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What in us hates local multiplayer games while we know we love them

by Ashkan Saeedi Mazdeh on 05/19/14 03:41:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


We all love multiplayer games. We all love playing with others and it's much more fun when you play with others which you know. It's damn lot funnier when you play with someone in the same physical place!!! So why we have to have blogging weeks about local multiplayer? Why we see it fading out from the lists of features which games want to have?

Do we really love local multiplayer?

Games are historically about people gathering together and doing a fun activity together. Most of the games we know before the video games came up and even first video games at least require two players in the same place. People, at least those in my age (I'm about 25 years old) and older love human contact and can understand the difference between the virtual connectivity and the real one. Some people are introverts and some are extroverts. Ok! But we all know it's different to see a friend, give him/her a hug and a hand shake and commenting on someone's post on facebook so as a result we prefer to do things with people and with real people in real physical proximity for some reasons.

  1. You can communicate with them while playing, before and after the game by voice, facial expression and touch which obviously all of them are not possible virtually and those possible doesn't have the same quality and responsiveness all of the times.
  2. You can do trash talk, claims and ... a lot which is not the same with the virtual ones.
  3. We can do other activities after we gather for the game.
  4. We can do play in parties while having communication with others (just like watching TV and doing other activities) which are not playing with us.
  5. You actually know who you are playing with and are ACTUALLY WITH HIM/HER WHILE PLAYING.

So why online play and why preferring online play to local multiplayer?

Online play is a helpful and nice tool for doing games with a much bigger number of people which makes entire new games possible and for the times which you cannot find people around to play with. Our main business is about making it easy to make multiplayer online games but they don't have to kill local multiplayer! Why we prefer it? I'm not sure, some of the people of the current generation which are before their twenties might no longer see much difference between virtual and real presence in some situations and playing online is a natural thing for them. For us it was a revolution but for them it's a natural part of life and it means a lot if you think about it.

At first online multiplayer was a feature for playing games on LANs and modems for the times which you are not together or for games which you could not play together at the same computer but over time people thought it's more than enough and we don't want local multiplayer anymore. I count LAN multiplayer as local multiplayer as well in the social sense because it allows you to play with people in the same place however you can argue the physical proximity has a higher distance but even that is not thought about much in many games. Making a game takes time and adding a feature like split screen or other kinds of multiplayer takes time as well, even if it's 2 weeks the publisher might think players will not use it so why they should do it?

So why we don't use local multiplayer?

We want to do it but our lives don't allow us to do so. There are multiple reasons for my idea which are partly right hopefully.

  1. Our generation is older now and has jobs and duties so we have less time.
  2. The younger generation got used to online play enough which they don't understand the fun of it as much as we do.
  3. We ourselves got used to facebook and related stuff that we are getting into online play even when we can arrange something with our friends.
  4. Many of the games which have a potential at least for LAN play, don't provide it.

What I said is not a surprise to anyone hopefully but we should think about all of these when we want to decide on local multiplayer. These problems exist but the fun exists as well. There is a real need and a real market for it.

What we can/should do?

Humans are social animals. While works and thoughts of an individual are required for anything to happen, the same individual can make it really happen inside a community so we need to remain social in its real sense if we want to get more civilized (if we are any at all at the moment).

We should try to add local multiplayer to our games or at least LAN play to make them human friendlier. It will add value and replayability to the game while technically is not a huge task at least for games which are designed to be multiplayer in another way.

It's a lot of fun to do it. We at office are mostly busy with other stuff but we are making a small multi player tank fighting game, something like the classics like battle city and even now which we did not do a lot for it yet, playing it at the office with the guys is a lot of fun. The angry faces which laugh at your selfish name, the trash talk, everything!

I'm not sure if we finish it or not. I'm not sure if we release it or not but if we do, we'll support LAN play by a mean if it's not the only way of playing.

At least make it possible for people to have matches exactly with who they choose. Imagine if LOL had a capability which you could play a match unrelated to any other thing in the game with the people who you choose, then you could gather with your friends in a place, have a friendly match and go home without worrying about anything else in the game. If you have guilds, systems, levels and ... forget all of them for friendly matches and just get out of the way of the friends who want to play together.

Local multiplayer has business problems, right?

I know that,  but as I said, you don't have to make a game which is local multiplayer only. You can do it, you can bundle it with other games as those guys you know did it but you don't have to. It can be a feature of an online multiplayer game. We ourselves have done a local multiplayer only game last summer and gave it to a friend to finish it and publish it and the results are awful enough which I'm shy to show. Giving the half done game to someone to finish was the big mistake but being local multiplayer only was a cause as well. If it was not multiplayer only then maybe we had more business reasoning and capability (we need money to remain alive) to continue and finish it. However adding single player mode or online play to something designed to be local multiplayer only takes time and we could not do it at that time as well.

A local multiplayer game should be something that your competition/co operation with your fellow is exciting enough and gameplay should be still hot, but if they do then local multiplayer can really move it to the next level with making the human communication a part of it as well.

I know you remember your experience with your console, friends and family and don't want it to become a part of history. It's possible to do it again, even with mobile phones but you are the only ones who can do it!

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