November 24, 2008

Multiplayer or Single Player?

Andrew Weymes (aka MrWeymes) Says: The Playstation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube era was primarily focused on single player gaming. Of course, Socom and Halo had many online players, but the majority of gamers were still playing games for the single player experience. However, it is apparent that multiplayer gaming is on the rise over the past few years and much has changed within the current generation.

Many games that have a solid single player experience—but no multiplayer—are often slammed for this alleged short coming; and even have points deducted in their review on gaming websites. An example of this is Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. While Uncharted didn't receive terrible scores, the inclusion of a multiplayer experience akin to Gears of War would probably have helped.

There are many gamers who don't enjoy multiplayer, and are concerned with this growing trend in the industry. Single player campaigns are getting shorter and shorter. While the quality of the campaigns is high, it's hard for a single player gamer to spend $60 on a six-hour experience; especially when developers focus their efforts on making the online run smoothly, having a good amount of maps, as well as weapons, and having a good selection of game modes. It's almost as if the single player experience has become secondary, which is backwards compared to previous consoles. Treyarch provided a prime example of this trend by releasing a Beta version of the multiplayer for Call of Duty: World at War as compared to a demo of the single player.

This generation is also seeing a rise in multiplayer-only games such as Warhawk, Socom: Confrontation, and to a lesser extent Left 4 Dead. While you can play Left 4 Dead by yourself, it's clearly made for cooperative play. If games like this become top games in the industry, developers will start to look at single player games differently. There is no sense in making an epic single player experience if it's not going to played by 1/3 as many people as this months multiplayer game.

There are pros to playing single player games, as well as multiplayer games.

Single Player Pros:

  • Storylines can draw you in, and make you feel for the character.
  • A good amount of single player games have a solid frame rate throughout the game.
  • Texturing and lighting effects are always better in single player campaigns.
  • Scripted moments that are shocking during your first playthrough.
  • The feeling of beating a boss by yourself.
  • Exploration.
  • A good soundtrack.

Multiplayer Pros:

  • Playing with people you know is usually fun. For people that live far way from each other, it's nice to socialize again.
  • If there is no lag, competing fairly against people from all around the world, or just competing against your friends can be thrilling.
  • Talking to real people during cooperative gaming brings a new level of strategy to the table when compared to AI team members.
  • Replayability. Many people only play the single player experience of a game once. Multiplayer gives you a lot more hours for the money you spent on a game.
  • Winning. It's always fun to beat someone else.

It's obvious that multiplayer is now a vital part of the video game industry. If you were to ask the average male, age 10-25 what Call of Duty is, he would probably know the answer, regardless of whether or not he plays that particular game, or video games in general. If you were to ask that same man what Lost Odyssey is, or Dead Space, or Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, he probably wouldn't know. The question is, what do gamers that spend their days playing video games, and talking about them on message boards think? Which kind of games brings you more satisfaction, single player or multiplayer? Which is more fun to play? Most importantly, where is the video game industry heading? Will single player campaigns become secondary to their multiplayer? Have they already?