Dispelling the notion of tacked on multiplayer

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve taken up a position at Thunderbolt Games. I’ll be discussing the gaming world, as well as reviewing titles for them when the chance arises. To that end, these will be reproduced in part here. Presenting my first Thunderbolt piece, discussing the fallacies of tacked on multiplayer

Tacked on Multiplayer

The current generation of consoles have introduced many features which we gamers now take for granted – HD graphics and achievements immediately spring to mind – but by far the feature that has shaped the course and direction of the video games industry more than any other is the introduction of out-of-the-box online play. Previously regarded as a bastion of those with high end PCs and a working knowledge of network protocols, the advent of Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, as well as the spread of broadband infrastructure, has lead to more than ever venturing online than ever before, vanquishing all in their path, from Bangkok to Berlin.

With this change in focus comes the notion of “tacked on multiplayer”: a traditionally single player experience being complimented by a non-canon or superfluous multiplayer experience, very much to the detriment of the product as a whole. Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer announcement was met with vitriolic commentary, and there were audible sighs of relief around the world at the announcement that Bioshock Infinite’s multiplayer component was being left on the cutting room floor, showing the clear disdain that some hold against this notion. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

Case in point: the Assassin’s Creed series. When the announcement was made that Brotherhood, the continuation of the story of Ezio Auditore, would also come bundled with an online mode, reactions ranged from skepticism to outrage. It was labelled by many as a dilution of the experience, and one that would take away from the quality of the story. At the time, I was one of the many adding my weight behind that notion, reasoning that a multiplayer addition would take time away from the development of the core elements that made the first entries in the series so enjoyable. When Brotherhood arrived, I tried out the multiplayer, if only to satisfy my curiosity and prove myself correct. It left me eating humble pie, as the tense, tactical versus matches proved to be one of the highlights of the series to date, and has continued to grow and become more polished and enhanced in each successive release. More importantly, it hasn’t compromised the integrity of the single player experience, and can safely be ignored by those who choose to do so.

Those that espouse the belief that the addition of multiplayer will lead to the downfall of the series commonly site a redistribution of development resources as a justifiable concern; the sacrifice of hundreds of man-hours on a “ticking the boxes” exercise to satisfy the tropes of what comprises a AAA game in today’s ever changing landscape. Such a time consuming and effort expending process has to effect the quality of the work, no? Considering that the development of any additional content is generally handled by a secondary studio or team, and the meticulous budgeting and planning that goes into game development, it’s not too much of a stretch to conclude that adequate resources and funding have been allocated to all components.

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