When multiplayer is introduced into traditionally solo adventures, Marcus Mac Dhonnágain says it’s only for the better when done properly
One of the most prominent features of this generation has been the rise of online multiplayer. When Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was released in 2007 it changed why people played online multiplayer games, as well as their expectations of what future games would deliver. Call of Duty’s explosion in popularity caused many developers and publishers to adopt multiplayer – perhaps in order to give consumers a reason not to sell their title after purchasing it, perhaps to use it as a vehicle for DLC, or perhaps to make their game look as an attractive an investment as Call of Duty. Whatever the case, it’s been beneficial for the industry as a whole.
As a result, many games that are known for their single player modes have now begun to also incorporate multiplayer modes. Perhaps the most controversial example of this is Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 were both single player RPG-shooter hybrids that focused heavily on their narratives. Mass Effect 3, however, was the first game in the franchise to offer a multiplayer mode, as well as the traditional single player content that fans had come to expect. Other notable single player franchises that have adopted multiplayer include Assassin’s Creed, Max Payne, Dead Space, GTA, God of War and most recently Tomb Raider.
Depending on the franchise, fan reaction ranges from mixed to negative. The argument against the inclusion of multiplayer usually is that people feel that their enjoyment of the single player will somehow be impacted upon. It all boils down to an anxiety that the multiplayer might consume resources that would otherwise be used for the single player campaign. It might be that the multiplayer will split a development, and that multiplayer development will take precedence over the single player. Or perhaps the multiplayer will be derivative and will add nothing of value.
Yet more often than not, these fears have been unfounded. Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer has been a huge success for BioWare, which can be seen by how much they’ve supported it with new content. And though some may not enjoy the ending of Mass Effect 3’s story, there’s no denying that the rest of the single player is similar to (if not better than) the campaigns found in its predecessors. There has yet to be a concrete example of a title whose single player has been affected adversely by inclusion of a multiplayer mode. There may very well be an example someday, yet it more than likely is the exception that proves the rule. Even if the multiplayer isn’t to someone’s liking, they can ignore it and instead play the single player mode.
Yet the inclusion of multiplayer modes in games that might not have had them previously is a positive sign. While games like Battlefield, Halo and Call of Duty are known for their multiplayer modes, and are very popular – they all offer a specific type of experience. They’re competitive first person shooters, and though they might play differently from one another, they do share similarities. With other titles developing multiplayer modes, the multiplayer scene in general becomes more diverse – which means it can cater to the wants of a wider audience, as well as innovate in different ways. Mass Effect 3 may play in a very similar fashion to Gears of War, yet the manner in which it interacts with a player’s single player progress makes it feel like a tangible experience that is a natural extension of the Mass Effect universe.
This means gamers are being given more choices for the types of experiences they want to play – and aren’t being shackled to the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield. Some titles may never be able to be properly adapted into a successful multiplayer game, yet the way in which developers are thinking of incorporating multiplayer elements is growing and changing. Multiplayer is here to stay, and in order for it to grow into something that all types of people can enjoy, there must be diversity. Only then will the space see any real innovation.