There's an undeniable split between multiplayer and single player audiences, and between those modes and the single player content of games. To meet the perceived demands of audiences, many titles require two different studios to build two different games, essentially, with little creative overlap.
Infamously, Yager Developments' Cory Davis, lead designer of Spec Ops: The Line, told Polygon that its multiplayer mode -- developed by Darkside Game Studios -- is "another game rammed onto the disk like a cancerous growth, threatening to destroy the best things about the experience."
Still, says Medal of Honor: Warfighter producer Luke Thai of Danger Close, having both is an inescapable reality for a triple-A game today.
"That really just all boils down to consumer expectation. If the norm now is that a shooter -- a quality -- shooter delivers high quality single player and high quality multiplayer, then that's the standard, and that's what every studio has to build for."
This necessity is driven by the realities of the split audiences that the games currently attract, says Thai. "We have to understand and accept the fact that there are two different types of players that are going to buy this game."
"To approach that [audience split] from a studio and development perspective, one of them is looking for a really compelling single player experience. The majority of the rest are looking for a multiplayer experience they can dump 120 hours into. And so there's really no compromising in either way."
EA's Danger Close, developers of Warfighter have taken the tactic of unifying the franchise's modes around one team and one technology.
In fact, a big part of the drive for this year's Medal of Honor iteration was consistency between the two modes, says Thai. "In 2010, Medal Of Honor was also perceived as two separate games in one box. And we've taken steps this year to really bring those two halves together."
Still, it’s a gargantuan undertaking.
"There has to be a heavy focus -- it very much is like building two games. So, you build a team that is twice the size of any one normal team."
Danger Close recruited specialists from EA's DICE studio in Sweden, best known for the multiplayer-focused Battlefield franchise, to transform its team, including multiplayer creative director Kristoffer Bergqvist.
Bringing together a strong multiplayer team with a mandate of consistency with the single player campaign "was just the natural way to address some of the concerns that community or consumers brought up," says Thai.
"This time around, the entire game, both single player and multiplayer are being developed by one studio, one team, in one location, on one engine."
It's lead to a "more streamlined development process," says Thai, and real gains, too: "the knowledge sharing there is a tremendous boon for the team." There's also a much greater consistency between the behavior of weapons, for example, with a central group handling weapon designs -- "it all feeds through one team, and they're experts at it," says Thai.
This is all part of the one true essential component of appealing to audiences these days, he says: polish.
"That's an absolute, crucial necessity," says Thai. "With... the landscape being as competitive as it is, polish is the thing that sets the top-tier products [apart] from the mid-tier products."