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Confessions of an Anti-Social gamer (part #1)

A plea to game-devs and publishers:If you're making a game that's main mode of play is Single Player focussed, then don't put in trophies/achievements that require on-line play. In fact, don't put in on-line play at all.

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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