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.
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.
I 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