Friday, May 18, 2012

Random Shots: The Single Player Aberration

  • A few years ago, Raph Koster famously asserted that single player games are an abberation. His contention is that games are naturally a multiplayer activity and that they are destined to be so again, through the ambiant connectivity of the internet. Most console games are an alone together experience now due to achievements, leaderboards, and the like. But though his intention is not as dramatic as his words imply, there are those who believe that single player is fundamentally counter to the definition of gaming.

  • One need look no further than the launch of Diablo III to see how deep the incursions are into that style of game. D3 is a de facto multiplayer game that allows you to join with just one player. You couldn't play it offline no matter how hard you tried. Yes, they have their reasons. But it primarily comes down to Blizzard protecting their revenue stream. If you're not online, you don't have the opportunity to pay the auction fees.

  • Even when games are single player, most companies feel the need to bolt on multiplayer components. Not necessarily to make money from the players, though Bioware has done just fine with Mass Effect 3. No, they want to keep these discs out of the used game channel so that people are forced to purchase new longer after the game launches.

  • I don't play single player games just because I can't find a multiplayer game to get into. Sometimes, I just want to experience a world on my own. Sometimes, I want to solve a puzzle without any help. Sometimes, I want to lead an army and conquer a world without worrying about how balanced that is against other players. Sometimes, I want to be the hero, and I don't need anyone around me to make that any more real. Sometimes, I want to play alone. Having the world watching over my shoulder doesn't add to my experience. And as with Diablo III, sometimes it makes it much, much worse.

  • If you want a much better takedown on the topic, you should read Ian Bogost's article from Gamasutra. When you have designers like him on our side, it is easier to hope that all is not lost.


© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

6 comments:

  1. I was very skeptical of ME3's multiplayer, but it turns out it's pretty darn good. It's only coop, but quite fun.

    D3 is darn good with such an infuriating DRM. Yet I will still play it and grumble angrily every time I have lag.

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    1. Really? That's not what you said about ME3's multiplayer on Twitter originally.

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  2. I just can't take that argument seriously regardless of whether it's Koster making it or John Q. Blogger. There are tons of single player games out there and have been since forever. They may go away in order for companies to combat piracy or force a subscription model, but that's a business decision and nothing to do with game design itself.

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    1. Yeah, I really don't understand that. It feels like people mistaking their personal preferences for universal truths.

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  3. What Games Are says it best:

    Single Player Games Are Not An Aberration: http://www.whatgamesare.com/2011/01/single-player-games-are-not-an-aberration-trends.html

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    Replies
    1. That is a really good link. Thanks, Anon.

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