Why does this particular game have a multiplayer? Why doesn’t that particular game not have a multiplayer? For devs, it’s somewhat of a vacuous cycle of unhappiness that they have no idea how to tackle, but the reality is much simpler to multiplayer.
Back in the old days (I know, I seem like a 60 year old when I say that), there were two types of games: singleplayer-focused, or multiplayer-focused.
Multiplayer ones had a subsidiary singleplayer campaign attached to them (think Unreal Tournament, Quake III etc.), while the singleplayer games were just purely focused on the plot, gameplay, and depth of the world.
Nowadays, it’s actually the developers who are confused. Sure, some games work out very well with a mixture of singleplayer and multiplayer. You could think of franchises like Halo and various Tom Clancy games from Ubisoft. The real problem is however when a singeplayer-focused game forcefully introduced a disjointed multiplayer within itself, or vice-versa.
One pretty good (or poor) example of this is the Tomb Raider reboot by Crystal Dynamics. Mind you, the game itself was really, really good – it had a fun and exciting gameplay, fantastic level design, and a decent and engaging plot.
Where it failed miserably though was tying its multiplayer to the singeplayer.
The multiplayer was simply awful, and despite trying several times to engage myself in it, there was nothing exciting or rewarding enough to actually get me to play it more than a couple of days. I played and finished the singleplayer twice after that, but never touched the multiplayer again.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is going to be released this year for the Xbox consoles, and despite its pretty bad title, it has the backing of a well-received predecessor. What it doesn’t have though is the backing of a good multiplayer experience.
Going back to the first set of questions asked in this article, the answer becomes more evident as one peers into such examples of utter failure of integrated multiplayer. No gamer wants a multiplayer that has almost zero ties to the singleplayer, is unrewarding, and simply lacks depth to be engaging.
What’s more is that no gamer wants a multiplayer that has taken up months of work that could’ve been put into the singleplayer to further refine it.
Tomb Raider was a great game, but it wasn’t without its flaws, and could’ve been make longer and (more importantly) more open-ended than it was had the multiplayer been simply cut out of the primary game design document.
This is one place where most devs need to take a page from Rocksteady’s book; I’m an adamant fan of the Batman: Arkham series, and what they have done is worth of applauds. Apart from Arkham Origins (which was mediocre, and Rocksteady wasn’t actually working on it), the two Arkham games and the upcoming Arkham Knight have all had immense richness in their singleplayer campaign.
What has made that possible? Rocksteady was very quick to shun any rumors of a possible multiplayer for its previous titles, and has done the same for Arkham Knight. This allowed the developer team to have complete focus on the singleplayer campaign, and that resulted in two quality games, and is likely to result in another fantastic game of the year contender.
Rise of the Tomb Raider needs to be a good game, both for the sake of Crystal Dynamics and the series itself. Most fans are already heavily displeased by the uncalled-for exclusivity to the Xbox consoles (despite the predecessor being available for all major platforms), and it would end up going into the dumps if another multiplayer failure is presented to us.
Sure, they could make a strong case for co-op, but if Rise of the Tomb Raider follows in the footsteps of its predecessor and the general concept of Lara Croft’s character (which it should), it’s unlikely and unfitting that the lone wolf would want the assistance of anyone.
After all, the game is all about one girl against the environment.
If there is actually a multiplayer in mind for the game, then it needs to be closely tied to the singleplayer in a significant way to encourage players to indulge in it. That doesn’t mean that it needs to be forced onto the player like it was by EA & BioWare in Mass Effect 3, but there should be a significant bridge between the two.
For example, playing the multiplayer could allow you to unlock certain new types of weapons and costumes, or alter the environment slightly such as introducing certain types of enemies in specific parts of the game.
It would also make sense to actually tie the gameplay of the multiplayer to the singleplayer as well; objectives should be ones that are relatable to the plot or certain parts of the singleplayer campaign.
To put it simply, make the multiplayer fee like Tomb Raider.
Put tombs in it to raid, have players play in close collaboration to solve randomly generated puzzles/tombs or to overcome seemingly impossible-to-overcome scenarios. These are just a handful of suggestions/ideas that Crystal Dynamics could implement, and of course if they want more in-depth stuff they could simply offer to recruit me.
Jokes aside, the cohesion and synergy between multiplayer and singleplayer is absolutely necessary for a singleplayer-focused game in order to obtain success, otherwise it is best to follow Rocksteady’s example and scrap the multiplayer concept altogether, and instead invest more time and money into refining and producing a brilliant singeplayer campaign.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is set for a Q4 release this year, and is exclusive (as of now) for the Xbox One and Xbox 360.