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Japan's game devs must not ignore multiplayer, says Cliff Bleszinski
Japan's game devs must not ignore multiplayer, says Cliff Bleszinski Exclusive
May 11, 2012 | By Staff

May 11, 2012 | By Staff
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    29 comments
More: Console/PC, Design, Exclusive



In a new Gamasutra interview, Cliff Bleszinski, design director at Gears of War studio Epic Games, explained what he thinks Japanese game developers can do to improve their standing in the global video game marketplace.

"My advice to Japan is that in a disc-based market right now, you cannot [ignore multiplayer]," he says, adding, "I'm not saying tack multiplayer onto every game."

Grasshopper Manufacture's Shadows of the Damned, which had a lot of critical praise but flew under the radar of the mainstream, was "a wonderfully crazy adventure," says Bleszinski.

"...The dialogue had me laughing out loud, just even the key-door systems in there; it was a beautifully crazy game with really fun gameplay, but no multiplayer co-op experience in there. I'm not saying tack on versus; there's a billion different ways you can do some sort of 'players interacting with other players.'"

"And if you're going to make a third-person shooter... the fact that Vanquish didn't have a multiplayer suite was a crime," he says. The shooter, developed by Platinum Games under director Shinji Mikami, also failed to find a significant audience.

"That IP, it was pretty good as far as being Western, but the gameplay was great, the vibe... and I've often said on record that if Gears is the kind of Wild, Wild West coal train chugging along, that Vanquish is the Japanese bullet train, with style and everything. And there is absolutely no reason I shouldn't have been zipping around, doing the mega slides, diving up in the air in an arena with other players."

He does, however, recognize one Japanese franchise for getting multiplayer right -- even being influential.

Calling the Demons/Dark Souls series "one of the most innovative games" for its passive multiplayer, he says "that game is going to continue to inspire a lot of Western developers to figure ways that you can have connected elements in campaign games, and have more of a blended experience."

The full interview, in which Bleszinski looks under the hood of Uncharted, Silent Hill, and Resident Evil, among others, is live now on Gamasutra.


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Comments


Eric McVinney
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Thank you!! I'm glad I'm not the only one yelling at the Japanese devs for this...

Yasuhiro Noguchi
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Maybe the problem is that you're yelling at them. ;)

Freek Hoekstra
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Yasuhire : epic reply is epic!

I do still believe Singelplayer is a valid option, the original Bioshock proved this a while back in a time when almost everyone seemed to believe mutliplayer was the key.

but yes Vanquish not having multiplayer was a shame, I would have loved to play that game in multiplayer especially seeing how fast paced and actionpacked it was I think I would have really liked it, and in that game it did really feel like a loss.

Eric McVinney
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@Yasu - Yes, that could be it, but then again they simply don't like listening to new ideas ;P

Joe McGinn
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Good interview but fundamentally disagree with the advice ... it is assuming the Japanese market wants (Western-style multiplayer) which they have shown repeatedly they do not. And Japanese developers trying tot "be more Western to appeal to the West" will never, ever work ... they will just not appeal to anyone if they go that route.

Kevin Matthews
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I don't know. It sounds suspiciously close to saying "tack multiplayer on to every game" despite his claims to the contrary.

Eric McVinney
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Yes, but only if it's really necessary and if so, do it differently.

Ardney Carter
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@ Kevin
After reading everything he said in context I don't have that impression. If you take that bit you quoted and tweak it to read "I'm not saying tack DEATHMATCH onto every game" I think it gets a lot closer to what he's trying to convey. And if that is indeed what he meant then I agree with him completely.

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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I look at Dark Souls and at Dragon's Dogma, and I think there is a lot of creativity in multiplayer from some japanese developpers.

Eric Geer
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I agree with you--I think the west needs to take a look at the Japanese developers to get inspired by their different takes on multiplayer

k s
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I don't think it's multiplayer that they need but rather a focus on gameplay and not trying to make CG movies.

Taure Anthony
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Japnese devs are some of the best devs around when it comes to gameplay.

Dedan Anderson
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Agree with Taure, all the games Cliffy Mentions gameplay is not the issue, and i think he states that pretty clearly...

k s
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@Taure Anthony outside of Nintendo's most japanese games just aren't as fun as western games. I see lots of pretty girls and/or odd ball stories but not a lot of solid gameplay. Every now and then I do see a solid gameplay experience from them but not nearly as often as from our western colleges.

Bernardo Del Castillo
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I read comments like this so often and I wonder if you have played any good japanese game in the last 5 years. Yes, there is MGS4, and FF13, but there is also Dark Souls, Vanquish, Bayonetta, Monster hunter, Xenoblade, Catherine, Shadows of the Damned, Nintendo Games in general, Nier, Muramasa, Disgaea 4, Valkyria Chronicles, The world ends with you, etc etc...

all this second group of games doesn't focus at all on cutscenes or try to be CG-movies, sure, some of them have intricate narratives, but they are known for having really interesting gameplay mechanics, probably more interesting than most games by established western developers. The old and repeated CG-movie criticism seems to be stuck on some, but it is probably more valid for Quantic dream than any current gen japanese game.
They are also extremely polished and thoughtfully designed, which is often more than I can say of western games.

Seems to me that Cliff would have them do Gears of war, and as fun as that is, it doesn't work everywhere. I dont think it would have worked well with any of the games he mentions without some significant modification. I personally feel that shadows of the damned and Vanquish are really great games, but they have more important issues to address before than the lack of multiplayer...

For example, the inclusion of co-op in RE5, was fun when played with a friend, but overall it was not a step in the right direction for the series. In games like Mass effect or deadspace) it seems completely unnecesary and it doesn't add at all to my enjoyment of the games. I have not once felt the urge to play dead space 2 multiplayer.

There are cases like Portal 2, where multiplayer brings out something new and cool to the table, but it always seems to me that many developers are asking wrong questions: instead of asking, how can I make this game the best game it can be.. they are focusing on: how can I make you need to play it more!

Better games is the goal.

Dedan Anderson
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Vanquish multi-player would either mean annoying bullet-time every 5 seconds or no bullet-time at all... Eitherway it would feel tacked on... perhaps something along the lines of Asynch Bosses or some non-traditional multi-player options would work...

I agree on Shadows of the Damned, it was short on modes in general, i was really looking forward to a survival mode akin to RE Mercenaries, or DMC Bloody Palace... but alas nothing... a multi-player should work though...

Joe Zachery
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Multiplayer should be added if it adds to the gameplay. As in Monster Hunter and games built similar to that. I'm currently at 135 hours into Xenoblade for the Wii. The game has enough of everything else I enjoy in a game. To make me stop playing Star Trek Online, Modern Warfare 3, and Kid Icarus Uprising Team Battle Mode. 3 of of the games I mention are nothing with out the multiplayer aspect. So yes add a online mode to your fighters, and Ace Combat games. If you can make a great single player experience instead I would rather have that.

Joe Wreschnig
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Shadows of the Damned would not have benefited at all from multiplayer. Japan's devs seem to get multiplayer when it's important, and they can bring out something fun and new:

- Kid Icarus
- Demon's Souls and Dark Souls
- Dragon's Dogma
- Dragon Quest IX (albeit local only) and X
- Monster Hunter (local only, but I'd be astounded if 4 wasn't over the Internet).
- Every single fighting game.

What Japan doesn't have is another "me too" multiplayer mode in every FPS/3PS they make.

brandon sheffield
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It's difficult to prove, but Shadows of the Damned would likely have sold more and lasted longer if it were planned from the beginning to include multiplayer. Like it or not, single player-only experiences are an increasingly tough sell in genres that rely on shooting.

Joe Wreschnig
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Brandon,

"Lasted longer" is basically tautologous if you add any game modes, and not intrinsically good. "Sold more" isn't a good metric to judge success even if you're only looking at the money.

Cliff specifically called it out for lacking story mode co-op, which would've destroyed the game. Sure, if you planned early enough in development you could make it work, but you'd get a game totally unlike SotD actually was.

Christian Nutt
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Kid Icarus multiplayer is great -- I haven't seen much discussion of it. It's a very clever synthesis of what the team already knew (Smash Bros.) with Western deathmatch/TDM style play.

Ian Uniacke
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Agreed. Kid Icarus has some of the most innovative multiplayer in years. The way it is tied in with the single player is great also like it's one continuous game. I'll admit some of the weapon styles are unbalanced in the hands of the ai but that's just a minor nit pick.

Greg Back
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Damn right Dark Souls! I would love to see more single player games blend multiplayer into their worlds in such a meaningful way. Trekking through a solo experience becomes so much more meaningful when you see the marks of fellow players all around you.

A W
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I don't think placing MP in a game will make it sale better unless its done really well and within the context of the game itself. I think what MP does for a game is in part 2 things:
1). it creates a group of core players or loyal fans.
2). It creates an internal market place in where you can sell more back end content to those players.

Other than that I doesn't really expand the base all that much. It could be argued that games have more online options than ever, yet only a few of them have large loyal user bases. A small development team tacking on MP to their odd story game is still a small developer with a odd story game that will sell to a small base of gamer.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Dragos Inoan
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Let's face it, apart from *Souls, Vanquish(arguable), Ninja Gaiden and very few other games in recent history, major titles released from Japan, Korea and the likes are clones that lack any innovation which impress only by production value (and even that is many times lacking). There's tremendously more innovation in gaming coming from western indies rather than from Japanese studios, and many of those indies are inspired by Asian culture.

Multiplayer or not, that's not the real issue.

The fact that the Asian market (and especially the Japanese) absorbs their own rehashes and sub-par games is the main culprit. And you cannot really fix this thing, because it's a culture thing. If a western game is better than a Japanese one, or is published by somebody other than a Japanese publisher, the western game will sell less. In turn, the japanese devs will get the idea that they're doing the right thing and will continue producing the same game over and over again. How many identical final fantasy-type games can we play over the course of a lifetime?

Joe Wreschnig
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"There's tremendously more innovation in gaming coming from western indies rather than from Japanese studios, and many of those indies are inspired by Asian culture. "

And there's tremendously more innovation coming from Japanese indies than from Japanese studios, and more from Japanese indies than western studios, and more from western indies than western studios. So this observation tells us basically nothing except the game industry everywhere pretty much sucks lately!

Dragos Inoan
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Dario, you make a point there, and I agree that there's innovation on the handheld side where the DS actually added some mechanics that are unique. I wouldn't list Child of Eden there though, since it's just a prettier Rez.
On the console side, and I won't go into the PC market (because japan is virtually non-existant there) there are very few titles that pushed genres forward, especially lower when compared to what happened in the 90s.

In the western market we did have innoation in big franchises such as the multiplayer environment in the halo series, the pseudo-rpg shift in CoD4, the modern MMO formula of WoW, the cover system refinement of GoW, as well as smaller indie titles like Braid, Ecochrome, Fez. But the biggest thing of the last decade are the improvements to the UI and control schemes (on the software side) all across the board.

I'm not saying the Asian developers are inferior, Just saying that they got complacent compared to what they were in the 90s, and it shows. Sure there are a myriad perfectly good reasons for that, but it doesn't make the fact less true.

Joe Wreschnig
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@Dragos,

Echochrome's prototype was from a Japanese indie developer and developed into a full game by SCE Japan Studio. (The same studio also made Loco Roco and Patapon.)

Maybe if you didn't get the origin of the games you think have new ideas totally incorrect, you'd see more evidence of new ideas from Japan.


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