Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 20, 2015

Email: The Single Player Experience

I’ve been playing a lot of Skyrim recently because it is wonderful to have this grand, open world RPG experience. Both my husband and I play it because even though we’re playing the same game, our experiences are different. He’s playing as a Nord joining the rebellion focusing his attacks on melee combat while I’m playing as a Kajiit fighting for the Imperials specializing in archery and magic and we swap hints and experiences and of course, weird glitches Skyrim is known for. (though many will tell you the glitches rarely hamper anyone’s enjoyment and if anything they’re funny as hell.

Yet after the success of Skyrim, the industry responded by making the sixth Elder Scrolls game an MMO. Why? Because for a while there, it seemed like everything was turning into an MMO because every company was hoping to make the next WoW and make tons of money off subscriptions. Nobody wanted the Elder Scrolls online. Anyone who wanted a fantasy online RPG would just go back to WoW because that’s where all one’s friends are. Dragon Quest did the same thing with #10 which was going to be on the Wii and WiiU but never came stateside.

But I am tired of the industry trying to shove multiplayer into games that have no business having it. One of the best examples was Bioshock. It sold fairly well and for many it was nice to have a good long single player FPS. It had great atmosphere and the story was integrated into the game instead of a bunch of CG cutscenes, but there was this small annoying vocal minority saying how the game’s lack of multiplayer meant it wasn’t worth of the accolades it got (eye roll) so what happened? We got a quickie cash grab sequel that just retreaded the first game in Bioshock 2. Sure it was half assed and lacking a lot of the charm of the first, but it got the multiplayer. Of course the game didn’t sell as well as the first but thankfully Bioshock Infinite came out and felt like a proper sequel once again focusing on a good single player experience, going to a new world with new gameplay mechanics and didn’t feel the need to shove multiplayer in everyone’s face.

With the popularity of CoD, the industry seems to think that it’s all about the multiplayer namely because they hope that multiplayer and DLC will keep games from ending up in the used bin at Gamestop. I remember when the first Halo came out. Sure it was fun multiplayer. I recall people having Lan parties with their Xboxes but many will tell you how much they liked the long single player campaign and many like my husband were annoyed that the sequels trimmed down the story mode in favor of more multiplayer stuff.

But what annoys me more about the Playstation and Xbox games is the lack of local multiplayer. My husband and I want to play games together on the couch and all too often we find that there’s no split screen. Hey Game Industry, not all of us are friendless losers who live in our parents’ basement and whose only friends are the people online. Though one friend made the point that it’s possible the reason local multiplayer is cut out is so that more people will buy their own copy, console and online subscription thus they make more money.

Though now we’re seeing that the online multiplayer only thing doesn’t work. Remember Titanfall? The big must have Xbox One exclusive? Sure like a lot of industry games it sold well the first couple weeks but now, no one’s playing it. I mean it’s online is barren to where the developers had to bring in bots for the handful who were playing. I have a feeling the same thing will happen with Evolve where people will get tired and move on and the servers will be barren.

But at the same time you got Nintendo who is all about local multiplayer but still won’t actively put online multiplayer in games other than Smash Bros. and Mario Kart. I mean there’s no excuse for Mario Party 10 to not be online at this point. I moved and most of my friends who’d play this locally with me don’t live nearby. The same goes for the recent Marios. If Miyamoto is all about putting multiplayer in all these new Marios, it’s high time he let us play online. I’d love to play New Super Mario Bros. and even 3D World with a group of friends online. If they’re worried about trolls or people being obscene, then limit it to people on the friend’s list.

So what it comes down to is that single player should not be sacrificed just to shoehorn multilayer in. Local multiplayer should never be cut out of a console release and if you’re going to make an online only multiplayer game, it better be something really amazing.

They don’t want to do local multiplayer on PS4 or XB1 because they would have to scale down the graphics. Game consoles are about local multiplayer. PlayStation and Xbox consoles seem more like dumbed down PCs because of that. I can understand no having local multiplayer with PCs because who wants to gather around a desk? (There are some great local multiplayer PC games BTW, but you have to go far back in time. M.U.L.E., Archon, and Star Control 1 and 2 to name a few.)

I think you nailed it at the beginning. You said that even though both you and your husband are playing the same game, you are having different experiences. This is exactly how Minecraft started becoming popular. During Alpha Minecraft, before multiplayer, we would play the game and then talk about our different experiences. Everyone had a different story to tell! A sign of a good single player game is when two different people can have different experiences.

Some examples of single player games in the past that had very different experiences depending on who played them:

Wing Commander 1

Ultima 7 (and earlier Ultimas)

Star Control 2

Damn, I’m having a mind block. All your usual suspects.

Civilization! Oh, that is a big one.

Any turn based game.

RTS single player also had different experiences. Remember, you had choices of what units to build. People did different things.

Paradroid is a big one for the Commodore 64.

Minecraft really is the pinnacle example of this though. I can watch someone play Minecraft and see their personality. Youtube helped make Minecraft popular.

Most single player Industry games are ‘scripted experiences’ which are not fun to talk about. “Hey Billy Bob, did you see that cutscene? OMG.”


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