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Splash Damage's Stern: 'Why Are Multiplayer Games A Second-Class Citizen?'

Talking to Gamasutra as part of an in-depth new interview, Splash Damage's Edward Stern has been discussing the firm's Brink, suggesting that it's "ludicrou
Talking to Gamasutra as part of an in-depth new interview, Splash Damage's Edward Stern has been discussing the firm's Brink, suggesting that it's "ludicrous" that multiplayer isn't better integrated into normal play for most games. Senior designer Stern, who is working on the UK-based Enemy Territory: Quake Wars developer's new Bethesda-published console and PC title, is part of a team trying to elevate the art of multiplayer through some interesting new tactics. Stern starts by asking, simply enough: "Why do we put up with it? Why are multiplayer gamers a second-class citizen?", going on to list problems with multiplayer experiences in addition to the lack of seamless transitions: "It's just inane. You get games shipping with separate executables, a completely different experience, sometimes a different control scheme. Why would you ever do that? It's crazy now. There's no reason to do that. It seems ludicrous that we've got this notion of completely separate online, offline, single-player, multiplayer. That's in the past. There's no reason to put up with that anymore. There are really, really good games -- we play them a lot -- where you do just move through on a rail, and that's really satisfying, but the same guy comes out the same doorway every single time. There's not much reason to replay that except to make it harder or do a time trial and stuff. Obviously, from a PC hardcore FPS background, we know both the best and worst time you can have playing a game is online. It can be astonishing four-dimensional chess. It can be absolutely the best thing you could be doing. It could be tactical and brilliant, or it can be just an exercise in soul-crushing frustration and homophobic, racist, misogynist abuse as well. Now, which one of these things are we trying to get gamers into?... We're trying to get all the good stuff, and that's really our legacy as a studio." Continuing on the subject of multiplayer games with particular reference to playing on console, Stern adds: "It is ridiculous that 70 percent of next generation console owners aren't even aware that you can connect those machines to the internet, let alone have done so. Or maybe they tried it, and their first experience wasn't a positive one. So, promise number one: the only voices you will hear in Brink are the game NPCs and your buddies. Just because you've got a voice, there's no reason to default it to on. That was not a good idea." The full interview with Splash Damage's Stern is now available on Gamasutra, with plenty of details on plans for the franchise and its approach to allowing single player, co-op and multiplayer to seamlessly occur within the same game world.

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