Indie game devs: local multiplayer’s savior?

Local multiplayer's dead on the PC and tablet. Can the Indie game industry revive it?

Here at Pax East there are a ton of indie game companies represented demoing their latest offerings. A surprising amount of them are creating local multiplayer games, but not on consoles.

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Legend of Dungeon caught my eye as a roguelike meets a beat-em-up that has a procedurally-generated map. The NetHack geek in me liked the roguelike, and the SNES geek in me felt nostalgia with games such as Final Fight for SNES coming to mind. This game has one to four player co-op mode, but no online or LAN functionality, which is kind of a bummer.

Or is it?

I’ve noticed a ton of games here are being developed for PCs using controllers in addition to traditional WASD controls on a keyboard.  Most of these indie games don’t have crazy hardware requirements, so your netbook that’s gathering dust or the latest super-lightweight Ultrabook is easy to carry around should be fine to play on.  Since most all laptops these days have at least VGA out, with many having HDMI out, why not stick a game on your laptop (which you were probably bringing anyway) to the next game night? Pop the game up on the TV, add controllers, and you’ve got a party (friends optional.)

With a ton of accessories available for tablets that allow video out and USB connections, it seems like a logical good choice to develop with controller inputs. I’m amazed at the amount of mobile developers here with controllers hooked up and doing a live demo on a TV. These are even more portable than laptops; all a person would need to do would be to drag the video out connector and controllers and cords (maybe) around and he or she’s got a portable local multiplayer setup. 

In the days of multiplayer being ubiquitous with Live, PSN, and Steam providing just a subset of the services available to online gamers, the idea of a local multiplayer seems quaint. There’s a sense of interaction you only get with playing a game locally with people.

Granted, some platforms such as the Wii seem to focus on local multiplayer interactivity, but the PC and tablet platforms aren’t getting the local multiplayer development. Big companies are focusing on the massively multiplayer part of games rather than focusing on (what I believe) is the root of multiplayer gaming: local play with your friends.

I think indie game companies can step in here and fill this niche. There’s a ton of opportunity out there, and I think they’ve got the flexibility to make it happen that a lot of larger gaming companies don’t. 

Here’s hoping the indie industry keeps cranking out good stuff and that the industry realizes the value in keeping this going. 

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