Multiplayer seems an almost crucial factor in determining the long-term success of some of the biggest names on the market. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is still sitting pretty in the top 10 Xbox titles chart after nearly two years on sale, with many, including myself, salivating over the upcoming sequel in November which looks to further expand on the excellent original in all aspects. World of Warcraft relies on its subscribers forming friendships and, in some cases, offical partnerships with its arena and raiding content, reinforcing that in order to get the most of your subscription; you’d better start talking to people.
It has taken a while for the industry to catch up with the lifestyle changes that have occured since many gamers have ‘grown up’. Whilst some gamers still have the luxury of going round to each others houses to enjoy a mulitplayer session in person, many have moved away, made families and have full time jobs which makes it very difficult for friends to get together in person and have a damn good sesh. Without the improvements in internet speeds and bandwidth, and the social aspect that is being heavily promoted through Xbox Live and Steam, it would be easy to assume that we would not have progressed further than four-player split screen for console gaming and that massive multiplayer sessions would be purely a PC exclusive.
A whole host of multiplayer focused gaming is apporaching our shores over the next few months: ‘Left 4 Dead 2′ promises to deliver an even more visceral versus and campaign mode with a major focus on how players were completeing the games. ‘Borderlands’ looks a fantastic cross between ‘Falllout 3′ and ‘Indiana Jones’, co-op with the focus on class and weaponry of whcih there an estimated 16.5 MILLION possible combinations. And of course, the aforementioned ‘Modern Warfare 2′ that everyone, my uncle included, will purchase. However, none of these have peaked my interest more than a little mentioned title until it took home all the bacon at E3; ‘Brink’.
This is the game I’ve been waiting for; a first-person shooter that promises no break between the single and mulitplayer experiences. A game where the objectives you get set are based on you and your friends’ equipment and skills, and sends you updates in real time as to what is available to do. The sides are divided into the Officers and the Rebels. Choose a side, arm yourself, and then get stuck in, with your mates or by yourself – it will play exactly the same. Whilst one is protecting, the other is attempting to destroy the game environment referred to as “The Ark” (think Games Workshop’s Necromunda, crossed with Waterworld): for example, you can tailor your equipment to complete the task in the way you would like, after being updated with an assassination mission to kill an NPC in the game. At the same time, a player on the opposing side will receive a mission to escort said NPC to safety. All this happening in real time, and with real players. The best bit, though, is that if you are playing, you can check what missions your friends are doing and immediately jump in to assist them with your character, earning the same game-play experience and rewards that you would get if you were playing by yourself. It’s really exciting stuff, and as a budding games designer, I’m gutted I didn’t think of it first!
This, of course, wouldn’t be possible without the new developments in the internet, which has changed the way that games are played, sold, rated and enjoyed. With the focus on people playing together, we will hopefully see gaming enter a new renaissance similar to the graphics leaps that were seen with consoles in the 90′s, but instead of the games’ look, developers will be focussing on how games will make us feel. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my friends and I are on level 41 Horde on Gears 2, and my sofa is already crowded.