Wednesday, December 8, 2010

All together, now...

There are two major trends happening in connectivity, it seems.  One is for reducing the actual "multiplayer" part of the MMO.  There are a lot of very single-player online worlds out there right now; the amount of solo linearity in a number of MMOs chased up with systems that actually reduce the number of humans needed to play (as in Star Trek Online's ability to populate your away team with AI individuals) is starting to add up into a confusing trend.

Confusing, but not necessarily of concern.  Unlike EA essentially saying that all games should and will be online multiplayer games.

Obviously, I'm big on single-player gaming.  The tags over there on the right alone show that I've put more time into Bioshock and the Fallout games this year than is probably healthy, in addition to the pile of DS and adventure games I've gone through (and obsessed over).  I do not particularly think that the introduction of other people into my favorite titles would improve the experience.  Actually, a commenter at Kotaku summed it up beautifully:

This just in: Random House are changing their focus to books you can only read while some idiot reads over your shoulder, whilst swearing, pointing out obvious plot developments and occasionally teabagging the user.

Their spokesperson was quoted as saying "Communal interaction is where the innovation, and action, is at."

Rumours abound the firm are also researching the development of a proprietary e-reader device that will only function whilst connected to a headset, through which a thirteen year-old American will continually, aggressively question your sexuality.

Realistically, I don't think single-player narrative gaming is ever completely going away.  But the introduction of massive online, networked gaming has created a definite casualty.  I've started to write before about the home co-op multiplayer experience recently.  I have noticed that I am hardly the only gamer lamenting the lack of decent single-sofa co-op titles these days.  There are many that are appropriate for younger children, and many that are appropriate for groups or parties, but very few that suit a pair of people who don't want to compete with each other directly (as in the case of married gamer couples, for starters).  And I've also mentioned my personal views on competitive games.

But after we finished the Uncharted games, the wave of Christmas sales and deals came upon us, and we ended up with a copy of the LittleBigPlanet Game of the Year edition for about $16.  Now this is true co-op gaming!

I don't think either of us have the patience and dedication right now to go about creating levels, but between the ones in the game and the sheer number available from the community, it's got plenty to entertain us.  It's accessible and non-competitive.  And it's cute.

In fact, all of the co-op multiplayer offline games I've played in many years have been "cute."  There's the Lego franchise -- Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, take your pick -- and there's LittleBigPlanet, and there's... well, I don't know.  In time (Valve Time) there will be an element of Portal 2, but that's online and involves multiple Steam accounts.

So I guess my non-competitive self will keep handing off the controller with my husband and other gaming partners for quite some time to come, every time I get tired of cute and kid-friendly titles.


  1. littlebigplanet is so much fun! i think my critter right now is a penguin wearing genghis kahn pants, a cowboy hat, a frog mask, and a napoleon shirt. or something along those lines. so much fun.

    but what about games like in the mario series? or the new donkey kong? i mean, the wii seems to be all about co-op stuff now, so i don't imagine that the trend will totally die. more likely, co-op games will become somewhat of a niche genre for a decade or two, then find a resurgence when our theoretical children are in college.

    call of duty, by the way, does co-op, and even lets you do splitscreen on the network (the second player is a clone of you that contributes nothing to your achievements). the serious sam series did splitscreen co-op through the campaign, and still remains one of the craziest franchises i've come across.

    on the other hand, i've also seen even time-honored franchises blow off the offline multiplayer option (hello, civ 5, i'm talking to you, taking hot-seat out of your game).

    and then there will always be sports games, whose primary purpose is the offline co-op (though we're always wired to the network anyway). talking crap over a headset isn't half as fun as screaming "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAL" in your roommate's face as you net a stoppage time game-winner against his cheap-ass barcelona squad.

  2. Husband has no Disqus account and is currently unwilling to make one, but responds:

    "Tell him to find me a Wii game that isn't cute."

    I personally do tend to forget that sports games exist, as I hate them. ;)

  3. I haven't had the privilege of gaming with friends since Starcraft (1) ten years ago, but I would like to if I had cooler friends. I hate the idea of gaming with strangers. I hope single player games and campaigns are never completely neglected for multiplayer.

  4. Left 4 Dead 2 is a game clearly meant for multiplayer which I had a great time doing solo. The automated allies do a pretty good job of watching your back, although only the PC can do certain actions (hold and throw grenades, close the safe room door to end a level). What I think would make it and other games with NPCs on your team better would be scripting that lets you assign roles. For example in L4D2 I'd want someone with a hunting or sniper rifle always on the look out for sneaky Special Infected.