Developers are Killing Good GamesBy Rick Givens | July 3, 2011 | Editorials | 7 comments | Share
With every new release that comes out, someone is always saying how one game is just like another, or how one game is like the first in the case of a sequel. Comparisons are made, and inevitably someone says one game is not as good as this game or that game. We’ve reached a point, for some time now, where the well of original ideas has been tapped pretty deep.
Unfortunately, one of the ways companies attempt to keep things fresh is by changing up the multiplayer experience. Too often, however, changing things up simply ruins the game. We as gamers do not need something new and exciting in online play. We go online to compete against other gamers, blow off some steam, and have a good time. Some, like myself, may skip single player campaigns entirely in favor of online game play.
The worst thing a company can do is eliminate competitive multiplayer entirely in favor of a Co-Op storyline. Having a Co-Op mode is useful if you have a particularly difficult scene you can’t get through, if you can find anyone to team up with. But it should serve to compliment the single player campaign, not stand as the only online experience.
In both the Battlefield and Call of Duty series, no one can doubt these stand as the pinnacle of what games could be. Not without faults, but both are very popular, with a huge fan base. In them you can find a fairly solid Single Player Campaign, and both have a … wait for it… standardized competitive player versus player mode. Lately the Call of Duty series has delved into Co-Op with the Zombie maps, but did so not at the cost of multiplayer, but to add on to it.
But you see, that is the point, both of these games offer a standard multiplayer component. They bring nothing new to the table in terms of game modes. No matter what term you call it, a deathmatch is still a deathmatch. And that is what gamers want.
Games such as Borderlands, or Operation Flashpoint: Red River, where the online play is limited to running about in the Single Player campaign with someone other than an AI bot is simply lame. How many of you will truly go back to a Single Player storyline once you have completed the game? Years later perhaps, but not anytime soon. What keeps a game fresh is continued support, either from the community or the developers, and the kind of multiplayer experience we all crave.
Taking a look at Steam, we can see the top games played are consistently Team Fortress 2, Counter Strike, various games of the Call of Duty franchise and a few games of the Battlefield franchise, you can even find Half Life 2 in there. What is so “groundbreaking” about these games, some of them years later? Absolutely nothing, they all offer the same online game types, albeit with different names. There are no multiplayer lobbies, no server controlled match making, you are not limited in choices about which game mode you will be able to play. It is simply sign in, search, and start fragging. It’s hard to enjoy a game where you spend any length of time in limbo, waiting for someone else to join the game. Are you going to wait more than two minutes, and in most cases 30 seconds, for someone before moving on? I thought not.
Developers have to realize, you don’t need to bring anything new to the table when you design a multiplayer experience. You just need to bring it to the table. Adding features such as online or offline Co-Op certainly does compliment a game nicely, and allows for a different level of Single Player experience, but it should never completely replace the Multiplayer aspect of any game. Waiting in lobbies for “just one more person to join” is enough to send most people back to the store so they may return that game, and probably swear them off of games that have multiplayer lobbies altogether.
To create a really good game, one that will top the charts consistently years later, generate sales far beyond the initial 6 months after release, and stand out as a hit, you need to have the ability and a plan to support the game either through the community or the developers. You need to give gamers that competitive multiplayer experience that they will go elsewhere looking for, and you need to get them in the fight quick.
For the sake of all the good games out there, and in the name of all the bad, please developers, please…stop and look around. There is a reason certain games are still selling, years after their release. It’s not rocket science, its damn common sense.