Why game developers should promote fairness in multi-player online gaming
If you’re a regular console gamer, it’s likely that you’ve ventured into the multiplayer world of games such as Halo, Call of Duty and Mass Effect. Many games now implement online multi-player capabilities to boost their playability and give us gamers more for our money. This is surely a good thing, but are the developers getting it right?
For instance, maybe you’ve just purchased the recent Mass Effect Trilogy pack and have never played the games before. You boot up Mass Effect 3 and load the multiplayer (which has been up and running for over a year now), you join a game lobby, excited to start the online experience, and… you find yourself booted from the game by the high ranking players. It’s incredibly frustrating, and quite likely to happen as people have already been playing the multi-player for a long time now.
We can tolerate Mass Effect’s online imbalance because it is team-based and you fight against waves of AI enemies instead of other players, so at least you don’t have to worry about being annihilated by another player. You still earn experience and credits after each match, but the experience and credits you earn are dependent on the points you gain in the match. If you are unable to gain points because your higher level team-mates are taking all the kills, then you’ve still got a problem.
So how can game developers ensure that their game’s multi-player is fair to all of its players? If you look at the online gameplay of the Halo franchise, it necessarily offers a much fairer experience. Unlike in Mass Effect, the weapons you can bring into a match are neither more nor less powerful than the others. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, such as the Bolt-shot having a devastating close range attack, which is then rendered useless by someone with a Battle Rifle who is too far away for the Bolt-shot to be effective. There’s also a multitude of game types to choose from to suit your play style and you can configure weapon and equipment load-outs to take with you into battle.
Halo 4′s multiplayer includes a ranking system which allows you to unlock new weapons, armor and abilities to use in certain game types, but does not allow players to become overpowered. There is a level cap of 130, and the weapons you can bring into matches are basic weapons, all of which are either fully or semi automatic weapons, or pistols. You only get the more powerful weapons such as Sniper Rifles and Rocket Launchers by finding or earning them on the battlefield, and armor is purely cosmetic, giving everyone a fair chance.
Many of the game types available have pre-set load-outs anyway, which stops people having abilities that you may not have unlocked yet, and playing these game types will allow you to level up until you can acquire these abilities and join in with the game types that allow you to create your own load-outs. It seems to be a much fairer experience, however there’s still hardships to endure while playing Halo’s multiplayer as all players will have varying skill levels. As you are competing against other players, it can suddenly become just as frustrating and difficult as the Mass Effect multiplayer.
The best way around this is by playing games with friends as it reduces the chances of being booted from game lobbies, suffering trash talk and feeling inadequate while playing games. However this is not a solution for all, as not everyone may have a friend who owns the same games.
Perhaps developers should include level-based matches in their online modes, allowing players to be put into select game lobbies filled with people around their character level or rank. This would get rid of the downsides that currently plague many online games, and allow for a fairer and more enjoyable experience for casual, competitive, regular and new gamers alike.
Photos: Milad Mosapoor, Bioware, EA games, Bungie, 343 Studios