayer?"  Stop your fucking whining and release actual expansion packs; perhaps new missions and levels that actually add something to the story.  It’s been done plenty of times with successful single player franchises like The Elder Scrolls.

Which brings me to another point – if you’re so damn gung-ho about adding multiplayer, do so in a game outside of the main continuity.  I have a theory that the folks at Bethesda were so damn tired of people asking for multiplayer in their Elder Scrolls games – a series that really only works if the player is the focal point of the world – that they decided to release The Elder Scrolls Online. 

This looks really familiar...

“There,” they said.  “You fucking happy now?  Think you could let us work on the next game that’s going to destroy hours of your fucking lives?”

The need for an Elder Scrolls MMO is a mirage in my opinion.  People think they want it, but once they get it, they’ll want their controlled, “I’m the center of this universe” single player experience back.  And gamers like me will be smirking, just humble enough to not say, I told you so.

You know, fuck that, I’ll say those words with gusto.  And I’ll do it when Dead Space 3 doesn’t make a profit either, because EA sunk so much money into a game mode that isn’t likely to bring in more fans than it ends up losing because of it.

But in the end the stubborn executives will refuse to believe that they were wrong, that multiplayer is still somehow the answer and that they shouldn’t look to perhaps try to change the business model.  No, the pure single player game in the AAA game space is, for all intents and purposes, dead; replaced with a festering zombie-chimera of multiplayer modes shoved down our throats.

It’s enough to make me rage quit.

Agree?  Disagree?  Add to the discussion by sounding off in the comments section below!


 

Comments

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

06/28/2012 at 12:42 PM

I agree with a lot of your points Jesse. To disagree first though, I felt that playing RE5 co-op made the game a lot more fun, but it still did sacrifice the tension that is supposed to come with RE. That said, the Lost in Nightmares dlc still scared me a bit...

Anyway going back to my original point its kinda sad to see a franchise like Dead Space get into the MP realm. I saw some of Dead Space 2's MP and while it wasnt bad, it was definitely unnecessary. I was under the impression that people liked Dead Space for its creepy single player, and to see EA add co-op to the series seems completely counter intuitive. 

As you said though, theres a place for co-op in series that are designed for it, and I hope we dont see any more examples of this in the future. I mean, thats like saying "Hey, lets make Metroid Prime 4, but with co-op, and Samus has a new friend whose a bounty hunter too" That idea sounds so cheesy to me and takes away the whole point of being Samus. Lets hope that idea come to life, but we all can agree, a satisfying Single Player can be more than enough as long as its quality.

Michael117

06/28/2012 at 01:11 PM

Nice to see you up on the soapbox again J-Bone, this is an excellent installment to the series. Excellent F-bombs too, they were not in short supply lol.

I was disappointed to see the multiplayer gameplay demo for DS3. When I saw it play out at E3 I thought to myself that the multiplayer portion I was seeing was just a wannabe Gears of War with the dialogue from Bulletstorm. Nothing kills tension and erases horror like a couple of enraged bros back to back yelling out, "Fuck! Goddammit! Shit! Die!" while they plug human enemies in the chest with projectile weapons. That multiplayer demo wasn't Dead Space. It was some frankenstein heralded down by an exec who thought it was necessary to change the formula. Just because it looks like Dead Space, has the character models, the color schemes, etc, doesn't mean it's Dead Space. They don't get it. They're not playing to the series' strengths with this multiplayer. Instead of playing to it's strengths, they're assuming those very strengths aren't good enough to sell, so they cast them aside and go back to the drawing board.

I'm not saying Dead Space 3's multiplayer won't be a good action experience. It's a AAA game and AAA games by their nature are usually pretty polished and solid, so it might just be a good third person shooter experience, but it's not going to be a good Dead Space based on what I've seen.

I come from a similar angle as you, I don't have anything against online games, competition, or co-op. My favorite competitive game of all time is Team Fortress 2, my favorite co-op experiences of all time have happened in Halo 3 and Portal 2. The thing I don't like is that decision makers have tunnel vision and only see this one trend. Multiplayer is a good thing, some people do it really well, and it can be excellent if you design an experience around it. But, it's not the silver bullet, it's not the only thing gamers want. When you sit down to design a game, multiplayer shouldn't be a requirement, it should be an option. Just like when you design or remodel your kitchen, getting granite is just one of many options. Or when you sit down to write a book, your imagination is the limit, and writing a crime drama is one of many options, it's not a requirement. It's all up to you to make the game however you want, that's how it should be.

I wouldn't say that single player gameplay in AAA game design is dead, but it's been suffering for a while now. Decision makers only see the one trend (multiplayer), and that tunnel vision is what makes single player designs suffer.

Anonymous

06/28/2012 at 08:05 PM

 Okay, I'm not a huge video game player, but even I have to agree with certain points you made about Dead Space and the jab at RE.  These were supposed to be Survival Horror.  You againt the Metric Ton of whatever the hell was out there.  Oh, BTW, your supplies are scarce, so make every shot and health pack count.  When I've played with a buddy on RE5, it went from survival horror to tactical shooter with crap for ammo.  If I want to shoot monsters with a buddy, I'll throw in some Left 4 Dead and have a good time slaughtering zombies to my heart's content.

As far as some other games go, CoD is a solid Multiplayer setup, but I'm probably one of the few that actually bought the latest one to see the single player story.  I wanted to see if Soap made it, What happened with WWIII, and if we finally got that sonofabitch that caused all of this.  But it feels like the storylines for single player is getting to the point where they aren't even trying.

BrokenH

02/25/2013 at 04:42 PM

As much as multi-player can be fun with friends, I would like to see "single player survival horror games" again. The only thing about Dead Space 3 I can say in its' defense is the co-op is optional and Carver isn't even with Issac on a solo run. (Though the main protagonist may bump into him as the story dictates)

As for RE 6 though I love it for the bombastic ridiculous action movie cheese it is,  it's not scary in the slightest. It makes those olden days of running around with useless Ashley Graham seem less annoying somehow.

I miss the days RE could at least do jump scares right. I know part of the reason is the fact I'm "jaded" but the littlest things can kill fear quickly. (Such as text that pops up asking you to kill x-amount of enemies or collect x-amount of key cards. Little ques like that remind us we're merely playing a video game.)

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