Not every game needs multiplayer.

There is an attitude I encounter occasionally from gamers regarding multiplayer in games.  Specifically, that multiplayer should be standard-issue in every game, and if a game does not have multiplayer, that is a strike against it.

I could not disagree more.

Multiplayer is a great thing, first of all.  It allows a constantly changing game experience for the players.  It can allow teamwork, backstabbing, strategy and raw power.  It lets gamers play with their best friends or with people from halfway around the world.  It can be a very, very fun thing.  But not every game needs it. I don’t think people know what they’re asking for when they demand that every game have multiplayer.

They’re asking for fewer games. Multiplayer takes time and it takes money and it takes a good chunk of each.  Multiplayer titles need map support, code support, matchmaking support, online capabilities (that actually work), art support because people want more than one character to choose from, and lots and lots of playtesting.  This is all assuming you have a game that lends itself well to multiplayer, like an FPS.  What if you’re working on an RPG?  Do you want to have a separate multiplayer campaign?  Split-screen co-op?  Should Player A’s character be able to travel to and join Player B’s game?  These are all questions that need to be answered, and then after they’re answered they still need to be implemented.  Adding multiplayer to a game can seriously increase development costs and time.  One of the easiest ways a developer can avoid going over time or over budget on a project is to avoid multiplayer.  For a small start-up or indie developer, than can make or break a studio.  If gamers seriously want every game to have multiplayer, fewer games will be released because it will simply be too expensive for developers and publishers to keep with the current release standards.

Also, some games simply don’t need a multiplayer component.  Would Final Fantasy be improved with multiplayer?  Would Zelda?  What about Planescape: Torment?  Monkey Island?  Okami?  Portal?  (Okay, maaaaybe Portal.)  As gamers demand more and more multiplayer, these excellent single-narrative games will be less and less common.  As a fan of immersive games with developed storylines, this idea makes me very sad.  I want well-written narratives and long stories in my games, and I am perfectly willing to sacrifice multiplayer to get that.  I don’t care what you do with your first-person shooters as long as I still have my adventure games!

Besides, who wants to have an important story point interrupted by some 12-year-old boy calling you a gay noob lagger?

4 Responses to Not every game needs multiplayer.

  1. Amie says:

    See, I find the story lines boring. I don’t want a game to tell me a story. I skip that part of the game completely. The story is already written. The gamer in that world just goes through the motions. I want the online experience that’s 100% unpredictable, that’s fast-moving and unique. That’s why I don’t buy games unless they have multi-player. But I understand some people like having the game dictate what happens or telling them a story with a full blown plot. It’s just nice when a game can come out and have both. My husband enjoys the single player. I enjoy the multiplayer. One game gives us both. Again, I understand that it can be expensive for studios. That stinks.

  2. Do you also find books and movies boring? Serious question. I really enjoy getting through a well-crafted story no matter what media it’s in, plus the potential that games have for actual decision-making and multi-liner storytelling is something I find really interesting and compelling. I was always that kid at recess reading a book instead of playing tag, though, so I’m biased! However, when I see people complaining that, say Condemned 2′s multiplayer felt lazy and tacked on, I want to scream “OF COURSE IT WAS! Condemned is a survival/action horror franchise!” Horror does not lend itself well to multiplayer. The whole point of horror is to make you feel scared and alone, and adding multiplayer completely destroys that.

  3. rhiandmoi says:

    I actually can’t think of any single player games that wouldn’t be better with a coop campaign. But that is because ever since I played Super Mario Galaxy and I was introduced to little star buddy, I am all about coop campaigns.

    So, I am a huge proponent of games having the ability to be coop. I don’t think the whole game needs to be coop capable, but I definitely prefer for there to be at least a few special campaigns where you have an assistant character that has the ability to be a playable character.

  4. Amie says:

    I find movies morning, yes. I usually skip out on seeing a movie whether it be in a theater or at home unless it gets incredible reviews, is a topic I like, and I feel like spending 2+ hours watching it. That last one alone nixes the majority of the movies I might watch. And I only listen to books (audiobooks) by authors who can get to the point.

    I was always that kid running around playing tag, doing gymnastics, dancing, moving, doing something craftsy, etc. Had they had audiobooks on an iPod when I was that age, I would have “read” more of them. And neither of which is a lack of intellectual curiosity as much as it is that with books and movies, the world is constructed and pre-supposed by the author, writer, director, etc. I prefer to construct my own reality in that sense. I was one who was into self-discovery. On rainy afternoons, I could come up with things to do on my own. Just throw some crafty stuff at me…or tell me I have nothing and I could hash out my own play or dance moves. And as a teacher of the arts, today, I encourage my students to discover that world for themselves because it has a lot of value and intrinsic meaning.

    I agree that not all games put out are made for multiplayer. I get that 100%. I can only speak for myself when I say that the only games I look at have multiplayer for the reasons stated above. And even then, I cut that list down to titles that I’m interested in (I don’t like the cutesy stuff, i.e.). What can I say, I’m selective.

    As far as coop, it’s fun being able to watch a couple friends play a game together on the same screen even if it’s a game I don’t particularly like. But it doesn’t make or break my decision to invest my time in a game or not.

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