Crytek Wants Singleplayer to Disappear — We Don’t
“I think the notion of a single-player experience has to go away. However, I’m not saying that there will be no single-player experiences … it could be it’s called Connected Single-Player or Online Single-Player instead.
“Online and social can reignite single-player in a new type of context and provide benefits that will make you want to be a part of a connected story-mode rather than a disconnected story-mode. Sure, if the technology forces you to play a traditional single-player game online, that doesn’t make sense but if it’s offering actual benefits to be online then you want to be part of it.”
How anyone can make this claim less than a year following the aftermath of Diablo 3′s launch is beyond me. There are a number of issues surrounding a move to “Online Single-Player,” including the need for a persistent Internet connection and elimination of the choice of a solo experience, but it all begins with the overarching direction such a move would entail.
Yerli’s application of the word “social” makes me cringe. It calls upon ideas popularized via Facebook
scams games — psychological devices used to trick us into playing longer, paying more, and attempting to propagate the entire pyramid scheme ourselves. When I’m playing a game and a pop-up flashes onscreen, informing me that someone on my Friends List has earned an achievement, I don’t experience the benign envy the developers intended to invoke in me — I experience resentment at the blatant attempt at manipulation.
Worse are the features that can’t simply be ignored. There’s a distinction between “offering actual benefits” to being online and forcing players to take advantage of those benefits if they wish to play optimally. I’m all for optional features that revolve around interaction, but when the game is balanced around the assumption that you’ll make use of them — such as Diablo 3′s Auction House — that’s unacceptable. The industry has yet to show the restraint and equity necessary to walk the line without falling to the side that exploits players.
How do developers ensure that all those features see use? By requiring a persistent Internet connection, which, for singleplayer experiences, will never be seen as anything other than draconian DRM (see SimCity). Publishers can rationalize it all they want and try to convince us otherwise, but for too many of us, the sting of Diablo 3′s Error 37 launch fiasco has left scars. Blizzard tried to sell us on the idea of always-online not being so bad by telling us flat-out that virtually no one is ever without an Internet connection in this day and age — though I know a fair number of soldiers, field researchers, and people with long commutes via public transportation who would beg to differ.
But even if we accept this segment of a game’s potential player base as a negligible minority — an abhorrent practice in building a fan base, I might add — and assume that we have Internet access 100 percent of the time we want to play, we are nevertheless still at the mercy of the game’s servers. Between scheduled maintenance and unexpected downtime, we need to plan our game time to accommodate the servers — and wonder whether, in five years, those servers will still exist and we’ll be able to play the damn game at all.
The worst part of all this, however, is the implication that there’s something wrong with the singleplayer experience. Is it so difficult to believe that gamers — the archetypically antisocial beings that we are — would not occasionally want to enjoy a game by our lonesome? Why must multiplayer be thrust upon us as though in an attempt to correct our behavior and make us more social? Is it too much to ask to be allowed to appreciate a deeply personal gaming experience without the virtual presence of a stranger huffing and puffing as he urges us to progress at his blitzkrieg pace? Sometimes, we want to stop and smell the roses. Sometimes, we just want to screw around and not play optimally. When we’re looking to unwind, the last thing we need is the added pressure of a voyeur scrutinizing our every action.
Sorry, Mr. Yerli. The notion of a singleplayer experience will not go away, nor should it. Regardless of what incentives are included to make gamers want to expand their singleplayer experience, the freedom to unplug and enjoy our games with and without whomever we choose to should be our choice, not the industry’s.