Fair Warning: If You Force Me to Go Online, I Will Quit

If the current trend is any indication, we might start seeing a lot of games that essentially force players to go online.

This is a warning to all developers and publishers out there:

If you release a game that isn't an MMO and you claim the game has a full, robust single-player campaign, and you basically force me to log in, or somehow punish me for playing offline, I will not play it.

Yes, I know. I'm in the minority these days, and most publishers are looking at this and scoffing, "Go right ahead; millions of others will play it because online multiplayer is the wave of the future, and we know how to make money."

I don't deny the facts and I don't accuse publishers because in fact, they're simply meeting demand.  I get it; I'm a dinosaur. Just don't make the mistake of thinking I'm the only one on earth...we're not extinct yet.

Watch Dogs might be an indication of the future

...in more ways than one. According to a recent news tidbit, it seems those who don't log into Ubisoft's servers to play will be missing out on a portion of the game. Players won't be able to gain Notoriety if they stay offline. Now, I don't know if the lack of Notoriety has any impact on the single-player adventure; if it doesn't, fine. There's no problem. But it's another step in a certain direction, I direction I've been dreading for years.

Take Dark Souls II, for instance. Great game, of course. But if you really want the full and complete experience, you sort of have to be logged in so other players can round out the adventure. Again, nobody says you have to be online to complete the game and in fact, it's not a requirement for enjoyment. But it is saying, in some capacity, that if you don't log in, you're going to miss out on something.

This blending of multiplayer and single-player, which I believe began with Demon's Souls, is interesting. It opens up new interactive possibilities. At the same time, thinking logically, it forever alters the single-player experience and attempts to turn all games into a cohesive universe.

If we're all about "choice" these days, than don't take away that choice

If I don't want to be online and I want to play the latest and greatest, that should be my choice. Obviously, if the game is designed with online multiplayer in mind, that's a different story. I'm specifically referring to games that feature a complete single-player experience alongside a multiplayer element. These are the games I like to play and no, I don't usually go online.

Again, I should be allowed to make that decision. I really don't want developers saying, "oh, it doesn't matter if you go online or not" and then I do the research and I find that the non-connected gamers are actually treated as second-class citizens. Believe it or not, not every single gamer alive wants to be connected to other gamers at all times. I promise this isn't true.

By all means, give the consumers what they want. Multiplayer is huge and millions demand it. Just make sure to give us lowly single-player participators a choice.

Featured Columnist

A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.

Published May. 21st 2014
  • Charlie Owens
    One of my favorite games is Dragon's Dogma. it's this sword and sorcery "big ass dragon out there, go kill it" game. The game's hook is, you can make a "pawn", an AI controlled helper that fights alongside you. If you're online, you can share your pawn with the game community, and they shear their pawns with you. It's essentially multiplayer without having to deal with the assholes that generally populate online games.

    My point: There are ways to do online multiplayer without making it a chore. Hopefully the good people at Watch Dogs will realize that before it's too late.
  • jsoftcheck
    On the whole I support the sentiment of your article, but the specific example you link to (WD Notoriety/Invasion mechanic) might not be the best example. This is a case where it seems you lose out on nothing by staying offline, except the online portion of the game. Seems reasonable, and even necessary to prevent breaking the mechanic. Forcing players to use their de facto "DRM" software (UPlay), even when the game is already running under another third party application like Steam seems the far larger outrage. That might be the better example to link to. (or any of several examples in other recent ubi titles like Splinter Cell Blacklist or AC:Revelations.
  • m8ty.com_8741
    I guess most gamers would start complaining if the following were to happen:
    http://i1280.photobucket.com/albums/a482/m8ty-com/smb-internet_zps5b1a05b0.gif
  • Konfess.
    First, Online Only (OO) is a form of Digital Rights Media (DRM). If you are saying that you are against OO as a form of DRM, then offer an alternative and give us a choice. Second, OO is also a form of game engine optimization. Third, the License you pay for when buying a game is never for the software, it is for the use of the software (service). At no time are ownership or rights to the service, software, data or media being transferred to you. At no time do you have the right to resell any of this. This has been a staple of EULA (that nobody reads) since DOS 1.0.

    I am an independent game developer. My single player engine is Online Only as both a form of DRM and Optimization. I have removed the AI, Collision Detection, and Story from the Client and placed them on the Server. One, I wanted to get paid for my work. Or someone else selling it and making money for it. Two, I didn’t want the game to be reverse engineered or hacked, even for a single player game. On my test platform the OO Engine outperforms the Offline Engine.

    The only argument I could accept as not being veiled theft would be undue burden of cost. If the user could show cost due to per-time or use of online activity then I could see the need for offline gaming. Your arguments serve one possible purpose either to get traffic to this site and make money or to support Theft of Service (ToS) from single player games. The second thing on the page should have been your acknowledgement of ToS and what you recommended or would accept as prevention of ToS. Otherwise this is another pirate manifesto in favor of theft, thinly disguised as outrage over consumer rights.

    For a case of undue hardship caused by my OO game I would consider a harsher EULA and a copy of an offline game. But if that offline game found a way to pirated sources, I would respond with the full weight of the law.

    FYI, this past year I have seen a lot of interest in OO by commercial and independent developers. OO single player gaming as the norm is coming or at least being looked into.
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    Thanks for jumping in with a developer's opinion! If you've got time and are so inclined, I encourage you to write up the dev side of the OO story.

    I think it's a perspective that gamers would find very interesting, and you're already off to a good start with this comment!
  • Chaos Ghost of the Void
    They already said that you have the option to not go online if you don't want to but the game will have online enabled the first time you put it in, next time before making an article about this with watchdogs pay more attention to details.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    Ubisoft did a similar thing with AC4, and this is the sort of thing I cannot abide by.

    And you are not a dinosaur mate. I enjoy a good single-player game as much as the next guy. As I told you, the problem is that a lot of single-player fans have a habit of complaining and suggesting this is the all-time end of their favorite style of gaming when Desura, Steam, and even bloody Origin say otherwise with their lengthy list of offline games. Just go onto Indie DB, and you'll find more single-player titles, a surprising number for free, than you could have ever imagined. Handheld platforms like Vita will always have single-player offerings due to their limited internet connectivity.

    It's not dead, it's not dying, it's just changing it's place in the marketplace. Don't lose heart, there's plenty more good things to come.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    But the reason single-player fans are complaining is because all those games are low-budget productions. That's the problem.

    We're not complaining that single-player doesn't exist; it does exist and in spades. But more of the campaign-only games are going indie, which in turn translates to low-budget. That doesn't always mean bad, by any stretch, but it's like the turn-based issue. In its decline, only indie devs still opt for that mechanic, and that's a shame in my eyes.
  • Delta Squad Reaper
    Correspondent
    From time that gaming began to it beginning to increase in popularity, multiplayer became a focus, and I don't mean split screen where two people are in the same room, I mean multiplayer, being forced to connect online just to play it. It was never always multiplayer and to say it was is ridiculous. I have no issues with multiplayer, other than it needs to not be such a big focus when it then tends to take away from a lot of single-player campaigns.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    ...you realize the first video game in existence -required- to people, right? Single-player was originally a niche, a very difficult thing to accomplish. It took years and lots of hard work to get the point where we have things like Assassin's Creed, GTA, Gears of War, and TLOU. Multiplayer's basically existed from the inception, because in real life, most games require other people.

    Also, a multiplayer can never get above "decent"? How come it can never be as well thought out as the single-player? Troubled as it may be, Titanfall's had a lot more thought put into it's mechanics and design than, say, Uncharted or the original Mass Effect. Bioshock 2's campaign and competitive multiplayer were of a fairly equal measure.

    Except what if it's only seeming shoved at you? What if someone else -wanted- that online or offline mode you declare is being forced upon you? I remember hearing the case of someone buying Battlefield 3 specifically for the single-player campaign and nothing else. If a person enjoys their purchase and gets fulfilled, is that not enough?
  • Si_W
    "Again, nobody says you have to be online to complete the game and in fact, it's not a requirement for enjoyment. But it is saying, in some capacity, that if you don't log in, you're going to miss out on something."

    God forbid we miss out on something...
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    We shouldn't have to miss out on anything if we're paying the same price as everyone else. There should never be any punishment whatsoever for not wanting to log in.
  • lookingforward
    online makes games come to life, theres a reason online arra shooters are as popular as they are with only 10-15 maps. people, they make every encounter a different.

    im goad you brought demon souls, thats the way all games should be, no modes, no menus, no lobbys, the off-line and online should all be one cohesive experience. just like demon souls, in watchdogs if you turn off the online part the game, the only thing your doing is removing apart of the game for your self an on one lose but you.

    not wanting your single player games to be online is like not wanting color on your t.v., its an outdate mentality
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    And that's one of the saddest things I've ever read.

    Calling online games inherently superior is, by several glaring counts, completely wrong.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    I agree that there should be a choice in matters for gamers. The online "mandate" so to speak is for the hacking pop in and out feature though, that's why. You can shut that off though.
  • user_name1234
    Contributor
    Great post

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