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Confessions of an Anti-Social gamer (part #1)
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Confessions of an Anti-Social gamer (part #1)
by Andy Satterthwaite on 06/30/10 09:37:00 pm   Featured Blogs

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


I don’t want to play on-line games.

It’s not just because I don’t want to have “lamer” insults thrown at me, by unknown tweenagers, for not having the fastest mouse-finger in the west (although that’s a factor).

It’s not even that I’m not competitive - it’s just that I want to beat the game (or my high score) rather than other gamers.

What I am, however, is a completist. When I find a game that I really enjoy I want to perfect it: unlock every level; win every race; conquer every battle; get every achievement/trophy … it’s not easy, and with most games I don’t do it – but with some games I CAN’T do it because the developer stops me, and that’s just frustrating.

Recently I’ve been hammering Split/Second – IMO the most wonderful arcade-racer ever developed (yes, even better than the racers I’ve developed). The bulk of Split/Second is “Season” mode, which is a single player experience, and one I will happily keep attacking until I’ve won every race.

But I can’t get every trophy/achievement – and that’s frustrating.

Why can’t I get them? Because to get them all I’ve got to play on-line (there are at least four I can’t get without playing on-line - maybe more, ‘cause some of the trophies are secret). And I don’t want to play on-line.

So, I know what you’re thinking “Life’s full of compromises. Why doesn’t he just shut-up and get on-line if getting the trophies matters so much”.

Well, I tried. I swallowed my reluctance to venture in to the unknown world of “other players” and … then spent 20 minutes sitting in a lobby with no-one to play with - 20 minutes of my perilously short, weekly gaming window - 20 minutes I could have spent playing four other races, or saving the world, or something.

And then I tried it again another night with the same result. And Split/Second is a big budget, recent release!

Now, maybe I couldn’t find anyone to play on-line with because I live in New Zealand (and when I’m playing games at 9pm at night, the US is in the small hours and the UK is at work), or maybe I couldn’t find anyone because the game released here 3 weeks later than in the rest of the world so everyone’s stopped playing it and is instead playing some new shiny thing …

But really I think it’s because the game is primarily a SINGLE PLAYER game – and so those of us who are playing it (and loving it) are playing single player rather than hoping to luck-out in a lobby with someone who simultaneously thought they might luck-out in a lobby.

If that’s the case, then that has some obvious implications for game dev in general:

1)   Game dev teams (and publishers) are wasting precious time/money on developing on-line modes (for games which are primarily single player) that just aren’t getting played (after perhaps a very short after-release window).

2)   Having achievements/trophies linked to on-line is just cruel and unusual to the completist trophy-whores out there.

Solution – decide whether you’re primarily a single-player game or a multi-player game.  If you’re single-player, then put all your effort into that and make it great … and if you absolutely must waste months of dev-time putting in some multi-player mode that no-one will play after release week, then PLEASE don’t tie trophy/achievement collection to it.

Rant over.

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Germain CouŽt
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So basically, anyone who likes to play online in a game that's primarily single player is not allowed to have achievements or trophies?

I say let the devs decide what to do with their time/money so that the better developers stand out by making better decision. Survival of the fittest.

Chan Chun Phang
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Actually, I like SSBB's solution: Give the players a few tokens to unlock achievements. Granted it's cheating, but the player's aren't forced to use them either.

Andy Satterthwaite
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Germain, I think you misunderstood me.

I want all players to be able to get all the trophies/achievements (if that's what they want)

But if it's a primarily single-player game, then trying to get in to an on-line game can be difficult or impossible (even for new releases, let alone games that have been out a while) - rendering on-line only achievements impossible to get.

I propose that the trophies/achievements should be focussed towards the core essense of the game, not to modes that may not be playable.

(and as a related side note, given the enormous expense of developing & testing on-line modes in games, I would suggest that in many cases the money can be spent better elsewhere in the game... but more on that in a later blog)

Stephen Chin
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@Germain What Andy is saying is achievements like "Kill 50 zombies in either Solo Horde or Online Horde" and "Mario Stomp a zombie in any mode". Basically, being able to do something anywhere rather than strictly one arbitrary mode. It would be like "Do a barrel roll to avoid 50 missiles in offline single player mode" - someone who doesn't want to do single player would be adverse to doing so. And the underlying point is really "Why the arbitrary limit?" Why the requirement on what would otherwise be a universal action? Why hand out achievements for mindless progression (online or otherwise) versus achievements for doing something neat?

Sean Farrell
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So far I have seen there are no games that really are singleplayer and (online) multiplayer. It is rahter a game is singleplayer with a added multiplayer or multiplayer with an added single player. Here two cases:

Bioshock 2 Multiplayer and Unreal Tournament 3 campaign.

I think this is a waste of developer resources. Resources that could have been invested in a better game (or smaller budget).

David Clair
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Or even worse, if the servers are shut down ala EA, then you will never be able to get your on-line acheivements or trophies (personally bitter about NBA Street Homecourt...for that and the regression of the series in general)

Adam Flutie
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Real solution, Screw trophies and achievements. I think a lot of people see them as a positive, something that draws more life out of the games and the gamers. I think of them as a shallow attempt at forcing me to play something I might be done with, simply because of my completist nature.

Prior to trophies and achievements, as I played single player games I defined the end. I knew when I was done. Yeah, I beat it on every mode. Yeah, I found all the secrets (well at least the ones I found and felt good about it)... I'm done now.

In the age of trophies and achievements though the developers are now telling me what they think "complete" is and that is what upsets me. It is no longer my game, it is their game with their rules... I can't even complete a game in my own way anymore.

It works both ways too, the last 100% achievement game I finished was Oblivion. But I didn't really feel finished. There was so many more places to go and do, but those achievements said I was done. As such I felt like I was wasting my time still exploring - even the Dev said I was done...

eh... I hate achievements. They ruined gaming for me.

Doug Poston
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I (almost) hate to bring up this hot-topic issue, but one of the key reasons for tacked on multi-player features to an otherwise complete single-player game is the used game market.

NOTE: I am not arguing against the used game market. But its effects ripple all the way back to the design phase of games.

For example, by adding the goal of "80 hours online racing", completest like Andy are less likely to return the game in the first couple of weeks (when the biggest number of sales happen).

David Hughes
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I would characterize myself as an anti-social gamer, even though I spend a great deal of my time playing online. I like competing against other players, but I don't particularly care about socializing. The first thing I do (if the game has this option) is mute the mics of all the players. Sure, 10% of the time there might be some useful chatter, but I just want to be left alone and focus on killing (my multi-player time is almost exclusive to FPS titles).

But I totally agree with you that the vast majority of games should focus all their resources on single player modes. Look at how refreshing Bioshock was. Granted, the lack of multiplayer didn't in and of itself cause the single player to be so good, but that was a GREAT game that was awesome to play by yourself.

I have yet to pick up the sequel. The multi-player mode sounded interesting, but my time is already split between several big games, so it's really not a draw for me. Why not invest ALL resources into a kick-ass experience, knowing that you can't possibly compete with the Halos and Modern Warfares of the world?

Just to pick your brain, though--what about co-op multiplayer? My wife and I have had a lot of fun playing through Gears of War (and 2) co-op, and occasionally slog through our favorite Halo levels on Legendary. As an anti-social gamer, how do you feel about those types of experiences?

And I totally agree with you about achievements. I've spent AT LEAST 200 hours in single and multi-player Halo 3 and probably have 40% of the achievements, because so many are focused on rather hard multiplayer tasks. Whereas I've put 15-20 hours into Halo 3: ODST and already have 70%, simply because there's less of a multiplayer component to the game.

Ara Shirinian
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Unfortunately, for many games it seems pretty apparent that they dispense achievements not for the purpose of supporting the essence of the game, but to coax the player into spending time in certain game modes or doing certain things some mystical master has decided is important. In one 360 racing game you will get a cookie for playing online, a cookie for taking a picture, a cookie for entering some nonessential portion of the game, etc.

Another reason this is bad- the very presence of such achievements implies that such activities are not sufficiently compelling for the player to try on their own - the game has to dangle cookies in front of you to somehow make it worthwhile.

The worst example I have seen is in an XBL title where one achievement is something ludicrous - like beating 100 opponents online, in a product where you hardly ever see any ready opponents online. This kind of achievement is for all practical purposes impossible to obtain.

Consider the above, combined with the wide variation in achievement point difficulty (so you can get hundreds of points for some trivial sequence of actions in one game, yet another game will demand weeks of daily practice just to earn a measly 10 points) - as a gamer all of this has trained me over time to just discount achievements altogether- my mind no longer considers them part of the actual game.

Xander Markham
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I'm agreeing with Adam Flutie. Achievements have standardised rebellious play - in't days of olde, you'd make your own entertainment in between completing the game's main story. With achievements, you end up using certain guns because you get a reward for it, not because you particularly like that gun or find it entertaining. The fun of just mucking around in a game world of your own volition is undermined because there are so many other things you could be doing that would get you a reward - when I have a goal to achieve, I tend to focus on it and do my exploring and being silly once that milestone has been reached and there's no great sense of immediacy to move on. With achievements, you've constantly got something you could be doing, discouraging you from having fun on your own terms.

With regards to Andy Satterthwaite's article, for people who like achievements it's probably fairest to balance their distribution in favour of the main mode of play (single or multi). Having achievements you could collect in either mode would make balancing difficult so getting the trophy in one mode isn't noticeably tougher than in another. But since I find trophies demeaning to begin with, I'm not really the person to ask!

Andy Satterthwaite
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In response to Sean Farrel: That's going to be the subject of "Confessions of an Anti-Social gamer part #2" - I couldn't agree more

In response to Doug Poston: The problem with your reasoning is that once a (predominantly single-player) game is a few weeks old, trying to find an on-line game is all but impossible.

Thanks for the comments guys.