Lonely Gamer

Gaming for those who hate other people.

Posts Tagged ‘multiplayer

Massively Singleplayer…

with 3 comments

This is just an idea and, though I think the term has been used elsewhere and before, it is pretty much the only description I can think of. Massively singleplayer games.

I’m not really a big fan of multiplayer games – they can be good, but I don’t see the point in boasting to people who I’ll never meet and who hide being l33th4XX0r names. If I’m multiplaying with friends, sure, but that rarely happens. What I do like though is talking about games and playing singleplayer games.

So, how about massive singleplayer games – an idea stemming from the RPS article about Pathologic – or, one specific bit at least. I’ll quote directly instead of bludgeoning the point with flimsy interpretation. Pathologic is a game with three seperate characters who you can play one at a time, but the key is that in any one game the PC will follow the quest path of the remaining two characters because you need to work with the other two characters in order to complete the game.

I played through the game at the same time as a friend. He chose the Bachelor, and I was the Haruspicus. Because we played at the same rate, we had the chance to discuss developments in the plot each day. This went wrong fast.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?” he asked me after we’d both finished day three.

It took me a few seconds to figure out he was referring to the Haruspicus. In his game he’d been sent to investigate a body of one of the infected citizens that had been sliced open and left in the street, and his investigation ended up pointing to me as the perpetrator. But there was no evidence as to why I’d done it. Whereas in my game, yeah, I’d snuck up on a doomed man and cut him open, but I knew it was justified. For thousands of years the Haruspicus had held the right to open the dead in situations like this; what I’d done was the most natural thing in the world. To try and save the thousands of men, women and children in the town who were at risk, I’d brought one death on just a couple of days early. Sue me.

“I needed to see the infected organs” I told my friend, realising as I typed that this defense probably wouldn’t hold up in court.

We bickered for a while, each of us oddly firm in the beliefs of our own characters. He called me a murderer, and I called him pathetic. We left it at that.

When I was playing the game the next day I ended up going to a meeting with the Bachelor. The NPC called me a murderer, and our characters bickered. He wanted nothing to do with me. He said that, as doctors, we could never be justified in killing people.

Now, imagine that idea as applied to a mainstream and more fluid game – something not as oppressively bleak as Pathologic. Take BioShock as an example, where the game could have two campaigns with players starting seperate but intersecting at certain points and working to either opposite or similar ends. It’s not co-op because the PC will take on the role not filled by the player. It’s kind of like the relationship between the expansion packs and main game in the original Half-Life, except taken to an illogical end.

On it’s own it isn’t all that great, but the kicker here would be that the game is designed for players to play in clans, with each player taking a different role – in that regard it’s like co-op, but with player communication forcibly removed. The game would then force players into a particular mindset, but different players into opposing mindsets and groups with the idea being to provoke a discussion and see how people can be manipulated by the game.

Commercial? Really not, but an interesting concept none the less. Massive singleplayer emotional experiments. You get your two best friends together and agree to play through a game and meet up when you have all finished the fifth level to discuss it. Each player has a different role – A is a secret agent trying to stop an evil madman, B is a madman trying to change the world for the better by force, C is an agent for the madman who is in the process of betraying him to aid the spy. Each one however is presented the game world from the point of view of that person – so each believes he is the hero, despite any objective reality.

Hell, you could even fiddle with the entire look of the game. The madman is playing something like Evil Genius, the spy is playing something like GoldenEye and the traitor is playing a point and click adventure.

At the end the three players meet up and talk. The game has a set path – lets say the traitor is betrayed by the spy, but not before the madman is tipped off and the spy is caught – so the players have a common ground to talk on. What they do though is discuss the motivations of characters. Player B has come to think of the madman as a brilliant and misunderstood hero, while A thinks B is evil. C on the otherhand appreciates both sides but is primarily concerned with himself.

As a concept, it has potential. Think about how much fun you have when you and a friend compare tactics for a game like Deus Ex and you spend ages saying “Well, I saved Alex Jacobson from UNATCO when I left and used him later…” or “This is how I saved Tiffany Savage…” and the other player often did it in a utterly different way.

This is just that idea, but applied to philosophy and not tactics.

Out, LG.

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Written by Joe Martin

April 11, 2008 at 7:02 pm