Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
24 January 2007
Homer Simpson comments on Bioshock multiplayer
On the Next-Gen.biz podcast this week, Ken Levine of Irrational Games comments on how the multiplayer modes are neglected in most games, not by developers but by players:
[Bioshock] is our first game that hasn't had multipayer. [...] And I don't think anyone has ever spent any real time playing our multiplayer in our games. So System Shock 2, Freedom Force, they've all had multiplayer. And maybe SWAT, some people have spent some time playing SWAT multiplayer. But if you go and you look on Xbox Live, and you go look in GameSpy -- people are still paying SWAT on GameSpy -- it's really kind of interesting that the people who play Halo, who play Counterstrike, there are huge numbers of players playing those games. And then you think about all the work people have spent building multiplayer for these other games and then you go look on who's playing, say, Brothers in Arms, even when it just came out multiplayer, in the world, you're talking about in the world, playing on Xbox Live, I remember we looked right after the game came out, and there were six people playing it. And you think about the effort that went into that, and the effort that didn't go into single-player and you just want to cry like a little girl.
In response, Homer Simpson had this to say:
Kids, you tried your best, and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.
Of course, it really hasn't ever gotten any better than 2fort5 on QuakeWorld TF, so I don't really know why people keep trying.

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--Matt Matthews at 12:32
Comment [ 16 ]

Comments on this post:

I don't think there is anything wrong with trying to make the best single player or best co-op experience and just foregoing deathmatch.

Gears of War doesn't have free-for-all deathmatch at all for example.

Frankly, trying to go head to head against the giants of the deathmatch genre is just silly unless you really intend to put all your efforts there.

Leave deathmatch to Unreal Tourney, Quake, and Halo.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 24 January, 2007 13:51  

I really can sympathize - having spent many hours developing multiplayer mods for the audience of empty servers. Seriously, it's like a kick to the groin kind of feeling.

By Blogger Josh, at 24 January, 2007 18:47  

2fort5 is the BEST! If you look at the trailer for the new team fortress you can tell the map they are fighting on is a remake of 2fort. I am really looking forward to that game.

By Blogger Brett, at 24 January, 2007 18:50  

Jeremy: Co-op can be great. I definitely appreciated it when Bob & I used to play through games over at The Lab, and I wish I'd been able to make it work for Champs o' Norrath.

Josh: Sure, I can understand the disappointment. I'm just turned off by the defeatist "Why do anything?" tone that comes through. It's like those pundits who say "WoW can't be beat, so why try?"

Brett: I sure hope the PS3 port of Team Fortress 2 makes it out. That's how I intend to play...

By Blogger jvm, at 24 January, 2007 19:12  

I actually think more games should focus on one or the other. Bioshock looks very much like a single player design. Plenty of titles, I think, add in MP just to avoid getting knocked on not having it in a review.

The fact that nobody plays the MP hardly ever enters the review. One of the biggest problems with MP games is that they take a critical mass to make them meaningful. It's one of the reason Counter-Strike had the chance to become commercially viable - it was made back in the when everyone played mods just because they were made.

Nowadays, plenty of people don't even bother playing commercial games in MP until there's a reasonable number of other people doing so. Very chicken and egg problem.

If I was in their shoes, I'd make the SP game first and then, maybe, consider doing an MP expansion on the flipside.

This is, by the way, an echo of statements they made after they put in MP for System Shock 2. They hadn't planned on it but fans demanded it. So they put in the extra hours to include it.

And then all those fans that had demanded it ... didn't play it.

Plus - wasn't the last MP focused title IG produced that Tribes flop? Maybe they should just acknowledge their faults.

By Blogger Josh, at 24 January, 2007 19:25  

You're right, they did make Tribes: Vengeance. I totally missed that angle.

Good point, thought. Maybe their strengths simply aren't in MP.

And I should go ahead and confess that Bioshock is perhaps the nastiest thorn in my side when it comes to platform-exclusives. It really looks interesting, but so far Microsoft has it all sewn up. (In the podcast the guy talks about it as if it is an immutable exclusive -- not time exclusive or anything that might allow it to come to the PS3.)

By Blogger jvm, at 24 January, 2007 19:52  

One of my pet peeves is that reviewers will ding a game for not having multiplayer, but then they'll turn right around and review a game that has multiplayer without actually playing the multiplayer (usually babbling some mumbo jumbo about servers not being populated adequately pre-release).

That's just a load of horsecrap, IMHO.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 24 January, 2007 19:57  

By the by, is this coming up because Ken took an opposing position to you regarding the exclusivity and artistic games issue?

I'm just now listening to the podcast.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 24 January, 2007 20:26  

No, I don't begrudge Ken his position on exclusives. I heard the first 22 minutes in the van on the way into work and didn't hear the bit regarding my piece until much later in the day. On my way to give a lecture early in the day I was considering what Ken'd said and made the Homer connection.

Primarily, I think I'd've articulated the point of my piece differently than Colin did, leaving out the bit about exclusives and focusing on the bits about artistic games being enabled by the huge audience of the dominant console. (I did think Colin's description of the artist paid by a prince was spot on, but by that point the red herring -- exclusives -- was already out there.)

I'm still making my mind up about what we're going to see regarding exclusives. I think Ken's focus on exclusives means he didn't really address my point directly.

The points they made about exclusives are pretty strong, I think. Namely that Microsoft has managed to get -- and hold on to -- a few of them and Sony needs to increase its focus on them. I'll admit that Bioshock's exclusivity burns me a good bit. As I think I've said previous: Other than MGS4, what games will define the PS3? So far, I don't know any others.

Again: no problems with Ken. I recognized his voice immediately from the Bioshock walkthrough video from a while back (which I found via Cathode Tan, IIRC) and was pleased in the podcast to hear much more about it.

By Blogger jvm, at 24 January, 2007 20:35  

I thought it was an excellent podcast, far above the normal standards at Next-gen (which I listen to, but I'm frequently annoyed at the errors and just generally by the opinions of the hosts).

I wouldn't have begrudged it if you had posted this as a vengeance post, after all, you are the curmudgeon gamer :D

I think there was an implication that at least Microsoft IS aware of the value of exclusives, and seems to be taking steps to get them. Which is pretty much my stance on it. I guess it's sad for you to have Sony underperforming, but as a non-Sony-buying-consumer, I think it's great, because all the games I want are on the console that I own.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 24 January, 2007 21:04  

I think Ken was spot on. What, exactly, would a game focused on telling a story to one single person be able to offer the multiplayer arena? Is there a highly strategic aspect to the gameplay that would make for interesting multiplayer play? Or would it simply be running down corridors shooting at friends with the same weapons I used in the single player game?

There is a cost associated with every feature added to a game. Developers' time is finite, thus anything NOT related to the single player gameplay experience added to a game (be it multiplayer play, playback functionality, etc.) means less time to tune that all important single player experience, which often is the entire reason I bought the game. Thus, if a developer doesn't have an interesting angle on how multiplayer can be enhanced by the game from the very start of development, I could care less that it's not in there as long as I'm enjoying myself with the game. Then, if I need some multiplayer action, I will pick up a title that was built to feed my specific tastes in that area (frenetic action? strategy? squad tactics?).

I think you make a good point, there's certainly no reason a single player game can't feature good multiplayer play, but I can absolutely see a developer making the choices IG has here. They want to make the kind of game they had a vision of, instead of just stuffing in features in an attempt to avoid a negative remark in a review.

By Anonymous FNC, at 25 January, 2007 12:47  

I would be kinda disappointed if the next Rainbow Six game didn't have both single player and multiplayer.

But with a new IP, I'm not bothered.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 25 January, 2007 15:14  

This is probably feeding the beast, but there's a blurb in the February Game Informer claiming that Assassin's Creed and GTA IV were meant to be PS3 exclusives, and lays the blame on Sony's Ken Kutagari it not happening.

I don't know diddly about how deals like that happen or what the actual facts were in this case, but if those had been exclusive to the PS3, whether "really exclusive" or just "exclusive until after Christmas", the exclusives tug-of-war would be a lot more even.

By Blogger Bob, at 26 January, 2007 01:35  

Bob: Although I didn't name them explicitly, those are precisely the kinds of news events I was alluding to when I wrote this post a few days ago. In brief, if Sony were doing their job, Microsoft would be losing some of its exclusives too. When Microsoft does lose a high profile one, I'll feel a lot better about Sony's chances.

By Blogger jvm, at 26 January, 2007 06:17  

Sony did just do that deal with Namco to create a new studio that will only create PS3 games. I view that as a money-hatting equivalent to the Sony-Square/Enix buyin deal some time ago.

But the longer things don't go PS3's way in general, the less likely it will be for it to ever be a competitive system. I was pretty much expecting PS3s to be sold out until February (I couldn't get a 360 until one day in February last year, I walked into a Target, AND THERE THEY WERE!), but apparently they're on 78% of store shelves (that was a Bank of America analyst figure this week).

What's even coming out for PS3?

I'm looking down the list of available titles on Gamestop currently:

Resistance *
NBA 07 (Sony) *
Madden 07
Full Auto "2" **
Untold Legends *
Ridge Racer 7 **
Marvel Ultimate Alliance
Fight Night 3
Blazing Angels
Call of Duty 3
Need for Speed Carbon
Tiger Woods 07
NBA 2K7
TH Project 8
NHL 2K7
Genji Zero *
Gundam Crossfire *

And that's it, that's the WHOLE list.

You've got five exclusives (*) and two minor updates to 360 games that are "title" exclusives (** at least they have actual exclusive content, even if it's minor).

Everything else is already out on 360.

Then you go to the upcoming releases:
Sonic the Hedgehog 1/30
Virtua Fighter 5 2/20
College Hoops 2K7 2/20
F1 2/27
Major League Baseball 2K... 3/5
Medal of Honor Airborne 3/6
MotorStorm 3/6
Def Jam Icon with Bonus! 3/6
NBA Street Homecourt 3/6
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivi... 3/13

You've got three games that are already out on 360., another few that are day/date releases with 360 (unless the PS3 versions are delayed), and maybe two exclusives (is F1 a Sony title?)

Meanwhile, the bonus content for Oblivion that was supposed to set apart the PS3 version has already been available on 360 for months, and there's an expansion pack landing any day now with no mention of how it will be distributed on PS3 yet, because apparently the marketplace feature that they have is broken in some way.

Ouch. I mean, fucking ouch. Really. This is like, a few steps away from SEGA saying that they can't produce any more Dreamcasts because they've run out of money and no one will give them any more, except without all the great games.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 26 January, 2007 10:09  

Friends don't let friends play 2forts.

By Anonymous Crusader, at 27 January, 2007 07:08  

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