Under Fire: Daring to Only Play Single-Player Campaigns in Shooters
Last week, Dan Amrich talked with David Vonderhaar, Game Design Director at Treyarch for Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The interview seemed to go as one would expect, with Amrich getting more details about Treyarch’s upcoming shooter and any new features. In particular, Vonderhaar really wanted to promote the Combat Training feature, which isn’t new to the Call of Duty franchise, but he really, REALLY wanted to emphasize that it would be the perfect training grounds for newbies to wet their feet before taking the plunge into the multiplayer portion of the game.
More specifically, the Combat Training feature would mix both bots and humans into it, so new players could slowly adapt to the nature of multiplayer gameplay. Newcomers could play with bots initially, and then join in some of the mixed matches. In addition, players’ level progression with Combat Training will carry over into the multiplayer portion, so those who literally trained for multiplayer combat will not start out as total newbs with no edge.
It’s a nice way to help newcomers into the franchise ease into the multiplayer if they have always wanted to give it a try or if this is their first Call of Duty game. Nothing wrong with that, and hopefully it will be successful in doing just that.
That’s all Mr. Vonderhaar really needed to say on the matter, that they were hoping to find a better way to ease newcomers into multiplayer. End of story. But no, he had to keep going and say what Treyarch really feels about those who don’t play the multiplayer in Call of Duty games at all.
As popular as CoD is, there are a lot of people who don’t play multiplayer. And quite frankly, this bugs the shit out of us. They should all play MP.
Did you make note of that? We should ALL play multiplayer, as it bugs the shit out of Treyarch. Never mind the fact that not all of us are into playing games with other people, particularly strangers–strangers who like to yell racial, chauvinistic, and homosexual slurs when you make a mistake or make a brilliant kill. Some people play video games to get away from other people and to have a fun, immersive experience without needing to interact with others.
I am one of these people for the most part. I’m one of those “rare” people who really likes playing shooters only for the campaign experience. Playing against other humans has never really appealed to me, because I game for the interactive stories. I play shooters because I like the gameplay. With multiplayer, I get the shootery experience, but none of the story. I will occasionally play some multiplayer modes that focus on teamwork, fighting against bots, such as Gears of War horde mode and the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. That’s really as far as I get, because I just don’t have fun running around and shooting other people just for the sake of shooting other people.
Obviously, millions of other people feel differently, and that’s great for them. We all play games for different reasons, and I don’t expect people to only want to play single-player campaigns just because that’s my choice.
Treyarch should feel the same way. If it really bugs the shit out of them that much that some people dare to only play the single-player campaigns of their games–you know, the portions that don’t sell $15 map packs–then maybe they should consider removing the campaign from the franchise entirely. Critics hate that portion anyway, because the campaign always feels like an afterthought. It’s either the story was convoluted and thrown together, the gameplay was simply a conglomeration of all the types of scenarios you can experience in the multiplayer, or both. I mean, it’s always been really obvious, from the lackluster story alone, that Treyarch, and even Infinity Ward before them, really wants you to play the multiplayer portion of their games. That’s a no-brainer, even before Vonderhaar’s comment. The campaigns are super short, even by shooter standards, so the multiplayer is really the only way you’re going to get the most bang for your buck, time-wise. They are doing what they can to effectively corral players down the multiplayer pipeline. The upcoming changes to Combat Training mode will usher more players to that trough. Once you’re down that road, then maybe you’ll buy a map pack for $15 to spice up your experience. Now you’re hooked like the good little crack addict they want you to be.
However, with the new Combat Training mode, why do they need the campaign at all? Wasn’t the campaign always their gameplay tutorial in the first place? Since you will soon have this new tutorial for multiplayer, and it bugs the shit out of you that people only play the campaign, why not cut out that part that you don’t want others to play in the first place? Critics will like your game more, most of the Call of Duty fans will get what they want anyway, and now no one can bug the shit out of you with what they’re playing. You’ve already admitted what critics have already thought–the campaigns are nothing but gameplay tutorials to train people for multiplayer. Sure, you might lose some buyers like me, who have zero interest in playing multiplayer at all, but since that bugs you, is that really a loss? Sounds win-win.
In reality, those who prefer story-driven shooters with a deep campaign are fading away from games like Call of Duty anyway. As the multiplayer features continue to become the main foci of the games, we’ll turn to games such as such as Spec Ops: The Line, Binary Domain, and even Halo. We’ll continue to play what we like, just like the millions of others who continue to play Call of Duty because the multiplayer is what they like. Sorry if that bugs the shit out of you.
Under Fire is weekly Gaming Angels column that celebrates the shooter genre of gaming, written by our beloved Keri Honea a/k/a crunchychocobo.
I agree with the editorial, very well put. I just hope they actually put an effort into the campaign this time around.
Just for the record, I also enjoy playing games for the single-player experience. I don't do Netflix, ESPN, HBO Go, or any of the other XBL features, I don't have time to play enough to get good (nor am I really interested in doing so, I'd rather work out or play racquetball if I'm going to get good at something) so I'm not inclined to pay $50 a year (I know, you can get it for $35 - $40 if you luck into a deal) to wade in an "try out" multi-player. As games move more towards MP I've resigned myself to simply playing fewer games. If it gets to the point where every game is MP only then I'll find another hobby. And, while the map packs are part of why they want you to get hooked on MP it's also because you're far less likely to trade your game in or sell it used yourself. Honestly, they don't care if you have fun or not, they want to protect their revenue stream.
I agree with Dan that the comment wasn't meant in the manner it was received - and I also agree that you should play what you like in every game you buy. But more, please take a look at your own column. I appreciate being called a 'good little crack addict' for enjoying the challenge of MP and the map packs that are released for it (which I have a right to play, possessing $15 that I can spend on whatever I like) about as much as you apparently appreciate bugging Treyarch for your gaming choices.
I really think this comment was taken far, far too seriously. In fact, when he said it, it was kind of jovial. I think that tone of voice did not come across in the transcription. Consider life as a chef. You pour your heart and soul into a three-course meal. Some people skip dessert. That's their choice; you accept it, but you do want to encourage them to give it a try. If you went to a lot of trouble to make that dessert, it would trouble you if people refused to eat it because "I had ice cream here three years ago and it gave me an ice cream headache." But this is a new recipe, we've heard your feedback from that previous dish, this dessert is better! "I SAID your ice cream sucks." Hardly fair. Very frustrating. Shit might even be bugged out of you at that point. If people are rejecting your gameplay out of hand because of preconceived notions or fear of the unknown -- and you're doing everything you can to welcome them into that style of gameplay -- then yeah, I could see where that would bug someone. As mom always said when unwanted food was on my plate, "try it -- you might like it."Trying MP does NOT mean you cannot enjoy SP as your primary COD experience, nor does it mean that you should play MP INSTEAD of SP (or Zombies), which is how you seem to have taken it -- and it definitely doesn't mean that it's all a cynical tinfoil/moneyhat conspiracy to get you to buy DLC. I did not detect any of those sentiments in his statement when he made it in front of me. In retrospect I guess I should have added "he said with a smile" to the quote, and maybe the comment would not have been taken as some sort of forceful marching order, but as the frustrated request of a developer who has not slept in six months because he's pouring all his efforts into making the best game he can make...and he knows some people will simply refuse to play it. And this does not mean that the idiots who plague every online game will magically disappear -- if there was a magic bottle of Nitwit Remover, I'd be spraying that stuff in every online lobby (though muting the racist homophobes works pretty well in the meantime). Also, nobody said you had to play with racist homophobe strangers; most of the time I play online, it's with friends in private parties on public servers. I set up the One of Swords clan for this purposes, and I am surpised that Gaming Angels does not have its own clan where the staff and its fans can easily find each other to play with like-minded individuals. The functionality to create an Elite clan (for free!) has been there since the launch of MW3 -- try it, you might like it. :)The takeaway here: Treyarch has put a lot of work into building both the gameplay and your ability to control your party/environment/enjoyment, and they would like to see people use the features they have spent two years creating before they reject them all out of hand, because when they refuse to try something new that is potentially cool and fun and designed for them, after all that trouble...it bugs the shit out of them. I think that sounds very reasonable.
BTW, sorry for wall of text. I had returns and paragraph breaks in there, but they did not come through.