Multiplayer is not for everyone

By Shamus Posted Friday Mar 10, 2006

Filed under: Game Design 7 comments

I know this is quickly turning into a GalCiv II blog, and if you’re not into the game I apologize for the time I’m spending on it. However, there is just so much happening here as it relates to the world of gaming in general that I just can’t pass it up. The fact that the game has a real, honest-to-goodness blog and not some PR-spewing “news” site just makes makes it hard to not join in the conversation.

This post talks about their decision to focus on a great single-player experience instead of adding multiplayer to the game, and the fact that reviewers are penalizing them for it. In the past I’ve been critical of the recent trend to obsess over multiplayer gaming. Multiplayer turn-based games suffer from most of the normal multiplayer issues, plus the fact that you need to find other people who can sit down for a game that will take at least three hours, even for a very “quick” game.

Multiplayer gamers are hardcore gamers, and designing a game for the hardcore is usually a bad idea.

There is just a tremendous cost to adding multiplayer to a game. It goes far beyond the obvious stuff like adding all the networking stuff, dealing with lag and disconnects, and keeping the players in sync. If you want multiple humans to be able to compete against each other, you need all sorts of code for combatting cheaters, or cheaters will ruin the game and all that multiplayer stuff will be for nothing. You need a matchmaking service so players can find each other. You need to make sure the game is as balanced as possible, so that players who choose one particular race or configuration don’t have an advantage. You should also have a more complex saving system that lets people save a multiplayer game and then continue it later.

In short, you need to greatly increase the cost and time of development in order to cater to the small number of hardcore players that have the patience for on-line gaming.

Note to multiplayer fanatics: Not all of us want to play with you rotten brats.


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7 thoughts on “Multiplayer is not for everyone

  1. Lacynth says:

    Yay! I totally agree! I played multiplayer twice. Once with Diablo, and once with Starcraft. With Diablo, it was a horrible experience, as I rarely found a group that was serious, and when I did, there would always be the one PKer we accidentally let in that would slaughter us all, and collect the ears. I thought Starcraft would be different, but after the fifth Zerg Rush, I just got tired of it. And no matter how good a fight you put up, it was just a stream of insulting obscenities at the end. If I wanted to play with a bunch of immature loud-mouthed brats, I’d volunteer at the local Boy’s Club.

  2. Knaight says:

    Yeah, its only fun if you are playing with people you know over a LAN.

  3. FlameKiller says:

    i play WoW and just ignore the chat and refuse duals. trhough one time i was followed and had a lvl 70 kill steal all the monsters i was trying to kill so i could skin them to trade. some people try to dual players 20 lvls below them and swear at them when they refuse. those guys steal the fun from Multi player games.

    i also play AoE2 over LAN with my brothers and mostly on a team. by bro is a turtle. he gets on average 8 castles and kills empires for two piles of much used stone. i make a dire point of allying with him.

    1. AbatedPuddles says:

      I absolutely and completely disagree with this, and even though you will almost certainly not read this, I must make my feelings clear.
      It is people who adamantly spout that multiplayer is just for griefing and such that suck the fun out of everything.
      Dueling people way below you is just for fun and laughs, and I have never had someone insult me for refusing. Then again, I never refuse anyway, because of fact mentioned above. Also, killstealing is kind of a hazing ritual on some servers, guilds, and such, and some people may do it just for jerk potential, so there’s that, I guess.
      Then again, I, as a level 65 at the time, once bodyguarded a small party of lvl twenty-somethigs across hostile territory with some of my guild to get to instances and such, and once protected a super-lowbie who had fallen into that place outside Orgrimmar with the lightning lizards or whatever.
      Anyway, most if not all high-levels on my server, at least, play nice.
      Also, are you sure the guy killstealing wasn’t from the opposing faction?

      1. Andrew says:

        Since, as you mentioned, he’ll likely never respond, I think I will. The fact that some people consider it to all be in good fun doesn’t give them the right to force it on others who might not enjoy it- or cuss out the ones who refuse. And he never said multiplayer was all about griefing- just that griefers ruin the game for him. Finally: are you horde, or alliance? I’m told that there’s somewhat of a difference between the communities of each faction.

  4. Anonymooo says:

    “Multiplayer gamers are hardcore gamers, and designing a game for the hardcore is usually a bad idea.”

    I understand that you’re almost exclusively talking about PC-based RPGs or RTSs, but I strongly disagree with this, because it does depend on the type of game being made.

    I find fighting games to be very technical, with good titles focusing almost entirely on mind games and forcing your opponent into inescapable situations–revered fighting games are almost exclusively made for hardcore players, and are celebrated for it even by newcomers. Sure, the old saying is that “anybody can win by mashing buttons,” but that’s not possible in the more technical fighting games where mashing buttons will pretty much get nothing done.

    But again, that’s for games that are exclusively about competitive multiplayer, and I do understand the point that you’re trying to make.

  5. Sarah Miller says:

    Play by email is great for turn based games, especially when players come from different time zones.

    Also, it seems to me like the article is about multiplayer variants which pit the players against each other. What about cooperative multiplayer (which lets you play the singleplayer campaign or scenarios together against the computer)?

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