The Multiplayer Conundrum

With the announcement of God of War: Ascension’s multiplayer component comes a familiar debate: does this franchise even need multiplayer? We’ve seen this movie before: successful single-player franchise gets new game, new game gets online multiplayer, fans debate for and against added multiplayer. It happened with BioShock 2, it happened with Mass Effect 3 (but what DIDN’T happen there, amirite?!), and it’s already started to happen with God of War: Ascension.

The major arguments for both sides focus on three main tenets:

Necessity

Most of the opposition I see in these arguments is as basic as can be: the franchise simply doesn’t need a multiplayer component. It’s succeeded for this long without an online component, why should it get one now? The pro-multiplayer crowd rebutts with another overly simple tenet: it’s a new way to play the franchise, who the hell cares? We get to enjoy a new take on one of our favorite franchises, there’s no reason to get all up in arms about it. Most of the time, this argument devolves into normal Internet message board banter: mom jokes, fanboyism, et al.

Development Resources

This is another opposition-led topic, as they’ll say that multiplayer takes away valuable development resources from the single-player experience in the name of “unnecessary” online modes, potentially making the single-player campaign inferior to previous versions. Some supporters point out that each development team has different subsections, so the addition of an online multiplayer subsection won’t really hinder development, as those who normally develop the single-player will still be focused on the single-player.  The others go back to the “they’re just giving us more reasons to keep playing, so who cares?” position.

Optionality and Importance

The supporters like to throw this argument around: if you guys hate it so much, just don’t freakin’ play it! It’s a totally optional experience, merely for added fun and enjoyment, so if you don’t want to play it, THEN DON’T. They also throw in that online gaming is important to some players, so any single-player franchises are missing out on a whole league of gamers. The opposition will counter with “well, if it’s optional, then what the hell is it even in the game for?” and “we don’t think multiplayer is all that necessary, we don’t play it.” This, like the first argument, tends to turn into insults and fanboy badgering.

So who’s right? Is multiplayer just bringing more to the table, making it a good thing, or is it a unnecessary add-on to franchises that can maintain quality based on single-player alone? There is no clear answer, as both sides make some interesting points. However, as long as the multiplayer is fresh and original, putting a new spin on an universe we’re all familiar with and extending the experience, can it really be a bad thing? I understand the concerns about development focus, necessity, etc, but I’m more focused on how it player than whether or not it belongs in the first place. After all, I don’t make the game, I just talk about them a lot.

HOWEVER, and this is important, there are a select few franchises that will NEVER need online multiplayer. Ever. I’ll stand by this list until the day I die, but I don’t ever want to see multiplayer added to these franchises:

The Legend of Zelda

First of all, unless the Zelda game it’s added to talks about a great war for Hyrule, Zelda multiplayer wouldn’t make the first damn bit of sense. Zelda has built games based on a few key characters: the hero, the princess, the big evil guy at the end. Sure, there are plenty of other characters in the universe, but none of them are the hero of legend. Just Link, who helps Zelda (in whatever form she’s in) defeat Ganon/Ganondorf/Demise. Let’s keep it that way.

Final Fantasy

It may seem like Final Fantasy might be a good candidate for some kind of online co-op, but think about it for a second: you’d have four or five people controlling different characters and traveling across the maps at their own pace. There would be people moving too fast or too slow, there’d be no control over initiating battle, etc. It would be far too chaotic for Final Fantasy to go multiplayer, and it doesn’t take a genius to see why.

The Elder Scrolls

These games are huge enough, the last thing I need is some dope online coming into my game and screwing something up Dark Souls-style. While the idea of a league of Dohvahkiins in Skyrim fighting Alduin may seem tantalizing, the only type of multiplayer I can see working is that of Dark Souls, where players can enter and leave games as they please. That would just be chaos.

These are just three examples of consistently excellent single-player franchises that have no need for any online multiplayer components. Would Skyward Sword have been enhanced if someone else controlled Fi? I don’t think so.

There is a legitimate argument on both sides of the fence when it comes to multiplayer modes. There is no universal right answer here, the debate must solely be argued on a case-by-base basis. The most recent example, God of War Ascension, certainly looks like it’s creating a fresh, never-before-seen online experience. Let’s just hope it impresses when the game releases, so we’ll know for sure who was right in this argument.



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