Published on June 23rd, 2012 | by Danny Concepcion, Contributor
Editorial: Can Players Ruin Games For Themselves?
It’s no secret that online multiplayer is now the focus of modern gaming. It’s cheaper for developers, sometimes letting them squeeze more money from gamers with online passes. And as a player, you get instant gratification, some replay value, and a unique experience that doesn’t always come with single-player campaigns. So letting more players compete with each other is a no-brainer.
But sometimes the worst thing about a game is the very group of people you’re playing it with.
Take Ghost Recon: Future Soldier for instance. The game heavily revolves around teamwork. There are no deathmatch gametypes or killstreaks, so one player can’t turn the tide of a match. Gathering intel and communicating enemy locations to your team are vital to capturing objectives. When both teams play this way, it’s great. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. More often than not you’ll play in completely silent lobbies where everyone has their own agenda. The de facto way to predict which team will win is to count how many players in each team are using microphones. The team with more microphones usually wins.
MAG also promotes teamwork, but instead with player roles. The game assigns them special billets, such as squad leader, allowing them to place waypoints on the map, assign objectives, and such. The problem is getting a bunch of online strangers to listen to each other.
These titles exist in a post-Call of Duty environment, where every game is about empowering the player: kill streaks, perks, classes, loadouts, emblems, titles, badges, medals, appearances and even Street Fighter X Tekken’s gems exist to make n00bslayR125 stand out amongst the crowd.
In order to foster teamwork, developers have to go against the grain and place limits on players. Because the more power players have, the smaller the chances they’ll work together. Just imagine the chaos that would ensue if every game always had friendly fire on, or if Halo and Gears of War allowed you to spawn with the most powerful weapons. Any semblance of teamwork would be wiped out.
It must be difficult for developers to walk this line. If a game is too “tactical,” then it’s only fun for those playing with friends. If a game is on the opposite side of the spectrum, too accessible, then teams are completely arbitrary and it’s all about having a good K/D ratio. Players have their own motivations, and skewing gametypes to reward one style of play over another won’t alter them. Instead, the game suffers from a bunch of gamers playing by their own “rules.”
So, is this a goal worth chasing? What’s the point in making games that rely on teamwork if only few play the “right” way? And is it wrong for developers to expect a certain style of play from gamers?