Do AAA teams still want to make multiplayer games?

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I believe if any person were to ask developers from Bungie, Treyarch, Coalition, 343, DICE or Respawn if they love making multiplayer game experiences the answer would be a PR canned “yes”. In other words we will see answers along the lines of “Of course! Our roots are multiplayer shooters” or “It’s in our blood to make multiplayer why should we stop now?”. All valid reasons, most of which lie in stakeholders at the executive level telling the studio head that multiplayer is where the money is, Battle Royale style gameplay is the new fad and we need to work out a long term formula to capitalize on that. Games are a business, and to run a business you need money. All of this makes sense. But does the team even care? Do they really want to make these games? I think many developers in these studios are fed up of multiplayer and maybe want to try something else.

I hear the exact opposite of the canned PR response from some of the coworkers I worked alongside at studios. Click To Tweet

So why would I say this out of the blue? The reason is that I hear the exact opposite of the canned PR response from some of the coworkers I worked alongside at studios. Some have reached a point where the development of the next iteration of multiplayer is more of a scientific process than a creative process. It has become muscle memory with tweaks instead of something built with creativity. To make any kind of title that has a positive impact on the growth of the genre, the company and the community there really should be balance of the two. What I am saying is that the skew with some developers in this case is too much on the scientific side, and I think it is reflected in the multiplayer games coming out today. The games are technically accurate but not really fun.

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It is not easy to try to shift a studio that is grounded in one type of genre, notably multiplayer, into something else. Most recently Guerilla games were able to break out of their Killzone mould and move to their incredibly successful and excellent Horizon Zero Dawn. From folks I know where at Guerilla and moved on to other projects they knew something else was brewing after Shadowfall. The process was difficult, building a new IP and pitching it to a publisher is quite stressful and takes a huge amount of effort. There is a never ending list of titles that were cancelled by developers who worked on multiplayer games. Most recently Clifford Bleszinski showed some amazing artwork on some titles some of which were PVE (player vs. player) based. Although Lawbreakers and Radical Heights were PVP focused games it seemed that initially PVE (player vs. environment) may have been an avenue that was being explored. Once again, developers who built their life on multiplayer style games, such as Unreal Tournament and Gears of War in this case, wanted to try a different approach.

The teams wanted to try something new, they wanted to break out of the mould they were known for and build something different that they themselves as developers and gamers wanted to play. Click To Tweet

This was not the only time something like this has happened. I have sat in pitches from AAA studios where Mass Effect style RPG’s, loot based PVE’s shooters and narrative driven action adventures, none of which were multiplayer focused, all of which were pitched by teams with multiplayer backgrounds. The teams wanted to try something new, they wanted to break out of the mould they were known for and build something different that they themselves as developers wanted to play. Unfortunately all these titles never came to fruition. The teams would find that their project was declined and return to what was originally given to them. Around this time is where you see an exodus of team members; some just not wanting to make that genre again, studio politics or just simply wanted to go on to making stuff they were passionate about in a different studio.

It is the teams that make the magic, the game is result of that magic. Click To Tweet

Without a doubt there is always a growing need for players to want PVP based games. With this in mind young teams that are in touch with these communities, play PVP games frequently and are hungry to make something enjoyable should be given opportunities to build these titles. However I also believe that the realm of PVE based experiences can lie with more mature teams who have proven their worth to the studio and be given the opportunity to build something that they themselves would love to play. A team that is genuinely passionate about a game with the backing of their investors stand a better chance of succeeding than one who is forced into something because of obligation.

Amazing teams are hard to come by and even harder to build. Too often you hear about a studio head sending an open letter or speaking in an interview about an “amazing team who are extremely passionate about what they do”. However, behind the scenes we notice that a large portion of them were contracted where the team is now broken into pieces and sent on their way. The contracts expire and that cohesion that made the title extraordinary in the first place no longer exists. It is the teams that make the magic, the game is result of that magic.

A team that is genuinely passionate about a game with the backing of their investors stand a better chance of succeeding than one who is forced into something because of obligation. Click To Tweet

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I think these teams should be given the chance to build something else, something they want, something they love to build and share with a new community. Building fresh, engaging and fun experiences is always something we want to create for communities. Just because a multiplayer title is successful we do not necessarily need to make a sequel. See if your team wants to make it first, see if they want to have that experience again. If they do then great, go for it. However, if the title is as successful as it was then more than likely they are burnt out. Give them a chance to explore new genres and ideas. Allow them to fail, allow them to see what sticks but most importantly allow them to grow beyond these boundaries of a single multiplayer franchise.

 

Twitter: @_shivadee

 

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