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Mind the multiplayer gap

Posted on 31st Jan 2013 at 07:26 by David Hing with 30 comments

David Hing
I worry about single player modes disappearing and multiplayer becoming the norm. When Unreal and Quake started releasing multiplayer-only titles I thought that was the end, but thankfully it was a trend that didn’t really catch on. All the same, my fear is still there, lurking away.

Imagine a chasm. A deep, dark, seemingly bottomless canyon, but when viewed from above the sides appear to be quite close together.

On one side of the abyss is a group of gamers so advanced and elite that they can merrily jostle with each other for supremacy, share best practise advice, emergent strategies and scoff at those adopting poor strategy or cheap scorned tactics. These are players of games that have taken a title as far as it can go and optimised its play to the point somewhere between zen-like understanding and outright obsession, peppering the community with code-words like IWAY and 4Gate. These are the people that see the Matrix as code, that can stop time with their minds and turn reality around on a penny to bend to their will when they’re in their game of choice.

Mind the multiplayer gap
This, but much bigger and with more people.

On the other side are new players. These are players of games that have either just started up a title and have clocked the tutorial, or are simply happy to bumble around in easy modes and simple skirmishes. Maybe something didn’t click for them and they couldn’t be bothered to delve further into the game, or maybe they are simply happy to muddle around casually, dropping in and out from time to time. The players on the other side of the chasm might laugh and point at them from time to time, but mostly, the two are separated by the divide and happily ignorant of each others’ wants and struggles.

Then there’s the player that thinks they can perhaps vault over that gorge. Sometimes they will be able to, sometimes they won’t.

You will find me at the bottom of the abyss; a failed jumper of gaps, a bumbling ignoramus of systems that might very well get an A for effort, but generally be a multiplayer failure all the same.

The multiplayer gap is that huge difference between where you can find yourself and any other player in existence. Someone in the comments of one of my previous posts very politely urged me to never get involved in team-based multiplayer games following my expression of how I don’t quite get it. Indeed, I am that player that every Counterstrike team has that frequently muddles the order of “step out of cover, throw flash-bang, duck back into cover” but the thing is, I’m not on that new-player-plateaux. I know enough that playing in those groups makes me feel guilty for wiping the floor with them. I’m just nowhere near approaching the hardcore, or even midcore of each game’s particular player base.

Mind the multiplayer gap
Who hit me? No idea. How did they hit me? No idea.

Being a bit of a jack of all games yet master of none is fine, but it leaves you without much of a group to join in with. You can be a heroic commander of people who haven’t quite figured out WSAD movement yet, or you can be that one guy who drags the whole team down through repeated simple mistakes. Starcraft 2 felt like a winner for a while until I realised it was simply promoting me to the level of my incompetence and the brief glorious jump I made into the gold league was followed by a very long string of humiliating defeats that I haven’t quite been able to get over since.

I know I’m not the only one in scrabbling around down here in the pit. I can hear the others frantically trying to scale the walls with me, but it’s not easy to find them. You’re fine if you’re an in-game deity and you’re fine if you’re new, but the wide variety of abilities in-between means a steep or insurmountable learning curve to enjoy.

Mind the multiplayer gap
A room full of people sat atop that steep learning curve.

I don’t like multiplayer games with strangers because I don’t want to spend my leisure time being shouted at by people too young or fortunate to not need full time jobs and financial responsibilities. I’m also not keen on multiplayer games with my friends because skill mismatches often get a little awkward after a while one way or another.

If I’m not a complete oddity or freak (which is possible), then by my own irritation with multiplayer, I can at least take solace in the fact that the multiplayer gap ensures that single player modes have no fear of disappearing any time soon.

30 Comments

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zebby2k 31st January 2013, 08:06 Quote
Here here!!!! Last time I made "The Jump" was a westwood game called NOX - sat atop the UK ladder for a fair while. Couldnt play on the US ladder as the lag at the time made it impossible - I think that was back in the days of 56k Modems!!!
IanW 31st January 2013, 08:55 Quote
I too dislike multiplayer games, but then I'm an anti-social old git! :D
wuyanxu 31st January 2013, 09:25 Quote
The problem is if you want to jump the gap, the requirement is that need to be lacking 2 of the following:
-full time job
-girlfriend
-social life

I was over there once, on it every night, fearsome with my VSS, admining Bit-tech's server. That was when I just got a full time job, didn't have a social life or girlfriend.

Now I have all 3, I am on the casual side of the gap. Don't really want to jump into multiplayer games anymore, knowing I'll have my backside handed to me on a well dressed plate. Single player game and occasional Super Smash Bros / Mario Kart with friends is all I do.


still yet to finish Black Mesa........
Shirty 31st January 2013, 09:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by IanW
I too dislike multiplayer games, but then I'm an anti-social old git! :D

Which automatically makes us friends, but friends who will rarely speak to one another or acknowledge the friendship.

On and wuyanxu, one thing trumps all of the above - children. The prospect of regular interruptions day and night makes multiplayer a big no-no.
Blademrk 31st January 2013, 10:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirty
one thing trumps all of the above - children. The prospect of regular interruptions day and night makes multiplayer a big no-no.

I know that one. trying to play multiplayer when my nephew and niece are around is a nightmare "Uncle Mark, can you pause that for a minute?, Can you put a dvd on for me?"
Parge 31st January 2013, 10:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by wuyanxu
The problem is if you want to jump the gap, the requirement is that need to be lacking 2 of the following:
-full time job
-girlfriend
-social life

I was over there once, on it every night, fearsome with my VSS, admining Bit-tech's server. That was when I just got a full time job, didn't have a social life or girlfriend.

Now I have all 3, I am on the casual side of the gap. Don't really want to jump into multiplayer games anymore, knowing I'll have my backside handed to me on a well dressed plate. Single player game and occasional Super Smash Bros / Mario Kart with friends is all I do.


still yet to finish Black Mesa........

Totally agree - I'm in the same position, but I do still make the time for some BF3! Just don't have much time for anything else!
mi1ez 31st January 2013, 10:26 Quote
I think half the reason I love Half-Life so much is that there's nobody pushing me towards multiplayer. I'd love to play Portal 2's co-op but don't want to play with a stranger and have no friends I can arrange the time with.

Back to Zelda I guess...
Griffter 31st January 2013, 10:26 Quote
only multiplayer i play for the first time in my life is starcraft 2 and now planetside. planetside is little different since there is so many ppl, u dont feel sould crushing fail as much. SC2 u do tho :P

i still play the old school way of arrow keys, num.0 for jump, num1 to crouch, etc.

ironically i need the gaps by my arrow keys keyboard to feel comfortable enough to play so i can try and avoid the the gap from the article. :-)
steveo_mcg 31st January 2013, 10:29 Quote
Fortunately for me the only multiplayer game I ever play is TF2 and despite being no where near my peak a few years ago its still casual enough and luck based that I can pick it up after not played any games for a few months and be competitive on public servers. Never did get into "competitive" play.

Oh forgot about Altitude, but the plane_ball maps are just a free for all!
Petrol head 31st January 2013, 10:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirty
Which automatically makes us friends, but friends who will rarely speak to one another or acknowledge the friendship.

On and wuyanxu, one thing trumps all of the above - children. The prospect of regular interruptions day and night makes multiplayer a big no-no.

Completely agree. I find it hard to get into more atmospheric games for the same reason. I know I have 30 minutes at best before one of them wakes up. I even build PC's during the night just to avoid my little darlings.

(I love them all really):D
Shirty 31st January 2013, 10:53 Quote
I just play pong nowadays :D

The circle is complete.
jrs77 31st January 2013, 10:54 Quote
There's these things called MMORPGs that are multiplayer on the one side and don't require lot's of time on the other side.

Stop thinking FPS or RTS, where you need to invest lots of time to get good at or to train for. There's tons of casual MMORPGs, where you can hop in for an hour or two and just have some fun.
GeorgeStorm 31st January 2013, 11:07 Quote
Only game I've ever tried to take seriously is TF2, and for that there are enough competitive levels for most people who want to try it to have a real go :)

I understand what you mean, no other game has made me want to try and take it more seriously, it's also one of the few multiplayer games I play.
Omnituens 31st January 2013, 12:37 Quote
Freaking Himmelsdorf.
true_gamer 31st January 2013, 12:40 Quote
I still prefer the good old days, when having friends over for some 4 player Golden eye. EPIC!!
No hackers, no cheaters, no aim bots etc. just pure skill. :)

95% of my games I play in single player.
Woodspoon 31st January 2013, 13:17 Quote
I think what really bugs me about trying to step your game up is the never ending torrent of abuse or urine extraction because of a mistake, there's only so many times you can take "you ****king idiot" or screams of "noob" before it gets off putting and you begin to give up.
schmidtbag 31st January 2013, 13:40 Quote
This article didn't turn out how I expected but was still an interesting read.

Personally, I like multiplayer games BUT i don't like it when MP is basically forced on you. I don't want to buy a game with a 5 hour campaign and no other offline mode, not even bots. Not to sound egotistical but most people I play against online aren't worth my time. They're either boringly easy or professional to the point that they've been accused as cheaters. In most online games or even leader board games, i tend to fall in the top 10-15%.

Humans are also surprisingly predictable. I like playing multiplayer matches against bots only because you either need a really good plan or it just takes pure skill to win rather than tactics. Tactics are fine but no plan is good enough if you don't have the skill to carry it out.

My main gripe about the MP games i dislike the most, such as COD or need for speed (the new ones) is they use MP probably because their programmers either suck too much or are too lazy to make a competitive bot. Of course I could be wrong but the short campaign really gives me a "don't care" vibe from the devs.
Griffter 31st January 2013, 13:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodspoon
I think what really bugs me about trying to step your game up is the never ending torrent of abuse or urine extraction because of a mistake, there's only so many times you can take "you ****king idiot" or screams of "noob" before it gets off putting and you begin to give up.

i usually try and nuke my partner if they cross the crude and rude line and then say sorry before i drop him again. but that usually only happens once in a while when a really rude ass is on.
Hustler 31st January 2013, 14:48 Quote
Multi player modes are nothing but a trojan horse for DLC and micro transactions.

It's why I don't play anything but the amazing WWII Mod Forgotten Hope 2.
tad2008 31st January 2013, 16:26 Quote
I think the view of being new or one of the Elite is a bit too black and white. You need to consider that there is a degree of middle ground here.

I have been the n00b and also had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with the Elitists in some games.

I do find my own ground and try to play the game how I want to play it where possible. I am considerate of new players and help them avoid common pitfalls if I can. If I end up going toe to toe with a better, more experienced, even Elitist player then I either accept they are better and try to avoid a direct confrontation or I learn from it and adapt my game play so I can improve and gain the personal achievement and satisfaction from doing so.

In a lot of MP games knowing the maps is a big part of being successful, whether solo or as part of a team. After that find the weapon or skills that suit your play style and if you keep failing change tactics and consider alternative options that overcome your difficulties or failures.

Most of all, play to your strengths.
ADJB 31st January 2013, 20:11 Quote
Although not a multi player or even online game the website citybuildingcontests.net runs regular contests for games like Caesar 4 and other, surprise, city building games. If you look at the results its very obvious where who the experts, middle ground and newbies are. Every so often a team game is organised with the teams decided by the organiser so they are as balanced by game competence as possible.

I would rank myself as a middle ground player and the things I learn in these team games are fantastic. Because you are trying to maximise your teams results and the game takes place over weeks rather than minutes the team forum discussions (which are private to team members for the duration of the contest but opened up for all to see one the contest ends) are a fantastic insight into how tactics and methods are developed and refined during the run of the game. Everybody is helping each other no matter what the skill level and everybody's game improves visibly during the game.

Unfortunately this type of online game would never be commercial but adds massively to the enjoyment of the game. No pressure, real teamwork and even if your team finishes last a sense of achievement and an improvement in your gameplay. A pity other games can't have the same relaxed attitude to online play, everybody would gain.
Jester_612 1st February 2013, 00:13 Quote
All of you are doing it wrong if you try to learn entirely by yourself. That is the hardest way to do it. Then when you have learned something it can't be unlearned.
Lazarus Dark 1st February 2013, 03:36 Quote
I am fully in the pit with the author. Every now and then, I'll get up the nerve to try jumping into an online multiplayer, but I always have very similar experiences to the article and end up giving up in disappointment and frustration.
Back in the day, I ruled. In the N64 days, no one could touch me in Goldeneye or anything else. Or Populous online, that was the best online multiplayer ever. But then, I had no job and all summer to perfect my skills. Now, I only have time to pick up a game once in a while, and I want enjoyment and escape, not frustration and getting yelled at by kids.

So, I guess its okay that only a few good single player games are still made, since I don't have the time to play a lot anyway?
Margo Baggins 1st February 2013, 16:01 Quote
Not wanting to be that guy - but typo, you had WSAD and not WASD - maybe that is why you don't have 1337-haxx000r skilz!!!1111
dolphie 3rd February 2013, 07:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by wuyanxu
The problem is if you want to jump the gap, the requirement is that need to be lacking 2 of the following:
-full time job
-girlfriend
-social life

For most of my life I have lacked all 3 of those together at once. Online, I am utterly fearsome, devastating to encounter, frustratingly dominant. Offline, not so much.
J0k 3rd February 2013, 14:23 Quote
I think there will always be plenty of MP games as much as there will be SP games. I love BF3 and don't think it needed single player at all (or deserved what little single player it had to actually be called a single player game)

I like RTS in single player and multiplayer (men at war series, company of heroes, supcom, dow2 etc) - Having said this I honestly think some games would benefit concentrating on one aspect - DOW2 as an example with the poor SP and last stand (which was ok for a blast) it really need the multiplayer expanding with all the 40k armies. If Relic concentrated on the multiplayer then released a single player separate using the same engine/models etc I think it would have hit the desired markets better.

Crysis SP - rocked
Battlefield MP series - rocked

Just 2 simple examples of how its all sweet and lovely as is
StoneyMahoney 4th February 2013, 16:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirty
Quote:
Originally Posted by IanW
I too dislike multiplayer games, but then I'm an anti-social old git! :D

Which automatically makes us friends, but friends who will rarely speak to one another or acknowledge the friendship.

"People who hate people, come together!"

"No!"

- Bill Hicks
Tibsie 9th February 2013, 12:49 Quote
I don't play multiplayer games, there are a couple of reasons.

As you said in the article, I'm not that good either so I wouldn't be able to keep up with other players and I don't want my sucky skills to bring down other people's enjoyment of the game.

I also don't want my gaming experience to be influenced by other people, I don't want one game with intelligent, respectful people followed by one game where everyone seems to be foulmouthed 14 year olds. I want a consistent experience.

Then there's the lack of a pause facility in multiplayer. This makes multiplayer gaming even more antisocial than single player.
If you are playing a single player game and your wife/girlfriend/child comes up to you for something it's easy to pause and have a chat or deal with a request. If it will take some time you can save the game and come back hours later and resume where you left off.
For the multiplayer there is only one option, either tell your family to go away or abandon your game, let your team down and lose your progress.

It's nice to have the option for those who want it, but the rest of us still want single player.
LightningPete 15th July 2013, 15:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tibsie

I also don't want my gaming experience to be influenced by other people, I don't want one game with intelligent, respectful people followed by one game where everyone seems to be foulmouthed 14 year olds. I want a consistent experience.

im sure alot of those ESRB ratings on games state that experience will differ with online play ;-)
LightningPete 15th July 2013, 15:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by J0k
Crysis SP - rocked
Battlefield MP series - rocked

Just 2 simple examples of how its all sweet and lovely as is

I think i love you reservedly of course as man-friend-love could go
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