Thursday, December 26, 2013

GTA 5 Single Player vs Online Multiplayer: Commentary and Wish List - Part 1


The Grand Theft Auto V single player game has been available since its launch on September 17, 2013 with the GTA Online component available since October 1, 2013. In my humble opinion it is easily the best game of the XBOX360/PS3 console generation. 

And this is despite the recent launches of the newest console generation PlayStation 4 and the XBox One respectively, The GTA5/GTAOnline game has the potential of keeping the past generation relevant a good 6 months to a year past its initial launch date with the online mode and the right set of Downloadable Content releases. 

Single Player vs Online Game Modes in Other Games

For me personally, online gaming is a mixed blessing. You get to play with or against real human opponents, so you don't have to deal with often quirky "Artificial Intelligence" of Non Player Characters (NPCs). The main concern is that Online modes are often tacked on as an afterthought with only a passing relation to the main storyline. 

Assassin's Creed Series

Online play can be used to either enhance the main game or simply be tacked on with little regard or even in lieu of the main storyline. An example of how an online mode can be used to enhance the main story of the single player game is the Assassin's Creed franchise. The online modes are basically a "Training Program" for the Templars, the faction in opposition to protagonist's faction the Assassins, so story wise you get bits and pieces of the story from the viewpoint of the opposing faction while giving a plausible reason within the game's "universe" you would interchangeably be teaming up and/or going head to head against members of your own faction.

Uncharted Series

Lately there has been a slow and disturbing trend, for me at least, of single player game content falling to the wayside for online components such as DLC maps and weapons, skins, modes etc. Case and point is the franchise "heavy hitter", the Uncharted series, which started out with a solid single player game that had top notch single player based end game content and rewarded the player for replaying the game over and over again to earn points gather in game "Collectables" and "Tweaks" to unlock skins, weapons and fun things like one shot kills (for UC2) and unlimited ammo (for both UC1 and UC2). 

Uncharted 2 introduced an online component, which was a great way to extend the franchise and yet still had single player end game content but sadly, for me at least, the DLC content applied only to the online mode, which IMHO was a missed opportunity to sell to players still trying to unlock all of the unlockable content of the single player game. For example one of the online DLC packs had a bunch of exclusive skins to use in multiplayer mode. If they gave the ability to use those skins in single player as well they would have likely sold more DLC and would have at least one more buyer with me.

By the time Uncharted 3 rolled around, the single player "end game" content unlockables such as filters, unlocked weapons, single player skins and tweaks (unlimited ammo and one shot kills) were notably missing, giving players little reason to play the game again except to unlock Trophies (PSN's equivalent to achievements) they may have missed while the online component was notably expanded and all of the DLC content was again pertinent to online only. 

I don't think Naughty Dog, the studio that developed the Uncharted series had given any solid reason to the gaming press as to why those popular features were missing in the third part of the trilogy, but my speculation is that they simply ran out of time to include the "traditional" end game content similar to UC1 and UC2 because they had to dedicate more development effort making sure the online component was ready upon release of UC3. Also, given that and the fact that Naughty Dog did not return to the single player UC3 game with some later DLC to add the end game content that was missing, further cemented my speculation that the "single player" experience was sacrificed for a more fleshed out "online multiplayer" experience, which to me at least was a missed opportunity

Continued in Part 2