The Decline of Singleplayer

posted by on 30th November 2012, at 9:57pm

Since the advent of the internet, many video games have incorporated multiplayer into their repertoire. However, this has had a negative impact on single player development. While playing a game by one’s self against the computer can be fun, it doesn’t match the challenge of playing against other individuals… real live human beings. Unfortunately, single player has never quite returned to its former glory since the takeover of multiplayer. Even so, there are still plenty of reasons why single player is fun an enjoyable over multiplayer.

For starters, single player tends to depend more on storyline for enjoyment whereas multiplayer focuses sole on versus play. There is no story to be had in multiplayer typically, but rather only competition against other individuals, usually other human players. In single player, since you’re going against the AI whose difficulty may be already pre-determined or by the gamer himself, the only thing developers can work with to satiate a gamer is the story. Having a good story will keep a player interested in the game and provide a good change of pace from bland multiplayer action.

Next, in single player, competition typically depends on the level of difficulty you select for yourself whereas multiplayer is based on the people you play against that you have no choice over. For example, in games like Halo or Call of Duty, you are given four options to choose from for difficulty in the campaign: Easy/Recruit, Normal/Regular, Heroic/Hardened, Legendary/Veteran. Easy/Recruit tends to be for people who are new to the game or for people who like a very easy play through. Normal/Regular is exactly what it sounds like: a difficulty that is straight forward… neither hard nor easy, but in between. Heroic/Hardened is a hard difficulty. It’s more for people who like a challenge and are experienced at playing similar types of games. Lastly, there is Legendary/Veteran. This difficulty is the hardest of the hard. This mode provides the greatest challenge to players. Life is lost quicker, enemies are stronger and harder to kill, and timed objectives are sped up. Needless to say, this difficulty is not for the noobs unless they have a death wish.

On the other hand, multiplayer is dependent on the players involved. Players can vary in skill level from absolutely clueless and nooby to the best gamers in the world. Most people are pretty average and fall in between these two extremes. Competition tends to be varied as many games usually don’t have adequate matchmaking systems to facilitate balance between teams or by separating out the good players from the mediocre. The ranking systems that do exist often reflect how much one has played, not how good the player actually is. As a result, multiplayer is not always enjoyable for the average gamer. Having a consistent difficulty is often times much more enjoyable than mixed difficulties.

Lastly, single player is unique as a solo experience which is inherently lacking from multiplayer. Most games with a campaign or single player mode pit the player against the AI and gaming environment without interaction with another real human being. True, there are single player modes that are co-op, but other gamers are put on the same team, not against each other. In co-op mode or multiplayer games, solitude is lacking when working together with a team to accomplish objectives. This solitude is nice for various reasons. First, it gives the player a chance to accomplish something on his own rather than with other people. In a connected world like we live in, it’s hard to find things to do alone without other people around. Single player provides one of these opportunities. Secondly, this solitude gives the player a better chance to focus without getting distracted.

Clearly, multiplayer has come to dominate the video game industry. Games like Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and Halo show this trend as single player campaigns become shorter and shorter with little story or substance. This isn’t to say other gaming publishers don’t do single player at all or well. Many of them do. Assassin’s Creed, Bioshock, and Half Life (just to name a few) are fantastic single player games, but they dwarf in sales in comparison to their multiplayer counterparts. Overall, gamers should be balanced in the games they play. They shouldn’t just play only single player or only multiplayer, but do a mix and balance of both. There are merits to single player that multiplayer just doesn’t have and vice versa. Hopefully, single player will continue to stay around and have a good following. The day games become predominately multiplayer is the day I hang up my mouse and keyboard and find something better to do.

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