Multiplayer is becoming a common feature in video games. Even traditionally single-player games like the Tomb Raider series are beginning to adopt multiplayer aspects. Is this a negative fad the gaming industry has thrusted upon the gaming community? Let’s weigh the pros and cons of including multiplayer in single-player oriented games.
The biggest con that gamers will argue about is the fact that any funds that a developer throws at a game is split in two rather than being focused solely on the single-player experience. As it stands, the new Tomb Raider is currently being touted as having 12-15 hours of gameplay (without much exploration). If the funds being allocated to building the multiplayer components for the game was instead put into the single-player experience, perhaps we could have had a 20+ hours single-player experience (without much exploration). While that is very true, unnecessary bloating of the single-player experience might not help the game. Many a time this could result in grinding and pointless side-quests that add no weight to the game aside from padding. Such an addition would ultimately tarnish the single-player experience rather than elevate it. If the initial vision of the single-player experience has already been set out and met, then adding to it might not help much.
Another con that gamers comment on is that multiplayer tends to be a copy-paste job from other games. Tomb Raider itself has already confirmed that it will include the tried and trusted team deathmatch option. This is another valid comment, and truth be told, is essentially down to lack of creativity among game developers. As I mentioned in a Far Cry 3 feature before, you don’t have to just include real-time competitive multiplayer. You can also include co-operative multiplayer or even turn-based competitive (and co-op) multiplayer, like a simple game of poker played online for in-game goodies. Lack of creativity on the developers part should be the bigger criticism rather than just the inclusion of multiplayer.
A positive aspect of multiplayer inclusion is that it can increase the longevity of the game. One need not look further than COD games or FIFA games for that. This is rewarding for both developer and consumer, as gamers are less likely to re-sell their games and those gamers can interact with their mates whilst enjoying a good game. If the game is good in the first place of course. Multiplayer should take the core aspects of the single-player gameplay and create a balanced field to allow gamers to have good fun. When successful, the game will carry itself for a long time, and future titles will most likely be very successful too. A bad multiplayer experience however can leave an even more terrible taste than leaving it out completely, so it is a risk for developers to include multiplayer aspects.
At the end of the day, quality multiplayer is never a bad thing to have in a game. And when funds are segregated properly, there should be no real harm in including it. Game developers need to grow too, and if Eidos/Crystal Dynamics never try their hands at multiplayer, then they will never fully improve as developers. Only by getting used to incorporating multiplayer into their games will they be able to sharpen their skills. Bad multiplayer should rightfully be condemned, but the mere mention of multiplayer shouldn’t raise so much anger/animosity as it seems to nowadays.