Gaming is going to die soon ….
There is speculation that gaming as we know it will soon be dead. Gone will the days be where you could simply pick up a controller and toil away for hours exploring the galaxy’s furthest reaches, or driving from one point in a city covered in crime as you find yourself taking people out to rise to power.
But what will you have instead? I mean surely there cannot be a life without video games? Life would become gray and humdrum. Video games will still exist. They will be replaced by multiplayer games in which you’ll find yourself being blown apart by people who play this game every day whiles a 12 year old screams shrilly into your ear, “suck it noob, you totally suck at this!” But what if you’re not into shooters? Well then maybe you should try something a little slower, where you can play with real people across the internet while you all try to decide which way to go, like some big road trip to the Black Gate of Mordor .
Believe it or not gaming has reached a point now where it is faced with a Darwinian issue (note not the game but the Scientist) – evolve or die. But what’s the big deal? Surely, we are in a golden age of games with many new games being seen in 2010 and making so much money.
Over the next few weeks, I hope to bring you the key areas in which video games are failing and could lead to its eventual self-implosion.
Part 1 – The dead art form
In late 2010, EA Games president Frank Gibeau stated that singleplayer-only games were dead and that multiplayer is where it was at in terms of the innovation of games.(See here and here for the articles) While this is partially true that innovation is being seen in the use of online features and functions within games, pure multiplayer games have proven to be a bit of bust.
Now don’t going and start with your hate mail about MMO’s just yet, I’m getting there. Right now, let’s take a look at some multiplayer only games. Shadowrun, Brink, and who can forget Quake Wars: Enemy Territory? Each of these games had a heck of backing from its creators in the form of its marketing as they tried to promote what they thought was the next big thing.
Many of these games did offer something new to the table. Take a look at the innovation that Shadowrun offered by bringing PC and 360 gamers together at the same time in the same game. This was unique and offered a chance for people to finally bridge the gap of gamers and reach that holy grail of cross-platform competitive game play. A few months after release, the player number dwindled and within a year of release the servers were shut down.
So maybe these games just don’t work on consoles?
Taking a look at the PC market there are plenty of games which seem to show promise but none more prominent than those which lie in the MMO world. Beyond World of Warcraft, there really hasn’t been a commercially successful challenger to this game; we’ve even have had some big names throw their hats into the ring – DC Universe, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and Conan the Barbarian to name but a few.
All of these games have tried to have a go at getting people into their game by offering them a chance at getting involved with some of their biggest characters within the universe, the most recent example of this being DC Universe Online. Here you get a chance to play against and with some of the biggest names in DC comics.
But where did it fail? Many users seem to have the attention span of goldfish and just lose interest in the game after the initial free trial period expires or the game comes across an one of the biggest challenges, the users begin to break Wheaton’s law. This is the issue with multiplayer only games: there is nothing to come back to unless you keep it fresh and new each month, pushing the user to achieve new goals.
Wedging in the multiplayer
Single-player only games have shown that they don’t need a multiplayer to be successful with the many games proving that you can make good money and a good game with games such as Batman: Arkham Asylum, Fallout 3, Dead Space, Assassins Creed 2 , Bioshock, Heavy Rain, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and Mass Effect 2 to name but a few.
The games all don’t have a multiplayer mode in them and they’re fantastic games. They all have other great elements which makes them great games such as fantastic writing, atmospheric settings, compelling stories, beautiful soundtracks, and fantastic voice acting. So why is it that some people think that in a sequel we need multiplayer adding?
The case in view here is Bioshock, a sequel in itself to System Shock (please note I’ve not played Bioshock 2 but I have played the original, Bioshock on the 360). Bioshock was one of those rare games that came along and really made a name for its self by being pretty damn good as well as just a bit creepy when it came to moral decisions. Overall, the game was well written, created a fantastic atmosphere, and brought a unique twist to another wise bloated market, making it a well worthy game of the year.
Roll on a few years and we were treated to Bioshock 2 – Now with added multiplayer! How the internet groaned! Like many people, I was intrigued by just how this worked since at the end of the first game we got a very definitive ending. Either way, you played the game. It turned out that the single player element would have you play as a big daddy during the return to rapture while the multiplayer would be set before Bioshock 1 and was all about the splicers knocking the living daylights out of one another for the sheer hell of it.
Here lies the issue, and one the internet loved to point out – we have given the multiplayer a story – it’s not big and it’s not clever, so why do we do this? Don’t the developers recall what it was like to play a game like Goldeneye on the N64? We didn’t need to know why James Bond was suddenly shooting (a very blocky and manly looking) Natalia; We just got on with it! And this is why games like Call of Duty have been successful! They don’t get bogged down in trying to give you a reason to kill other people.
I can hear you cry ARGH as I can counter you: what about the Battlefield series? Or how about your beloved Assassins Creed series in the form of Assassins Creed Brotherhood? They have shown to work in some of their iterations, however this (very nicely – almost planned like) leads me onto my next point, which will be continued in part 2 – “Send in the Clones”