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Friends and Foes: Gaming the Multiplayer

Written by darkness on November 16, 2013
If any one aspect of gaming was most contested, it would definitely have to be the multiplayer (mind the pun). The capacity to cooperate, coordinate, and compete with friends and strangers alike is quite understandable; after all, we are social creatures, and what better way to incentivize games than to have the ability to socialize in them? Whether it's helping a stranger pass a difficult section or teabagging your friends over a betrayal, fun (as much as sphincter-clenching) is to be had.

If we're going to talk about multiplayer, we're going to have to talk about Call of Duty. Unfortunately, I don't have a sophisticated history in that game, so let's talk Halo.

Halo was an unexpected hit and the driving force behind the original Xbox console. While its campaign was quite stunning in its own regard, it was the multiplayer that grounded the game for sequels (and prequels) to come. The goals were simple: score the most kills, capture all the flags, take all the hills, and keep all the oddballs. And yet, with the great variety of weapons, vehicles and maps to play with/on, it was rarely that simple. Snipers could blast downrange headshots across Blood Gulch, ghosts provided an omnipresent threat on Sidewinder, and a game of rockets on Wizard was off the rocker.

But of course, competition fueled with adrenaline coupled with a couple bottles of beer and a dash of profanity makes for a REALLY poor sport. It's not uncommon for a players to take arguments off the battlefield and into the chat, and that never gets any better. In-game "etiquette" also doesn't help the cause (which I'll explain more in-depth later), such as the ubiquitous "teabagging" technique perfected by Halo players everywhere. In Call of Duty, there's generally a faster-paced game, less teabagging, and more expletives than an American Oktoberfest.

But let us not forget about cooperative gaming. Amongst the blood-soaked, cursed lands of first-person-shooters and real-time-strategy games, some gems do promote cooperation--as long as your teammate doesn't get the wrong ideas. Minecraft is probably the most prominent of these such gems.

I haven't played Minecraft before. Well, actually, I have, but it's too fleeting for a personalized description. But I have watched many other players have at it, creating anything from simple shacks to mods that reskin the entire game. There's a great deal to do in Minecraft, so long as you're willing to look for it; beyond a quest for the Enderdragon (which is fairly singular and easy to accomplish), there are no leads of what to do. And that is what gives Minecraft its signature flavor: it's a sandbox, and it's solely on you to build your sand castle. With that level of freedom, one could say that Minecraft provides a more amicable RPG atmosphere than most RPGs--at least if you can get past the basic blocky graphics.

Speaking of which, where does that leave MMOs? MMO games have been on the decline as of late. It's almost bizarre in the manner MMOs have transformed. Whereas more constricted MMOs have continued to thrive--like League of Legends and Call of Duty, depending on your definition of MMO--MMORPG has suffered from a fair number of problems.

Let's take our ol' favorite as the prime example for this monologue: Maplestory. As this game matured, one glaring flaw became quite evident: cooperative gameplay is not welcome within conventional game mechanics. At the same time, the concept of "efficiency" also rose--possibly due to the aging (and aged) player base. Combined, the result is extreme competition in heavily popular training areas. It is so extreme that players want an entire map to themselves, or they would not be satisfied by its inefficiency. While this is remedied somewhat by supplementary cooperative mechanics--the party system, the guild system, the soon-to-be-defunct family system--it is also offset by Nexon's increasingly wanton skill developments, where now almost every, if not every, class has some capacity to fill the screen--and often the map--with a gut-wrenchingly powerful area-of-effect attack. Some games, like Diablo 3, has tried to promote more cooperation by drop instancing.

Unfortunately, that might not be the most optimal answer for an MMORPG. Despite Maplestory's economy being more volatile than exposed sodium, players might not be too keen on the idea of each player getting his or her own spoils because that would saturate the market with a lot of goods. Conversely, given that Nexon hands out good stuff like that like candy with their omnipresent events, I'm not sure if that's a significantly bad thing.

PvP in MMORPGs is also on the decline. This shouldn't be too much of a surprise; with updates occurring at least monthly, there's just no time for a stable metagame. Furthermore, whereas League of Legends is ALL PvP, games like Runescape are not, and more often than not do not have a dedicated balance team to ensure some level of equality among the classes. I will admit that I don't follow the LoL scene (like, at all), but given their enormous player/viewer base--base as they may be--that has to be some indicative of a properly functioning PvP to one extent or another, right? ...Right?

In all, multiplayer is that notion that every game developer talks about, but not every game can support it. I personally believe that multiplayer should be an optional add-on for most games at best, and only if it take off should developers pay more attention to it. For games that intend to be solely multiplayer: devs, don't expect to get it right on the first try. But it's not my place to actually implement any sort of multiplayer--be it co-op or comp-stomp--and every now and then a new multiplayer function pops up and soars in spite or because of these suggestions. But enough of that; don't you have a friend to yell at for teabagging you?

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November 16, 2013
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Sat Nov 16, 2013 02:17 PM +

I don't think MMORPG or MMO are in decline. Just look at Battlefield 4, the top servers are massive 64 player battles. As for MMORPG, games like Smite and LoL are still insanely popular

Sun Nov 17, 2013 01:24 AM +

greenelf said: I don't think MMORPG or MMO are in decline. Just look at Battlefield 4, the top servers are massive 64 player battles. As for MMORPG, games like Smite and LoL are still insanely popular

Like I said, it depends on the definition of MMO. I think Smite and LoL are MOBAs, and thus MMORTSs. And to be fair, Battlefield 4 just came out fairly recently, so there's that new-game smell still on it (though I'd wager it'd last quite a while). Is 64 players sufficient for "mass multiplayer"? Probably.

Just splitting hairs.


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