Only 23% Even Attempted To Play Multiplayer

By Kieron Gillen on November 19th, 2009 at 7:12 pm.

I totally played multiplayer. And won! Yay me!

Stardock are an unusual company in a whole load of ways. One of them is that despite being a privately hold company, they do a report to the public. No financials, but there’s a mass of transparency here. The full document is worth at least a skim read, but there’s plenty of information worth picking over for industry watchers. The details on Impulse’s success are fascinating, but the fact which most immediately screamed out was that only 23% of the people who actually bought Demigod even tried to play online multiplayer. I stress tried. If you attempted to log onto the server, you’re part of the 23%, not matter whether you succeeded in actually playing a game or not. I’ve quoted the section below in full…

For Stardock, the more significant shock of Demigod has been the discovery of the low number of PC gamers who play strategy games online. Demigod’s single player experience, while decent, did not get anywhere near the care that the Internet multiplayer experience did. Despite this, only 23% of people who have purchased Demigod have ever even attempted to logon to play Internet multiplayer.

Demigod continues to sell thousands of copies weekly – enough to remain at retail during the Christmas season despite it coming out last Spring – but the number of people available to play online is typically less than 2,000 at a given time. This is in stark contrast to MMORPGs and FPS’s which tend to have very large online communities.

Our conclusion is that strategy games that we make and publish in the future will support multiplayer but will not sacrifice the single player experience to do so.
Developer Gas Powered Games has continued to update and provide support to Demigod despite its work on Supreme Commander 2. At the time of writing, two new demigods are nearly completed along with a couple of significant updates.

Let’s repeat the key point again: 23%.

Now, the debate over the importance of the multiplayer community to games in general and strategy games in particular has always gone back and forth. It’s certainly true that the most actual outspoken strategy gamers – both critics and general fans – are devotees of the multiplayer experience, up to the point of totally dismissing any form of single player campaign. They’ll perhaps forgive Skirmish mode, but the vast majority of those who are serious about strategy game looks down on Campaign players.

The debate normally turns up the fact that the majority of players actually only play the single-player stuff at all, but it’s rare there’s actually any hard numbers to back it up. This is about as hard a number as you can get. In a game whose single-player was absolutely vestigial, over three-quarters of players didn’t even log into the server, let alone play a game, let alone partake in what’s apparently the only thing worth talking about in online discourse.

It’s an interesting one. The counter argument is easy – that the biggest RTS games have enormous communities, and it’s those communities that have kept the game successful. But let’s say… well, maybe they’re freaks. South Korea, bless it, isn’t normal. You can’t plan a game making business on assuming you’re going to be one of two games. You have to assume you’re one of the majority. And, of course, it’s worth noting: for the period they were released in, both Starcraft and Warcraft III had splendid campaign modes. And… well, I wonder if Blizzard would ever give out the lifetime stats on Blizznet. As in, what percentage of those sales (outside of Korea) actually have a Blizznet account that’s ever played a game. There’s a number I’d like to hear. But for now, the DemiGod 23% is a statistic which I’ll keep in mind when thinking about RTS games.

Any other interesting numbers? Well, last year 42% of Stardock’s consumers bought digitally. This year, 61%. That’s a hefty rise.

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240 Comments »

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  1. TotalBiscuit says:

    Well this is a nice opportunity to continue the argument from the SupCom2 article. I would think that anyone who played Demigod as an exclusively single-player game would be disappointed with what they got for their money. Those unaware, the game has no actual campaign to speak of, merely a skirmish and tournament mode. Tournament is a set of skirmish battles where you try and earn as many points as possible through rankings in individual matches in order to place first by the end of it. That’s it, nothing special about it at all, there’s no story, no mission briefings, cutscenes or tangible progression of any description. Not to mention the AI is not amazing but hey, it’s an RTS, it almost never is.

    The plausible explanation in my opinion, is that with a game like Demigod, which is part of a small but growing subgenre now also incorporating League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth, you have something that is inherently competitive. That is it’s nature, kill the opponents, wreck their base. It’s not as aggressive and cut-throat as DoTA is, but it’s still above average in terms of it’s competitive aspect. I would imagine that many players started off with the single player mode as a means of learning the game before going online. After playing the game for several hours, they realised it actually wasn’t particularly good and never bothered taking it online, particularly with all the issues multiplayer had in the first month or so. They gave up on the game, shelved it and never looked at it again.

    That’s one way of interpreting the data, one of several.

    • Weylund says:

      Possibly. I’ve heard this from devs who’ve published quite excellent games though. The number of purchasers who play multiplayer is insignificant compared to the power of the Force. Err, the number of folks who play alone. With the game.

  2. TheJimTimMan says:

    “Our conclusion is that strategy games that we make and publish in the future will support multiplayer but will not sacrifice the single player experience to do so.”

    Yes. More of this please, Devs.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      TheJimTimMan: Yeah. It strikes me as sensible. A MP game which doesn’t begat a community is worthless to anyone who bought it.

      KG

    • Vinraith says:

      More of that indeed.

      I do wish games journalists would weight a bit less heavily towards the MP end of the priority spectrum, I think their own access to and proclivity for MP is part of what drives the broader overvaluing of MP over SP.

    • Dave says:

      Agreed.

      I loved StarCraft. Never played it online even once. Did play it on the LAN a few times at work.

      Ditto for Diablo II. I played that thing obsessively for YEARS. Never played it on Battle.net even once.

      Borderlands is turning out that way too.

      Even L4D. I’ve played it online a bit, but I would often rather have poor teammate AI than people disconnecting partway through, idiots who charge ahead without the rest of the group, people who never leave the safehouse, and griefers.

      TF2 is about the only multiplayer experience I thoroughly enjoy.

    • xabbott says:

      Yea, add me to the list of gamers who would rather have a fleshed out single player experience instead of no single player and strong multiplayer.

    • Premium User Badge

      skalpadda says:

      Same here, the only RTS game I’ve even spent a little time playing online was Starcraft and that time was negligible compared to the time I spent with the campaigns.

      Apart from MMOs, I pretty much never touch the MP side of games unless a couple of friends happen to have bought the same game. TF2 would be the exception for me as well, oh and XvT back in the day :)

    • JonFitt says:

      I heartily agree.

      I personally have played FPS games MP since back when it was 1v1 with a null modem cable (look it up), but have played less MP RTS matches than I’ve had white Christmases.
      I’ve played a lot of SP RTS campaigns but have only recently started to dabble with online, and only with friends.

      They’re just very unforgiving and do not support a pick up and have a go mode which FPS games do. You commit to a full match with a small number of people. My first UT games resulted in me being way down the leaderboard but it didn’t matter. Even in team deathmacth no-one would shout you down for “Feeding” and try to order everyone about.

    • Yargh says:

      One more vote for the ‘More of this please’ campaign here, I prefer my stragegy games to have a nice slow, thoughtful pace (usually with lots of pauses) and multiplayer doesn’t really go well with that.

    • Theory says:

      I only ever took Age of Empires 2 / Mythology online a handful of times in all the years I played them, mainly because I didn’t feel that I could manage an entire map of units, buildings and resources on the level of the people online. This was more or less borne out on the rare occasions when I did venture onto MSN Zone (remember that?).

      Instead I played skirmishes at my own pace, building huge armies, turtling, and all that. I think “at my own pace” is the key part of that sentence: I wanted to build cool things, not prove that I was faster at clicking through a UI than some other guy.

      As well as skirmish I played a lot of the excellent campaigns made for both games, like Tamerlane and Ulio. I made my own campaigns too. None of that involved going online (I realise Demigod doesn’t have it).

      What I’d like to see is the online percentage for Dawn of War II.

    • Premium User Badge

      Carra says:

      I remember playing AoE2 online. It was a huge difference from the singleplayer.

      In singleplayer there was a 75 unit cap. So you built about 20 a 30 villagers to farm and 55 a 45 soldiers to attack.

      In the multiplayer however you suddenly had a 200 unit cap. You suddenly had to make 100 villagers to farm. Sure took some time to get used to that. And getting a good beating for the first couple of weeks by which time I’m sure a lot of players had given up.

  3. blah says:

    So does the game suck or what?

    • Severian says:

      No doubt it had (has) its share of problems: pathfinding issues, many useless items, a couple weak Demigods (QoT), etc… but, personally, I think it’s a brilliant piece of work and I’ve poured an embarrassing number of hours into playing it online – with disconnect hiccups and all. I love the pacing, the strategy and the tactics. I understand why there are a lot of detractors – I’m not blind or naive or an idiot – but for me, it hits real sweet spot in my gaming experience.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Just the singleplayer

  4. Larington says:

    Thats pretty interesting, it doesn’t exactly surprise me either, the only time I’ve ever bothered playing a strategy game in multiplayer form would be umm, the Master of Orion series (Not the most recent one though, we were both dissapointed by that one) and umm, I suppose the original patrician in hot seat mode before they went all 3D city view on it. That was some time ago, no my brother only tends to play a facebook game and even that hes thoroughly bored of.

  5. cyrenic says:

    Still seeing the game in large department stores like WalMart and Target, I was wondering about this very statistic. I didn’t think the audience for a competitive multiplayer game like Demigod was large enough to warrant continued retail sales. So I suspected the number of people who only played single player was rather large.

    I had no idea it was 77% of the people that bought the game, however. It makes me wonder how many people play Left 4 Dead only for the single player.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      A previous thread about L4D turned up the interesting hypothesis that a lot of the people who are unhappy with it saw it as a single-player game, not a multi-player one. Makes things much more understandable for both sides: I think most people would agree that L4D, however splendid a multiplayer game it may be, isn’t nearly as amazing in single-player…

      (On a very very tangentially related note, it might be an amusing project to create a list of RPS Angry Internet Men. There seems to be only one regularly-posting one at a time. Meat Circus was one, back in the day; he’s mellowed out. Metal Circus (?) vanished. Total Biscuit is the current one, capable of being angry about ANY GAME at ANY TIME… and articulate enough not to get his posts deleted, too.)

      (But of course there have been many more. Hence, the project!)

    • Vinraith says:

      That was my hypothesis, and I think it fits pretty well.

      With one group, you have people that see the game as a 7 hour long single player FPS with full campaign co-op. Fun, certainly, but woefully short on content even with the enhanced replayability created by the AI director for a full priced game. Oh, and the friendly AI sucks.

      On the other, you have people that see it as a multiplayer shooter with 20 maps and 3 game modes, and of course they can’t fathom what that first group could possibly be talking about when they say “short on content.”

      I really do think that divide is a significant source of the animosity over the game. It also doesn’t help that Valve advertised it both ways, arguably.

    • Dave says:

      I suppose that could be why I like L4D more in theory than in practice, myself. Hm.

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      DarkNoghri says:

      As someone who played L4D almost exclusively for versus after the first few weeks, I’m not so sure of this.

      I’ve got a good many hours in versus, and even I think that the game was short on content. Especially when it shipped with two versus campaigns missing. Even now, it’s a bit low. We have four full campaigns and one short campaign. Yes, those campaigns are very replayable, but there’s still not many of them.

      But the main reason I’m unhappy about L4D is the lack of bugfixes/balancing. From what I’ve heard, the shotguns are more balanced in the second game (slower firing, more spread), but they can’t take a couple of days to nerf the autoshotgun in L4D? Buff the hunting rifle? Take out all the medkits? Add an in-game mute? Really? It’s just little things like those that they should have been able to fix fairly easily that they haven’t touched, and it just tells me that they don’t care.

      But really, even on versus, the game was low on content.

      But maybe I’m just an oddball.

    • Vinraith says:

      Well, certainly no rule is going to categorize everyone. It’s also possible I have the whole thing completely wrong, but I keep hearing comments like “20 maps is a lot for a multiplayer shooter” with regards to the game when, honestly, it never occurred to me to think of it as a multiplayer shooter.

      Anyway, I think we can safely conclude that you’re an oddball with a brilliant avatar, regardless of the solidity of my hypothesis. :)

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      DarkNoghri says:

      Well, I don’t tend to think of it as 20 maps, I think of it as 4 campaigns. The thing about the 20 maps number, though, is that most people are comparing it to a multiplayer deathmatch type map. In a normal multiplayer deathmatch, you run around in circles for 20-30 minutes, and the map seems longer somehow. In L4D, you blaze through each map once in 10 minutes or so. They just don’t last as long.

      You’re right in that it’s not a normal multiplayer shooter. I think of it as a set of cooperative (counteroperative, mostly) campaigns. In that respect, each campaign isn’t all that long, compared to say, Serious Sam. Combine the 4 together, and you start getting a similar length. But that’s just it. It’s a campaign, which can only be replayed so often without getting dull.

      What makes normal game maps so replayable for the most part, and campaigns not so much? I don’t know.

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      DarkNoghri says:

      And thanks, I think my avatar is awesome too.

  6. Vinraith says:

    On a related note, can we stop saying “strategy” when we specifically mean “RTS.” And no, this is not an “RTS games aren’t strategy games” thing, it’s an “RTS games are a very specific subset of strategy games” thing. Strategy is an extremely broad genre, and most non-RTS strategy games are not divided into campaign/skirmish/MP in the same way that RTS games are, so they require a somewhat different discussion. I’d also say that the broader strategy genre is less hostile to SP gaming than the more specific RTS subgenre.

    • Jon says:

      Ironicly, Demigod isn’t even an RTS – it’s a DotA-alike; a new genre which, although it originated as a Warcraft map, is quite different from what most people would call an RTS.

    • Gorgeras says:

      I consider DG, Company of Heroes and such to be Real-Time Tacticals. You’re often not given enough information, time or space to have a strategy. You’re spending most of the time reacting, turtling, grinding and not following a grand plan at all. I can’t seem to be able to play any ‘RTS’ without winning by attrition.

    • Vinraith says:

      CoH is very much a real time tactical game, in the tradition of tactical war games going back to the 80’s. I can’t play it without being reminded of Combat Mission and, moreso, the Close Combat series. This results in unfavorable comparisons for CoH. And that’sunfortunate as it’s not really a bad little game, it just doesn’t have the complexity or nuance of its forebears. I think it’s kind of neat how an entire generation of RTS players has been introduced to tactical wargames by way of CoH and Men or War, though, and hope that having discovered the genre they’ll have a look at some of its other entrants.

    • Levictus says:

      I would argue that a lot of people use strategy and RTS interchangeably. When you mean a different kind of strategy, you usually just call it something else like ‘management strategy’ or whatever. It’s not a big deal! It’s like most people call Diablo a RPG…

  7. Jeremy says:

    I wonder what their numbers for Sins of a Solar Empire were as well? That’s two RTS games created solely for multiplayer, and both without a single player campaign experience. If Demigod has numbers that low for MP, perhaps Sins also had those low numbers? I would actually love to play a solid campaign for the Sins world, because I think it would be a rather interesting story. Not only that, but for me (and maybe I’m in the minority), having a little bit of lore goes a long way, even in MP.

    • Vinraith says:

      Sins was not advertised as “solely for multiplayer” in the way Demigod was. Indeed, I (regrettably) purchased it on the strength of its supposed support for grand-scale single player games. RT4X my eye.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Vinraith: I dunno, man. I think a game which takes multiple hours to play a single game of like Sins isn’t really MP focused. It’s Skirmish focused if anything.

      KG

    • Vinraith says:

      @Kieron

      “Skirmish focused” is certainly a fair way to put it. I didn’t think it was much fun in single player, though, being as slow and shallow as it was. I’ve heard it’s considerably more entertaining in MP, hence the comment.

    • BabelFish says:

      Playing multiplayer in Sins is a strange beast. It’s possible to “win” in the first 30 minutes of a large game, then spend the next few hours slowly grinding your opponent down. It’s got the longest slippery slope I’ve ever seen.

    • JonFitt says:

      The light-years long slippery slope is why I’ve never bothered even trying MP Sins. I play it more like Real-Time-Civ-In-Space. Although it doesn’t generate the stories that Civ (or more closely GalCiv) does, as there’s not really the same sense of exploration and evolution, it’s still good fun.

    • LintMan says:

      @Vinraith: I bought Sins of a Solar Empire based on the “RT4X” hype, also, and felt pretty burned about it. There’s no SP campaign, and the game is too shallow to give the epic “make your own history” fell that a game like Civilization or MOO gives. And even MOO had more story than SoaSE.

      Even though you can have hours-long games, SoaSE’s depth is geared much more towards short MP games. That’s what the developers prefer to play, themselves, so SP got short shrift.

      Annoyingly as hell: critic Tom Chick interviewed the SoaSE developers, and right as they were starting to discuss their single player plans, Chick interrupts them to change the subject to some trivial little thing, and they never get back to talking about SP.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Lintman

      Those are pretty much my feelings on the matter exactly. Too shallow to play like a “real” strategy game, to slow and ponderous to play like an RTS.

  8. Spindaden says:

    This number strikes me as a good round figure in general for rts. Of all the people I know with sc & wc3, maybe 20% have played online.

    Anyone who is not a dedicated member of the hardcore elite is simply scared of playing online where they will get resoundingly trounced.

    • Weylund says:

      “Anyone who is not a dedicated member of the hardcore elite is simply scared of playing online where they will get resoundingly trounced.”

      Or they don’t want to play with folks who think like that. Unless that’s what you were saying. I know I’ve spent dozens of hours playing Dawn of War and L4D… and have never played a pub match.

    • Nimdok says:

      I don’t think it’s about FEAR so much as not wanting to deal with the social retards who tend to spout things like “Multiplayer is the only reason I play X”…

    • Spindaden says:

      Yeah that is what I was saying weylund :) I count myself amongst the quite happily sticking to campaign thanks crowd.

      Another thought that occured to me in terms of comparing this to other genres:
      Kicking over your friend’s sand castle just isn’t as fun as shooting him in the face with your water pistol.

  9. Tycow says:

    Agreed on this whole heartedly. One of the reasons Sins of a Solar Empire didn’t last very long on my HDD was because of the weak single player, and total focus on multiplayer.

    Even a weak campaign would have been better than no campaign (as per Sins).

    • Tycow says:

      Sigh. Above was in reply to TheJimTimMan. :(

    • fuggles says:

      I bought the orange box for HL2:Ep2, putting up with the free versions of hl2, ep1 and being intrigued by portal. Frankly someone could have my tf2 if that was possible. Still, it was free.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Schaulustiger says:

    Makes me wonder how many people bought TF2 with the expectation of acquiring a solid single player game…

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Hopefully the ‘Team’ bit gave it away.

    • Vinraith says:

      That was nominally the value of putting TF2 in the Orange Box. It was the multiplayer mode, Portal and Ep 2 were the single player mode, so everyone gets something they want.

      I know, for myself, I’d never have bought TF2 as a stand-alone product, I regarded it as something I got “free” with purchase of Ep 2 and Portal. That it turned out to be enormously fun despite being solely multiplayer was just a happy accident.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Pretty much the same for me, Vinraith. I would never have expected, when the Orange Box came out, that I’d end up playing TF2 much at all, much less over a hundred hours across several years.

    • Pani says:

      I bought TF2 as part of the orange box fully intending of playing it online. Despite this, I was surprised that it didnt have some sort of single player experience.

      A lot of games like it come with bots that allow you to practice your skills on before entering the “real world”. I picked the game up about a year after first release and was slightly daunted with the worry that it was too late for someone of my n00bishness to get into the multiplayer scene so late after release. (As it turned out, I was fine.)

      I did the same with Demigod, played it against bots for a good while before going toe-to-toe against “real” people.

    • JonFitt says:

      As someone who waited 8 years for TF2, I was thoroughly looking forward to it in the Orange Box.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Can you imagine programming TF2 bots? I think programming a decent Spy would be a nigh impossible, but none of it would be easy.

    • Vinraith says:

      I was actively pissed that TF2 didn’t have bots when I first got it, actually, as I normally detest competitive multiplayer. I played far more UT2004 co-op against bots than I ever did against humans, for example.

      But after getting coerced into playing a bit with friends, I was forced to conclude that Psychopomp just pointed out, there’s simply no way to program bots of sufficient sophistication to play that game halfway well.

  11. kyrieee says:

    I like that they actually gather statistics and accept the conclusions that are to be drawn from them (as well as using it to inform their design decisions) instead of just brushing it aside

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Stardock are one of my favourite companies for this reason. Though Demigod was a mess, I still support Stardock because they actually fessed up over it and even took it on the chin for GPG when they really didn’t deserve it.

    • Vinraith says:

      By and large I like Stardock for similar reasons. I think their in-house developed games beat the tar out of the outside stuff they’ve been publishing lately, though.

    • Weylund says:

      Ahh, but what I want to see are the statistics they’re NOT showing and / or drawing conclusions from. The ones they decided to ignore. Like that giant robot chickens prefer playing as little girls, or that witches have a thing for brooms that can’t be explained by flying. I’d like to see THOSE Stardock figures.

  12. Sam Bigos says:

    Multiplayer for is why I buy an RTS game, i might start it up and play a few campaign games to learn the controls, but as soon as I step online i rarely go back and finish the singleplayer unless it’s very good. This can be said for both CoH and RA3 which i still haven’t finished, yet racked up hundreds of hours combined online. DoW2 is probably the only RTS I can remember that i’ve finished the campaign, probably because it encorporated some RPG elements which I like.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    I’m not surprised to see that most people do not play multiplayer games. It has something scary for new players. “I’ll suck and they’ll all laugh at me!” And without a good matchmaking service you will probably suck.

    But the obvious conclusion to make is of course that you should include a good singleplayer part. It’s the only part that most people will see. Maybe they’ll use it to train a bit to go to the multiplayer part. But if that’s no fun why would they try the multiplayer part?

    • JonFitt says:

      However, I have never needed matchmaking at all in an FPS. The only thing that’s needed is the option to team balance periodically.

  14. Garg says:

    I wonder what the stats are like for DoW 2; as it seemed like Relic went to a lot of effort to try and combat the percevied unforgiving nature of the online RTS with a more accessible level of micro-management and easy matchmaking of 3v3 games. I get the feeling it probably made little to no difference, although I also imagine that had they released the last stand at retail it would have had a significant impact in getting those singleplayer gamers online.

    • BabelFish says:

      The major issue with DoW2 is the matchmaking that actually ends up reinforcing the “organized team vs pug” game.

      There’s NOTHING that removes player interest in a game faster then getting owned by three people playing as a team while you and two guys you just met are trying to find your bearings.

    • Psychopomp says:

      And it’s completely fucking annoying. You want a quick game? Good news, it’ll be over fast. Bad news, you have no hope of winning.

      It doesn’t help that the ranks which are *supposed* to help match you aaginst people near your rank never works. Every single match I’ve ever been in has been three rank 1-5, VS three rank 40-infinity.

    • Psychopomp says:

      I feel I should state, though, that those rare games where the teams are matched skill-wise are abso-fucking-lutely magical. Some of the best RTS’ing I’ve ever had.

    • JonFitt says:

      My limited experience of DoW matchmaking is sitting for 10 minutes staring at the “We’ve found X games for you” going up and down to be eventually “matched” (as you say) three level 1-5s versus three level 40+s.
      Then the game starts, one of our team quits, the game lags for a while, someone else quits, and then the remaining players stomp all over us.

  15. Railick says:

    I have to agree with TotalBiscuit, the game wasn’t all that good so I’m not surprised a lot of people baught it and never played it online :P

  16. BabelFish says:

    RTS games seem to really scare people when playing multiplayer.

    Part of it seems to be the personal nature of the matches. There’s almost nobody playing outside a 1vs1 structure these days. Heck, even DoW2, which was designed first and foremost around 3vs3 to get around this problem has been slowly morphing into a 1vs1 game. In a FPS or MMO, you’re one of the masses, you’re able to become a cog inside a team and win or lose as a group (with scapegoats handy if you do end up losing.) In a RTS you’re generally it, winning or losing is entirely down to how good YOU are. While some people really enjoy the freedom that comes from only being able to rely on yourself, humans by nature are a communal animal, and “going it alone” is very nerve wracking for most of us.

    The other part of the issue seems to be the terribly slippery slope that most “staple” RTS games have. A particularly bad example would be Warcraft 3, where at the World Cyber Games in China just a few days ago, the first finals match was conceded about 2 minutes into the game, when one player managed to “steal” an entire creep camp out from under the other. While this was an extreme case, many games are decided early then lost slowly. A new player trying to learn the ropes of the game gets a few minutes of gameplay in before getting on the back foot and is frustrated for the rest of the game. Nobody enjoys losing for hours (hi sins).

    So the net effect is this. RTS games push us out of our natural comfort zone by pulling us out of the group and forcing us to rely on ourselves. Then, just as we’re off balance and vulnerable, hand us crushing defeats by higher skilled players that seem to last forever. It’s a negative reinforcement that leaves people with not only a poor experience for that game, but any game that resembles it.

    Starcraft has managed to create a large enough playerbase that they can break the cycle by almost always having a reasonably equally skilled opponent available to play. But new non-established RTSs do not have this option.

    I’m generally a pretty competitive guy online, and I’ve been playing there since original quake, but I still get nervous playing an RTS.

    David Sirlin has some interesting points on slippery slope mechanics over at http://www.sirlin.net but sadly his site seems to be down as I’m posting this.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      “There’s almost nobody playing outside a 1vs1 structure these days.”

      Very true, and I find it baffling. I’m a moderate 1v1 Company of Heroes player (hovering around lvl 7-9 depending on how much I’ve been playing recently) and am rarely automatched too far from my skill level, but every single time I’ve tried a 2v2 automatch my teammate (who’s about the same skill as me) and I get trounced. I’ve even been matched against a team with the No 1 ranked player. It’s a real shame.

    • Clovis says:

      I would rather go it alone than be in a small group. I wholeheartedly agree with most of your other points. I’ll play FPSs online sometimes. I usually pick big servers so that I don’t stick out when I do horribly.

      1v1 would certainly be intimidating for me in an RTS though because I feel that I’m terrible at them. However, 3v3 would be simply horrific! Now I’m not only risking losing (not really a big deal), but screwing things up for a couple of other players. I hate the idea of it being really obvious that I’m the moron who screwed everything up.

      Now, I do like L4D, but that’s because I feel I’m reasonably skilled at FPSs. When I started playing L4D I had to learn a few things, and probably pissed off a few hotheads. But with a sufficiently compelx RTS I feel like I would be in the “newbie” stage for a really, really long time. With L4D it just felt like it took a few days of playing to get the basics down and not look like an idiot.

      Anyway, so the 23% is hardly shocking to me.

  17. Vinraith says:

    Following on from a thought I had up the page: It seems to me that part of the reason for MP being valued disproportionately to its actual player base is that games journalists themselves are disproportionately part of said MP player base. I don’t mean to imply anything malicious or even deliberate, it’s simply that when you have a lot of friends that play games it’s a lot easier to get an enjoyable MP game going than when you have few (or god forbid no) friends that game. Does that seem reasonable?

    • Stick says:

      Seems about right, yeah.

      And to add something: I suspect the dedicated MP people are usually the loudest, most active talkers-about-the-game. With sometimes slightly imbalanced views on the importance of their own perspective.

      (Recurring TF2 conversation I can’t seem to avoid:

      “Don’t expect your team to actually play sensibly. It’s Just A Pub.”
      “The Just-A-Pub is the game. What you’re doing in those underpopulated 5-class private hobnobs is completely irrelevant to majority of us. Who are trying to have fun. Right here.”
      “Noob.”
      “That’s Doctor Noob to you. Can we please kasplode that sentry nest now? Or are you all going to keep sniping from spawn?”

      *cough* Ok, maybe more of a repeated rant on my part than a conversation.)

    • Matt W says:

      I’d go a step further and more generalist, and suggest that (based on casual observations* and nothing more) the majority of game journalists are of the “I generally play games for the challenge” school, rather than the “I generally play games for the experience” school. If you want a challenge, MP is pretty much always going to add value, and will continue to do so until we get truly human-like AI. If you want an interesting and varied experience though, it’s rare to find an MP mode that will scratch that itch even in principle.

      I’d argue that characterizing the majority of people not going online as being interested-in-principle but deterred by difficulty, community or other similar factors is likely misguided. I suspect that the majority of people who don’t play online, don’t play online because they don’t want to play online. I’d also argue (as I sort of do in the first paragraph) that this is because they belong to a particular group of gamers, and that this group of gamers is under-represented among game reviewers. I’d also suggest that, given this 23% figure and its context, it’s fairly likely that this group of gamers is not a small minority in terms of the overall audience, even if it is a small minority in terms of vocal presence on gaming forums and in gaming discourse in general.

      * The critical panning of PoP2008 for being “too easy” due to its lack of a failure-state is a prime example of the sort of observation I’m drawing on here

    • Clovis says:

      BUT, what about who reads these reviews? Although the “I prefer single player RTS campaign” group is strongly represented here, consider the population of players who actually read gaming magazines/blogs. I’m guessing that the percent that play multiplayer RTSs is much higher. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for the reviewers to review this way.

    • Vinraith says:

      “the majority of game journalists are of the “I generally play games for the challenge” school, rather than the “I generally play games for the experience” school.”

      First off, I think that’s a false dichotomy. Personally I primarily play single player, and play for both challenge and for the experience. If a game lacks either, I’m broadly not interested. There’s nothing worse than an otherwise interesting game that’s too easy to keep my attention.

      But more to the issue of journalism, several of my favorite games have been panned in the press for being “too hard.” Maybe it’s a genre thing, most of them tend to be strategy games (of the non-RTS variety), but if anything I think the press can be too hard on genuinely challenging games.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Clovis

      What makes you think that?

    • Clovis says:

      @Vinraith: I’ve gotten the impression that the number of players who visit gaming websites is a very small percentage of the game buying public. I then either assume or get the impression that these must be the “hardcore” gamers. And those types of players like the challenge of MP more, I guess. Obviously, this is just my impressions though (I think). I have no idea if any of this is true, or at least that’s what my sub-conscious is possibly indicating. ::shrug::

    • Vinraith says:

      Interesting. Without any data on the subject I suppose we’ll never know, but it had certainly never occurred to me to make that set of assumptions about games journalism readers. I particularly find the conflation of “hardcore” and “MP” interesting. I guess this is really more of an FPS/RTS thing, as I tend to think of hardcore gamers of RPG’s as a very SP-oriented crowd, and non-RTS strategy and military sims generally doesn’t support much of an online community at all.

    • Psychopomp says:

      What Vin said. It’s very possible to belong to both the experience, and challenge crowd. However, I’ve found that the experience can kinda ruin a game if the challenge doesn’t match up.

      Look at Twilight Princess, for example. Every last one of the bosses were played up like they were going to be absolutely epic, and hard fought. Then, your life is rarely ever in danger, and you walk all over the easy as piss bosses. Each dungeon ended on a massive letdown for me, and I’m sure for many others as well. Compare to Windwaker, which was no easier than its successor, but I absolutely adore. The bosses are still easy as ever, but the game never builds up your expectation for them, final boss aside (Who is hard as hell, by the way.) You fight the boss, grab your heart, and move on through 6 more hours of concentrated charm.

    • Matt W says:

      Clovis: You’re probably right that the audience for this stuff tends towards the “challengish” (although see below) end of the spectrum, but is that cause or effect? It wouldn’t be incoherent to suggest that it’s become a self-reinforcing phenomena – which isn’t a bad thing on a case-by-case basis, but it leaves a segment of the potential readership unserved, which is a bad (or at least financially and culturally stupid) thing in aggregate.

      That said, I also think you’re probably right, that the readership does naturally bias more towards that end of the spectrum. Certainly I’d agree with the suggestion that the “active community” for most gaming stuff does, and not just because of self-reinforcement – my gut feeling is that the more comparatively-combatant, challenge-oriented gamers are likely on average to be more interested in engaging with other people in these contexts.

      Vinrath: Guilty as charged – it’s definitely an oversimplification, and it’s likely not even in the right ballpark, even when viewed as a spectrum rather than a dichotomy. If nothing else, I suspect picking those two positions as the only reference points is completely missing out more socially-oriented gamers who don’t fit into either camp.

      In the first instance, though, I’d be extremely happy if there was a general understanding and agreement that not everybody is after the same thing from their games. The default stance of way too much game discussion and commentary (from random people arguing on message boards all the way up to high-visibility game reviews) seems to be something along the lines of “everyone shares my tastes and interests, and therefore anyone who substantially disagrees with my statements is wrong”. (Which is, when you strip it down to this sort of level, clearly incoherent, but this gets lost in the heat of the argument with that guy who’s just clearly wrong and needs to be straightened out.) I don’t think it’s a problem just limited to gaming, but it does seem readily apparent in these circles, and I’d like to think that getting to grips with this issue would improve the quality of the discourse hugely.

  18. Railick says:

    Also these stats may have been effected by the insane pirated activity that went on around DemiGod. I would imagine a lot of the people who pirated it would probably have played it online through another service. Also it seems people who would know how to pirate and play a game are online more and maybe would be more of the type to play online RTS’s against each other. Lets me brutally honest here the people that play DoTA are generally mean spirited bad communities, demiwars is no diffrent ;P Yes I’m saying DoTA community members would be more likely to pirate a game and play it online illegally then someone who would just rather play it single player <hides>

    • LintMan says:

      @Railick: The 23% is the percentage of people who bought the game who played it online. Stardock is using its sales figures and online service figures to compute this, so pirates playing on alternate services wouldn’t be factored into the percentage.

    • Railick says:

      They would be factored into the percentage for the reason above. What I’m saying here is that a lot of the people who DO play the game online pirated and play via Hamachi or what have you. If you factored them into the percentage it would be higher (Hence by not actaully counting them since they pirated the game, it makes the percentage of people who really play the game online lower than it should be) Rather I’m saying this could be a possible factor make the percentage lower than what some peole might expect it to be. Stardock themselves said that part of the problem with the MP over the first few days was pirates trying to play online. It only makes sense that if they wanted to play MP bad enough to steal the game they’re going to do it some other way rather that buying it.

      So if you factored in all these pirates who are playing it on Hamachi or whatever they’re doing (I have no idea I don’t get into that stuff) the percentage may be much higher. Maybe a lot of people pirated the game, played it online with Hamachi and decided not to buy it, I dunno alls I’m saying is the high degree of pirate activity in this case may have caused such a low number as pirates are online more, thus play multiplayer more compared to people who may have just saw this at a store and picked it up to play offline a bit.

  19. Ginger Yellow says:

    Also interesting:

    At the time of this writing, approximately 2,000 users did return Demigod to us. Approximately 60% of those users purchased at retail. Nearly 90% of all users who returned Demigod subsequently re-purchased the game once the network issue had been resolved.

    I’m assuming this figure doesn’t include those who returned Demigod to a retailer, but still, it certainly seem sto show that a hassle free return policy works in the long term.

  20. lagmint says:

    I’m honestly not surprised at the number (the 23% not playing multiplayer.)

    It’s been true in the past, and was just as true with this game, that no matter how good at RTS’ you are, you’ll be matched up against the guy who hasn’t stopped playing since it was released.

    In fact, most people I know hate online multiplayer, and would never try it – and I can see why. After hearing a tonne about how good World in Conflict was multi, I decided to try. Two minutes of playtime and four kicks later, I stopped bothering.

    • lagmint says:

      I meant online RTS multi, sorry for any confusion.

    • JonFitt says:

      I think it’s the fact that you have to be matched up against one or two people for one match that causes the problem. In TF2 I may be 1 of 32 people we would play multiple rounds in one session.
      It doesn’t matter if some people are great and others suck so long as the teams are shuffled fairly everyone has a good time.
      Player A can be happy that they killed one person, Player B can be happy they annihilated the opposing team and capped the cart.

  21. Railick says:

    Its pretty hard to return an opened computer game to a retailer directly most of the time :P I don’t think these stats would be able to include people who baught the game and returned it to a retailer unopened as they’d never have registered on anything for any stats to be register, seems like to me at least.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    A little surprising that a game that is so focused on multiplayer would have so few playing online, but not particularly surprising as a indication of the number of people who buy an RTS for the multiplayer. The simple fact is that RTS games have an exceptionally step learning curve when it comes to online play and the majority are just not going to both putting the time into getting good enough to have an enjoyable game. I think this isn’t helped by the AI for these games generally being pretty much hopeless and usually only being an adequate challenge when it cheats. Skirmish/campaign AI rarely gives a good place to practice and train for online play. The only choice for those that are not experienced at competitive RTS play is to lose constantly, watch replays and learn from those more experienced. That is the kind of commitment most are, understandably, not willing to put in.

  23. Ginger Yellow says:

    “Its pretty hard to return an opened computer game to a retailer directly most of the time :”

    True, although in Demigod’s case you could probably have argued that the game wasn’t of saleable quality during the first month of release and used your statutory right to return the game.

  24. Jeremy says:

    Vinraith: I’m one of those unfortunates who have almost no friends who play games of any kind. Either that or the ones I do have play WoW, which is a virus I don’t want to intentionally incubate. So, I’m kinda out of luck in that sense and tend to mostly play campaigns and skirmishes when it comes to RTS games.

  25. jsutcliffe says:

    I used to love RTS games, but have been horribly disappointed in the lackluster single-player portions many recent RTS games have offered. I find competitive online games are only fun if you’re good at them, and now I’m an adult with responsibilities I no longer have the time needed to get good enough. Starcraft and Warcraft 3 were obviously successful multiplayer games, but they also had stellar single-player campaigns too. Where are those kind of games now?

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      Starcraft and Warcraft 3 were obviously successful multiplayer games, but they also had stellar single-player campaigns too. Where are those kind of games now?

      Men of War!

    • Psychopomp says:

      And DoW2

      Does Silent Hunter count?

    • jsutcliffe says:

      DoW 2’s single player wasn’t much more than a follow-the-breadcrumbs training mode for the multiplayer, in my crankypants opinion.

  26. Tunnel says:

    I always thought I was a rarity because I have no interest whatsoever for multiplayer. Perhaps I’m not so alone after all.

    In RTS (and FPS) games a campaign will give me an incentive to play, a feeling of purpose and progress while skirmishes (in single or multiplayer) seem a bit pointless.

    Multiplayer in any genre also makes me very aware I’m playing a game; It brings the mechanics to the surface and prevents me from getting into it. I don’t experience the immersion that’s the reason I play games.

    The only exception seems to be coop in shooters, which I enjoy now and then in LANs with friends. Still, not as exciting as a good singleplayer session.

  27. Severian says:

    I don’t think people should underestimate the “prettiness” factor of games like Demigod. All of the previews were glowing, and the screenshots (esp of the Rook) were fascinating. I suspect that many consumers buy games just because they want something pretty to play on their computer. I’ve done this many times before with RTS’s that I had no intention of playing online – Rise of Legends comes immediately to mind.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      I too am guilty of getting games just for the shininess sometimes. I still like to sit back and just say “coo, look what my computerbox can do!”

      And Demigod sure did look pretty, especially the level with the chap wrestling a snake.

    • Psychopomp says:

      I was completely non-plussed about Demigod, until someone in a comments thread around here linked to a screenshot of one of the stages. The sheer OOOOHHHH AAAAHHHH of it made me get up and buy it immediately.

      Side question:Why the hell does my local Gamestop not only carry PC games, but stuff like Demigod, Men of War, and Penumbra? Sure it’s a smaller display, but they always seem to have *exactly* what I’m looking for, regardless of hype levels.

    • Clovis says:

      @Psycho: Because you’ve been blessed by the Gamespot Fairy? I routinely end up in several different Gamespots in my area (N. Ky), and they pretty much have Warcraft. The selection is extremely limited, and now only contains the “big” titles.

      Why do I keep going then? I own a Wii and DS too…

    • Psychopomp says:

      I think it might have something to due with the main demographic where I live. For every person in there teens and twenties, there seems to be like fifty people in their fourties, and two hundred people in their 70’s-100’s

  28. Devin says:

    I’m one of that 23%. I bought it on a whim when someone gave me a coupon for it, played the single player for a while to try getting a handle on the game, and decided I just didn’t like it.

  29. Devin says:

    I’m one of that 77%. I bought it on a whim when someone gave me a coupon for it, played the single player for a while to try getting a handle on the gam and decided I just didn’t like it.

  30. ZIGS says:

    I’m a nerd, I spend all my time inside, playing videogames. If I wanted to interact with people, I’d get a life. Single-player games 4LYF!

  31. Archonsod says:

    It’s not really that surprising. Wasn’t the justification for UT3 including a campaign mode the fact that less than 50% of the 2003/2004 audience ever played online?

    It’s not fear though. In my case I don’t play RTS’s online because the AI is good enough for what I’m looking for, which is about an hour or so of watching things explode. I’m not going to spend ten minutes arsing around with a server browser or whatever other hoops I need to jump for when I can simply click skirmish game and be playing in five. Although I don’t really get what another player brings to the game; if it’s a friend then it’s more of a social thing than a gaming one, and I don’t see much difference playing against a random internet person or a random AI (sadly, even in terms of playstyle for the most part, which is either a compliment to modern AI routines or a damning indictment of most playerbases I suppose).

    Mind you, I generally don’t play through the single player campaigns either, unless they offer something different – Rise of Nations or Dark Crusade for example. I have a horrible feeling the last time I actually played an RTS campaign for more than a couple of levels was Dune 2.

  32. Vinraith says:

    “Rise of Nations or Dark Crusade for example”

    *raises lighter*

    My two favorite RTS’s of all time, in large part for exactly that reason. Also, RoN has the best RTS AI I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of the Skirmish AI mod for the Dawn of War games.

  33. Tei says:

    Well.. Is a good thing that numbers can backup this experiment. Since I remenber lots of people asking for a solid singleplayer campaing. Is easy to design a game multiplayer only, since this save the need to build a history, a CPU AI, and other stuff, but seems is a misguided idea.

    Anyway I miss a “control group”, I mean… we don’t know about other games, maybe 23% is not normal, maybe theres other “mp mostly game” where the % is very different.

    • DavidK says:

      Completely agree. As interesting as Stardock’s report is, there’s only so much one number and a few dozen anecdotes can really tell us (anecdotes != data). Everyone would benefit if other publishers would disclose this kind of information — rising tide lifts all boats etc…

  34. scottossington says:

    I tried to play some online before, beta of Supcom, the first dawn of war, but soon soured on the whole idea when people I joined up with called me retard and fag and didn’t make me feel all that welcome. Its true I wasnt all that great at the games, and I wondered how they figured out my sexual orientation, but regardless I went back to playing with myself…..if you know what I mean.

    • scottossington says:

      Though I might add that playing a good RTS with some pals on a LAN is never a disappointment.

  35. The Pink Ninja says:

    I just tried the first Modern Warfare on-line for about 30 mins and I’m never going back unless they remove the nades.

    • JonFitt says:

      Ha! I know what you mean, and then they added the cheapest perk ever: Martyrdom. But you get used to listening out for them after a while, and it becomes less stupid.

  36. Stella says:

    I’m one person who tried the single-player just to get a feel for the game, was very underwhelmed, and didn’t bother trying to go online. When I get into a MP game, I tend to get into it full bore. I learn every little thing about the game to try and get an edge over other players, especially in “competitive” MP games like DemiGod. Within the first hour or so of playing I can usually decide whether or not a game is worth that level of devotion. DemiGod was not.

  37. Radiant says:

    I think it’s more to do with genre then anything else.

    Strategy games online is a hell of a daunting prospect to a player.
    Even someone as grizzled as me with online multiplayer games [I started with quakeworld] I never try any of my strategy games online.

    I just just get butchered. It’s like a giant tactical wall where everyone else online has levelled up to unimaginable levels and then there’s you.

    Once you play one strat or rts game online and realise the mountain you have to climb you tend not to try any others.

  38. fuggles says:

    I played the demo and that pretty much sated my desire, not in that the game was bad, but in that the demo was huge and pretty comprehensive. I got the most enjoyment trying to get the highest regen dps from my healcat. My teammates can do what they want!

    That said I got bored and uninstalled it now. With less free time than when I was younger, I’m never going to be good enough anymore and don’t have an hour or more free at a go often enough. Singleplayer is intriguing, can give some jaw dropping moments and is generally why I will buy a game, l4d aside. Although the only reason I played that was because of vs, it’s too funny to grief and frustrate people.

    I tried playing DoW 1v1 and lost about 20 times in a row, it was soul destroying and it really felt like life wasted. I have yet to play DoW2 online, I shall probably quietly uninstall it until the add-on, having now played and enjoyed dow2 singleplayer.

  39. Axiin says:

    I actually rarely play the MP modes in RTS. I play the hell out of skirmish modes. Honestly though… I don’t like to get schooled by people who devote way too much time to playing. I like to take my time, build up my forces and move in nice and slowly.

    Take Total Annihilation for example. I played the HELL out of that game. Many many hours of my life were spent playing the skirmish maps.

    True RTS players are almost like MMO players, and the casual RTS person like me can’t deal with just getting absolutely schooled.

    • ToadSmokingDuckMonkey says:

      I have a friend who doesn’t play many games, but endeavors to be the best whenever he does.

      He actually didn’t play computer games much before he met me (though he and his father had played many tabletop strategy games, the ones with the little chits and hexes and resolution tables). I introduced him to Quake 3, and then to get Starcraft out of the uni lab we played games in, I introduced everyone to Total Annihilation.

      It was sort of fair. If it was a FFA game of either, my experience could trump his arguable greater skill. If it were a team game, each of us would end up on opposite sides and dedicate ourselves to stopping the other, allowing everyone else to have some good fun. We rarely won either game, our energies spent on undoing the other, and it was fun for everyone.

      Much time passes. When I reenter this world, its because Supreme Commander just launched. It was even for awhile, then he played ~30 hours a week online. I was still second best, my skills stretched to the limit, but I could sorta hang with him. Eventually though, his skill and experienced overshadowed the rest of the players and the game was no longer fun.

      This has been repeated ad nauseum since. The only good suggestion to solve this that I’ve heard is to find him a wife. I feel though that there is just a class of people who never learned to play games for fun.

      If I just start outright crushing the other side, I don’t swoop in for the kill, I maybe play with a little elan, experiment with dumb strategies, or if there is good communications maybe turn it into a teaching experience, and tell the other player about all the times I got screwed in their situation and what they should do to stop it. If we’re in meatspace, I offer to trade sides with them mid-match.

      Its just good sportsmanship. Thats what online games are missing these days.

  40. Acidburns says:

    I think multiplayer in RTS games often brings even slight balance issues to the fore, and I imagine that can be off putting for players who’ve managed to get past the “what the hell is going on?” stage.

  41. Chris says:

    Harsh. I hate RTS games, but I enjoyed the 20-30 hours or so I put into single player games with Demigod. I liked the pacing, particularly with the ability to speed up and slow down. The slowest mode was effectively a pause so in single player mode I could go answer the phone and such if needed.

    I really enjoyed Demigod. I personally think most of the multiplayer games people like actually suck as games because it’s a frickin twitch fest.

    • Chris says:

      Grr…why when I hit the “Reply” button on a post does it not actually reply to that post?

    • Chris says:

      Oh sure, but then the reply to my own replies correctly. Buggy comment system…

  42. guisim says:

    I have to say I’m really surprised by the results and the comments.. !

    I’m a multiplayer gamer. I play competitive games and enjoy it :)

    It’s great to see that singleplayer is very much alive and a lot of gamers play this almost exclusively.¸

    As for the 1v1 aspect of RTS, there is also fighting games. They’re quite rare these days, but playing Street Fighter 4 online feels like playing SC / WC3. Very frustrating at times, very satisfying at others.

  43. An Innocuous Coin says:

    I could never get Demigod to work online, personally. Given the Demigod community doesn’t sound too far removed from DoTA’s I never got the impression I was missing much.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      You literally cannot avoid that kind of thing in a game like this. It’s the nature of the beast, any game in which you have to rely excessively on your team-mates and where having a bad player on your team can actually actively help your opponents in a very real way (cash, experience etc from farming the bad player), you’re going to foster elitism, protectionism and downright snobbery. The only way to avoid it is not to take part in that community at all and just play with friends or a smaller, more understanding sub-community.

  44. Funky Badger says:

    Hmmm, the only games I’ve bought solely for multiplayer are Battlefield 2142 and Left 4 Dead. Everything else has been single-player first and foremost – even those with excellent online/co-op, e.g. Rainbow 6, Gears of War… actually, thinking about it, much more interested in co-op than multi-player, which is why BF2142 and L4D scored so high, maybe…

  45. Warth0g says:

    I’m one of the 77%. I thought it was a great game, very polished and it got me interested enough to join the beta for LOL (which was meh). For me, the reason I didn’t go online, even though I wanted to, was that we know from legend that the online community for DOTA and therefore other MOBA games is hardcore and unforgiving.

    As a relatively casual gamer (in that I play a lot of games, but none of them to any real level of accomplishment) I really don’t want to get shouted at by the pros. I also don’t want to feel that I would be letting the side down. That isn’t fun and games are meant to be fun.

    Online games need to have a really well thought out and well policed noob-mode. It’s almost never the case that a noob can go online and learn from his mistakes in a low pressure environment. Give the noobs a gentle online learning curve and watch them blossom – throw them in at the deep end and see what happens.

    Lack of smart match-making is also why I don’t play counter-strike as much as I’d like to – it’s murder out there.

    • Severian says:

      I think this is a very informative reply. I absolutely agree that Demigod, and many other strategy titles, need a well-polished online mode just for noobs. Really, something as simple as “Player Experience” determining which lobbies you have access to. In Demigod, this has sprouted up informally as people title their games “Noob only” or “No Noobs”, etc. but it’s half-ass and doesn’t prevent deceptive people from Noob-stomping.

      I also think that developers should get online in these noob games and help new players out with instructions, advice, etc. But I could be dreaming.

    • Warth0g says:

      @Severian. Absolutely agree.. I honestly don’t think devs realise that they tend to design their multiplayer games for pros and ignore the majority of people who are less accomplished. They should do more to help them and as a result, the online community for the game would swell.

  46. shiggz says:

    I’m one of these, almost never play games online. Sadly single player experiences have gotten almost completely abandoned in a number of genres. I’m reminded of something the developer of some sort of windows gui mod wrote about. What the masses wanted who would pirate it were very different from what the minority who would buy it wanted. That those who would buy it tended to have specific maybe even quirky tastes.

  47. Heliosicle says:

    I bought it, logged in, and failed to join any games, and was completely taken aback by the tiny number of games i could join.

    I had it refunded 75% because I couldn’t join ANY games.

  48. Azradesh says:

    I play games for the interactive narrative (single player) and not for the sport (multiplayer). My top ten games of all time all have very strong, and long single player portions.

    It really gets to me that Starcraft 2 has been delayed to the point of silliness simply because of the damned constant multiplayer testing and balancing. Right now it just want to play the game, screw balance.

    Finish the single player game first and release it, and add multiplayer in a patch, I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t give a monkeys about the online play. :P

    • Funky Badger says:

      Azradesh, I’ve got South Korea on the phone, I think they want a word…

    • Azradesh says:

      lol

      Ok well think about it this way, either we could get the single player side of the game sooner, and the multiplayer part much later, or we could get the whole game much later. Either way the multiplayer part is only going to be playable much later, and I for one would quite like to play the single player part about now thanks. :P

  49. shiggz says:

    Id love to read an article about the genres of games and the groups within them. Asian-combo/spreadsheet games. Your western you are the hero of everyone and everything all the time games. Your “shoot em” why? cuz they are shooting you genre. I’m the commander of the half the worlds armies but i will tell every soldier exactly where and how to stand. Anyway this sorta thing done with just enough humor and cynicism should make a great read.

  50. SwiftRanger says:

    For those wanting less coverage on RTS multiplayer… are you guys serious? If anything then the coverage needs to increase because currently you can bet money on it that most RTS reviews and articles rarely feature an accurate depiction of the online options or even a separate view on how it’s different to play against real people instead of against the AI. It’s nearly always the same; writers discuss the campaign and game mechanics and end with a “multiplayer could be good, a bit less good, best to see it for yourself” message.

    I mean, who the hell wasn’t disappointed with how the DoW II Chaos Rising expansion previews didn’t feature a single word on what to expect for multiplayer when nearly everyone still interested in the main game was looking out for more information about new units/commanders and an improved Last Stand mode? I think it’s pretty ridiculous that any concrete news about it had to come through a recent GameReplays interview.

    While strategy game designers do need to work on game modes which combine aspects of singleplayer and multiplayer more (like a conquer-the-world mode or more ingenious coop modes à la DoW II’s Last Stand) there is no need to say the multiplayer RTS “elitists” are crying in the desert. I am all for serving both sp and mp strategy audiences with one game but the fact is that most online RTS services are piss poor. I think it’s more a functionality issue, especially with NAT and specific service quirks (like “TrueSkill” matchmaking which would even haunt a noobie Ork away from online DoW II) ruining the day for folks who don’t want to get too technical.

    • Azradesh says:

      I’m only interested in kicking some choas ass.

    • JKjoker says:

      there are many things that work in multiplay but fail completely in single play, i rather they keep both separated
      want an example ? i give you Resident evil 5:
      real time inventory, almost everyone hates it, why ? a paused inventory and the tetris item sorting minigame would be annoying in multiplay
      Sheva, she is useless and annoying and the cause of 90% of game overs everyone hates her, why ? so that other players can get in and out of the game during play without just “appearing”
      exploration sequences gone, why ? annoying in multiplay, and so on

    • Psychopomp says:

      I adored the real-time inventory. Just set stuff you absolutely need to the bind squares, and you’ll rarely have a problem. Some of the best moments I had in that game where trying to pull out that last herb while “zombies” where trying to kill me.

      Everything else makes it a less than stellar singleplayer game, though. Co-op, both Mercenaries and campaign, is fucking magical with someone sitting next to you.