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New Game Plus: An Unappreciated Way to Make the Single-Player Experience Last
Okay, let’s play a word association game for a moment:
When you read that, what’s the first thing that comes into your mind? Does it make you happy? Sad? Shaking with uncontrollable rage?
If it’s the latter, I’m more than willing to bet you’ve been burned by multiplayer modes at some point in your life. Maybe it’s been a bad experience in Call of Duty, maybe you lost a decent sum in online poker, or maybe you found out that the newest iteration of one of your favorite RPGs had an unwelcome multiplayer mode tacked onto it.
If you’re anything like me, it’s most likely the multiplayer forced into your favorite single player game that led to the sudden burst of anger swelling in your chest.
Remember the time before the launch of Mass Effect 3? When BioWare and EA made the announcement that the upcoming space opera RPG would have a multiplayer mode, people everywhere lost it. How could they? They’re going to ruin the whole thing!
Thankfully,the multiplayer of Mass Effect 3 ended up not being a pile of steaming hot garbage. But that didn’t change the fact that it simply did not belong there and didn’t add anything meaningful to the game in any way.
It happened again this year with the release of Crystal Dynamic’s Tomb Raider, a game that was meant to have a strong, driving narrative portraying the evolution of Lara Croft’s timid character into a powerful survivor. Yet another ancillary multiplayer mode was tacked on to the game, and it was about as forgettable as a ham sandwich on white bread.
And yet again, with the lackluster multiplayer mode in open-world shooter Far Cry 3, made up of nothing more than tough-looking characters running around gunning each other on bland maps with none of the elements that made Far Cry 3 so good on its own.
Sadly, these aren’t the only examples of poor multiplayer modes shoehorned into a traditionally single-player experience. So the real question remains: why do they do this? Why do publishers and developers continually go putting multiplayer modes where they simply don’t belong?
The answer is tragically simple: money. In their minds, more modes means the game stays in the hands of the gamer longer, which in turn prevents used game sales from taking place. Then they don’t take a loss, and they also have a chance at making more money.
On paper, it makes a lot of sense. But in execution, it often results in a weird, tacked-on experience that feels uninspired and soulless and only angers the hardcore fans.
So, I’d like to go out on a limb and suggest something else that could be implemented instead of lame multiplayer: new game plus.
If you’re not familiar with it, new game plus is a mode unlocked at the end of a game that (depending on the individual title) allows you to play through the game again with certain elements of upgrades and items unlocked from the start. Often, it means a more challenging experience, but you start out with more of an advantage than you typically do in the regular game. What is unlocked and available to you from the start in a new game plus playthrough is specific to the game itself, but the mode is no less interesting.
So why would this work over a multiplayer mode? For starters, it doesn’t take near the manpower to create that a separate mode does, allowing for more polish and time to go into the development of the core game experience. It gives fans the chance to experience the game in a new way, giving them everything they love about the campaign with a new layer of challenge sprinkled on top to test their skill. And most importantly, it leaves the single player experience as the central part of the experience.
Now, I realize that new game plus is something of a niche mode. Not everyone wants to play through a game a second time, even if it is different from the initial experience. But I’d argue that, at one point, multiplayer was very much a “niche” mode as well. Really, you’d just have to add your own twist to it in order to make a new game plus mode more appealing to a wider variety of players. Maybe certain items are only unlocked in new game plus? New enemies? New missions? Trophies/achievements for a second playthrough?
Imagine Far Cry 3 with new unlockable weapons in a new game plus mode, or Mass Effect 3 with a new game plus that kept all of your weapons and upgrades, but introduced a new enemy class that was tougher than the rest. Sounds awesome, right?
Really, the possibilities are endless, and it’s no secret that game designers are brilliant in their own right and could definitely create new ideas based on this model. All it would take is interest on the part of the fans.
So what do you think? Is new game plus enough to entice players, or would you want to see something else entirely? Tell me in the comments below!