Tag Archives: multiplayer

Do We Need To Rethink Solo Offline Game Modes?

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With Overwatch now out, the forward march of $60 games with only multiplayer continues. On the one hand, I don’t think every shooter should be forced to have a campaign with a story. On the other, I also think games like this ignore a lot of people who could potentially enjoy these games but don’t care about player versus player gameplay. Continue reading

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Does Games-As-A-Service Have To Be Multiplayer?

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It looks like Tom Clancy’s The Division is going to be Ubisoft’s next Assassin’s Creed II — that is, the next template for its games going forward. If it wasn’t already obvious enough, this seems to seal the deal that blockbuster video games are headed towards a service model primarily made of online games customers keep paying into. It’s probably smart business but it’s also to the dismay of people who don’t care about online or multiplayer games. I’m starting to wonder if there’s a service-based path for those consumers too. Continue reading

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Do People Really Want To Talk With A Bunch Of Strangers In Splatoon?

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A lot of new details recently came out on Splatoon, but being a multiplayer shooter from Nintendo, what’s getting the most attention is its announced lack of voice chat when playing with random people. This is classic Nintendo going against what most people expect of a genre in which it has basically no experience.

This is far from the first time I’ve talked about Nintendo and online infrastructure, but I think this particular area is worth examining again in the midst of recent conversations about online harassment. It plays into what I think is Nintendo’s reasoning behind everything they’ve done in regards to online multiplayer. Continue reading

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Holiday 2014 Local Multiplayer Checkup

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“I do think that consoles trying to concentrate on online rather than local multiplayer will be remembered as a huge mistake.”

— Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw of Zero Punctuation in a VICE interview

I’m pretty sure Thanksgiving and holiday family gatherings played a role in Nintendo’s planning the release date for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Last year I talked about how these new consoles stack up when it comes to local multiplayer at a time when it might be most prevalent. I’m gonna take just a little bit of time this year to check in on this again along with local multiplayer on PC, which is a steadily rising thing. Continue reading

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Why You Should Try NeoTokyo: Part Two

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I feel like I should do another post on NeoTokyo because my last one wasn’t really about why you should try the game but rather what it is. Here’s my best attempt at describing what the game feels like and what actually sets it apart.

A major thing about this game (and maybe all tactical shooters) is how it manages to be tense and fast-paced while also requiring careful and patient play. It’s not for the kind of people who like to run all over the place gathering kills, but rather people who try to carefully control the map to complete an objective, even if that objective is killing the other team. The reason it’s one of my favorite multiplayer shooters is because it’s built around that more strategic style of play.

Last time when I said NeoTokyo sometimes descends into team deahtmatch by nature of its lack of respawns, I really should have said that’s what happens at least half the time. The sole mode of the game is about capturing a cyber brain — called a “ghost,” but it’s really that and TDM at the same time, depending on the situation. The meta game that flows out from NeoTokyo’s unique mechanics is what does this.

Basically, each team can begin thinking about the first one or two steps of their strategy as soon as a round begins. The ghost spawns in a different place each round, inevitably putting it closer to one team than the other. More importantly, the location of the ghost (even when someone has it) and all capture points are visible to everyone from the beginning.

Say a round starts and the ghost appears to be pretty close to your team — you already know you’re going to get it first, and from there you can try to reach the capture point or defend the ghost until you’ve taken down the whole opposing team. Matches with low player counts change the game completely.

Years ago I remember playing a two-on-two match where the pace turned into something very unusual for shooters, but oddly believable for tactical combat. Basically, each round would start with each team immediately trying to find the other for a couple minutes, followed by about five seconds of gunfire before the round was over. I thought that more than anything else highlighted the rhythm of tactical combat.

What’s odd about that feeling is that NeoTokyo is supposed to be a futuristic game. You have a cloaking device and some players have motion vision, yet its combat feels more realistic than most modern military shooters. It’s definitely a unique combination.

Then you have the differences between classes. Each one has specific jobs and play styles, but they aren’t as immediately apparent as, say, Team Fortress 2’s classes. Recon players can bunny hop and run around so they usually end up with the ghost, plus it’s easier for them to reach roofs and hidden high-up locations. Support players on the other hand are better suited for camping to defend points since they can take a lot of damage, aren’t fast, and don’t have cloak.

I’ll go ahead and admit NeoTokyo definitely has a learning curve. The website has a decent tutorial for the basics and those same tutorial images appear on screen at the start of each round. Some control nuances however don’t become apparent until you either stumble into them or look at the key bindings. The meta game only really comes into view through communication with experienced players.

For a free and low-budget mod, I think NeoTokyo is a really tightly-designed and unique game. Hopefully it can find an audience the way Source mods like Day of Defeat and Zombie Panic did.

BULLETS:

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Why You Should Try NeoTokyo

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I was gonna blog about something else today — probably something decidedly American, but Steam blindsided me and finally decided to put one of my favorite lesser-known multiplayer shooters up for download. That game is NeoTokyo, something with a much more Japanese flavor.

Basically, this Source engine mod is Counter-Strike (or maybe Insurgency) meets Ghost in the Shell. It’s a very similar brand of round-based tactical shooter gameplay but with a heavy cyberpunk theme. It employs high lethality with no respawns (along with things like lean and ironsights) and is class-based. The game started out with a few maps back in 2009 but last year developer Studio Radi-8 upped the number to around 16.

Since its original release NeoTokyo has been free for owners of pretty much any of the Half-Life 2 games. I think it switched over to the standalone 2013 SDK base last year though so it might be totally free now. Problem is, the game’s servers have been dead for months. Ever since I saw the game show up on Greenlight I’ve hoped it would make it to the actual list of Steam games so it could get some real exposure.

Gameplay-wise the two main cyberpunk elements are the temporary stealth cloak which most players get, and the game’s main mode — capture the cyber brain. It’s pretty much capture the flag except the player who grabs the cyber brain can see everyone’s locations through walls in real time and is expected to relay that information to teammates. I’ve seen that completely change the pace of a battle.

Because of the high lethality and lack of respawns, people playing NeoTokyo pretty much automatically try to behave much more tactfully than they might in Call of Duty (it might just be people transplanting their CS skills). Also, rounds can very quickly turn into essentially team deathmatch since eliminating the opposing team also nets a win. This happens very often in games of 2-on-2 or less. Let me tell you, that’s been some of the most tense TDM I’ve experienced.

NeoTokyo’s classes are Recon, Assault, and Support, ranking in that order in progression from mobility to strength. Recon players get a long cloak, unlimited sprint, and night vision. Assault players get better armor and motion vision. Support players get the most armor and thermal vision, but no cloak. The game also employs an escalation system with its weapons.

There are some other interesting bits about the way this game plays. For instance, manually reloading before a clip is spent will actually throw away the remaining rounds in that clip. The game also advises players to consider surrounding lighting and surfaces when using the stealth cloak.

The biggest cyberpunk element of NeoTokyo is of course it’s art direction and overall theme. One of the best parts about the game is its soundtrack (iTunes link) which oddly almost never appears in the game at all. Part of the reason the game is free is probably because its maps are littered with licensed Japanese imagery like posters of anime and Japanese adult models. You’d think it would come off as looking like just another otaku game but in my opinion it works, likely because the game lifts primarily off of GitS and Akira as opposed to today’s “kawai” anime.

Oddly, NeoTokyo has managed to remain one of my central multiplayer shooters over the last couple years whenever I could actually find anyone to play it with. It’s been more strangely addicting to me than most AAA multiplayer games. I just hope the official Steam release resuscitates the servers.

BULLETS:

  • http://t.co/sz8i6ZhNhB The part of this article that really got me was the quote from Hiroshi Yamauchi and Miyamoto’s interpretation of it.
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Hawken’s Challenging Horde Mode

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In a previous post I mentioned the free-to-play mech shooter Hawken and its horde mode analogue. While deciding what multiplayer game I’m gonna stick with for a while I resolved to play enough of that mode to write a bit about it here since Hawken doesn’t get a whole lot of attention on the big websites. As I said before, it’s one of the most savage and unforgiving horde modes I’ve encountered.

Way back when it was first unveiled, what stuck out to me and probably a lot of other people about Hawken was its art design. It has a very nice, heavily detailed sci-fi theme that I think gives it some credibility among other free-to-play games. It has a look of real craftsmanship and production value in it. That art direction is most of the reason Hawken looks so cool in motion.

When I played the alpha and later beta I saw the versus modes — the meat of the game, as a structurally standard multiplayer shooter. It’s got the typical modes but with unique mech-centered mechanics which focus a lot of maneuverability and heat management. The horde mode in question is co-op bot destruction. In it you and a few teammates (who can be AI) survive 24 waves of AI mechs. The first time I tried it I failed wave 1.

Hawken’s bot destruction is brutal for a couple reasons compared to say, Gears of War 3’s horde mode.

Firstly, you don’t get to retry waves. It’s all about seeing how far your team can get from wave 1 on each attempt. Teammates can be revived pretty much for free, but when the whole team goes down it’s back to wave 1, and the game re-rolls its map choice.

The second reason is that enemy spawn points in each wave seem to be random. I’m not sure if there are set spawn points and the game just chooses three upon each wave, or if the spawn points themselves can be anywhere. Whatever the case, you really don’t know where the enemies are going to come from until the wave starts because they literally emerge through portals that change location. That means upon finishing one wave, a group of enemies can drop in right on top of whatever strategic position your team just established.

Those two factors make sure at pretty much all times your team needs to be on its toes and that it can’t really let up for a second. This mode doesn’t really forgive mistakes. Plus, in Hawken in general your mech can’t sustain much concentrated fire from other mechs, so if the team splits up or even one person loses track of the others in the thick of it, things can turn sour pretty quickly. That said, I did eventually get a bit into the swing of it after I focused on collecting “EU” which lets you boost your attack, defense, or weapon cooling. It’s still very much a “try and try again” kind of deal.

Hawken’s monetization from what I’ve seen is structurally a lot like League of Legends. There are things you can buy with one type of currency you can earn through gameplay, and other things you have to buy with another type of currency you can only get with real money. It probably is possible to buy your way to an easier time in bot destruction, but I’m not sure if it’s hard for me specifically because I haven’t paid a cent into Hawken. I know it definitely feels like earnable-in-game currency really only get’s you minor equipment and items.  The only major thing it lets you buy is new mechs.

At the very least I think Hawken is a pretty unique thing — a free-to-play shooter centered around mechs instead of just a straight-up FPS or a MOBA. It doesn’t just rely on that premise either, but has actually tried to build itself into a robust and attractive-looking game.

BULLETS:

  • Man Sony’s upcoming PlayStation Network sales aren’t too bad.
  • So GameFly is starting movies. I knew there was a reason I stuck to them.
  • I was wondering why I’d never heard of a sumo anime until now. toei-anim.co.jp/tv/matsutaro/
  • This says a lot right here. http://t.co/nrnMwEeFZh
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The Search For Alternative Multiplayer Shooters

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Last time while going over how I felt about Titanfall I noted how it’s probably not gonna be my thing while also saying it has a good chance to be popular. I wasn’t being down on popular shooters so much as indicating how the multiplayer shooter industry seems to focus most of its energy on providing one type of game.

That type being the fast-paced deathmatch, domination, and sometimes round-based first person shooter. It’s probably the most popular type, but if it’s not the kind of game you want, you have few options. Only relatively recently have I begun to realize the kind of multiplayer game I really want is something more slowly paced, thoughtful, and tactical. Games like that exist, but they are few, distinct, and in many cases have small player bases.

It might be the reason I camp so much in multiplayer shooters. We’ve reached a point where shooter designers have tried to end camping because they think the only legit way to get kills is constantly running around and being better at pulling the trigger than the other guy. In my opinion it’s a perfectly legitimate strategy to find a strategic position at which to sit down and get the drop on your opponent, then switch to another position to stay a step ahead of the enemy. I like shooters that are more about getting the drop on your opponent than just running, jumping, and out-twitching them. The latter is almost certainly what Titanfall is about. Titanfall certainly has a strategic element to it, but it’s more of a second-to-second style of strategy, which is what you’re gonna get out of a game that’s about quick gratification. Maybe it’s like comparing chess to football. Both are pretty strategic but one is slower and more cerebral than the other.

One extremely niche shooter that’s found its way onto my main roster is the Source engine mod NeoTokyo. Basically it’s Counter-Strike rules but in a cyberpunk setting with three classes and optical camouflage. What I like about it is how the high lethality and absence of respawn forces everyone to really think about where the enemy might be and how to act accordingly. Being round-based makes each individual match feel like a self-contained tactical game between two teams instead of just a bunch of people running around. Maybe I just described CS, but I happened to get into NT first and haven’t had a lot of time to break into CS. I’m thinking about reinstalling Counter-Strike Global Offensive and taking advantage of its recent spectator feature which is supposed to act sort of like watching regular matches on TV. I think NT’s cyberpunk theme adds a little something to the experience though, and I really hope the listing for that game shows up on Steam one day so it can maybe get some exposure. I may need to move to CS anyway if NT’s player base disappears.

The last console multiplayer shooter I really got into was probably Metal Gear Online. Being an online Metal Gear game makes it different enough from the norm, but I think the biggest difference is its tactical pacing compared to most FPSs. MGO isn’t really slow, but it’s just slow enough to make you think for a second about where your opponent is and how to get the drop on them. Back when I played it real teamwork was quite common, even on the PS2 version. Making stealth a viable strategy resulted in a lot of players getting knocked out and gutted from behind corners. A lot of the time dominating a mach was much more about actually dominating the map than being the fastest guy on it. The return of MGO is probably my top reason for being interested in Metal Gear Solid V.

Another somewhat similar game that’s been at the corner of my attention is Red Orchestra 2. At first I heard all the things people usually say about it — that it’s extremely hardcore with realistic weapon mechanics, suppressive fire simulation, and other things that effectively make players feel like fragile humans. Upon trying it out on a free weekend though I started to think it might be more the kind of shooter I’ve been looking for. From what I could tell, everyone playing it was taking cover all the time, taking their shots carefully, and overall trying to keep abreast of what was happening around them. At the very least it’s a game I’d like to have the time to investigate further for being something out o f the ordinary.

A more obvious option for me though might be Splinter Cell Blacklist. I got a free copy with my graphics card late last year, and upon a rental I’d already checked out its resurrection of Spies vs Mercs. SvM took up a surprising amount of my time the summer after Splinter Cell Chaos Theory came out in 2005 and remains a unique game to this day. The asymmetrical play style, two versus two limit, and focus on objectives instead of kills really made it stick out as a game about defeating your opponent more mentally than physically.

Sure Blacklist has that new three-on-three mode with the perks and other things to make it more action-oriented, but sticking to the classic-style mode is in my opinion close enough to the old school game for a mainstream game released in 2013. It still displays pretty much the same virtues as its predecessors and is willing to maintain the asymmetric style, even if the maps aren’t quite as complex as Chaos Theory’s. And if it doesn’t work out in the long run there’s always Project Stealth.

The most popular multiplayer game I’m even remotely into right now is probably Team Fortress 2 ironically. I think what sets that game apart for me is that it manages to be extremely tactical despite how blazing fast it sometimes is because of how each class absolutely forces a distinct style of play. For some reason that’s the one shooter I play where a lot of people actually do use voice chat to coordinate. Why do Valve games have that effect? TF2 has also managed to remain a centrally important game to the Steam community for seven years, which no console game has been able to do, probably because of all the sequels. To be honest though I’m thinking of switching completely over to Mann vs Machine mode.

Horde modes have been one of my favorite additions to shooters, primarily because it’s a multiplayer mode in dynamic arenas where I don’t have to worry about competing against humans. Ever since I let my Live Gold run out though I’ve been looking for a replacement for Gears of War 3’s Horde 2.0 and may or may not have found it in MvM. MvM is fast and frantic, yet every class still has a specific role.

Recently I tried out the Co-Op Bot Destruction mode in Hawken (a free-to-play mech shooter if you don’t know) and was shocked by its intensity. It forces you to constantly maintain awareness of where your team and the enemy are. One slip-up is often enough to end your game or at the very least put your team in jeopardy. Another option I’ve been told to investigate is Mass Effect 3 multiplayer.

Whatever happens, it’s likely I won’t be focusing much on the multiplayer shooters everyone else is playing, much less the games trying to imitate what everyone is playing. Multiplayer games with different rules, objectives, and play styles are out there, you just have to spend a bit more time finding them, as well as other people willing to play them.

BULLETS:

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Can Titanfall Actually Be The Next Big Shooter?

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So. Titanfall. On Friday I got into the beta which is looking like it’s gonna be open now, so if you own an Xbox One or a capable gaming PC (that 8800GT is still truckin’) you can see for yourself what the hype is all about. Personally, I think Titanfall has the potential to be a really popular shooter, even if it might not be for me.

One of the main reasons so many people like Call of Duty is because of how responsive, fast, and frantic it can be compared to almost all other modern console shooters. It’s all about fast movement, responsive shooting, and having a short period of time between each kill. Titanfall manages to be even faster and more frantic than COD, yet also plays quite differently.

In the face of all these shooters trying to be like COD, Titanfall looks like it’s actually trying to change and enhance the flavor, though whether it does that enough is debatable. The Titanfall beta’s modes are pretty much your standard deathmatch and domination, plus one unique “Last Titan Standing” mode. The pacing and mechanics may feel different, but the underlying rules feel the same.

Titanfall’s sense of speed and movement is slightly more reminiscent of old PC shooters, bringing back things like auto-strafe and what essentially amounts to a modern equivalent to bunny hopping. The parkour mechanics make that Quake-style traversal viable on a controller (I’m playing it on PC with a keyboard). This is what makes Titanfall’s pace feel noticeably faster than COD or nearly any recent multiplayer FPS I’ve played.

And the eponymous vehicles, while definitely on another scale of combat, feel very well-balanced versus pilots. The verticality of the maps gives pilots ways to overcome titans. At the same time players have a lot of options upon exiting titans as they’re shot into the air. Adding AI control options to unmanned titans is probably going to prove to be a versatile feature when the player base develops.

In short, Titanfall actually tries to extol the elements that made COD popular, but in a way console gamers probably aren’t used to.

Whether or not it becomes the game-changer Microsoft hopes it will be depends on how many people buy the Xbox 360 version versus the Xbox One version. I firmly believe that one piece of software can change the whole equation for market share between software platforms, and Microsoft is undoubtedly betting on Titanfall being that killer app. Microsoft wants it to sell Xbox Ones but it’s hard to tell if regular joes will see it necessary to upgrade from their 360’s. The PC version on high settings, running on the 10-year-old Source engine, definitely doesn’t look definitively “next-gen.” As for whether it sets the tone for future shooters, we won’t really know that until one or two years down the line.

My biggest hope for Titanfall though is that EA doesn’t burn the series out by releasing sequels too frequently. EA hasn’t been a company to annualize, but somehow I feel like even a new Titanfall game every two years would be a bit too much. Maybe it’s just because I’m the kind of person to stick with one multiplayer game for years on end.

That brings me to why I personally probably won’t drop $60 on Titanfall come March. I’ve just started to realize the kind of shooter it is — the kind of shooter most people seem to want these days, isn’t really the kind of multiplayer game that draws me in. It’s great for quick bouts of easy gratification, but it isn’t the kind of thing to suck me in long-term. That’s getting into another discussion however…

BULLETS:

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Next-Gen Local Multiplayer For Thanksgiving

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Right on the heels of the launch of two new consoles Thanksgiving has made me realize something: We may be headed into another console generation where couch multiplayer is cast aside as if online is and must be the only option.

Thanksgiving is usually a time when families get together right? It might be for a lot of things: food, football, arguments, whatever. Throughout my childhood however it was also a time to get together and play video games. After dinner I’d spend whole evenings with family members on Street Fighter, Madden, or GoldenEye. This got a lot harder on PS3 and Xbox 360 because of how hard it became to find games with split screen or any other kind of local multiplayer.

You may say online is the way to go, but are the two really mutually exclusive? Why can’t some games have both? Running a game on four mini screens is really just a matter of making visual sacrifices, which developers were very much willing to do back on the N64, but not on much more powerful hardware.

I imagine at least a few people might be thinking about doing some Thanksgiving gaming on their new PS4 or Xbox One, so to see how disappointed they might be I took a quick look over at Co-Optimus to see how many next-gen games actually have couch multiplayer. Not surprisingly, almost none of the big AAA launch games have it, but there are more games with it overall then I thought.

Out of the big blockbuster stuff, the standouts are Knack, Forza 5 and Call of Duty Ghosts, all of which offer two-player local. Ghosts is notable because it’s the first COD game on a console without four-player splitscreen. All the major sports games are obvious candidates, and sports is probably one of the last reliable genres for local multiplayer.

Family-oriented game developers expectedly still see the value in local multiplayer. According to Co-Optimus it’s in Just Dance 2014, Skylanders Swap Force, and LEGO Marvel Super Herores.

Who’s really likely to pick up the slack in the area of local multiplayer in the future though are indie developers. One of the most notable PS4 games with four-player local multiplayer is Super Motherload. Awesomenauts Assemble and Trine 2 will allow for three players on PS4. Future releases that are four-players include Mercenary Kings, Helldivers, and Assault Android Cactus.

Really though, the best solution for local multiplayer is, and has pretty much always been, a Nintendo console — which today means the Wii U. Probably the highest-rated four-player couch co-op game of 2013 is Super Mario 3D World. You’ve also got the recently-released Wii Sports Club which is basically Wii Sports in HD with online. It’s a shame though Nintendo couldn’t get Mario Kart 8 out this fall.

Current-generation consoles do have a few new games out this year that offer local multiplayer. Splinter Cell Blacklist has two-player split screen co-op. Also from Ubisoft you’ve got Rayman Legends which I believe is four players. After taking a peek at its “Kung Foot” minigame and seeing a video of four people playing it, I think it could be one of the secret best couch multiplayer modes in a while. Dragon’s Crown offers classic brawler action with four players on the PS3.

So, it’s not really a totally barren desert if you happen to have a few friends over for Thanksgiving and want to play some games together. You just have to look a lot harder for games that let you do this.

BULLETS:

  • Wait for those daily deals on Steam people. That means you need to be buying Rogue Legacy as I type this. But, I don’t see Jet Set Radio going lower than $2.50, or La-Mulana going lower than $3.
  • Didn’t realize they did a Zatoichi mega pack. http://t.co/MuODx7ttI4
  • New update at the blog for Broforce. http://t.co/1zBxCcffSA
  • Art at the top by Zac Gorman.
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