The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
The thrill of competition isn’t enough to keep me engaged in today’s multiplayer games. This generation’s most successful competitive and cooperative experiences dangle a carrot in front of the player both on and off the battlefield. When I down a foe, I expect experience points in return. When the word “Victory!” or “Defeat” flashes onto screen, my next step is to see if I unlocked anything new.The gameplay is still the driving force for these games, but I’m finding that their longevity is tied to perks and items unlocked along the way. The Call of Duty series does a fantastic job of rewarding players from the moment they start playing to the point that they have to decide whether or not they want to Prestige. New weapons and skills are earned with most promotions, and fun little bonuses like nameplate graphics give players something to collect.But even this isn’t enough to keep me hooked. Once I reach max level, the only options offered are to stay put or Prestige, sending me back to level one and repeat the same path. Progression ends, and this just may be me, but a lot of the excitement is sucked out of the experience at this point. The multiplayer market is primed for a new progression system. Mass Effect 3’s cooperative component may be our first look at a potential future for all multiplayer games. I’m speaking specifically about one idea in particular: The ability to purchase packs of cards. I know this sounds silly, but most people enjoy collecting things. Whether the item of desire ends up being Pokémon or Magic: The Gathering cards, once a collection begins, I usually cannot stop until I get everything. If handled correctly, collecting becomes a rewarding game within a game.In Mass Effect 3’s case, cards gift players with new weapons, characters, one-time use items, weapon mods, and upgrades. All of the items directly affect gameplay and player progression. Even repeat cards of specific weapons or characters gift players with upgraded levels and bonus experience points.
Just the act of opening a pack is exciting. Will you get the weapon your friend has been bragging about for weeks? Will you unearth a new firearm? Will you finally get the upgrade that gives you the firepower needed to attempt a higher difficulty level?Mass Effect 3’s card system is a random loot generator. Rather than dropping weapons at the feet of player (à la Diablo and Borderlands), it saves the excitement of getting something new until the end of the match (much like the slot machine system in Lost Planet 2). Most of my discussions post-match are about the loot that is earned.I’m not saying that this is the only way that unlockables should be delivered. Picture randomized loot inserted into the current setups for Call of Duty and Battlefield. Base weapons are still unlocked at specific levels and for completing skill-based tasks, but currency earned along the way is used to purchase additional random loot that you cannot earn any other way.For competitive games, the balance of gigantic payloads could be difficult for developers. Even if one person has a weapon that is slightly better than his opponent's, it gives him or her an edge. At the same time, maybe the player on the other end of that powerful pistol has better armor than the other player.Lootfests rank among my favorite experiences in gaming. Mass Effect 3’s loot delivery system scratches that itch in a new way. I find myself playing the always dangerous game of "just one more match" solely to earn the currency needed to unlock one more pack before calling it quits for the night. I'm addicted to it.
If BioWare plays its hand right, DLC and updates will expand the size of the card set – hopefully offering new weapons and characters. Once I unlock everything, I'm sure my engagement with the game will end. I know this sounds horrible, but if I don't become engrossed with a multiplayer experience to the point of joining a clan and organizing play dates with friends, I usually lose interest in it when I reach the end of player progression.
As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What do you want from your multiplayer experience? What drives you to keep playing? Are you a fan of Mass Effect 3's card system? Leave me a comment and let's get this discussion started.
Email the author Andrew Reiner, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.
You nailed the point home. I feel exactly the same way. I find myself playing a couple of extra matches because I want to buy the 33k Credits Pack.
I remember grinning with excitement when I saw that I had finally grabbed the M-13 Raptor X. They really have something going here and I hope other developers take notice.
Sure you could buy MS Points to get more packs, but WHY? You play, you earn.
Multiplayer can't keep me playing for long. I need some substantial story tied to my actions. I've spent more time with ME3's multiplayer than anything other than ACB. What my real problem is that I don't have many good friends to play with. Most of my friends only have a PS3. Ah well.
I agree. This feels like something different enough that I'm not just entertained for its newness. The randomness of these packs makes me want to keep coming back until I have everything. Supported with DLC (like the rumored pack posted in a news article on this very site!), this could be a great new model for progression in MP. Get everything in the original version? Buy the Summer Series Today!
My one concern with it is that I don't know how many games per year I'd be willing to go all in for with this model. But man am I all in with ME3. I guess it helps that the MP also feels new, exciting, and delivers some of the coolest feeling moments (thanks, biotics!) of any MP I've played in years.
It would definitely be interesting to see games adopt Mass Effect's style of progression. It'd be a little weird on Call of Duty, I think. But then again, if it's an endless stream of loot unlocks, that means the developers wouldn't have to program all the Prestige stuff. you heard it first here, Activision!
Like Reiner, I've pretty much become addicted to progression. As much as I enjoy older multiplayer games like Unreal Tournament and F.E.A.R. Combat (a free multiplayer-only version of the original F.E.A.R.), my urge to play them only comes along once in a blue moon because while they are fun, the lack of progression quickly saps my interest.
Which is why I'm so glad ME3 has not one but several types of progression to keep me hooked. Leveling up my different characters and getting new powers/abilities is always fun, but the sheer excitement I get when I manage to earn enough credits for a new recruitment pack is something that will keep me engrossed long after all my characters reach lvl 20.
If more games take a page out of Bioware's book when it comes to co-operative multiplayer, the future of gaming will be very bright indeed (at least in my opinion).
I don't have quality internet so my experience with ME3 multiplayer consists of playing single player private matches or playing a match or two on the weekends at my cousin's house. The way that they have set up the card pack system is hard for me to get involved in, but even in my limited capacity I love the collection aspect and wish I could play more.
This blog is interesting, I think I would like to see the random loot in some other games it would for me atleast increase the time I play the game. I could definitely see this work in games like Call of Duty.
I like the progression in Mass Effect 3 when it came to upgrades and weapons, but I want to unlock characters normally. That way I can set a goal.
On the upside of this I love lots of customization options, and deep progression systems. As a competitionist I feel random loot in competitive games may get me to play MP for far longer then I normally would, but may also screw the unlucky. It just has to be balanced very carefully, either by a different but equal standard, or a steady power curve. Finding the treasure I want in Diablo is great, getting outgunned by a higher level player in a fps is not.
I fear that EA is testing the waters with this to see if console players have the stomach for micro-transactions. If the a la carte packs mack enough money we can expect to see a lot more of this. I'm sure more gotham city imposters and "free" to play MMO's are right around the corner. As a thrifty gamer I see my time on the leaderboards may be coming to an end very soon.
I really liked Mass Effect's multiplayer. Not only does it work well in actual gameplay, but the loot setup, character customization, class roles, and integration with single-player make it feel so complete and less of a tacked-on mode like I was afraid. If this is the future of multiplayer, we have a lot to look forward to.
I pretty much love all aspects of the multiplayer. After picking up the game at midnight, it took another 10+ hours for me to stop playing multiplayer, and in a single player focused game, that is saying something. I'm a huge fan of the card pack system. I enjoy the matches themselves, but what I enjoy most is building up a large sum of gold, purchasing a few spectre packs, and anxiously anticipating whether or not I'll get what I've been hoping for. It's clearly a spin off of horde mode, but the card pack system makes Mass Effect's iteration superior in my eyes.
I remember trying the demo and it was great! The card system ,for me, was great epecially, since I unlocked the Krogan early.