GamerSushi Asks: The Nature of Multiplayer?

A couple of decades ago, if you had asked me what the term “multiplayer” meant, I probably wouldn’t have had an answer. The most “multi” I could get for my gaming dollar was adding my brother into a game of Streets of Rage or the Captain America and the Avengers game for Sega Genesis. In a time where gaming knew a lot of limits, the shared experienced capped out at two players max.

Things were different at the arcade, of course. There, two to four players could race against one another, or four mutants could tackle the coin-op challenges of the classic X-Men arcade cabinet. That was an experience that was fancy, almost futuristic in appearance compared to the tethered wired controllers that got thrown around in frustration over hat tricks in NHL 94.

XMen Arcade

Over time, things changed. In middle school, my brother and I would get off the bus stop before our house so we could go to our friend Jacob’s. Jacob’s dad built personal computers, you see, and he had two of them that he could hook together to play Doom. It was the very definition of science fiction – two players could play against one another from separate rooms. Hours were wasted at Jacob’s house, and all the while I knew that this was something special that other people weren’t getting to experience.

Fast forward to today. We’ve got a very broad definition of multiplayer. We have co-op, capture the flag, 16-64 player online, MMOs, dedicated servers, horde modes, gun games and a number of other ways in which to play games with other people. At some point, our idea of what multiplayer is and isn’t has changed, and our expectations and have risen to new heights in terms of what we want.

All of this has been on my mind because of the recent explanation from Nintendo about why Starfox 3DS doesn’t have online multiplayer. The gist of the explanation is this: it was going to cost too much and take too long, and they really wanted to get it out as early as possible.

StarfoxI can respect that. And before this turns into another tirade about Nintendo and its online issues, I actually want to turn the discussion a bit. Some of the comments I’ve seen around this story raised an interesting idea. Nintendo has touted multiplayer as a feature, but because it’s not online multiplayer, I’ve seen several gamers state that “no online multiplayer = no multiplayer.” The sentiment surprised me, because I’m not sure I think that way just yet. But then again, why not?

As I outlined earlier, my idea of multiplayer has changed over the years. Now, multiplayer games all include some kind of horde mode, online functionality, co-op, LAN, etc. More often than not, you can’t even get proper split-screen play out of the newest AAA titles because everyone is so connected and our concept of multiplayer gameplay has shifted in the last decade. We’re even getting to the point where, because of DRM, single player games need to be connected in order to receive their full functionality.

I don’t necessarily have some great point to make here, but it’s just an observation I hadn’t thought about. So here are some questions I leave you with:

1. Does “no online = no multiplayer” to you guys?
2. What is your idea of multiplayer? What do you expect out of the box for a game that claims to have it?
3. What games do multiplayer right, and what do you think our perception of it will be in another decade?

Hit me up with them comments, sirs.

Source – ONM

Feature Image – Tumawruh at Deviant Art

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

4 thoughts on “GamerSushi Asks: The Nature of Multiplayer?”

  1. 1. In a way it does. Look at Halo Anniversary, if it had not included online mutiplayer (including co-op) people would have revolted. Multiplayer today has evolved into something that does require an internet connection. Without that, I wouldnt be playing games with friends. Im an adult, it doesnt work like it did when we were kids. It doesnt mean that the game doesnt have an option to play with multiple people but it does mean that you probably wont be playing much of the multiplayer option, if some factors permit. Online to me, is the new definition of multiplayer.

    2. I expect to be able to play with and/or against friends and strangers online. If I can hook up 4 players to a single console, great, wont be very useful to me. Split-screen is sort of dying. Online really defines what you can do. People are too far spread and age doesnt help that factor.

    3. Shooters tend to. Specifically how the CoD series handles it, at least on consoles. On PC, servers are the way to go, a la TF2. TF2 does a great job with its multiplayer. Racing, Ill assume Forza does a good job. The last racer I played online was in the Burnout Series. I liked how it worked then. Other nice ones are the Splinter Cell series and AC was fun if it werent crashing, but thats Ubisoft’s problem.
    As for what we will think in 10 years. Im sure its the same. Online or bust. We need co-op and vs. It will probably stay the same though assuming consoles stay roughly the same.

  2. Very interesting article.

    You know, even though I’m almost entirely a PC gamer, multiplayer has never meant online-only to me. I miss being 6 and asking “Is it 2 player?” Very cute.

    It’s “expected” now that games have a multiplayer component and I’m glad some games aren’t falling for it. (Thank you Deus Ex 3)

    I’ll always say Counter-Strike got it right and that I almost never even jump into other multiplayer experiences unless I have a bunch of friends all playing it, like Call of Duty 4 or Battlefield. Or, if it’s something that sounds completely unique I’d probably give it a try but I haven’t encountered that in a long time it feels.

  3. 1. Personally, I think no online doesn’t equal no multiplayer, it just equals stripped potential. Starfox could have been great online, but instead we got a stripped, bare bones multiplayer, a.k.a. local, ad-hoc, etc. Realistically, however, no online does equal no multiplayer. Games are a constantly-evolving medium, and if a standard isn’t fully met, it might as well not exist.

    2. What is your idea of multiplayer? What do you expect out of the box for a game that claims to have it?

    2. My idea of multiplayer is a game that can be played with other people in a variety of different ways, offline AND online. You have your Competitive modes (Deathmatch, CTF, KotH, etc) and your Cooperative modes (Co-Op, Team DM, etc), and they can be played locally on one console, through a LAN with other consoles in one place, or totally online with people from anywhere. As much as I loved games like TF2 and Counter-Strike, I think Halo games (Reach in particular) are some of my favorite multiplayer games, because there are so many options on how to play with others. Split-screen shouldn’t go away just yet, but neither should online multiplayer in games that can only benefit from it, such as Starfox. As for a game that claims to have multiplayer, I want it to have just that out of the box–online and LAN/ad hoc/whatever. I don’t care if it means more time in the studio, I just want those options. Obviously, that doesn’t mean studios should go out of their way to include multiplayer at all (i.e. Dead Space 2), but for those that do include it, give us options!

    3. As I said, I think the Halo games do multiplayer right. Not only are there options, but the amount of customization in the game modes is incredible. My favorite multiplayer memory is playing custom Halo 3 game modes on a LAN with three consoles. It really brings people together in a way I can’t even describe. I haven’t played much of Halo online, but I think in the online department, Team Fortress 2 does it right. Whereas games like CoD and Counter-Strike are mostly competitive, TF2 is very laid back and is mostly played for fun. What’s wrong with not wanting to compete in multiplayer? Laid back multiplayer makes for a much better experience and a bigger possibility to make new friends.

  4. 1.) No online severely limits what you can do in multiplayer. I wouldn’t say non-online multiplayer isn’t multiplayer, like it was some kinda inferior breed, but for me personally, if there’s no online, chances are I’m rarely, if ever, going to play multiplayer.

    2.) Multiplayer usually entails either co-op (like waves of enemies or special challenges) and/or competitive versus.

    3.) Left 4 Dead does coop almost perfectly, and Battlefield delivers an excellent teamwork-based objective war shooter experience.

    I think in the future, there will be more options as far as community-made content (mods, Forge-esque content, theater, etc.) and gameplay options. I’d like to see a co-op game with the level of depth of Deus Ex, so that the actions of the players all meld together to form a rich and lively world of many people’s creation. It’d be like an MMO but more so about experiencing a narrative than just completing quests.
    And I realize that it’d take a miracle to pull off.

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