Monday, August 22, 2011

The future of single-player games: Part 1

The traditional single-player only game experience that has defined videogames since their inception will not exist by the end of 2014. With social networking becoming more integrated in people’s lives, it will have a trickle-down effect and change what has defined a single player game for the last 30 years.



"I believe the traditional single-player game experience will be gone in three years," said Mark Cerny, a video game consultant to a crowd at a Sony-organized discussion on the future of video games, Eurogamer reports. “Right now you sit in your living room and you're playing a game by yourself – we call it the sp mission or the single-player campaign. In a world with Facebook I just don't think that's going to last."

That is a viewpoint that is beginning to be shared throughout the video game industry. Valve, known for their excellent single-player games, have made similar statements over the past few years regarding their future game development and have said Portal 2 will be its last “isolated single-player experience.”

Cerny highlighted 2009 action RPG Demon's Souls as an example of how the single-player campaign is evolving.

"We're already seeing the wall starting to crumble a bit," he said. "Demon's Souls, even though on one level it's a single-player game, as you're walking through the world you're seeing the ghosts of everybody who died in that world via the internet. You can leave messages for them. They can leave messages for you. There's actually a boss you fight in that game which is controlled by another player.”

Cerny’s remarks can be taken as a death note to single player games, but the industry as a whole isn’t doing away from single-player games any time soon. The biggest games being released over the next six months are still single player focused (e.g. Gears of War 3, Rage, Batman: Arkham City, Uncharted 3, Zelda: Skyward Sword, Mass Effect 3, Bioshock Infinite).

Games of the future will include more online social interaction hooks which are integrated into the single-player experience. The future isn’t every game company releasing their own version of Call of Duty multiplayer. The best games released and the titles that win best of year awards will always be single-player games. What makes video games special is how they balance narrative and interaction elements. To this day, developers still haven’t cracked the code and created the ultimate multiplayer game that can stand toe-to-toe with the best single-player experience.  

"We're talking five, 10 years out. I believe three years from now, if you aren't doing that, you are being criticized in your reviews for your lack of innovation," Cerny added. "The funny thing here is, we don't even know what to call this. Is it single-player or is it multiplayer? We don't even have the words. It's kind of Orwellian. If you don't have any word for freedom you can't have a revolution. How can you be talking about design when we don't have the words to describe it? Yet, that will be the standard, I believe, in 2014."

Continue to Part 2
-TNGG

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