Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Single Player and Multiplayer Crossover - Where is the Line Drawn?

The most extreme example hasn't happened yet, but what about when it does?

We're keeping the ball rolling on the whole Mass Effect 3 as sounding board for potential problems regarding the way gaming is being handled. On a positive note today I can say that Mass Effect 3 does not suffer from the problem that I am going to be discussing; there was a brief scare in which is seemed like it was going to be the case, but it turned out to be a false alarm. A false alarm that nonetheless got me thinking.

So, what was this potential issue? Well, on the day the game came out, Game Politics reported that it seemed to be the case that you could only get the best ending if you played the multiplayer component of the game in addition to the single player one. Reading this immediately set off the alarm klaxons in my head. I didn't jump to any conclusions (I learned my lesson from the THQ thing) and instead sent out a call on Facebook to a friend of mine that had a much more extensive knowledge of the series.

He eventually came back with an article posted by a BioWare rep that stated that the multiplayer aspect was not needed in order to achieve the best ending, merely that playing the multiplayer would help. I was relieved, although something still didn't sit right. Certainly this wasn't the first game where playing the multiplayer helped unlock things in single player: Super Smash Brothers comes to mind as a series where unlocking the hidden characters takes far less time to do with friends than it does alone. Adding to that the fact that unlocking extra goodies for the multiplayer component of a game through the single player campaign is something that's been around for ages and there shouldn't be too much cause for panic, right?

Well ... not so fast there.

Even though it wasn't as bad as I first feared it was, the idea that you can do something more easily via the multiplayer than you can through the single player alone doesn't sit well with me. Why? Because I believe that such things will inevitably lead back to the kind of scenario you see at the start, the idea that in order to fully succeed that players need to explore and delve into every aspect of the game: including the multiplayer.

To me it goes beyond the point of whether the multiplayer mode is good or bad; rather, if I'm picking up a game for the single player experience then to me the multiplayer mode is something that is at best generally a pleasant diversion and at worst something I might try once then completely disregard. But if the single player game is going to pull something like "this is as far as you go until you get x number of whateverthehell, and whateverthehell is only available through multiplayer" then that game is forcing me to do something that I don't want to do, and effectively punishing me if I don't.

I reiterate, this is not actually the case in Mass Effect 3, but the brief, scary period of time when it seemed to be had me legitimately worried. I know that it might seem odd, or that I'm overplaying the seriousness of this, I'm trying to consider though that sometimes multiplayer add-ons are less than great, and that sometimes no matter how good they are they just aren't appealing to certain players. If worse comes to worse then some games, no matter how great the single player campaign could potentially be, will be rendered inaccessible because it tries to shove stuff you don't want down your throat. To me that's almost worse than having a good single player and multiplayer experience that are separate. I know that it's just my own assertion, but still, I think that it's a fair one to make.

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