The rumor had been going around for the last few days that Bioware was going to add in some sort of multi-player component to their recently announced Mass Effect 3. Today, however, that rumor was debunked on their official forums. There, people had been talking about the possibility for a long time. Other single-player experiences had been diverted into multi-player games recently, as well, including highly popular franchises like Uncharted, Bioshock and Assassin’s Creed. While some of these worked well, many were left feeling lackluster. Was the addition of multi-player to blame? I’m not going to answer that here. What I am going to talk about is why I think it’s a good thing that Mass Effect 3 will not be including a multi-player component.
Bioware touts their sci-fi shoot-em-up franchise as an RPG, even though, through the iterations, they’ve lopped off just about everything that made it an RPG to start with. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, nor does it ruin the experience. However, one thing remained through that – the awesome, solid, character-driven story. This, above all else, is the foundation of the franchise.
When we talk about splitting up a title into both a single-player and multi-player side, inevitably one side gets the bum end of the deal and, possibly, both sides will suffer. It’s kind of like my aversion to buying all-in-one devices. You always see video cameras that double as still-shot cameras. Yet, the still-shot quality of video cameras is rarely as good as the quality of a camera that’s sole purpose is to take stills. This works the other way, as well. I have regular cameras which also take video, but the video quality is no where near as good as a camera designed for that purpose.
I see games being the same way, as well. While some games are designed as multi-player titles, some originally are not, and thus, when that is added in the sequel or even several titles down the line, there’s always the possibility that one component will suffer because too much emphasis was being placed on both. This is exactly what I don’t want happening to a great franchise like Mass Effect.
Yes, you can cite the example of Uncharted 2 as a game that actually worked when a multi-player component was added, and I would agree with you, to some extent. However, if you compare the people who still play Uncharted 2 multi-player to the people who play a Call of Duty title years down the line after release, the difference is staggering. Uncharted 2, in my opinion, would have been just fine and still worth the $60, without the multi-player component because the single-player is that good.
When you take a game like Mass Effect, the single-player is similar – it is that good. It doesn’t need anything added to it from a multi-player perspective. It’s well worth the $60 of admission for the single-player experience and the replay value alone. I’m eternally grateful Bioware decided to leave both their “RPG” franchises alone in this regard. Both Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age 2 will remain single-player experiences. I would much rather the developers focus on making the story, dialog and character progression that much better, than split their time between developing those things and a multi-player component on top of it all.
[Update: Thanks to a comment below, we find that apparently Bioware doesn’t hire their own forum moderators, so the rumor has not technically been debunked. However, typically speaking a multi-player component in an inherently single-player game is one of the first things announced because of it’s “shock value”. I still feel Bioware will make the correct decision and keep the franchise a single-player experience that has few rivals. The point of the article remains solid, and I have left it in tact, this is just for informative purposes.]