Features QotW010714f

Published on January 7th, 2014 | by Staff

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Question of the Week: Has the industry gone too social?

Welcome to Critically Sane’s Question of the Week, where we do our best to answer an inquiry posed to us by the community. Have your own question? Tweet it to us @criticallysane or put it in the comments below!

Has the industry gone too social? ~ submitted by Wolf

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The weekend between Christmas and New Year’s Day had me excited. I was going to get in some quality NBA 2K14 time, as my MyCareer player was finally blossoming into a powerhouse. I’ve always loved this series, and this year’s single player MyCareer is its crowning achievement, with cutscenes and drama accentuating the normal on-court greatness. The trouble was: I couldn’t play. You see, 2K’s servers were down, and even though I was playing a single player game, I couldn’t get in. They fixed the servers, but I was left with a crash issue that forced my game to crash to Xbox One home every time I attempted to play. Since you can take your MyCareer player online to face down foes, 2K thought it a good idea to force everybody to sync their player data with 2K’s servers to avoid cheating. With them down, no one could play the game.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Developers, in the wake of a large number of tacked-on multiplayer modes, are struggling to find something, anything to encourage players to hold on to single player games, and social seems to be a major focus in their efforts. EA’s failed attempt to add a social element to SimCity is well-documented, the effort ruining one of the most anticipated games of 2013. I am fine with developers allowing players to opt in to social gaming, but as it crosses over and dismantles single player games, it’s gone too far. The notion of social as a core element in single player games needs to be dismissed, and the sooner, the better.  ~Tony Odett

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I find myself enjoying the social aspects that are integrated into the hardware rather than the software specifically. For instance, when I’m playing a Vita game, I usually always check to see if my friends are playing it or check their progress by simply swiping down real quick and refreshing the Vita’s social screen. I like to see what my friends are doing, what trophies they have earned, etc. But this never really affects anyone unless you choose to view that information specifically, so it’s kind of hard to complain about that sort of implementation.

On the flip side, I do not like being forced to play with other people in any capacity. I love multiplayer games, but some games I would just rather enjoy on my own. Need for Speed: Rivals tried pushing this on players by defaulting them into multiplayer lobbies. Granted in that case players could opt out of playing online, but pushing multiplayer or any social dependency could very well keep me from playing games that I would otherwise enjoy. ~Don Parsons

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At first, I wasn’t sure if I had anything at all to say about this question, but then I remembered SSX. I played EA’s reboot of SSX from the day of its release in February 2012 until some time that June, and I don’t think I would have dedicated so much time to the game if it weren’t for its social elements. Trying to beat my friends’ scores and times was the hook that kept me coming back. It made SSX special to me. 

I tend to stick to single player games, both because I like going on long adventures and because I typically suck at multiplayer games.  (Except poker. I will kick your ass and everybody’s ass at poker. Especially Tony’s.) But it’s nice to see social elements sneaking their way into single player games. They added another layer of allure to Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. Miiverse integration is fun on Wii U; the Tingle bottles in Legend of Wind Waker HD were a nice touch.

It’s a knee jerk reaction to lament social integration in video games. It is a medium that was born in the arcades. Despite their dark, dungeon-like atmosphere, arcades were social gathering points. Part of the fun of going to an arcade was playing against your friends or trying to get a high score on a particular cabinet. The Internet is bringing the medium full circle, and I think social integration is something gamers should embrace.

Let me put it this way: God willing, if there is a sequel to SSX, I would be very upset if it didn’t include the reboot’s innovative social features. When I realized that, I knew where I fell on this issue. Bottom line: there is only one pastime where isolation should be considered sacred, but even that is more fun with others.  ~Jeff Derrickson

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Personally I think that the industry is still trying to figure out social gaming and you need to look no further than EA to see that. EA’s foray into social gaming is one giant experiment, from Burnout and Need For Speed’s leaderboard tracking and drop in/drop out gameplay to SimCity being redesigned from the core to be a multiplayer game. Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they get it wrong. Either way though, social has become the direction EA and the rest of the industry are pushing. And over the next 18 months or so, games like The Crew, Driveclub, The Division, Destiny, Titanfall, Fable Legends, and many more, will continue to push and experiment with social gaming.

As much as I like playing with friends or chasing their high scores, I’m not sure I like this constant push towards integrating others into every experience. Sometimes I’m OK to have others with me, and sometimes, like in Journey, it enhances the experience. But other times, I just want to be alone and do things by myself. No matter how much Nintendo may push multiplayer Mario on to me, I still just want to play it as a solo experience, rescuing the princess myself. I don’t want to share the kiss at the end of the game with my lanky brother and his two dirty mushroom headed midget pals. And I shouldn’t have to either. ~Chris Scott

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  • Wolf

    Tony: I get games on their single player merits, even if I want to play the
    multi player. Its even more frustrating when you can’t get to your
    single player experience because the servers are down. DIdn’t play Sim
    City, but all of the same issues are around in Diablo3, and that can
    ruin the game. At least the companies ironed out the majority of the
    issues at this point.
    Don: comparing my progress in a game with friends is fun, but more often than not, it reminds me that I am never playing the same game (at the same time anyway) as my friends. As to forcing the player into a multi player game…. you can probably guess my feelings based on the above. IE, BITE ME!
    Jeff, Leader boards are long standing arcade feature and are all over ‘single player games even. I almost wouldn’t call it a social feature anymore; that said it is. I’d like leader boards to be options and not always reminding you that you are inferior to other players, let alone your friends. Probably the smallest, and therefore most acceptable, social integration.
    Chris: I think you summarize everyone’s feelings pretty nicely. It would be nice to have a master switch for turning Multiplayer on and off. (Wasn’t that just going into Multi-player mode?) Some integration is nice, but forcing me into it will make me resentful.

  • Wolf

    What did you guys think of AC4′s single player social integration? I never played the multiplayer, but got plenty of the ‘social’ treasures.

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