When consoles gained the ability to communicate with the internet and connect gamers across the globe, it changed the face of video gaming forever. The multiplayer experience was no longer limited to a couple friends in the same living room, and was expanded to include a limitless amount of opponents and partners with whom we are able to connect both socially and through a common love of the same type of digital entertainment. It was a breakthrough that was embraced worldwide but for me, it quickly became something that looked better on paper than in practice.
My inspiration for writing this piece came from the recent announcement of a multiplayer mode in God Of War: Ascension. Admittedly, the idea is awesome and the released footage looks great but I can’t help but wonder about development time being taken away from the single player and funds being used for servers rather than added staff talent. This debate has become increasingly popular across the web and fans of the franchise have been reassured time and time again that the campaign will suffer no sort of negligence. I hope that this is true, as it would be a tragedy for such a great IP to not reach its full potential because of an online mode that will most likely be mediocre, enjoyed for a few years, and eventually shut down because of non-activity. The multiplayer will have a finite shelf life whereas the single player is forever.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that there are certain games that benefit tremendously from an online multiplayer mode. Games like Call Of Duty and Halo would have never reached their level of popularity had it not been for online play. Most FPS games would be lackluster shells of their former selves if connectivity ceased to exist. I also think that a lot of single player games handle an online component wonderfully by incorporating challenge modes with leaderboards. The magic of the latest SSX title comes from score chasing with friends and in the Batman games, its incredible to look at the top of the leaderboards and rank yourself against the best. The UGC in Infamous 2 is another example of online done right.
The ‘hours per dollar’ argument: Last year saw the release of Skyrim, a game that had been commended for a number of features including value. With games being so expensive, the discussion of time vs. money becomes inevitable. Is it fair that we are paying the same $60 for Skyrim’s 500 hours of gameplay and God Of War 3’s 10 hours? Some people don’t think so and this idea is one of the driving forces behind multiplayer modes being added to games that don’t necessarily need them. My argument is supported by the idea that there are hundreds of theatres across the country that are charging $15 for 2 hours of 3D film. By that math, 10 hours for $60 sounds like a good deal excluding the fact that the game is ours forever and the movie is just a memory. For me, the value comes from the gameplay and the experience, not from the time spent on it.
At the risk of relating only to the minority, 90% of my experiences with games online have been ruined by dropped connections, lag, or ignorant gamers that serve no purpose other than to destroy my fun. This can be remedied by playing with the friends you actually know and I love the idea that online play allows you to game with people that cannot physically travel to your residence, but for me, the magic of playing on the same couch is never be captured. Furthermore, in games that rely on fast paced action and timing (i.e. fighting games), it is an all too common problem for advanced combo strings to be impossible online. Even EVO champions have complained of such inconsistency between local and online multiplayer modes.
What do you guys think? Will the multiplayer mode in God Of War: Ascension hurt the game or make it “worth the money”? How would you feel about a multiplayer mode being announced for The Last Of Us? Weigh in with your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.