Extra Punctuation: Mixing Single and Multiplayer

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Mixing Single and Multiplayer

Are you a game developer thinking about adding multiplayer elements to your single player game? Well stop it, it's stupid.

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Silly, Yahtzee, the cake is a lie. Everyone knows that.

OT: I really, really enjoy co-op missions. But I do see the need to have single-player only campaigns and not thrust co-op mode down our throats. I wish the Battlefield series had co-op multiplayer missions. That would be so awesome, and maybe then I'd try them at a higher difficulty.

EDIT: Dare I say it?

I'm so disappointed in the FEAR series. I had such a scary good time with the first one way back in the day. I got really excited when I heard about the second one coming out, then forked over my hard-earned $60 to play it. And it turned out to be a silly over-the-top circus of monsters going BLOOORREEHEHEOAAHAAHH in my face and a naked filthy woman trying to jump me.

Now with the 3rd instalment, I'm not even going to bother playing it. Any semblance of creepiness the series had left is ruined by the multiplayer.

*sigh* my only hope is that game developers will eventually use up all the bad ideas for horror games and eventually come full circle back to the good ideas.

I understand your point,Yahtzee, i really do.
But then again,some people just like to play with friends , to a game with no care in the world for the plot or the immersion, and just have fun and having something to chew on when the chat goes dry.

I don't think the problem is so much mixing single and multiplayer, its doing it in a hamfisted manner where you just sort of shove co-op stuff into your single player game.

Take Demon's Souls, the messaging system, the bloodstains, the white phantoms all add to feel of the game. The threat of having a black phantom invade while you're playing in body form. Teaming up with someone as a blue phantom to get some revenge on a boss that pissed you off. It all works very well, and adds to the atmosphere of the game rather than ruin it.

As a lover of co-op I agree. Stop trying to put story down my throat, I want to shoot dudes and make jokes with my friends. That's the brilliance of Portal 2's co-op. It takes away the story focus, puts in that puzzle and brief joke focus of the first game and doesn't make me stop talking to hear everything GLADOS is saying.
I love story in singleplayer, but don't put it anywhere near the co-op campaign. And don't be a dick and make the single-player and multi-player campaigns the same unless I can skip the cutscenes or they're so hilariously bad that I can mock them with my friend.

Yahtzee:
Why don't you just add a mariachi band soundtrack and give all the characters sombreros?

Someone must make this mod.

OT: Unfortunately for you, Yahtzee, most people are not social misfits and actually enjoy having some shared experience with other people over which to converse. Because of this, the studio system will continue to have co-op and other multiplayer games dominate the single player experience. The only reason that brief window of single player experience really existed in the first place was because of technical limitations.

We'll get single player back though.. just as soon as gaming becomes as wide-spread as reading.

I wouldn't hold my breath.

I actually do like co-op games a lot. But the thing is, it works better if it's done through a separate storyline (Portal 2 for example). There are some potential abilities to go for co-op from originally single player storylines though (P1 plays story character, P2 plays random grunt from that level on P1's side). This way you avoid having to make extra story for P2 to make sense there, they're just a soldier who is moreorless not completely necessary to be there... they just are for reinforcements or cannon fodder to the story chars normally.

Here's my take.

I had a friend for over a year. He was always trying to get me into Magic, DKR, and SMB multiplayer stuff, and I utterly resisted. The last co-op game experience I liked was FFVII with my brother, and that was 15 years ago. Now, multiplayer can **** bricks. I don't need other people to muck up my gaming experience. Adding co-op gameplay to what should be single player campaigns just strikes me as straddling the fence. You can't decide what will sell, so you **** it all up by being mediocre. Look at Catherine; it's purely single player, with no inkling of need or want from multiplayer nuts, and I'm more excited for that than any MAG, CoD, or whatever stupid shooter they make so online nerds can earn kills and spam grenades.

Hell, the attempt they made at co-op with DQIX was fun...for five minutes. Purely single player campaigns should be able to standalone. Pick a market for your game and stand by that decision.

Surely there are some games with decent co-op focus, but still playable single player. I like what Gears of War did with co-op...sometimes separating the players so they could deal with separate issues, or tackle the same fight from different angles. Sure, only one player could go each route so you might "miss out" on one of the experiences, but it was an interesting idea. Now, if only that story had a little more depth...

I wonder how WoW fits into the "multiplayer can't have good story" thing. Pretty well I imagine. I know I never read the quests and have no idea whats actually supposed to be going on, but is it true for everyone?

castlewise:
I wonder how WoW fits into the "multiplayer can't have good story" thing. Pretty well I imagine. I know I never read the quests and have no idea whats actually supposed to be going on, but is it true for everyone?

With WoW, your not forced into questing with people, bar a couple of quests which are generally one offs with no story or one offs at the end of an epic questline. WoW is an example where one can have his cake and eat it too. Mostly. Until the alliance burns down your quest hub, or people start farming your kills.

Edit: I read every quest, and back when I played, I loved the lore of the game, I was a certified Lore-Whore.

I completely agree. Another aggravating thing today is how when they package the eggs into the boxes the put a single player quail egg in with the multiplayer ostrich egg, and it just screws up the balance for the ones that enjoy eating eggs on their own. In english, it feels like games nowadays focus more on multiplayer content, using the single player bit to just give the loners something to do, or to unlock a silly hat when you play multiplayer.

I ....don't think anyone is pretending to portray Fear 3 was a horror game. It just felt like they promoted it as a shooter from....... Day one.

Man, I miss Hankman. Even HE'D be jealous of that one.

Not really disagreeing at all but I would like to say that the cake joke alone will probably drive him up a wall.

I can't do anything else than agree. Singleplayer is for a single player and multiplayer is for multiple players. Nothing messes up a story more than someone else blabbering during the whole thing.

Also, sadly this has been spilling onto PC as well (which is my only refuge) and here's there's even less sense of having a two player coop (or 4) seeing as unless at a LAN you are far away from each other. One does not play games like L4D for the story.

P.S. The painkiller doesn't shoot "lightning", it's more like a laser and I remember this from playing it a bunch of years ago. *legs it*

I think this is just an expression of the old split screen multiplayer that used to be so much fun. I was really excited when online tech became common-place because I used to love playing against my brothers while admonishing them for staring at my screen (while I stared better at theirs). Unfortunately playing online with someone will never be the same as playing in the same room and unless two players start playing at the exact same time it gets even worse. Look at Portal 2's coop. How can you play that with someone who has played more levels than you?

I have to disagree with Yahtzee on this one. The way I see it, whether or not co-op will work in a story-driven game will depend on on the people you play with. It's not very different from watching a movie with friends, excepting that a friend can't screw up the pacing of the story by being bad at a movie (unless he's possessed of an unfortunate tendency to sit on the remote control). If you and a friend are both taking an interest in what's going on in a movie, you won't interrupt it to quibble over poor acting. If you find that you're taking the piss out of it more than paying attention to it... well, I can think of plenty of movies I've enjoyed for just that reason.

Speaking more specifically on Fthreear, I don't know that 'co-op focus' is really right for the game. The impression I'm getting is more that the intent was to give you one play through as P.Man with the option to have a friend drop in as P.Fettel, then to have you go back and play through as P.Fettel to get the other ending. Bear in mind, it's not as though omnipresent AI-controlled companions are anything new, here they've just made your AI companion more powerful than usual and offered the option to have a friend drop in and take over for the computer. With a little tweaking almost any companion character could make a viable drop-in-co-op character. Elika from the Prince of Persia reboot springs to mind, along with some others, but the most personally applicable example I can think of is Trip from Enslaved. When I was playing through it a friend of mine would drop by, and it basically became a mini-series for him; He'd show up, I'd catch him up on anything relevant that he'd missed, and then he'd watch while I played through the storyline. If they had given Trip a more active role, with the option to have my friend play along, we would have been all over it, but the story wouldn't have suffered due to his absence.

Games are [for me at least] 100x more fun when played with friends, we regularly say to eachother how more games need co op campaign, and we even stoop to bad games just because they have a co op focus [LP2 and L4d]
I understand that games should have single player, and not mix up the mechanics by forcing you to see the co op, but co op is just more fun.
Surely the primary focus of a game is the 'game' aspect? And aren't most games just more fun when played with other people? If you want story you read a book, if you want a good time you play, if you want a really good time you play with friends. If you have good friends they don't get in the way of the story, you make fun of it but still retain the ability to follow along what's happening.
Yes companies are struggling to divide the two effectively, but I must just be one of those weird people who would prefer Fallout or Crysis if you could play through the story with some friends.

3 Cheers for Yahtzee!

Hip Hip Hooray!

Haha but yeah, I totally agree. I loves me a good, engrossing story. Recently got Crysis 2... ugh it's just not that good. I mean the physical gameplay is ok, the graphics are great, but it's not that compelling. I think some of the best FPS games I've played in the last year or so are Cryostasis, Metro 2033, STALKER: Call of Pripyat, and... hm... I can't really think of another FPS that was as interesting as those 3. OH!! Penumbra/Amnesia! Those games were great fun.

wow, first time in a while I correctly predicted what EP was going to be about. Totally agree too. I guess in these days with games becoming more and more mainstream, they're more frecuently considered a group activity rather than a solitary one. Personally, I spend most of my gaming time with friends lately, but I still hate it when those jerks keep skipping all the cutscenes and talking over the dialogue >:(.
I downloaded the Limbo demo recently and I just KNEW I wasn't gonna get anywhere near it until I was alone, or it would have lost all effect.

Did anyone else have an ungodly horrific mental image of Yahtzee in a wedding dress by the end of this column?

As someone who is notoriously out of the loop of contemporary gaming, this is a trend I can at best follow from a bit of a distance. However, a few games with such tendencies are now officially old enough that I can afford them and this has got me thinking on an issue that few people seem to consider when focusing so tightly on coop design: Lifespan. The thing is, how long do publishers really think they can keep those servers going? Oh sure, if your product turns out to be the shit, the coop man's TF2, if you will, then that thing might go strong for years on end. But what if that doesn't happen? Huge amounts of trust in your product aside, this is going to be the case for most of these games. For most of these titles, just one or two years down the line they'll have to shut down servers, or there might simply not be enough people using their service for a newcomer to reasonably enjoy it.

Oh well publishers, too bad. At least you still have the single player campaign you can sell to people. Wait, no you don't. Guess that means nobody will ever buy your product again, ever. I'm increasingly perplexed at just how adamantly hopeful developers and publishers are about the coming success of their games. It seems they're so goddam convinced the thing will take off immediately that they're willing to load it with enough baggage to risk a complete crash.

Case in point, I recently picked up Splinter Cell: Conviction. I played through the single player campaign, then I wanted to try coop. I enjoyed the game, and I was unironically interested in seeing more. But I couldn't. The game made loud-mouthed promises that I would be able to find just the perfect tag-team partner through a special service on their site, but that thing had apparently long since stopped working. I tried random matchmaking a rough half-a-dozen times, and every single time I was paired up with some shade of russian psychotic, who'd run off and take down every single enemy in sight in what was a clear display of mastery through repetition while I was still busy reading the basic objectives and figuring out where to go. Yeah, no. Now Ubisoft isn't exactly a small player in that market, and their product had still died in less than a year. Now imagine the game didn't have those five hours of single player fun that justified my purchase. Add another six months or so if you're optimistic, and boom, that game has reached a point of being virtually unsellable. Nobody in their right mind would touch a game you can't even play. Less than a year, people. Now if it had LAN support, that'd be a different affair, but you axed that in favor of your DRM. Was it worth trading long term sales for an ill-fated battle with pirates?

Different example, the original Diablo. Now I missed that gem first time around, on account of the fact that I was six years old back when it was released. But roughly 2 years ago, I bought that game and played through the entire thing with my brother. The sole reason I picked it up no less than twelve years after release, was because I knew I'd be able to play it, even cooperatively, without hassle. My brother remembered the possibility to create a spawn copy for local multiplayer from when he used to play with one of his friends back then. I did my research, and bought the game a little later. Call me pessimistic, but I don't see a whole lot of recent games reach that kind of longevity.

Edit: Fixed a few typos.

SammiYin:
Surely the primary focus of a game is the 'game' aspect?

That's kind of like saying surely the primary focus of a movie is the visuals. If by game you mean a board game or a card game, then yeah the game is the point. But video games are an interactive medium. Thinking of them simply as games is a disservice to what they are and can do. I think of Call of Duty online as just a game but I think of Amnesia: the Dark Descent as an [/i]experience[/i].

And aren't most games just more fun when played with other people?

For me, rarely. Plus I know very few games, and of them, not many are either not playing the same games as me (that have MP) or simply none of us can get online at the same time to play.

If you want story you read a book, if you want a good time you play, if you want a really good time you play with friends.

I think reading a book is a good time lol. But honestly as much as I read, it's not the same as experience a good game with a good narrative. I just finished the latest Game of Thrones book Dance With Dragons and it was extremely good, but I punctuated much of it with being on my PC playing some games or doing other stuff. 950 pages takes a loooong time to read and can be tiring so often it's fun to relax and play a game instead. I would be sad if I couldn't ever play a game that goes beyond pew pew! Explosionzz! I say that because I just started Crysis 2 and it's not that fun lol.

Anyway I don't mean to pick all of what you said apart like that, but mostly I'm just trying to get this point across: different strokes for different folks. I definitely think the gaming market is big enough to have some games with fantastic co op and some with fantastic SP and some with fantastic MP, but games should consider what route their taking from the start. I have, at one time or another, thoroughly enjoyed co op and MP (mostly when I was a lot younger playing N64) but my tastes and preference is now for good SP.

DeadpanLunatic:
-Huge Snip-

Different example, the original Diablo. Now I missed that gem first time around, on account of the fact that I was six years old back when it was released. But roughly 2 years ago, I bought that game and played through the entire thing with my brother. The sole reason I picked it up no less than twelve years after release, was because I knew I'd be able to play it, even cooperatively, without hassle. My brother remembered the possibility to create a spawn copy for local multiplayer from when he used to play with one of his friends back then. I did my research, and bought the game a little later. Call me pessimistic, but I don't see a whole lot of recent games reach that kind of longevity.

Just need to say that I totally agree with you. First off that finding the right co op partner sucks monky scrotum, and not all of us have friends who have the same schedule and interest in games as us AND is at a similar level of competency in the game (to make it enjoyable).

The other thing is, SPAWN COPIES ARE THE BEST GOD DAMN THING BLIZZARD EVER DID!

Seriously though, I installed spawn copies of Starcraft on anyone's PC I could and we had lots of fun playing together. There's many games out now that I wish I could do that with, primarily PORTAL 2. Seriously, no local co op if you bought "only" 1 copy on PC, but consoles can? Plus the fact that most games have removed LAN play. UGH.

online multiplayer, competitively anyway, is not something I jump at quickly
I do play online MP for familiar series, but I hate it when the single player totally gets the short end of the stick

It's like being stuck at some excruciating wedding reception with a lot of extremely drunk and raucous relatives who are trying to get you to join in the conga.

LOL I wouldn't wanna join in either, doesn't mean I'm anti-social ;p

Richardplex:

castlewise:
I wonder how WoW fits into the "multiplayer can't have good story" thing. Pretty well I imagine. I know I never read the quests and have no idea whats actually supposed to be going on, but is it true for everyone?

With WoW, your not forced into questing with people, bar a couple of quests which are generally one offs with no story or one offs at the end of an epic questline. WoW is an example where one can have his cake and eat it too. Mostly. Until the alliance burns down your quest hub, or people start farming your kills.

Edit: I read every quest, and back when I played, I loved the lore of the game, I was a certified Lore-Whore.

Did you solo a lot? I pretty much only play in groups with friends using voice chat and it is not conducive to reading quest boxes.

It's kind of disappointing that Yahtzee didn't discuss Demons Souls any: a game that really successfully mixed single and multiplayer (I am always eager to give DS a quickie). Though I think From Software would agree with Yahtzee's general sentiment though. The story telling in DS is very unconventional. A moronic onlooker who has never played the game would mistake DS's story for being shallow and simple, perhaps even non-existent, as it pretty much just sets up why your hero is there. But once you get into the game, you end up finding the world is full of tons upon tons of interesting and intriguing lore that really pulls you in. This is one reason why it ended up working for DS, since you can enjoy all of the lore of the world without risking getting it ruined by the interaction of other players.

Overall, I think that adding multiplayer elements to a single player game trying to tell a linear story is bad. But this doesn't mean developers should stop trying to fuse the two different gameplay elements. I think that they just need to be cognizant of how it might impact their story, and experiment with new ways of telling stories in video games to make mixing single and multiplayer work.

castlewise:

Richardplex:

castlewise:
I wonder how WoW fits into the "multiplayer can't have good story" thing. Pretty well I imagine. I know I never read the quests and have no idea whats actually supposed to be going on, but is it true for everyone?

With WoW, your not forced into questing with people, bar a couple of quests which are generally one offs with no story or one offs at the end of an epic questline. WoW is an example where one can have his cake and eat it too. Mostly. Until the alliance burns down your quest hub, or people start farming your kills.

Edit: I read every quest, and back when I played, I loved the lore of the game, I was a certified Lore-Whore.

Did you solo a lot? I pretty much only play in groups with friends using voice chat and it is not conducive to reading quest boxes.

Unless I was in an instance, I never quest with people. I'll talk to people over Teamspeak/vent/mumble/what ever crazy contraption we would use, but I'd always quest alone. Questing becomes boring and just as long with more people, in my opinion. Plus, I could never go at my own pace.

I think some genres lend themselves better for mixing multiplayer and single player experiences. Games where the focus is more in the action than the experience and story can blur the line pretty effectively.

Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed are good examples of games designed to have a single player mode integrated with multiplayer, and I think Borderlands, Saints Row 2 and Left 4 Dead are pretty good too; because they all share a single characteristic: the story is secondary. They can add nods and stuff around for people that like to get story via content, but their focus is in the gameplay, not in an extended, overarching story, that requires the attention of the public.

That is why games like Resident Evil 5 and Peace Walker are not examples of good design.

Wow he didn't mention Brink. Then again Brink didn't even have much of a story to begin with, it was literally just "Oh those guys up there get all this cool stuff we should rebel". The story of each mission was done by voice overs during loading, and each cutscene was about the soldiers arguing, even though none of them are ever established and are all nameless. The horrible model design also detracted from it as well, but everything else was just so bad, the gameplay the story etc. etc. It was the only game I hated because I payed full price for it and it was so shit and half assed, probably to accomadate for the multiplayer.

I think F.3.A.R. just did it badly, it's worked in other games, WOW is a multiplayer game with a narrative, and I've liked co-op in games like Perfect Dark, Halo and Resident Evil 5. It is true that if your with a friend you'll probably focus on the story less but good game play still holds up even without a good story.

Fear 3 also wants to have a story?

What game did you play? Fear 3 barely had a story. The number of plotlines from previous games that were dropped was epic.

Good gameplay, but they should have put co-op in another campaign.

I only bought (and got mah friend to do the same) F3AR because of the Co-Op...
I don't really have much interest in the FEAR franchise... well I bought the first part during a Steam sale like a year ago but never played it but I'm always looking for a good Co-Op game and it was a blast... so that would have been at least 2 less sales without it.

By the way, I won (as Fettel) by about 1000 points, it was hilariously awesome and laughing ensued xD

I do the same for a lot of games by the way... for instance Lara Croft: Guardian of Light, Hunted: Demon's Forge or Dungeon Siege III would be two other examples.
And I also visit this site often to check out what new games might have CoOp and are worth looking into: http://www.co-optimus.com/

There's games that I get for their amazing SinglePlayer experience, mostly the ones that have a great story to start with... Adventures, RPGs and the likes, games like Batman: Arkham Asylum/City, but there's a lot of games out there that I only got/am willing to get because they either have CoOp or a good Multiplayer. And honestly... which shooter (aside of maybe Portal) in the last few years was worth getting for it's "amazing story"? They usually tend to be about pointing a gun towards the bad guy and pressing the trigger anyway...

(Oh yeah, we played on PC with headsets using Ventrilo and a few kilometers of a physical barrier between us... dno why he mentions "console games" specifically)

Seems like Yahtzee wants every game to fit in the same hole for him. Multiplayer games are like sports. There's no story needed. Single player games are like books, story and art are paramount.

Sports, i.e., multiplayer FPSs are really popular right now. Books, single player campaign games, aren't as hot, but they're still out there. I don't necessarily want sports in my books or vice versa.

However, it can be done. Demon's Souls is a good example of mp in a single player game that works, even if a lot of people kind of hated it. It didnt' change the story or force you to engage in it, but it was there and it was a pretty neat feature.

I doubt it will happen, but I wonder if a day will come when Yahtzee either tires of or fails to find something to complain about?

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