News / PS3

Is the Single Player Experience Dead or Alive?

I have been gaming for most of my life, and I am quite sure that, at least, 95% of the games that I’ve spent time and money on are “single player” games. Why you may ask? The answer is both simple and complex at the same time. Growing up, when I saved up my allowance and used it to purchase a new game, I wasn’t doing it for the social aspect of the game. I did so because games offered (or used to offer) very unique experiences, similar to a cross between a book and a movie. A movie can’t afford to go on for 8, 15, or even 80 hours like a good RPG can. A book on the other hand, can’t really pose any challenges that a dictionary can’t help solve. However, a game allowed you to step into a fantasy world and remain there for much longer than a movie can, while at the same time, able to challenge your skills, patience, and even your wallet (on those rare occasions that you smash your controller against the TV and have to buy new ones) only to be back for more.  The Single Player Experience used to be the selling point of games. Buy this game instead of this game because it offered something unique, from the gameplay, to the story line, and the overall presentation. But now, we can safely say that we’re entering the dark ages for Single Player games, as they are starting to become just a background, an excuse, to sell games with “multiplayer” as the main dish.

Please don’t get me wrong. Multiplayer has been a big part of gaming for a long time, starting with the PC and a many great multiplayer games like WOW, Counter-Srike, Battlefield 1942, the StarCraft series, and many others. That tradition has now carried on to consoles with popular games like Halo,the COD series,  the Battlefield series, as well as the  many sports titles out there as well, who have greatly benefited from the all addicting touch of multiplayer action.  To that note, it’s hard not to notice that the number of great Single Player titles have decreased dramatically as well. Now to compare a list of “single player only” games from last gen to this current one wouldn’t really be fair, as the online aspect of consoles from last generation wasn’t as robust compared to what we now have in place.  Last generation’s most successful console, the PS2, didn’t have built in online capability. Also, the amount of people with a broadband high speed connection back then wasn’t as high as it is today.  But with all the capabilities of our consoles this gen, and when taking into account the robust presence of Steam, PSN, and XBOX Live, you can begin to see a clear pattern, and it paints a very gloomy picture for fans of quality Single Player games.

Here is a short list of Games that started this generation as Single Player only games, and now includes Multiplayer.

  • God Of war
  • Mass Effect
  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Resident Evil
  • Uncharted
  • Rachet and Clank
  • Dead Space
  • Grand Theft Auto

Those game franchises listed above were very recognizable to the gaming public prior to adding on a multiplayer aspect.  To make matters worse, just recently, EA’s Labels President Frank Gibeau openly stated the following : “We are very proud of the way EA evolved with consumers, I have not green lit one game to be developed as a single player experience. Today all of our games includes online applications and digital services that makes them live 24/7/365.” You know, for the longest time, I always thought that when a game developer tacks on multiplayer to games that didn’t need it, that it was them being greedy and trying to cash in on the success of popular titles like COD, Halo, and other successful games with multiplayer as the main draw. But to hear it straight from the horses mouth? And not just any horse, we’re talking about EA who is one of the major Trojan Horses in the gaming industry.  The saying goes that if there’s smoke then there’s fire; I’m beginning to wonder which other major publications are lighting similar fires under the asses of developers forcing them into splitting budgets and time,  tacking on multiplayer where it’s not needed?  And is this the beginning of the end for the Single Player Experience?

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6 thoughts on “Is the Single Player Experience Dead or Alive?

  1. Grand Theft Auto has had multiplayer right from the beginning. I remember playing GTA LAN games with friends on several occasions. I don’t know about the games between the original and IV, since I never played those.

    Other than that, I agree and I also only buy and play single player games these days. The exceptions are co-op games and competitive games that my friends and family play (which is mostly limited to Mario Kart Wii and Bomberman Blast right now).

    To be honest, I don’t mind a multiplayer component as long as it doesn’t interfere or compromise the single player experience. If the campaign of Uncharted 2 had been much worse than the original, I would have complained, but it wasn’t. In fact, in most people’s minds, it was the exact opposite.

    Having said that, it would be nice if it were possible to get a slightly cheaper version of a game by opting out of having the multiplayer component that I’m never going to play anyway. Sadly won’t happen, since there’s no way the publishers are going to take such a loss.

    • Hey Martin, you’re correct about GTA IV, the thing is that last gen, it didn’t have multiplayer if I remember correctly. And the GTA IV’s map was very small compared to it’s previous ones from last gen. Now I’m not saying that it is directly related to multiplayer, but it certainly does coincide with the implementation of it.

      Now regarding your point about selling the single player separately from the multiplayer, I think Sony dabbed into that a bit when they sold the multiplayer version separately on PSN. Now exactly what the motive was, I can only speculate.

      • My guess is that the GTA IV map size was smaller for a number of reasons.

        The most obvious reason to me would be the additional time and resources needed to create content that fulfils the technological capabilities of the current generation systems compared to the previous generation.

        Creating a detailed vehicle model for the PS3 is much more time-consuming than creating a boxy vehicle model for the PS2.

        Another reason may be the allocation of resources to accommodate support for multiple console platforms at launch. Previous GTA games launched only on PS2, whereas GTA IV launched on PS3 and 360.

        Yet another reason may be that it was simply a design decision. i.e. the developers felt that the city did not need to be any bigger to accommodate the game content and story (I certainly didn’t).

        Multiplayer may have been a factor too, but I think it’s only a small part of the overall picture – at least in the GTA IV case.

        Speaking as a game programmer myself, if an engine is well designed and flexible, then adding netplay code should be fairly straight forward (relatively speaking). In a game like GTA IV, development of the single player campaign probably takes up 98% of development resources anyway. Would that extra 2% have really made much difference?

        If we’re going to talk about compromises that may have been made to accommodate multiplayer in GTA IV, then we should probably speculate more over how the multiplayer mode factored in to the design of gameplay mechanics such as the driving, controls, combat, etc.

        For example, do we have reason to believe that features or mechanics were omitted from the single player experience just because it would have made the multiplayer unbalanced?

      • For example, do we have reason to believe that features or mechanics were omitted from the single player experience just because it would have made the multiplayer unbalanced?”

        That’s another good question you asked Martin. One the article didn’t touch on. these are things we can never get a definite answer on, as developers wouldn’t
        necessarily want to reveal that. But that’s another that multiplayer could be affecting the Single Player Experience, positively or negatively. I will have to look much deeper into this and see if I can somehow get somehow follow up on the article.

        You mentioned that you’re a developer yourself, is that a common concept in the development of games where the multiplayer directly effect the gameplay of the single player? Again I understand if you can’t directly answer that.

      • “You mentioned that you’re a developer yourself, is that a common concept in the development of games where the multiplayer directly effect the gameplay of the single player?”

        Sorry, I didn’t mean to get your hopes up that I can answer this question. I am just a hobbyist games programmer in my spare time; I don’t actually have experience in the commercial gaming industry (my real job is also working as a programmer, just not on games).

        So far, my projects have only been single player experiences, although that may change with my current project and I do have a good grasp of how it’s done (in C++ at least, anyway).

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