Tag Archives: multiplayer

Cross-Network Play is “the Next Logical Step”

Matthew Handrahan, GamesIndustry.biz:

Epic believes that the same process is starting to happen in markets like the US and Europe, thanks in no small part to refinements and improvements made to the Unreal Engine. During State of Unreal, Studio Wildcard’s co-founders Doug Kennedy and Jesse Rapczak came onstage to talk about Ark: Survival Evolved on mobile, and announced that it was being ported for Nintendo Switch. Sweeney also mentioned the mobile version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which was first announced in November last year.

Another example is, of course, Epic’s own Fortnite, which Sweeney believes is “unique” even within the context of the larger trend; principally because the work Epic has done to make it possible will benefit anyone that uses the Unreal Engine.

“So that they can do the same thing,” Sweeney adds. “And that is build one unified game that runs on all platforms, that is the same experience everywhere, and is a social experience that you can play with friends across all of the different platforms.

“What we have is this one engine that’s supporting AAA production values and game sizes and content bases that runs everywhere. This is going to be a great setup for the games industry, because it means that now you don’t have a divide between casual mobile games and high-end PC and console games.”

For Epic, this all makes complete sense and will give Unreal Engine a massive leg up as a development tool.

I wrote about the need for cross-network play in my piece Sold on Cross-Network Play. Much of the piece — albeit not transparently — stemmed from my frustration of having to hook up my Xbox One to play Overwatch with my friends. It was extremely encouraging to learn that players of Minecraft and Rocket League would be able to share experiences between Switch, Xbox One, and Steam.

Sony claims that their reluctance of opening cross-network play is out of protection of their community. I think that is a fair stance, but is the Sony community any less toxic than others? I think the real fear is losing an amount of ability to lock in players to PlayStation 4. It’s the same case made for exclusive games and content, the latter I vehemently oppose.

Maybe it’s just the era I grew up in, but I believe in exclusive first-party experiences. Beyond the console wars which were somewhat steeped in technology battles as much as publishing and political ones, there is something to be said for the marriage of first-party hardware and software. Nintendo and Apple are prime examples this, creating unique and often stellar experiences by leveraging both sides of the stack.

Sony can hold their own when it comes to exclusives. It’s time to open the network.

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Sold on Cross-Network Play

During the Nintendo Spotlight: E3 2017, cult favorite Rocket League was announced for the Switch. The announcement included the bullet point “Cross-Network play”, officially detailed on RocketLeague.com, emphasis my own:

Rocket League will also support all of Nintendo Switch’s play modes, including TV Mode (docked), Tabletop Mode, Handheld Mode, and both Online and Local Multiplayer. Online Multiplayer supports up to eight players, and Cross-Network play will be supported as well, allowing Switch players to hit the field with players on Steam and Xbox One.

The idea that I can play the exact same game with a friend on a different console should not be novel. It is a future I’ve been hoping for, and honestly, a no brainer from a consumer’s perspective.

For non-exclusives, I don’t want to have think about shutting out some of my friends based on a console decision. A handful of my friends prefer playing on Xbox One. Another handful prefer playing on PlayStation 4. I’m caught in the middle and certainly don’t want to purchase the game twice. (Nor should I be expected to own both consoles!)

Without the knowledge of different online communities, buying a game as a gift can be a tremulous experience for family and friends. Confusion exists for the non-gaming community. There are horror stories of purchasing Wii U games for Wii owners. Hell, there was confusion between NES and SNES games back in the ’90s. I would argue that purchasing a game for the correct console, but being locked out of playing with friends simply because they own a different console sounds like lunacy to those without gaming knowledge.

However, as Myke Hurley on the Remaster podcast points out, PlayStation will not be partaking.:

It’s very awesome that [Rocket League] has Cross-Network play. You’ll be able to play against players on other platforms. This is just PC and Xbox right now, which is the same for Minecraft. With the new Minecraft, you will sign in with an Xbox Live account to play on the Switch. So this is something it seems like a bunch of different game companies are getting together with one notable absent platform which is PlayStation.

This is not a technical limitation. It is political.

Jeremy Dunham, VP of publishing at Psyonix, in an interview with Polygon:

“It’s literally something we could do with a push of a button, metaphorically,” Dunham told Polygon. “In reality it’s a web page with a checkbox on it. All we have to do is check that box and it would be up and running in less than an hour all over the world. That’s all we need to do.”

As an owner of all three consoles, the gesture of Cross-Network play between Xbox One and Switch — even between two games, Rocket League and Minecraft — is enough to push me over the edge of purchasing and playing third-party titles available for both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on Xbox One.

Cross-Network play is the future for third-party titles and I have faith Sony will follow suit. Until then, whenever I’m debating which “HD twin” to play third-party multiplayer experiences on, Xbox One gets my money, simply on the potential that their willingness will bring more shared Cross-Network play experiences. (Come on, Overwatch!)

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Real-world interaction

Max Temkin, creator of Cards Against Humanity in an interview with Wired:

There’s something super addictive and super satisfying about just sitting down with your friends and having that real-world experience. I think a lot of the times people play Cards [Against Humanity], they have this great time and they often attribute it to the game, but it’s really just that the game was the pretext for them to sit down and have this real world interaction.

Card games typically imply real world interaction because they are (in large part) physical items. For an industry founded on arcades, schoolyard stories, and fighting over controllers, it’s funny how quickly the notion of local multi-player gaming seemed to disappear the near instant consoles integrated online multi-player. I won’t wax poetic about my recent experience playing Mario Kart 8 again, but there is a magic in local multi-player gaming.

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Player

Garnett Lee of Garnett on Games on exclusively multiplayer vs. exclusively single-player games:

We still have vestiges of the prior generations where it’s just sort of natural for those us who have been playing games for a long time to think of single-player as “the game” and multiplayer as “the extra you get with the game.” I think that that influences us at times. However, I think that there are a number of multiplayer only games that you can point to that are very, very successful as stand-alone multiplayer games beginning all the way back with Team Fortress 2.

I was really hoping Garnett would have mentioned early dice, board, or card games.

Games require two or more players. The term “player” is embrued with human characteristics. We often forget that games can not only involve challenges with other humans but also ourselves, computers or luck. Single-player video game experiences are multiplayer experiences against computers.

From solitaire to geopolitics, humans enjoy games. We enjoy games because there is a level of risk and challenge involved that (typically) does not seal our fate. There is variety in experience, chance and strategy. If a single game provided the same experience over and over again, it would become boring. Single-player video games provide humans with a computerized variety of ways to enjoy games in solitary fashion; new mechanics, settings and competition are introduced over the course of a single game and my vary with each play-through. Online multiplayer experiences allow for the same type of human variety that is experienced when playing a dice, board or card game; the receptive mechanics, settings, and characters are a shell for a battle of experience, chance and strategy.

Exclusively online multiplayer is a remote evolution of human-to-human competitive play; however, all games are between multiple players. It is not a debate of “single-player” versus “multiplayer” game design as all games are multiplayer. It is simply a debate of preference between solitary and communal. Not all video games need to played against a computer; not all video games need to played against a human.

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