on Sep 18, 2012
Let us pause for a moment of silence for poor Rutskarn. He died as he lived: Screaming puns. In the show I joked that we murdered him. Obviously that’s not true. If we’re being honest, it was more like euthanasia.
As mentioned in the show, Electronic Arts no longer develops any games as single-player experiences. So that’s a story that’s going on. And on a completely unrelated note that has nothing to do with that last story, I just wanted to point out that back in April EA closed a bunch of multiplayer servers. Again, these two news items are entirely divorced from one another. I don’t even know why I put them in the same paragraph, really.
Going back to the discussion about gaming in the 90’s:
First, we had a couple of landmark games that really hit it big because of their multiplayer: Quake / Modern Warfare 2.
Then everyone saw this success and misunderstood how it worked. They assumed that just blindly adding multiplayer to a single-player game would replicate the success of the earlier title, no matter how preposterous or thematically wrong it might be: Max Payne / Spec Ops: The Line
In the late 90’s, the circle closed with Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament, the Coke and Pepsi of the online deathmatch games. These titles were designed for multiplayer from the ground up, and the only “single player” available was playing the multiplayer map against bots. But we have this already: Team Fortress 2, and a dozen or so contenders for the TF2 crown. (Section 8, Brink, Super Monday Night Combat, etc.)
It’s not that multiplayer is an invalid thing to add, but blindly adding it to everything is single-minded and self-defeating. It’s just another indication that the people running EA don’t understand this business and are just chasing trends. You can’t lead if you’re chasing. You need to know what games would benefit from multiplayer, what games wouldn’t, and where to draw the line.
The sad thing is, they have people who can answer these questions. They’re the developers. They know their audience and their product. All you have to do is trust the people working for you to know what they’re talking about. If you do trust them, why don’t you listen to them? And if you don’t, why are you bothering to employ them?
Spec Ops: The Line is a great illustration of this problem. Yes, it was published by 2kGames and not EA, but the point stands: The developer said that multiplayer would be a waste of time and resources and would conflict with the thematic content of the single-player game. The publisher said to shut up and do it anyway, because multiplayer is the big thing now. In the end the developer was right. Nobody played the multiplayer mode. It was a waste of time and money that could have been spent making the single-player content that much better.