Local Multiplayer is Life, Not Just for Offline
Multiplayer, it’s been a staple of gaming ever since Pong was released way back in 1972. It’s simple, a number of players, usually up to 4, can play together in a game or against each other. Thinking of many of the recent great games and they’ll likely have multiplayer. Originally to use multiplayer you needed real life friends to play with, which could lead to arguments or feelings of accomplishment, depending on if you were a team or enemies.
In 1993 Doom was released for PC, it was noted as being a controversial game for it’s gore and violence, it was also the first game to allow multiplayer to be played over a network of computers. Follwing its footsteps later by Quake 2 in 1997, people from all over the world could finally play against each other providing they had a decent enough connection for the time and a decent PC. This was the beginning of online multiplayer.
This new method began to grow more popular over the next few years, although it failed to do much on consoles, where multiplayer mainly lied. The Dreamcast allowed gamers to play against each other in select games, but it wasn’t something the majority of gamers could do.
Fast Forward to 2002 when Microsoft launched their Xbox Live service for their first console, the Xbox. For a certain amount of money per year, Xbox owners had an online platform in which they could play against others, have a universal friends list, and utilized on most games. The most notable being Project Gotham Racing 2 and Halo 2.
The advent of XBL has made online gaming a part of global pop culture, even more so with casual console owners. The Xbox reined supreme in the online arena console wise. Now at the present more or less every current console or handheld gaming system on the market has games that you can play online with people. While, it’s still inferior to online PC gaming, console based online multiplayer has really flourished since Xbox Live was launched almost 6 years ago. This can only be good news, except the fact that it’s affecting local multiplayer in current-gen games.
More and more games are having limited local multiplayer, compared to their online multiplayer. The worse cases don’t even have an offline multiplayer at all (i.e.: GTA IV and Metal Gear Online). Last year’s hit Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare featured more maps in online multiplayer than it had in its offline multiplayer and the ‘perk’ system made the game unfair for everyone except the owner of the game (unless said owner plays without any perks or upgrades).
That’s just one example, but it does seem that developers are heading toward a more online-filled direction regarding multiplayer. The thing is, it’s not hard to blend the two together, as shown by three examples, Harmonix’s Rock Band, Bungie’s Halo 3 and The Behemoth’s Castle Crashers.
One thing all these games have common is that they allow offline and online players to play together. In Halo 3, 4 offline players can create a party with up to 12 online players or go into the game’s matchmaking system to compete with other online players. While in Rock Band, offline players can play in a band with other online players. Finally in Castle Crashers, multiplayer is the main theme. A player with an offline knight can play with other online players (well not at the moment for most of the time, but that’s a different subject).
Surely this system of play could easily be applied to any multiplayer game right? It’s not as if it’s a strain on the system or connection, so why not? GTA IV is obviously a popular title, yet they neglected to let offline players try it out while playing with their friends at the same time.
It’s a pretty well known issue, but I thought I’d just write my two pence on it. It’s only my opinion, don’t take it as serious business.
So to all you game developers that might be reading this, online multiplayer is a great thing but please don’t forget about offline gamers.