On Always Online Games (The Bad)

So yesterdays topic was I would consider the good aspects of always online games. Today will be talking about the things I don’t like about always being online. Now, I feel like there is more that I don’t like than I do like, but I’ll try to keep it short-ish and hopefully not ranty or bitter.

The first thing that I would say I don’t like would be having to deal with content I’m not particularly interested in. I’ve mentioned before how I feel about being forced in to PVP content, and I feel very similar for games forcing certain online content on me. I’ve talked about player invasions in both Dark Souls 1 & 2 and how I don’t really want to do that since it is essentially PVP. I’m not the least bit interested in allowing other players in to my game in any capacity that is not for cooperative purposes. If I invite you in to play that is one thing, I don’t want someone just popping in to my game without my say.

This leads in to my second issue, not giving me the option to opt out of this content. I think this is a bit less of an issue for most games, but any game that requires an online connection AND allows other people to just come in without permission should allow me to disable that feature and NOT penalize me for it. I won’t count Diablo 3 in to this because that is partially a COOP game and doesn’t fit with my PVP analogy. I’m referring to games such as Dark Souls 1 & 2 and more recently Watch_Dogs which released on Tuesday.

While both Dark Souls games allow other players to invade your game for that additional PVP aspect. At least the PS3 version of Dark Souls allowed you to disable this, and admittedly I don’t know if the PS3 version of Dark Souls 2 has the same feature but I know the only way to get out of this content on the PC version is to start Steam in offline mode. Personally I don’t feel that this is an acceptable solution. I should just be able to disable it via the menu system.

Watch_Dogs falls kind of in the middle of this. It does allow players to “invade” your game for a variety of activities (mainly to try to hack you), but they make it somewhat easy to disable this, as long as you find the right menu. However, they penalize you for doing this. It essentially locks you out of specific skill trees that you gain xp points through a notoriety system. I have no problem with that so far, but I do have a problem with the fact that if you had done some of this and had earned xp if you decide later to turn it off you lose all the xp you earned and the skills that you bought. Now I understand the reason for this, which I think is to keep people from only enabling the feature to hack other players and then disabling it to keep them from hacking you, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

The last issue, and the one I feel is the most important is the plain and simple fact that it allows other people to interrupt my gaming.  When I’m playing a game, especially one I would consider single player, I don’t want to be interrupted by some random person coming in with the sole purpose of messing with me. I understand that this content is there for people who like the sense of randomness or enjoy the unexpectedness that comes from a non AI opponent. That just isn’t for me. Have the feature in the game if you want to, just don’t force it upon me.

Now, I may have ranted a bit more than I intended, and if you disagree (or agree)  feel free to leave a comment discussing it.

Right now I have disabled the online features on Watch_Dogs so if you ever catch me streaming it you won’t see me having to worry about other people.

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On Always Online Games (The Good)

Going to try something a bit different today. Namely, splitting this topic in to two posts. But hey, if Peter Jackson can find a way to split The Hobbit in to 3 movies I can make this topic two posts.

There have been quite a number of games that have come out over the last few years that essentially require you to always be connected to the internet. Games such as the latest Sim City, Diablo 3, Dark Souls 1 & 2 and Watch_Dogs, just to name a few. Each of these games handles things a bit differently, some obviously better than others. The question really is, why do I really need to be connected to a game that is essentially single player.

Today I am going to write a bit about the positive side of always online and tomorrow I’ll discuss the aspects of it I don’t like.

The first thing that really sticks out to me is the ability to easily play with your friends. Now, I’m not a huge coop player, but a lot of people I know enjoy playing through a game with another person for various reasons. In some instances the story is different when you’re playing coop versus single player. Sometimes it presents a greater challenge as seen in Diablo 3 where the campaign difficulty is increased as you add more players. What matters is that having an always online connection lets you easily drop in and out of a friends game. You don’t have to wait for a connection to be established or thanks to friends lists not having to wait for some way of knowing that person is online other than spamming invites.

Always online connections also allow for games to be updated without having to run through a patcher. I don’t personally know how this would work specifically, but I think that if this is being used that it would allow you to keep playing even if some other part of the game needs to be fixed. If you didn’t have these always online connections it could be difficult to ensure that all the players have updated game files.

Another “good” aspect of this is friendly competition through online leaderboards. This is does not specifically require an always online connection, but it easily allows you to see how you are doing compared to your friends. If you’re connection is always online than it is easier for the system to remain updated with real time stats.

I feel like this topic might have been a bit of a stretch. I am not exactly the biggest fan of always on connections, especially in games I would consider single player. Tomorrow post will discuss the things that I don’t like about always being online, but I felt the need to at least try to say something positive. I think opinions on the subject vary from person to person, and I’m sure some people reading this might have other reasons for liking always online games. If you happen to have other thoughts, feel free to add them in as a comment.

On New Game Plus

So kind of a topic stretch today, I’m doing this a bit earlier in the day than normal (it’s currently 5:45am) because I start my on call week today. This means I may be a bit too busy during the day to type up a long post, so I figure I’d do it before the world came crashing down. I’d say I would hope for a quiet week but that is never guaranteed.

That being said, today’s topic is New Game+ modes in games. I’m not exactly sure how many games have done this lately but I know of a few. Namely Dark Souls 1 & 2 and the latest Zelda game A Link Between Worlds. On the off chance you’ve never heard of new game + mode the gist of it is that once you finish the game on normal difficulty it lets you start over from the beginning with all your items/skills but makes the enemies more challenging. Now keeping all your items is not a 100 percent guarantee since Zelda does not do that. It just starts you off at the beginning with harder enemies and you lose health a lot faster. Dark Souls 1 & 2 at least lets you keep your level, and I’m sure you keep all your items as well, though I can’t say for certain as I’ve never tried.

This leads me to wonder a couple of things.

First off, why do games even offer a new game plus mode? Why not just offer a game that lets you select what difficulty you want and go from there? Personally I think it is an attempt to extend the life of a game that otherwise might not take that long to finish. Or there could be specific achievements or rewards that can only be found on a second playthrough. I know that I never find every item or collectible on the first try, and going back to earlier areas might not always be an option. The other reason I can think of is that it is there for people who want that additional challenge, maybe they thought the first playthrough was too easy or something.

The second thing is more of a reader poll. Do you play new game + mode when it is available? If so, why? Personally I have yet to finish a game in new game +. This is primarily because I have not seen any specific rewards for it other than a more difficult game. I find it especially difficult to play through a compelling story a second time as there are no longer any surprises. For me this was the case with the latest Zelda game. I really enjoyed the story, and started out playing new game + because there was a specific item that shed some light on a secondary characters backstory that only unlocked after finishing the game. Once I got that object I no longer felt compelled to keep playing. I might go back to it eventually, as I love the Zelda series, but back to back playthroughs are not my thing.