Lately, any pointless polemic is valid to try to shake the foundations of the videogame industry. But very recently, due to the (unfortunate) declarations and decisions of a big company, a debate that can already be described as classic came back to the fore: Multiplayer or single player?
Of course, before we get down to it, we want to make it clear that this debate is not about classic titles, in which the single-player experience was the same if we played with two players: Double Dragon, Raiden, Contra, Turtles in Time…
Obviously, in these games the fun is multiplied when we play cooperatively with one or more players, there is no debate possible. In this article we will compare purely multiplayer or, in the worst-case scenario, online competitive games with more narrative games developed exclusively for a single player.
For some time now, the rise of e-sports and the great possibilities of online gaming have led to a phenomenon that, although we think it is quite normal, was quite surprising a few years ago: games without a story mode, without a narrative, with only competitive multiplayer modes. If someone had told us a few years ago that we would find purely multiplayer titles in the shops, we wouldn’t have believed it; and so, it is with several players who refuse to accept the present situation. Many old-school players, who have already enjoyed several generations of entertainment, prefer classic games for its capacity to introduce us to a world of fantasy and let us be carried away by its narrative.
As we have mentioned, we will highlight positive and negative elements of both ways of gaming; in both cases you’ll find fun, well-rounded and technically impeccable games… But their mechanics or gameplay will be very different.
Let’s go back to multiplayer-only titles. In most cases, the titles of this type propose a restrained progression, to say the least, with restricted scenarios that the player will be forced to memorize and with a progression that will be marked by the elements and possibilities that our character will have access to.
That possibilities will open as we invest hours (and days and months) in the game. Almost all these titles belong to the shooter genre and their main attraction, along with the possibilities of evolution of our character, is to be conscious that we are always facing other players: it’s impossible for a match to be the same as the previous one.
Besides, the progress of the character requires an enormous number of hours, something that we will also need to invest to increase our own experience if we want to be successful in every match. As a rule, every bit of time spent on these titles usually reveals a new detail we didn’t know, a strategic part of the map we hadn’t explored yet, or the best way to use a weapon, so the time spent is real experience and usually differentiates a good player from a mediocre one (although reflexes, genes and trickery also play a role).
If there’s one thing we should emphasize negatively about this type of game it’s its repetitive mechanics and the way it rewards the player, as we said before, who spends the most time in the game. The one who has done the most touring around the stage will know the best positions, will have the best weapons and will have acquired powers and/or improvements that the novice will not yet know exist. In fact, if you’re not used to multiplayer mechanics and you’re a little late to a game, your opponents’ level of experience will be totally overwhelming, and you may get bored of biting the dust after a few hours of play.
When it comes to technical requirements, a multiplayer title must focus on elements beyond the visual, often neglecting the level of detail in favour of a higher frame rate and optimal management of resources to connect a certain number of players in the same scenario without interruptions or delays. Although not all multiplayer games require the same resources or share a similar level of detail, of course.