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What took multiplayer gaming so long to come into its own?
June 11th 2010, 00:45 CEST by G-Man

So I recently came across an indie game platform called Sleep is Death, and its associated community. The basic idea is that it is a game where two players can get together and one person acts as a game master of sorts and crafts an adventure or story for the other player to experience or interact with. Sort of like Neverwinter Nights' multiplayer mode but more lo-fi and with a greater emphasis on free-form roleplaying rather than stat-heavy roleplaying systems. Really the best way to understand SiD is to just check out this demonstration.

The game itself I am sort of lukewarm about. I mean, I have the same reaction to it that I have with role-playing games in general, which is that I like reading through write-ups of such games (flipbooks in the case of SiD) but I don't really enjoy actually participating in such games myself.

However, I really dig the philosophy behind creating such games, particularly as described in the following Q&A session with the developer, Jason Rohrer:

AVC: What led you to make a storytelling game like this?

JR: Well, I’ve been following people like Chris Crawford for a long time. He’s one of my game design heroes. Last year I was on this French/German TV show with him called Into The Night With, and they pick two people from some industry, and they picked me and Chris Crawford. It was a night on the town, where you go out to dinner, you go to an arcade, go shopping, whatever you do, and then they condense it down into a 55 minute long documentary.

I’ve read The Art Of Game Design, I’ve read Chris Crawford On Game Design, which is the more modern version. I’ve been following [his interactive storytelling tool] Storytron and its development over the years, seen his talks. And being able to spend seven hours with the guy — we had really good conversations with the whole night.

At that point, Chris had been working 17 years on Storytron and he had just released it, and a few months later he had to admit that this wasn’t going to be a success. So I was viewing him as a somewhat tragic figure. We had some heartfelt conversations about whether his project was a failure, and how he was just having to admit to himself that he failed. He’s this really smart guy, really well-spoken, knows a ton of stuff about everything — and he chose to pick this particular project to work on for so long.

And I was really interested in the Façade project [an interactive drama] when that came out. But those guys spent five years on it. Façade is a great — a massive achievement, and it works amazingly well. It shocked people how well it worked. But at the same time it doesn’t work the way you’d want it to work. Most of the time the story is you trying to say something even simple to the characters, and them not understanding it. Even something in context, even something they just talked about. And so Façade’s a laugh. You play it and laugh because you’re trying to do something funny to make Grace and Trip do weird things.

A lot of people are saying that in order for video games to ascend into the pantheon of other meaningful entertainment forms, that we’re going to need more simulation. We have to simulate human behavior. And I’ve been thinking about David Jaffe saying all these artistic games, they’re really just borrowing artistic tropes from other mediums. The wind blowing chimes, the washed out graphics, these kinds of things. They’re not providing him with the kind of experience he gets from a film like American Beauty, for example. And he says he himself has dreamed about these things, but when he actually sits down to design a game, he realizes that the player is going to get in there and essentially fuck around. And unless the game can fold around the player as they’re fucking around, and react and understand that they’re fucking around, the AI’s strong enough to do that, then it’s just going to break. Or it’s going to put barriers in your way and just feel frustrating.

So this is a huge problem. And therefore we’re not going to be able to make games about the human condition, essentially. And there are little experiments like Passage which are very abstract metaphors for the human condition, but that’s as far as we’re going to get.

So I’ve been frustrated with that for a while, and I just turned the problem on its head. Why are we trying to do this as a single-player thing? That’s always the premise. It’s basically the premise for the entire conference, is that you’re essentially dealing with single-player games mostly, and if there’s multiplayer, it’s bolted on.

The easiest film is to stick some people around a table and aim a camera at them and let them talk. The hardest film is space ships and big explosions, right? And then people say it’s the reverse for games. It’s really easy to make a game with spaceships flying around shooting things, it’s really hard to make a game where people sit around and talk.

But if you’re sitting around making a game with your friends around the kitchen table, talking is the easy part. It’s much harder to have objects interact.


Rohrer isn't the only guy working along these lines, although he may be the most visible at present. We also see Chris Hecker doing this with Spy Party, and Kenichi Nishi with his indie DS game LOL. And of course, Left 4 Dead deserves an honorable mention as probably the most commercially successful primarily cooperative multiplayer game ever to be made.

This renewed emphasis on designing truly multiplayer games (i.e. games that are designed to be played only as multiplayer experiences) raises an interesting question: why has it taken so long for multiplayer games to develop into a genre of their own? When most people think of games - separate from videogames that is - they nearly universally think of multiplayer only games. Why then, are videogames designed the other way around, i.e. as purely solitary experiences?

I mean other than M.U.L.E., Warlords and a handful of other early trailblazers like Spy vs. Spy, Laser Squad Nemesis, Fireteam, etc., pretty much every videogame ever developed was conceived to be a singleplayer experience. Even most MMOs are essentially singleplayer in nature with PvE dominating the actual gameplay experience with only a mild (and usually optional) cooperative element.

You could argue that it was technical limitation which prevented networked multiplayer gaming from becoming a dominant force online, but surely those limitations are long gone by now. There must be some sort of other force or influence which hinders the success of multiplayer only games. The reasons I often hear stated for avoiding multiplayer are: (a) that most people are assholes online, (b) the level of competition is too tough, and (c) the preference to avoid the burden of social interactions when gaming. The first two problems are largely solvable through proper game design and community tools. As for the last problem, I can't really believe that the majority of gamers feels this way.

What is interesting about this phenomenon is that gamers will happily play videogame conversions of classic boardgames, but will avoid multiplayer offerings designed as videogames from the beginning. I think the lesson to be learned there is simply that the multiplayer components of videogames are poorly designed and are often orthogonal to the design goals of the singleplayer components of such games.

The need to rethink how multiplayer games are developed is, I think, only going to become more urgent as the industry progresses further, particularly given the recent emphasis towards open world game experiences. I think this is in large part why APB (the spiritual successor to the Grand Theft Auto experience) was designed as a MMO.
C O M M E N T S
Home » Topic: What took multiplayer gaming so long to come into its own?

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#1 by Gunp01nt
2010-06-11 01:16:25
supersimon33@hotmail.com
Great article!

I would hazard a guess that choosing to get your entertainment from a machine is inherently less social than sitting down with some people around a board game. Most popular multiplayer games (from CS to WoW) are filled with people who "don't play well with others".

She's probably had sex with like 4 different guys by now and has no idea who he is anymore, his face lost in a memory sea of dicks.
#2 by G-Man
2010-06-11 01:28:36
Just to be clear (because the topic doesn't really emphasize this), what I am really interested in discussing are the following points:

1. Whether "new" types of gameplay are more likely to emerge from the new crop of multiplayer only games, than from old-fashioned primarily singleplayer games.

2. Whether relying on free-form roleplaying by players is a cheat on the part of a developer, or whether it counts as legitimate gameplay design.

3. Whether multiplayer games will ever truly surpass singleplayer games in terms of overall market share.
#3 by gaggle
2010-06-11 01:30:22
tl;dr


I assume the vast majority never ever plays multiplayer, ever, even if they were to buy a multiplayer-only game. It must be less bad than it was five years ago but I would guess singleplayer is where it's at in terms of raw numbers.

"Roses are red, violets are blue, rubbish is dumped and so are you." - FML
#4 by TreeFrog
2010-06-11 02:01:55
gaggle (#3):
I assume
It must be
I would guess

What the fuck, man.

"One part disembowels me while another slowly eats its way through the gas line. As I bleed out on the floor, it reminds me that I need to buy milk." - Jibble
#5 by Matt Perkins
2010-06-11 02:03:38
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
I read it...but don't get it. It's like playing two person solitare. Sure, you can, but why would you?



As for #3, the only really interesting question, yes, yes they will. As the technology advances and the interface becomes less of a problem (3D is done right, virtual reality is done right, something), people will play games like Second Life literally as their second life.

Basically, as soon as a world can be created like Avatar, where you can jack in and feel and see an entirely real world that is amazing...masses of people will join and stay in the game. As we get closer and closer to that kind of interface, we'll get more and more people involved in it.

Ever read Tad Williams? His first sci fi book described the idea of how it will be pretty damn well. The book was mediocre at best, but his vision of what MMOs will be like is pretty spot on I think.

"the concept that a happy worker is a productive worker is hardly an entry from Matt's Big Book Of Things The Fairies Said." - Dum
#6 by Marsh Davies
2010-06-11 02:26:37
www.verbalchilli.com
Good topic, G-man.

But actually I disagree with the idea that there are many substantial still-existing hindrances to multiplayer-only games in general. The one stumbling block they have is that online penetration is still not that high -- but it's plenty high enough for an online game to make a lot of money. In fact, addressing point 3, I'd say multiplayer gaming has already surpassed singleplayer games in terms of market share.

While most big budget, off-the-shelf releases still assume that they will be experienced primarily in singleplayer, nearly all have connectivity of some degree. And there are now many, many titles which place the emphasis the other way around - most FPS of recent years - Halo, CoD, Battlefield - have keenly targeted online almost in favour of singleplayer. Racing games are now extremely conscious of the online experience as the primary model of engagement. The revenue from DLC has partly encouraged all this, because multiplayer ensures longer terms of engagement with a product.

And that's just an illustration of stuff that has moved out from the offline ghetto. All the games born on the web - Facebook games, web-games, free-to-play MMOs - are ushering people into constant interaction. And the numbers behind these stuff are megabig. Bigger than megabig. Robobig.

And that's not even counting WoW, which is an industry in itself.

But as to the other points:

1. Yes, but only because humans are currently capable of a greater number of dynamic behaviours than AI. Singleplayer games are, partly as a result of this and partly because of a witless mimickery of older media, still largely narratively driven, and that enforces linearity and obliges games to limit behaviour so as to more easily corral the player.

2. That's something I've considered a lot recently. Co-op is fun because tooling about with friends is fun, and there are games which simply exploit that without any subtantial accoutrements - Crackdown, for example. I think it's legitimate gameplay design in as much as you have to account for it and make space for it to occur, but there are now so many choices in terms of multiplayer experiences that I think developers won't be able to simply fall back on this as their core. In terms of Sleep Is Death, I don't think that it is relying on pure free-form roleplay: there is a creation challenge there too. You're not simply telling a story, you're pulling ill-fitting components out of a bag and desperately assembling them to respond to unexpected events.

Brink is an interesting prospect, blending singleplayer, co-op and competitive multiplayer. I also encourage you to check out Frozen Synapse and Love - both indiegames that do smart things with multiplayer.

#7 by Marsh Davies
2010-06-11 02:32:09
www.verbalchilli.com
And Frozen Synapse is very similar to Lazer Squad, incidentally. If you pre-order, you get on the multiplayer beta which IS AWESOME. If clunky.

#8 by G-Man
2010-06-11 02:38:01
Matt Perkins said in #5:
I read it...but don't get it. It's like playing two person solitare. Sure, you can, but why would you?

Man, of all people who I thought would "get" the purpose of free-form roleplaying it was you. And then you go and let me down like that. Anyway, instead of thinking of it like two person solitaire, how about thinking of it as a magic version of Scribblenauts where instead of the computer responding to the words you write, it is another player making various objects appear and actions occur. Doesn't that sound a lot more fun and versatile than Scribblenauts?

Eggbert said in another thread:
So are "art games." Okay that's way too broad a brush, but I'm immediately suspicious of games where "having fun" doesn't crack the top three reasons to make the game. He seems entirely too concerned with "video games [ascending] into the pantheon of other meaningful entertainment forms" and not enough with making something worth playing. Sleep is Death doesn't have much appeal to me, I guess because I never came from that DM, pen and paper RPG background. Spy Party however looks interesting. I'm not sure what the distinction is for me; I think Spy Party is coming from a direction of "these interactions might be fun, lets make a game based on that" where Sleep is Death seems to coming from "Games are Art! Games are Art! Look Ebert! Games are Art! Look how Artful this is!" direction.

Maybe what you like about Spy Party is that there is more of a directed goal? Or that there are NPCs for you to play against? Couldn't Sleep is Death be used to implement a sort of Spy Party type game? I agree that Rohren's attitude can be a little much, especially when he talks about his living off of the grid philosophy, but I wouldn't let that bias you against his ideas.
#9 by G-Man
2010-06-11 02:44:15
Marsh Davies said in #6:
And there are now many, many titles which place the emphasis the other way around - most FPS of recent years - Halo, CoD, Battlefield - have keenly targeted online almost in favour of singleplayer.

Dude that's BS. The first Halo launched without any multiplayer at all, and all of the other Halo entries were still very singleplayer focused in that the years they spent in development were largely devoted to making the singleplayer campaign, not making the multiplayer experience better. Ditto with the Call of Duty series. I agree with you about the Battlefield series however, and I think Battlefield was really the next big shooter after Counter-Strike to embrace the idea of designing around the multiplayer experience from the get go.
#10 by TreeFrog
2010-06-11 02:46:00
I think that was a typo on Marsh's part.

"One part disembowels me while another slowly eats its way through the gas line. As I bleed out on the floor, it reminds me that I need to buy milk." - Jibble
#11 by G-Man
2010-06-11 02:55:18
Frozen Synapse looks a lot like Counter-Strike 2D (which is itself just an updated Cannon Fodder) but turn-based, which could be pretty good depending on the matchmaking, which was always the weak point of LSN to me. Anyway, according to this preview on RPS the developers are holding off from a full release because they are developing it into a singleplayer game. This is exactly the point I think needs discussion. Why aren't they content with just developing a multiplayer game and spending their resources making it better? Why bother with a singleplayer campaign for a game like this?

As for Love, based on Bob's reviews of his attempts to play it I think I'll pass.
#12 by Matt Perkins
2010-06-11 03:57:40
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
So one guy plays the DM and one guy plays the single player. To me, that's not even multiplayer, that's play imagination with another person.

Fuck that. I like rules, I like to compete, to better myself, to learn strategy, etc, etc, etc. All things that can either be given by throwing a bunch of people in the same place or by a good AI. None of those things are going to come from having an imaginary playground two people doodle in.


Why aren't they content with just developing a multiplayer game and spending their resources making it better? Why bother with a singleplayer campaign for a game like this?

Because it's not a fun game. Just because we have predrawn pictures and can Choose Your Own Story, on both sides, doesn't make it a game. It's an interactive story without rules and goals. Or a cooperative doodle.

Like those idiots who play Vampire online in chat rooms. They pretend to have rules, but there really aren't any.

"the concept that a happy worker is a productive worker is hardly an entry from Matt's Big Book Of Things The Fairies Said." - Dum
#13 by Matt Perkins
2010-06-11 03:59:00
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
Oh, I thought were still referring to the first type of game.


Why they feel they need single player in that game you linked? Because 99% of the people that buy it will only play it single player. If the game isn't multiplayer only, it's going to be played more single player. Or so the stats show.

"the concept that a happy worker is a productive worker is hardly an entry from Matt's Big Book Of Things The Fairies Said." - Dum
#14 by gaggle
2010-06-11 04:08:04
Tree, I'll give you #1 and #3 but not #2!

After completing the sentence I realized my knowledge on this is at least five years out of date, so I softened it up. Pointless really, who aims for accuracy on PC?

"Roses are red, violets are blue, rubbish is dumped and so are you." - FML
#15 by Shadarr
2010-06-11 04:09:09
shadarr@gmail.com http://digital-luddite.com
The problem with multiplayer is and will always be people.  The more a game depends on players for the experience, the more the experience will suck for the majority of people.  Sure, if you have a bunch of friends and you all play together, you can have a blast.  But you could also have a blast with those same friends if you were playing any game, or playing a sport, or having a barbeque, or even cleaning out your dead grandmother's attic.

People who have fond memories of PnP gaming may gravitate to something like this, but I suspect they will find it to be slightly worse than PnP gaming, not slightly improved, and that's because the game adds nothing of value while decreasing the social aspect of sitting around a table, eating cheetos and talking in funny voices.  The advantage of computer games over PnP is that the game experience is not dependent on the quality of the players.  This seems to be doing the opposite, making your play experience totally dependent on who you play with.  What value is the game actually adding?

"I hope you one day decide to smarten the fuck up so I can stand to look at your posts." - gaggle
#16 by Matt Perkins
2010-06-11 04:20:35
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
As a lover of PnP who has tried it both in person and online...for me, it loses a LOT online. Too much. PnP is all about personal contact for me. Socializing. And for spending your l00t on ale and whores. Of course.

"the concept that a happy worker is a productive worker is hardly an entry from Matt's Big Book Of Things The Fairies Said." - Dum
#17 by jjohnsen
2010-06-11 05:42:03
http://www.johnsenclan.com
The problem with multiplayer is and will always be people.

Yep.  There are too many people who think fun means making everyone else miserable.

#18 by CheesyPoof
2010-06-11 07:13:41
I'd assumed that a game like Sleep Is Death you would play with people that you know. I can't imagine just going online finding some game running and join it.

<Hugin_len> Basically, cheesy doesn't have awful taste in music, he's simply very white.
#19 by Jibble
2010-06-11 07:43:05
I believe a number of devs around here have pointed out that the vast majority of people who buy games with a multiplayer component never play the multiplayer part. This has even held true for games that are 100% multiplayer. Turns out an overwhelming percentage of the player base would rather play against bots than the assholes they'd find online.

I want to go to there.

Blog. 187 lbs.  7 to go.
#20 by Matt Perkins
2010-06-11 08:12:17
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
The first rule of multiplayer game design is that people are broken.

Far too many games dev houses forget that basic concept.

"the concept that a happy worker is a productive worker is hardly an entry from Matt's Big Book Of Things The Fairies Said." - Dum
#21 by lwf
2010-06-11 11:17:33
That data is from Warren like 6 years ago. I think things have changed since then.

Handsome like a coat hanger. Wii.
#22 by Shadarr
2010-06-11 11:24:03
shadarr@gmail.com http://digital-luddite.com
Nah, Brad made a comment to the effect that the same was true of Demigod.

"I hope you one day decide to smarten the fuck up so I can stand to look at your posts." - gaggle
#23 by Marsh Davies
2010-06-11 16:38:25
www.verbalchilli.com
#9 by G-Man

Dude that's BS. The first Halo launched without any multiplayer at all, and all of the other Halo entries were still very singleplayer focused in that the years they spent in development were largely devoted to making the singleplayer campaign, not making the multiplayer experience better. Ditto with the Call of Duty series. I agree with you about the Battlefield series however, and I think Battlefield was really the next big shooter after Counter-Strike to embrace the idea of designing around the multiplayer experience from the get go.


Sorry, I should have worded that better and with less hyperbole: even franchises that began as pure singleplayer experiences have increasingly shown a multiplayer bias. My point isn't that development hours on singleplayer are trivial but that multiplayer is no longer a value-adding feature but a core component to what those games are.

Oh, and another great multiplayer only indie game: Neptune's Pride.

#24 by G-Man
2010-06-11 18:26:56
Jibble said in #19:
I believe a number of devs around here have pointed out that the vast majority of people who buy games with a multiplayer component never play the multiplayer part. This has even held true for games that are 100% multiplayer. Turns out an overwhelming percentage of the player base would rather play against bots than the assholes they'd find online.

Hence question #3 - will that ever change? What will it take for it to change? Given the lack of progress in AI development, doesn't this HAVE to change if we ever want to expand our ideas of what games can and should be?

I'm not sure I believe in the asshole thesis. I mean, like I said, a shitload of people will play videogame versions of boardgames online with no problem. I think people don't play most multiplayer videogames simply because they are either poorly designed, or because they have an image problem.
#25 by CheesyPoof
2010-06-11 18:42:09
Hrm, scrabble and chess do seem to be somewhat resistant to griefing.

<Hugin_len> Basically, cheesy doesn't have awful taste in music, he's simply very white.
#26 by Jibble
2010-06-11 18:50:05
#24 by G-Man

Hence question #3 - will that ever change?

This question boils down to: Will people ever stop being assholes to each other?

The answer is no.

What will it take for it to change?

Internet gun.

Given the lack of progress in AI development, doesn't this HAVE to change if we ever want to expand our ideas of what games can and should be?

That all depends on who you are and what you think games should be.

I'm not sure I believe in the asshole thesis.

To be fair, it applies mainly to the types of games that attract assholes (read: most games where you can shoot the other person in the face). Unfortunately, a lot of multiplayer games reside in that genre.

But you're not really talking about the genres most people think of as "multiplayer games" (e.g. racing, FPS, RTS, sports). You're talking about new genres that allow greater control of the experience as a whole. It's not really "redefining" video games if all you're doing is pulling things that already exist (PnP games, essentially) into the realm of video games.

I mean, like I said, a shitload of people will play videogame versions of boardgames online with no problem.

Board games and card games tend to have much more constrained rule sets than your typical online multiplayer game. They're simpler to understand and have a lower occurrence of cheating.

You can't just say "Well people are fine with board games" because you're talking about what is essentially the lowest form of online multiplayer game. That argument doesn't make any sense when you're attempting to justify the importance of freeform art games that rely heavily on people to engage deeply in the experience.

I think people don't play most multiplayer videogames simply because they are either poorly designed, or because they have an image problem.

The image problem being that they're filled with insult-spewing assholes. Which isn't just an image.

I want to go to there.

Blog. 187 lbs.  7 to go.
#27 by Jibble
2010-06-11 18:52:28
#25 by CheesyPoof

Hrm, scrabble and chess do seem to be somewhat resistant to griefing.

As I said, the rule sets are tightly constrained. You can only really grief by shouting profanities over the microphone. It's not like someone's going to camp all the Es or flip the board over.

I want to go to there.

Blog. 187 lbs.  7 to go.
#28 by G-Man
2010-06-11 18:56:26
Okay, how about baseball, football, tennis, soccer, frisbee, etc. How about every game every made that doesn't rely on a computer to be played? Your knowledge of boardgames and card games is very limited if you think that the rule sets are always tightly constrained.

People genuinely LIKE playing games with other people. This is a fact. Why are PC gamers so different in this area? Are we all just anti-social creeps?
#29 by LPMiller
2010-06-11 19:32:48
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
i dunno, I usually find L4D 1 and 2 to be fairly social games, with a low amount of assholes. At least in co-op campaign mode. Having to work together helps with that.

"Testiculos habet et bene pendentes" - "He has testicles, and they dangle nicely."

"LP, your big balls are a religion." - Jibble
#30 by Jibble
2010-06-11 19:49:01
#28 by G-Man

Okay, how about baseball, football, tennis, soccer, frisbee, etc.

Your knowledge of boardgames and card games is very limited if you think that the rule sets are always tightly constrained.

"Tend to have", not "always have". And if you're talking about "shitloads of people" playing them, you're talking about Uno,

People genuinely LIKE playing games with other people. This is a fact.

People genuinely LIKE playing games with people they know and can see (and punch). You can't recreate that experience over the faceless maw of the internet.

Why are PC gamers so different in this area? Are we all just anti-social creeps?

See above. Society in real life is much different from society over the wires.

I want to go to there.

Blog. 187 lbs.  7 to go.
#31 by Matt Perkins
2010-06-11 20:27:04
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
Jibble is on the right path, imo...


First, you have to accept that online gaming is VERY different from other types of multiplayer gaming, then you have to build your game around that. TF2 is probably the best example of convincing people to work together by design, rather than by gamer training. WoW has a lot of features that attempt this, but they aren't too good at it and they are the best social MMO I've played to date.


It's not an easy thing to do, but you can't design your online game from the ground up with the idea of how people really play games online, you're going to end up with yet another multiplayer game that only the hardcore play.

"the concept that a happy worker is a productive worker is hardly an entry from Matt's Big Book Of Things The Fairies Said." - Dum
#32 by gaggle
2010-06-11 23:02:32
You're all talking about online assholes, but why don't we then just imagine a game we only play with friends? Why isn't that all the rage, if internet assholes are all that prevents people from playing?


Have Facebook games been brought up yet? That's an example of the future of multiplayer... not one I or most of us here have taken an interest to, but there are miiiiiiillions of people playing that. Sliding up the curve of "proper games" is WoW, and I bring that up because I disagree with the thread's assertion that online RPGs don't count. WoW is both amazingly popular and heavy on social interactions, making it a modern day example of multiplayer. Incidentally many players of those (type of) games are female, and adult, and just in general break all the stereotypes associated with gaming.

So this is my point:
You're barking up the wrong tree looking for reasons why "multiplayer isn't popular" when you're blinding yourself to the current generation of amazingly popular online games.

Some multiplayer games (e.g. Modern Warfare) tap into the same competitive nature as real-world multiplayer games (e.g. soccer, etc.), but that's not a huge market. I mean, it's not a huge market in the real world either. Most of us just want to hang out and have fun, and that's what modern multiplayer games have tapped into. There's no stopping Facebook- and Flash-games, and there's no stopping the increasingly casual nature in titles like WoW.

Casual social interactions is a far bigger market instead of trying to get mothers to crave the l33t headshots.

"Roses are red, violets are blue, rubbish is dumped and so are you." - FML
#33 by Jibble
2010-06-11 23:38:34
If the future of multiplayer games is Farmville, you can just fucking kill me now.

I'd say they fall into the same basic framework as board games. Simple, pre-defined rule set, easy to drop in and out of, though they do add persistence and rewards.

None of that comes close to what G-Man is talking about.

From the topic:
And he says he himself has dreamed about these things, but when he actually sits down to design a game, he realizes that the player is going to get in there and essentially fuck around. And unless the game can fold around the player as they’re fucking around, and react and understand that they’re fucking around, the AI’s strong enough to do that, then it’s just going to break. Or it’s going to put barriers in your way and just feel frustrating.


Unless I'm mistaken, what he's talking about here (and what G-Man is dreaming of) is a true narrative that envelops the player and reacts to them in a way that makes some kind of real-world sense. I'm happy to give him the point that AI is nowhere near capable of handling that (nor will it be in the near future). In the meantime, your only option is to have a human sit there and write the story/game around what you're doing.

That's a neat argument and all, but really all you're talking about doing is taking something that already exists (imaginative play) and trying to cram it into the confined space of a computer simulation. Whereas computer AI is limited by the complexity of the programming, human interaction in a game like this is limited by the available tool set. Sleep Is Death solves some of that through user-generated content, but you're still relying on the other person to create the content and the story.

This isn't the future of video games. It's ultra-niche stuff for storytellers and the people who tolerate them. Which is fine for those people...but not everyone who plays games cares about whether or not they'll ever reach the summit of being officially declared "art". In fact, I'd say most people who play video games don't ever give that a first thought, much less a second.

I want to go to there.

Blog. 187 lbs.  7 to go.
#34 by Shadarr
2010-06-12 00:29:45
shadarr@gmail.com http://digital-luddite.com
gaggle (#32):
You're all talking about online assholes, but why don't we then just imagine a game we only play with friends? Why isn't that all the rage, if internet assholes are all that prevents people from playing?

Scheduling.  You ever try to get more than two people together to play anything, whether it's pick-up basketball or a multiplayer game or just a movie night?  It's work.

Friendlists take care of that a little bit, but you're basically limited to playing games that can be played with random people for short intervals.  If you wanted to play through an RPG with a party of 4-6 people who have to be there for every session, good fucking luck.

Crap like Farmville get around this because they're not really multiplayer games at all, they're just single player games with viral nagging.  It's like visiting a friend's town in Animal Crossing, you can do it but it's really not integral to the game.

"I hope you one day decide to smarten the fuck up so I can stand to look at your posts." - gaggle
#35 by G-Man
2010-06-12 01:32:05
Let's try this a different way:

Premise #1: The hallmark of gaming is interactivity (as constrained by a ruleset).

Premise #2: Interacting with other people is in the abstract superior to interacting solely with a machine AI.

Any arguments so far?

Conclusion: Multiplayer games in the abstract will always be superior to singleplayer games.
#36 by BobJustBob
2010-06-12 01:35:37
I disagree with premise #2. There are many things multiplayer can't do that singleplayer games can. Such as how Crackdown basically makes you a god.

BUYBUYBUY
#37 by TreeFrog
2010-06-12 01:39:39
Also interacting with other people is a total hassle if you've got problems with depression.

"One part disembowels me while another slowly eats its way through the gas line. As I bleed out on the floor, it reminds me that I need to buy milk." - Jibble
#38 by G-Man
2010-06-12 01:49:04
It doesn't have to be direct interaction. I mean singleplayer games also involve interaction with other people (i.e. the developers), it is just that the interactions are planned it advance that makes it different.
#39 by Shadarr
2010-06-12 01:56:59
shadarr@gmail.com http://digital-luddite.com
G-Man (#35):
Premise #2: Interacting with other people is in the abstract superior to interacting solely with a machine AI.

Any arguments so far?

Yes.  Interacting with other people is inferior to interacting solely with a machine AI in the majority of cases.  Single player games allow the player to be the focus of the entire game world, you are The Hero and everyone else is a lesser actor.  This is the problem MMOs run into.  Either you have a situation like EQ and WoW where they jump through thousands of hoops to try to give this experience to everybody simultaneously, or else you have a game like Eve where the majority of people are peons just like in real life.

Competitive games like deathmatch and sports games lend themselves to multiplayer as a way to make up for lackluster AI, but any game with any sort of narrative does not work in multiplayer, at all.  The best you can do is make the "protagonist" a group rather than a single hero, which gets killed by the scheduling issues I discussed before.  One of the chief advantages of videogames over board games or physical sports is that I can play them whenever I want for as long as I want.  If I have 20 minutes to kill before the Daily Show comes on, I can play a little Animal Crossing, leave the game paused while I watch the show and then come back to it.  I can't do that with a multiplayer game, or at least not one with more to it than deathmatch against random fuckos.

"I hope you one day decide to smarten the fuck up so I can stand to look at your posts." - gaggle
#40 by lwf
2010-06-12 02:01:08
I read somewhere that facebook games' userbase have been dwindling ever since they cracked down on all that spam.

Handsome like a coat hanger. Wii.
#41 by Matt Perkins
2010-06-12 02:05:14
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
gaggle said:
You're all talking about online assholes, but why don't we then just imagine a game we only play with friends? Why isn't that all the rage, if internet assholes are all that prevents people from playing?

According to statistics released, we already do that in MMOs. People don't often go outside their already existing social circle in MMOs. Check out stereotype #4.

As for games like farmville...take away the players that play at work and then tell me about how amazing the user numbers are. Farmville and it's ilk are so popular because you can play them while you're supposed to be doing something else.


G-man said:
Premise #1: The hallmark of gaming is interactivity (as constrained by a ruleset).

I guess so, but I wouldn't say interactivity as the main goal, more as a big part of engagement.

Premise #2: Interacting with other people is in the abstract superior to interacting solely with a machine AI.

I don't know. It might depend on the person. For you and me, sure, that's 100% of the time better in the abstract. But all kinds of people play solitary games instead of making friends and playing multiplayer games in real life, so why would that suddenly change the online realm?




To make multiplayer games better, MMOs specifically, some ideas:

1) Make keeping track of people as automagic and as easy as possible.
    - Since we know people would much rather play with people they know, start people getting to know each other. If you group with someone, next time you group with them, you should see automatic information about them (how long, how many times, etc) and any added personal notes. Some idea for an automatic rating system that can both be shared globally and not gamed would be pretty helpful, but I can't even imagine coming up with this sytem without having actual MMO development experience.

1a) Make playing the game with others rewarding and as easy as possible.
    - The game should both sutbly and unsubtly reward you for grouping. You should be able to click on someone and see any information your account would know about them (grouped x times, personal notes, friend of a friend). I really want a system for showing not just friends of friends across one level, but all through the system and have that give them ratings...kind of like followers ala twitter, but again, it's second mission would have to be a pain to game it.


2) Allow all forms of communication in the game as much as possible.
    - From being able to easily track vendors you've Liked before, to tying into IRC, heck, I'd even like to see IMs and else allowed. You want people to connect this part of their life with other parts of their life. It will only bring more connectivity and more people in. And expand the social groups easier.

"the concept that a happy worker is a productive worker is hardly an entry from Matt's Big Book Of Things The Fairies Said." - Dum
#42 by gaggle
2010-06-12 02:45:52
This is what I meant with my first flippant "tl;dr" comment: I'm not actually sure what's up for discussion.

Maybe I'm just stupid, or too ADHD to pay attention, but I can't figure out the the point of the topic. On the one hand I think some of the specific sub-questions are interesting, such as what sort of multiplayer-only games could be interesting.

 On the other hand I feel like G-Man is trying to quantify multiplayer games along a single axis, or compress them down into a weird formulae. But there is no one variable to optimize, people who play games are different and want different things. Games doesn't have an end goal that can be reached, it's this vast landscape which, if it does have any one purpose, is to be as topographically interesting as possible to best represent all the different cultures and values we can bring to the tabl.. to the jetski.

"Roses are red, violets are blue, rubbish is dumped and so are you." - FML
#43 by The_Joker
2010-06-14 09:04:57
http://www.jackinworld.com
god damn! ya fukkan wankers, you fucks are still at it? jesus h. christ, man.

Joker, Ph.D. Procedural Assholian Behaviour, Pedophilosopher
- All your ass are belong to my wang Jafd. Prepare to are penetration.
"I fart in THX." - Sgt_Hulka

PAY ATTENTION, YA FUKKAN MORANS.
WILL SUCK COCK FOR A Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III.
#44 by jjohnsen
2010-06-14 19:06:59
http://www.johnsenclan.com
Why am I showing new posts on a couple of threads, but there are no new posts.  Has someone returned that has been long blocked?

#45 by anaqer
2010-06-14 19:27:17
Just Joker.

t ¤ mp3/week20 - yeasayer
"Apple hates everyone now." - BJB
#46 by G-Man
2010-06-14 20:03:04
Hey guys, new E3 topic in the bin.
#47 by Matt Perkins
2010-06-17 03:05:45
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
This topic died a fast death.

I'll switch to San Fran requiring the SAR ("specific absorption rate") to be listed on all cell phones. The fine is pretty cheap at this point ($300), but the idea is good. I'm a big fan of erring on the side of caution when it's something so serious.

My favorite part though? The industry guy response:
(the law) will potentially mislead consumers with point-of-sale requirements suggesting that some phones are safer than others, based on radio emissions."

Translation: Informing people is bad, because they might make informed decisions!

"the concept that a happy worker is a productive worker is hardly an entry from Matt's Big Book Of Things The Fairies Said." - Dum
#48 by gaggle
2010-06-17 03:18:52
Well, you could live in a cave too, you'll receive less space radiation. Not everything dangerous-sounding is dangerous.

I don't really care much either way, I'm stating the above more as an interesting counterpoint or an attempt to play devil's advocate. If part of your buying process includes amount of radio emission then that's not going to shatter my world, I'm fine by playing it cautious.

"Roses are red, violets are blue, rubbish is dumped and so are you." - FML
#49 by Matt Perkins
2010-06-17 03:36:00
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
I'm not following, gaggle.

Here's what's going to happen if more and more people start requiring that, more and more companies are going to start paying attention to that number and reducing it. Even if we aren't sure what it does yet. Can't hurt to have less radiation in my daily diet and all...

"the concept that a happy worker is a productive worker is hardly an entry from Matt's Big Book Of Things The Fairies Said." - Dum
#50 by gaggle
2010-06-17 04:20:07
But you could make the same argument for reducing space radiation, or not living near graveyards because of unrestful spirits. There's no big conclusion that radio emission from mobiles are dangerous so the extend of the argument is "can't hurt to be safe".

And eh, with regards to cellphones that's fine by me, I understand wanting to have less of something that at least we can say isn't good for us. If anything my political leanings are for less laws in general so that's probably all this issue is really rubbing up against.

"Roses are red, violets are blue, rubbish is dumped and so are you." - FML
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