Where has Teamwork Gone in Multiplayer? - Paradigmthefallen Blog - www.GameInformer.com
Switch Lights

The lights are on

Where has Teamwork Gone in Multiplayer?

So, if you've been playing any competitive or cooperative multiplayer games of past decade, you might have noticed something. People don't really seem to want to work together, do they?

This is a frequent problem in multiplayer games. People login to a game looking to fight and work with fellow humans... and then still treat it like a singleplayer game. The only difference is no matter how many times you die, you still make progress -- in theory.

Some people attribute this behavior to games like Call of Duty that encourage players to go "lone wolf". Others attribute it to lack of coordination. Some people blame griefers. And some people just don't care because they';re worried about their Kill/Death ratio and if you don't remain quiet they will make an insult about your mother.

There's no one reason that causes the dissonance between teammates in multiplayer games, it's a combination of several factors:

1. Not Communicating -- This is a key thing about real combat situations that no one ever worries about. Especially in games where you can't even communicate via typing. Voice chat is essential in fast paced games like Call of Duty or Team Fortress 2. And yet, especially on the PS3, most people don't use any form of communication. People often avoid voice chat because either they don't see the value in a mic, or because even though they're playing with other people -- they don't really want to be social. This results in usually two or so people who talk, and the rest of the team ignoring them and probably muting the people who are talking. If you want success in a mode all about working together, being silent and ignoring other people doesn't help. Yes, the stereotype 10-14 year old kid playing games they shouldn't and being utterly annoying/repulsive is a bad thing that may be encountered, but also take this into consideration: Every time I've played Killzone 3 with just three other people who use mics, our team does significantly better than if we didn't. I'd say the payoff outweighs the risk.

2. Lack of Teamwork Mechanics -- One of the worst offenders I've seen is Resistance 3. I get the feeling some of the support items are meant to help teammates, but considering most of the game is spent running and gunning, stationary health and ammo boosts don't do much. On the move buffs only effect the player who unlocks them with kill streaks, and then they become significantly over powered. There's no push to work together, just to survive and hope someone watches your back when you need it. Combine this with a rather unbalanced progression system, and questionable matchmaking, and a potentially great multiplayer experience is average at best. A multiplayer game needs to be designed around the idea of multiple players all working together. Take Spec Ops: The Line's multiplayer. The tight maps and 4 v 4 teams means you have to work together or die alone. Running and gunning is almost always a death sentence, and coordinated moves/stealthy manuevers and misdirections can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Add that to the fact that every ally near you gives you a buff boost dependent on their class, and a specific class is centered around leading squads, and it is far more optimal for teamwork centric players.

3. Bad Matchmaking -- This is an issue, like teamwork mechanics, that's pretty much on the developer's head. Matchmaking is supposed to make finding a game easier, but instead it can screw a player over. When it refuses to give you the option to choose your own servers, this results in preventing people from being able to consistently play together without having to have a private match that requires an invite. For example: Gotham City Imposters F2P will sometimes draw out server searches for minutes when there's easily five servers sitting just outside its search radius. An even worse offender is Dead Space 2, with such spotty server support that games can sometimes crash mid-match, and you can't even host private matches, let alone choose a server.

4. Unfriendly Progression -- Progression systems were first introduced to increase the time players would spend in a game. It also gave developers better control over predicting what a player could do in a level at any given point. Now they're considered necessary, but at times they seem just as much a hindrance as they once were an aid to developers. Lets go back to Resistance 3. You start off unlocking pre-made loadouts by the developers. They work well enough, but then you start unlocking your own custom loadouts. The problem is, you then have to work from the ground up to get new weapons. Not only that, but the easily most powerful weapons are limited to those who can get to the maximum rank of 60. But it gets worse -- matchmaking gets tied into this again. When a game doesn't take player level into account, it can result in severely unbalanced teams. On one team, several well experienced players can be lumped together against a mob of new players on the other team. This makes an already steep progression curve become almost impossible as players with more experience and better weapons can easily slaughter new players. Recent strides in multiplayer games are trying to fix this issue with progression systems, but it seems sad that it took this long for developers to catch on to an issue that's been going on for several years.

5. Griefing/Bad Behavior -- And this one goes pretty much without saying. If you're an ass in a game, or dealing with an ass, you'll have a far harder challenge. Thankfully most games can compensate for this now, but that doesn't mean people still won't do it. In games like MAG, where friendly fire is still allowed in standard modes, it can mean hell for your team.

And while I used competitive games as an example, the same exact issues can happen in co-op. I can think of Uncharted 2's co-op as a good example of lacking the good matchmaking department, along with a severely lackluster progression system.

But the good news is, these issues can be overcome. Simply getting a 10 dollar mic and not just breathing into it can make a difference. You can try talking about these issues and getting the developer's attention. If you make it an issue they can't ignore, then they have to fix it over making another 10 dollar map pack. If they still ignore the problem, then clearly they aren't worth your monetary investment.

Also, do yourself and everyone else a favor and focus on playing the game over insulting people for killing you or stealing your kills. If you're playing a game rated M for Mature -- act maturely. It's not too much to ask, every other sport or game requires it, and video games aren't any different.

Everyone just putting in a little effort can make a big difference, especially when its something social to begin with.

Cheers,
Fallen

comments