Hacked Off: When Everyone but You Has Left the Online Multiplayer Mode

Nowadays, it is hard to find a game that doesn’t offer an online multiplayer. If it doesn’t, it is often criticised for it. Yet, what’s the point? Unless this is a hugely popular online game like Call of Duty, the online peaks about a month after release and then slowly becomes a barren wasteland. It’s so disheartening to see a game’s online mode be made for only a few months of shelf life.

There have been countless games that I have bought knowing full well the online will be dead. This is because I’ve bought them around a year after launch, and the only people who will be online will be those other hopefuls who decided to wait before buying the game. Now, I rarely buy a game solely for its online, excluding Overwatch, but that doesn’t count as it’s exceptional, but I normally dabble in it if the opportunity presents itself. It’s just when a game has become desolate, it’s hard to even give it a go. I’d be more upset had I actually loved the online, but it’s still annoying enough.

Viva Piñata: Party Animals was a game that made sense to have online. It’s a bunch of fun mini-games to waste a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon. But, when I got around to playing it, I was lucky to find even one person, let alone three. This made it more of a rivalry than a competition. If one of us was better, the rest of the games hardly mattered, as it was a sure-fire win/loss. Hardly the excitement of quick changing leasers a party game wants.

With the likes of backwards compatibility for Xbox One, there has been hope. Games aren’t just being left to rot because there are new and shinier ones out. Yet, it doesn’t mean people still play them. I reloaded Left 4 Dead the other week hoping to relive the glory days with my friend. The problem was threefold. One, it seemed like only thirty people were playing in the world, so getting a full game was hard and took about half an hour. Secondly, it almost always put me in a different region’s server, making everything a laggy mess. Thirdly, most of the servers had been ‘customised’, which meant, in this case, that people could jumper higher than frogs on pogo sticks. I actually doubt that would give them much height, but you get the gist.

The PC does have it better than consoles. There is less of a drop off of players on games. Maybe because there are more people, or perhaps players are loyal to games they love and enjoy reliving memories. It’s probably because modding helps games stay fresh. Oh, and proper modding, not just making someone jump a little higher than normal and falling back down slowly. I might be wrong, but floating down slowly like a feather is hardly the fast paced action normally associated with Left 4 Dead.

Another aspect of online gaming which makes me despair is servers closing. If no one is playing a game, there’s no point for a company to continue paying for it to stay open just on the off chance two guys want to relish in nostalgia. But one of the most heartbreaking moments is seeing a game you used to spend every weeknight playing lose its online. People do have a lot of dedication to games they love. Before the Halo 2 servers shut down on the original Xbox, people stayed on it for almost a month – trying to suck up every last precious second. Luckily, with Halo: The Master Chief Collection you can now relive the Halo 2 online, as clearly Halo MC is a very well-made/maintained game and almost never has issues, right?

FIFA 09 was the game that started the dark days of my gaming life. For a few years FIFA became a regular sight on my console. We all picked it up for about £2 in 2012, dirt cheap as it was fairly outdated, and what FIFA ‘fan’ would go back and get it? This was meant to be a game to play once in a blue moon. The thing I blame for having to buy FIFA 11 and 13 was EA shutting down FIFA 09’s servers. This forced us to move up so we could continue playing. Soon, my friends bought every installment. It’s made worse by the fact PES 2008 was still sitting pretty with servers up. I’m sure if you load it up right now, they’ll still be going for that pair still playing. Konami being the good guys? That’s a weird one as of late.

So, there might be naught I can do about this, as I can hardly start forcing people to play the online with me, like I’m 90% sure there are laws against that. I could have mentioned online achievements, as they get almost impossible to do if you can’t actually play the online, but that’s a moan for next week.

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