20mm: Multiplayer seems to be a subject of intense interest for simmers and yet, according to most surveys, only about 20% actually use a sim’s multiplayer feature. How important do you think it is for the games you develop and do you see a divergence between genres?
Ssnake: Our army customers use network sessions, “collective training”, 95% of the time that they start our software, so there simply is no discussion whether we should or shouldn’t have this feature. For consumers the situation is that you need to play when others have time for play as well. The vast majority of our players is between 30 to 55 years old (if YouTube statistics are to be believed, and representative for our customer demographics). They have family, they have a life, it isn’t always easy to come together for online play. Add to that the fact that you often play in teams, and then there’s the issue of group dynamic that will develop (for better or for worse).
It usually is easier to play on your own, even though the greatest gaming moments will probably come from game sessions with superior teamwork. It is more rewarding, but also more difficult to achieve, especially is you have pricks with destructive behavior in your sessions.
Oleg: In my opinion, the multiplayer is the main force of selling modern PC games. Say, only a positive buzz about multiplayer in a game on forums can make the product more popular.
Buckshot: Multiplayer is a very important aspect of our development effort. With high speed connections being available almost universally it is not impossible to have flight simulations that have very powerful multiplayer aspects to them. Whilst it is certainly correct to say that only a small percentage of users utilize this feature, it is also correct to say that particularly in flight simulations that this feature is regarded very highly, particularly among the more dedicated members of the flight simulation community and for this reason it would be foolish for any developer to neglect this area.
Dante: This is pretty much the figure we have in our own survey. Although this 20% is a very vocal crowd! We don’t have the resources to test and homologate multiplayer for first release, but we’ll try to push for second (which will be focused in air-to-air, while first will be mud moving — we’ll attempt at least dogfight rooms, as we already had this code running, albeit not tested in a large environment, or in other words, “in the wild”.
Polovski: There will always be need for both, some love to play against other humans and some cannot stand it ;). In fact some sim fans specifically build a PC that is unplugged and ONLY runs sim software for ultimate performance. This means you can choose not to install firewalls or anti virus or other protective software bloatware which obviously slow your system. Having both is good but usually the sim is geared more towards one side than the other, again resources and focus. Currently although you can play our sim online we concentrate on the offline side to make it as good as possible.
Jason: Multiplayer is always important and the MP users are the most vocal community members we have found which unfortunately can have a lopsided affect on the perception of your product. No sim developer wants to lose 20% or more of their potential user base, but you have to balance SP with MP in your development plan. There is a natural divergence between the genres, but if you can somehow implement SP features into MP such as AI planes in MP or a CO-OP MP Campaign, I think there can be a convergence in this area of flight simming.
Flexman: I think “know your audience” is really what you have to focus on, you should be doing that anyway. Some game genres are clearly more co-player centric, FPSs have their reputation system. Although the gap between wants and use is nothing new, if anything it shows simmers still don’t really know what they want as in, “just give me everything and I’ll sort it out later”.
I lean towards the design that puts no distinction between online and offline play, this way you simply have more options with other players. One advantage from an authoring point of view is that you’re testing the same core code. Again, I’d cite Atari’s Test Drive Unlimited as a great design for this kind of play, in the MMO category Lord of the Rings Online where Turbine added a mechanic to allow solo players to play all the group content.
There’s a new focus on social gaming which brings together offline play with challenging your friends. Need For Speed Hot Pursuit will let you push a new challenge time for your friends to beat when they next log in. Other developers are already working on similar levels of integration with this kind of offline multiplayer.
20mm: Is multplayer more important in a motorsports sim than a flight sim or a land combat sim?
Jason: I think it’s equally important for all genres.
Polovski: I think air simulation and especially with combat needs more variety (you have an extra dimension to deal with 😉 so good AI or good human helps. Making good AI is more difficult than borrowing humans but it’s possible to get interesting AI.
Dante: Multiplayer seems very important in a land combat sim. They have the strongest communities and it’s the general consensus (to go online). Flight confirms the 20% figures: 80% are in for a lonely pastime of learning and mastering the complexities of their preferred aircraft. We see this by logging on Hyperfighter.sk, there is too few players online (a couple hundred) compared with what you see in ArmA or the like. And yet we know that the sim which is king of Hyperfighter.sk (IL-2) sold pretty well, and certainly not a couple hundred copies. So, we came to a conclusion that most flight simmers are alone mastering their airplanes. Not sure about motorsports sims, I’m a bit distant of this segment actually (unfortunately, as I’ve enjoyed some of these products in the past).
Oleg: In combat games it is one of the key features. Sometimes you may not need to develop the single player component to achieve success with a title.
Buckshot: I would have to preface my comments by saying that I don’t have too much experience with serious motorsports simulations. My feeling would be that multiplayer would be the least important in motorsports when compared to flight and land simulations. The reason for my thinking is the belief that the biggest driver for multiplayer popularity is the limitations of Artificial Intelligence. My limited exposure to motorsports games tends to suggest that it is easier to create a competitive AI engine in this genre than it is in flight simulation or land combat simulations. It is for this reason, I believe, that multiplayer is a desired feature to a higher percentage of consumers in these genres.
20mm: Do you agree with the statement, “Single player sells the game and multiplayer is what keeps people playing”?
Polovski: No, it’s ultimately about the players enjoyment and longevity of experience offline or online. If offline is dull or exciting but very short, then of course then you need good multiplayer. Otherwise a few hours play isn’t seen as good value for money.
Some first-person shooters for example give you a quick few hours of good offline, then that’s it, ended. So you must then have multiplayer to make people continue to even fire up your game. However if you make the offline experience excellent, and repayable then many people would be happy with that too. Some could consider that it’s the cheaper quicker option to make a good multiplayer and lower the need for story, immersion, detail, historical accuracy for a period sim in the offline content?
Dante: Actually, it could go as “good looks and nice screenshots sells the game and depth and realism is what keeps people playing” 🙂 But, multiplayer is important indeed, as a community “centralizer pole” where squadrons are formed and “help spread the word” of the sim by recruiting on other games’ forums and stuff like that.
Flexman: If you have a short game then what else is there to do? I think it’s accepted that for FPS games you are buying into a player reputation system. Certainly it’s more fun to fly with friends but it shouldn’t be necessary.
Ssnake: It’s a catchy slogan. There may be some truth in it but a steady supply of substantial new content is at least of equal importance.
Buckshot: As discussed in the previous answer, we see a definite correlation between AI and multiplayer. We believe that a solid AI implementation can greatly increase the value of the single player aspect of our simulation. On the other hand the thrill of playing against live opponents is something that we might not be able to reproduce with AI anytime soon.
Jason: No I don’t. Everyone buys a product for his or her own unique reason and can’t be summed up with a simple phrase.
Oleg: As I mentioned previously regarding multiplayer, however, for some simulator games the statement is still right.
|SimHQ Special Feature / The Future of Simulations / Table of Contents|
|Page 1||Page 2||Page 3||Page 4|
|Software Development||Software Development
|Controllers and Peripherals|
|Page 5||Page 6||Page 7|
|Multiplayer||Distribution and Publishing||Copy Protection and Intellectual Property|