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Default General News - Has Single Player Gaming Run Out Of Steam @ The Guardian

September 29th, 2007, 00:19
This article from U.K. news source The Guardian, explores the effects of the increasing popularity of online gaming on the single-player experience. The Guardian talks with several industry figures, including Chris Early of Microsoft Casual Games, Mitch Gitelmen (Shadowrun) and Flagship Studio's CEO, Bill Roper.
If you can play with real people, why settle for robots? That's a sentiment which resonates with much of the gaming community, if industry trends and sales figures are anything to go by. Blizzard's online roleplaying game, World of Warcraft, reached 9 million subscribers in July. Microsoft's Xbox Live online gaming service was a major selling point for the Xbox 360. Most recent big-budget action games support multiplayer functionality. Even some largely single-player titles - such as Neverwinter Nights - enjoy continuing sales long after release due to the astonishing amount of online content available. Are single-player, AI-driven games becoming a thing of the past?…
Chris Early, studio manager of the Microsoft Casual Games service and Live representative, is even-handed in his judgment. He thinks single-player gaming still has its place but that the execution is important. "There are narratives and stories you can tell through single-player experiences that you simply can't tell through multiplayer," he says. "At the same time, there are experiences you can't deliver in single-player that only multiplayer can achieve…
If there's one upcoming single-player title that could profess to provide a completely new experience each time you play the game, it's Flagship Studios' Hellgate: London. Built entirely upon randomised content, the virtual demon-infested London through which players will be traipsing will have a different layout each time. Essentially, Hellgate offers infinite replayability."We love randomisation," says Bill Roper, Flagship's CEO. "It adds so much replayability to the game, as there is always the chance that a player will find something new, or emergent behavior will create a new experience. When done right, randomisation doesn't come off as being random - which is kind of an odd way to think about it. Basically, you don't want your environments to feel haphazardly slapped together. You want them to feel cohesive and coherent. This sort of thing is the real challenge and art of creating a highly randomised game, and is why you don't see many of them
Conclusion? Both play styles have merit, each having it's own distinct set of strengths and weaknesses:
However, multiple players means that it is more difficult to tell a story. Single-player games, by contrast, are compelling in the way that the player interacts with well-crafted plotlines and characters. However, many would argue that allowing players total control over a game's story - by essentially removing story completely - cannot result in a particularly engaging narrative.
Mitch Gitelman, studio manager on Shadowrun, a multiplayer shooter, disagrees. "Social gameplay absolutely lends itself to storytelling," he argues, "but it's going to be 'watercooler stories' about the amazing move or tight win your team made last night, rather than a story created by the game designers that you're allowed to interact with…
This is a step change for Shadowrun, where previous instalments in the franchise were highly regarded single-player RPGs. So does this move to exclusively online content suggest that single-player gaming is reaching its expiry date? Gitelman says that the move to online is the result of the team's experience with online gaming…
So will Shadowrun return to its story-based roots? "There is definitely a market and demand for a more conventional single-player action/RPG based in the Shadowrun universe," he says. "I'd love to see it get created. But what would really be cool is a meta game - story game, in other words - that could be affected by the multiplayer play. There's a challenge for game designers."
More information.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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September 29th, 2007, 00:19
I still remember the times when Multiplayer was a nice bonus.

But the voices grew more & more demanding, even to saying that Singleplayer is doomed and "we want an multiplayer game !"

At that early times of the rise of MP, I had the impression as if only kids - or at least younger gamers, to put it more politely - were demanding more & more MP.

But they were - as war as I remember - also quitze aggressive in their demand for MP.

Even in the Drakensang discussions at the official forum,. every now & then someone drops in demanding an MP-part of the game - or even a MP-only game.


I think the industry just responded to these demands, eventually seeing in this a new field to explore and gain profits.

And this is a field which is rich in profits, and the prospects are good.

My very personal impression is that Singleplayer might become a niche - especially for those who demand rather mature and deep games.
Games, which actually tell stories instead of pure social interaction (which basically is multiplayer).

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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September 29th, 2007, 00:40
Hmmmm…

Why ever eat pie if there's cake around? Why ever go the movies if you can just watch TV…

Single player games offer their own entertainment experience while multiplayer games offer another… I don't see why if you like one over the other, that the other must be going extinct.

If I'm right but there is no wife around to acknowledge it, am I still right?
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September 29th, 2007, 01:42
I flashed on Gitelman's comment, "But what would really be cool is a meta game - story game, in other words - that could be affected by the multiplayer play," because it's the same sort of thing I've been suggesting about single-player CRPGs.

CRPGs and other single-player games need to get a lot bigger and a lot more complex, but we all know the industry isn't going in that direction. Someone will need to blaze a new trail. I imagine they'll probably do it by taking advantage of the Internet, somehow, maybe by updating their games weekly, daily or even hourly.

If the paradigm could change from making and selling something once to establishing and maintaining an on-going relationship, that would solve a lot of problems. It would mean players would pay more for their games in the long run. But they would be paying for bigger better games.
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September 29th, 2007, 01:57
Multiplayer is the future. Its just a matter of time. Currently mmog engines are in the infancy-class. Once the industry develops more we will have companies selling mmog engines like they are selling 3d engines currently.

Good example is ww2ol that launched 2001. They had a budget in the millions but in the end even it ran out and they had to use people who had no experience in coding to finish the job. It took six years to fix most of the spaghetti mess they made in launch (som of the code actually worked right accidently for years until it was fixed) and they are still working on it.

Its simply so costly to make mmog now that most of the development goes to the mmog engine instead of innovation thus leading to a yet another eq/wow clone.
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September 29th, 2007, 02:03
Although there are marketing geniuses who claim that one of the reasons for PS:T's poor (initial) sales were due to lack of multiplayer there's no hard evidence to support this.

Awhile back Bioware infamously did its focus groups and discovered that players of NWN overwhelmingly played single player game with it. It wasn't made clear what percentage only played the official campaign loaded with the disk.

The result was a complete turnaround for the focus of the game from then on. NWN from the start was designed as a make your own adventure Toolset designed for multiplayer with a DM. It was only in the last year of development did Bio slap together the OC that it shipped with because they said fans of Baldur's Gate were "expecting one".

They resisted players having henchmen and more than one summons and its obvious that its because they wanted players to play multiplayer. In fact, unlike Diablo buyers of the game were given only one CD-Key license and if they wanted to play more they had to buy multiple copies. In other words they deliberately engineered it for MP to sell more copies of the game. They weren't marketing to individuals but small groups. Even the name NWN had MP associated with it as it was originally a popular AOL game. Bioware anticipated a sort of Diablo/MMORPG hybrid with it hoping to get Diablo like sales as they wouldn't charge a monthly fee.

With the heavy criticism of the OC and the lousy AI in face of all the hype of the game Bio had to scramble to try to make it up to fans. They gave away the free mod Witch's Wake and eventually allowed up to 5 companions in the second expansion. They also didn't bother with MP in that expansion.

Along comes NWN2 Obsidian who are well aware of the the marketing data of Bioware and design a well done OC for it. The problem is they ignored the MP aspect of the game and they still can't get the numbers of NWN1's multiplayer community. The single player community has long finished the first campaign and only have now to check out the next major SP campaign with Mask of the Betrayer.

NWN1 and NWN2's problems are textbook examples in Single Player and Multiplayer marketing. At their very simplest a good Single Player campaign is needed to sell the game out of the game. However, multiplayer gives tremendous shelf life to a product.

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22520
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September 29th, 2007, 02:10
There are big problems with multiplayer. Not that I haven't had an absolute blast playing online — I have — but those were the high points. The game gets ruined too often by cheaters and personality conflicts.
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September 29th, 2007, 02:19
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
There are big problems with multiplayer. Not that I haven't had an absolute blast playing online — I have — but those were the high points. The game gets ruined too often by cheaters and personality conflicts.
Thats a good point actually. I doubt singleplayer ever runs out. Singplayer is like reading a book alone. Reading it together doesnt necesserily enhance the experience. I noticed this while playing system shock 2 single and multi. Multiplayer can easily ruin the immersion if the game is not in the light-category.
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September 29th, 2007, 03:56
I mostly buy single player games. Only mp-games I play are shooters. Its just a good way to let some steam off. Enemy territory Jedi knight2, rainbow 6 games. swat 3 , tribes 2, quake 1, mods for hl2/hl1 etc,. Not to mention that I've gotten dozens of good online friends because of mp-games which is the greatest aspect of mp-gaming. It feels so good when me and couple of mates manage to hold the line ET despite the enemy has the numbers
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September 29th, 2007, 06:25
Well, as most know, I don't play any MP except NWN and if done correctly is fantastic fun. I've been playing with a group from first the Dot and then here ever since the original was released and with all the brilliant mods available, we've had a fantastic time. That's what MP gaming should be about, but sadly for many it isn't. I love SP, but look forward to my weekly campaign with friends from around the world. They must love it too, cause they get up to start play at 3:00 am their time!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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September 29th, 2007, 07:18
Multiplayer isn't going to run single player out of town anytime soon. In the last couple of years, single player campaigns have had a big resurgence, and that trend appears to be continuing for the forseeable future. You don't believe me? Here is a list that I can think of off the top of my head…

God of War, God of War 2, F.E.A.R., Condemed: Criminal Origins, Heavenly Sword, Bioshock, Mass Effect, Dead Rising, Oblivion, Halo 3, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Bully, GTA IV, The Witcher, NWN2, Mask of the Betrayer, Assassin's Creed, Crysis, Fable, Metroid Prime 3, Twilight Princess (basically anything on the Wii). One thing that I find interesting is that series in their second and third iterations are sort of rediscovering single player. For example, the developers for NWN2 and Halo 3 both said that they wanted to improve the single player portions for those games. That is very encouraging. From a sales perspective, multiplayer appears to be overrated.

I used to worry that single player games would get drummed out of town. But I'm no longer worried. And isn't it kind of funny that one of the "experts" is a guy from FASA, the studio that made that dipshit flop "Shadowrun"? What did that game sell — 50,000 copies or something sorry like that? Go away, doofus.
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September 29th, 2007, 09:42
I am extremely mixed up about this so I am not even gonna add commentary.

Other than to say, if Darkfall turns out like crap, I might just… be mad. For years.

— this just in: I am probably not as retarded as previously assumed!
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September 29th, 2007, 23:35
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
The game gets ruined too often by cheaters and personality conflicts.
I personally fear that this thing will incease, rather than decrease. Together with the Gold selling thing

Singleplayer games don't have these problems. I agree with Lucky Day that Singleplayer "modes" provide a constant flow of money, whereas multiplayer "modes" will have to fight cheating and abusing, not to mention social conflicts between players.
The money flow of the multiplayer part will be different, and maybe even longer lasting, but on the other hand it has problems - which will eventually consuming money in form of bugfixing and employing administrators and moderators - which singleplayer won't ever have - at least as long as it is offline.

The only MP mode I've ever played was LOD with a bunch of extremely friendly guys & girls from the Larian forums - in co-op mode. It was a blast for me to see how we were helping each other out that much.
And that was long ago. (2-3 years, rather 3.)

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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September 30th, 2007, 03:46
There's no doubt that multi-player games of all kinds are being developed right and left to cash in on the WoW gravy train, but I agree that single player isn't likely to go away. In fact, all the small niche kind of games in the strategy and rpg genre that I would be most interested in will probably be made increasingly by smaller studios and so be likely candidates for SP only games.

I think there's plenty of market share for both. If not, I don't think Roper would have stuck single-player into his first big post-Blizzard title. IMO, he's betting on doubling(or at least substantially increasing) the potential players by having both, just like Diablo II.

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September 30th, 2007, 08:39
I play games because they are interactive stories and in some ways they challenge my brain. The only thing MMORPG gave me was the understanding just how cruel adult people could be against eachother. The best singleplayer games have left me with fond memories, while I consider my years in MMORPG to be a black hole in my life.
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September 30th, 2007, 16:15
These comments about single player dying always confuse me, because like Doctor Kaz up there so clearly displayed, there are PLENTY of single-player games still coming out and doing well.

Books are still around. Movies and TV shows still exist as well. Are those multiplayer experiences? No. You can watch the latter two together, but hey, you can watch a lot of games together too, and talk about them just like with TV and movies. I never played Metal Gear Solid 3, but I watched my brother play it and talked to him about it the whole time. It's practically a movie itself, as many games are (sometimes unfortunately).

BTW, I've yet to see a good randomized game. Just because the dungeon is a slightly different maze with monsters in slightly different places doesn't count as much replay value in my book.
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September 30th, 2007, 21:51
With a MMORPG, you just can't trust all other players to stay in character, you usually can't even trust your group to do so, much less a whole server. In fact, few even seem to understand the concept of role-playing. The few that claim to role-play tend to consider taking on a manner of "speech" or some cliched class or race archetype, which doesn't cut it in my book. Usually they are just throwing a thin coat of paint on yet another power-gamer character. I feel that MMOs engender a culture that represses proper role-playing. I found even myself betraying my characters while playing on MMOs and would end up power-playing much of the time. I have played more than a few MMORPGs over the years, but I now have sworn them off entirely.

Even MUDs suffered the problem, even though they had smaller communities of dedicated players who didn't feel empowered to do whatever they wanted just because they paid for it. Fortunately there were a few MUDs that enforced role-playing and I had some of my best ever computer MP experiences on those rare MUDs.

In single player I can generally trust the developers to keep the game in character. I can immerse myself in the role without consequence. While SP obviously is less dynamic, much of the role-playing goes on in my head without any in-game elements. Hell, that's why I was one of the few of this crowd to enjoy Oblivion. I had an entire story going on, with deep character development for my PC as well as some of the NPCs, all in my head.

MP, in the style Corwin mentions, has tremendous potential, but I don't see it leaving the niche. I feel that most people, even PC gamers, are too into the action and the loot collecting and the power leveling to ever appreciate the shared crafting of a story. Unfortunately, it combines some of the limitations of P&P with some of the limitations of computer gaming, but fortunately is also free of some of the limitations of each. I hope this form of MP thrives long into the future.

Action MP is, of course, a different animal entirely. I enjoy FPSes quite a bit, once in a while. And I even get some bittersweet enjoyment out of pure ARPGs like Diablo which I don't even feel should bear the genre title of "role-playing". I don't want to like it, but it's still good fun.

Of course, there is only one perfect MP RPG experience to me, pen and paper role-playing with a group of like-minded friends. It doesn't get any better. But the fact that I feel that way and haven't been in a P&P campaign in over 10 years tells you that it's difficult to get just the right group and meet all in the same place, over the long-haul, especially for adults.

So, at least until something changes in the MP realm that I'm not foreseeing, I consider the single-player experience essential to my gaming. I just hope there are enough others that feel similarly to keep SP from becoming another niche product. The real devil here is people claiming that single player gaming (or cRPGs or PC gaming for that matter) is dying. That gets into peoples heads. A lie heard over and over has far more power than the truth.

I apologize for the long post but I wanted to get that off my chest.
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September 30th, 2007, 23:05
Originally Posted by Guhndahb View Post
With a MMORPG, you just can't trust all other players to stay in character, you usually can't even trust your group to do so, much less a whole server. In fact, few even seem to understand the concept of role-playing. The few that claim to role-play tend to consider taking on a manner of "speech" or some cliched class or race archetype, which doesn't cut it in my book. Usually they are just throwing a thin coat of paint on yet another power-gamer character. I feel that MMOs engender a culture that represses proper role-playing. I found even myself betraying my characters while playing on MMOs and would end up power-playing much of the time. I have played more than a few MMORPGs over the years, but I now have sworn them off entirely.

I apologize for the long post but I wanted to get that off my chest.
Great post, and I fully agree what you wrote. Thats why I prefer sp rpgs. Multiplayer rpgs are just powergaming. People don't play roles, they just hunt exp, levels and new items so that they could level and kill more effienctly. No matter how sweet the rules and setting are, at the end it degenerates to mindless killing. Give them something potentiantially good and beautifull only to see them destroying and corrupting it entirely.

Sure the situation is a lot different if you play with similar minded people (like corwin's famous nwn 2 campaign).
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October 1st, 2007, 08:37
Multiplayer is here to stay, but it will never fully replace single player gaming. Just like TV is neither all talkshow nor all movies.
I see a future for online single player games though: Games which use serial content, or simply the power of evolving adn expanding worlds / storylines through downloading online content.
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