Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Do people still play online for fun?

Not that I’m trying to sound old or anything, but I thought I’d whip up the clouds of nostalgia for this post and begin it with “I remember when I was a young(er) lad”. Well, I would have done, but now that I’ve explained it the repetition would take away from the effect slightly and there is always the faint chance that I’m not remembering things correctly. But anyway, is it just me, or did online games used to be a lot more fun?

My Internet fragging days probably started with one of the many pre-1.6 versions of Counter-strike, but what really sticks in my mind is the neglected FPS multiplayer gem Command & Conquer Renegade. It had everything: multiple weapon types, selectable characters, tanks, helicopters, invisible tanks, in-game economy and a humorous ‘boink’ noise whenever you killed someone. What made it even better though was that none of your progress was persistent and everything was contained to the same 20 to 30 minute play window, starting afresh with each match.

Persistent unlock systems that Modern Warfare popularised and everyone else seemed to cannibalise have now made these games a lot more chore-like. Before, if a guy had ‘the best gun’ you could save your credits for five minutes or hunt down its spawn location so that you would be wielding the same power to exact your revenge mere moments later. Nowadays you’ll decide you want a gun someone kills you with, only to find out it is a few days of constant play away. When you finally receive it, the guy that originally killed you won’t be around, leaving you to vent your new toy at other players that don’t have the gun and thus restarting the cycle.

The pursuit of unlocks is killing online multiplayer for me. What I hate even more is the obscurely popular dick waving that prestige mode and its equivalents provide. Nobody likes it when someone jumps on voice or text chat to gloat how good they are, but apparently its now widely accepted that such things can be represented as medals and icons that press themselves up against the screen upon your demise.

I just find it sad when people discuss play schedules for their spare time around unlocking a new gun, level or skin. Surely you should be logging onto a game to have fun, not doing so to work hard at another job. It’s introduced this horrible drip-fed multiplayer DLC culture we have now, where people just run out of interest as soon as they unlock everything. I was happy when everyone had all of the toys at the start, creating a playing field that was as level as possible.

Of course this isn’t likely to ever be the case again. Not now that companies like EA have discovered people are happy to spend extra money on game unlocks. I really hope I never meet someone who is happy to pay an extra £30 to unlock everything in Battlefield 3. Such people allow the industry to screw over the customers this easily.

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