6 Elements That Make A Good Multiplayer Game

February 12, 2015

It’s amazing how many games these days offer both a vast single player campaign and some form of multiplayer. As online capabilities for both console and PC gaming improved, so too did the experiences developers have worked hard to deliver. Unfortunately we’ve all played that multiplayer game that is either a let-down from the get-go or only holds our interest for a while before being replaced by another game.

For the developer that hopes to one day create a game where the multiplayer stands out and leaves players craving more, it’s a good idea to look at titles that already have legions of players hooked. Although some entries on this list may not be appropriate for certain games, we’re sure many of them serve as the special ingredient that makes many of our favorite multiplayer games great.

Emphasis on Teamwork

This obviously applies to multiplayer games that require several players to be on the same team and not a 1v1 game like Hearthstone.

While many games have a multiplayer mode, the gameplay doesn’t necessarily emphasize teamwork. In other words, you should strive to create a game where the team that does a better job of working together, and fulfilling certain roles, is the team more likely to win.

There’s nothing more satisfying than winning simply because everyone did their part, and did it well. The Last of Us is a great example because, more so than most online shooters, it’s difficult to do things solo.

Instead, you’ll have one player dedicated to healing others, the second investing their perk points into better explosives, another focusing on close-range weapons, and the last sticking with a hunting rifle. They may each do a decent job individually, but together they’re a more efficient team.

Different Modes

Even if you have a solid mode that you know most players will stick to, it’s always a good idea to have varying modes that provide a different, yet familiar, experience. For example, most shooters have the classic “Team A vs Team B” mode where you must simply kill the other team, but many also offer capture the flag, objective-based modes, and other ways to compete.

Halo is a good example because it is known for having a good number of unique modes like Team Squat, Grifball, CtF, Dominion, and Regicide. Even the latest Smash Bros. offers different ways to play online, including For Glory mode and For Fun modes that differ in item use, stage types, and so on. Mapmaker, or level creating modes, have also proven popular among today’s gamers.

‘Easy To Learn, Fun To Master’ Gameplay

One of the best games to look for inspiration is chess, a strategic board game that has continued to be played for hundreds of years. Pretty much anyone can pick it up and learn the piece types, movements, and basic strategies. However, there is satisfaction in continuing to sharpen your skills and develop complex strategies that easily overwhelm novice players.

No matter what genre your game falls into, one of your main priorities should be to make a game that doesn’t appear daunting. Otherwise, people will feel intimidated and not play. Instead, make it easy to learn but also design it with enough depth so that dedicated players can progress their skills and improve.

League of Legends is a prime example, since everyone is essentially at the same level when they start a match but those who know more advanced strategies will advance their character faster.

A Progression System With Unlockables

For most of gaming history, we were satisfied with multiplayer games having no form of system where one match affects the next. You’d hop on Street Fighter II, beat your opponent with a certain character, and the next match that character would be exactly the same. You didn’t unlock new combos or attacks, nor did any attacks become stronger or better in any way for winning.

Although a game like that can still be fun, today most gamers want every match to serve as one step closer to a greater overall goal. Call of Duty is, of course, a good example, since every multiplayer match earns you XP to go higher up in rank. With certain ranks you unlock new weapons, killstreaks, and other perks that help you progress in the game. Even online card game Hearthstone has a system like this, where playing matches will allow you to earn currency that can be used to purchase card packs.

Downloadable Content

Many will hate to admit it, but there is no denying that multiplayer games that consistently release new content (in the form of DLC) tend to keep the attention of gamers for longer periods of time. It is human nature to want something new, especially if it combines with something you are already familiar.

From new maps and weapons, to modes and even skins, players have proven they are willing to invest a few more bucks into the game they love just to have something new. If possible, try to deliver a solid multiplayer gaming experience first, and then later consider how you can give your fans something more to enjoy.

Offline Options

I know it’s hard to believe that in this day and age people still think offline multiplayer is important, but for a lot of us there is still something about the old-school way of going toe-to-toe with a guy or gal sitting on the same couch. If you can make a multiplayer game where online isn’t the only way to take on other players, you definitely should.

Even though games like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros now have great online modes, they are still mostly popular for their couch multiplayer. If you don’t believe us, ask the hundreds of Smash Bros. players that still gather together all over the world to see who the best of the best is.

In fact, it is the 14 year old Melee that still draws in the big crowds; a game that didn’t have an online mode to begin with, but is still arguably the most popular fighting game out there.

[su_note]Whatever type of video game you want to create, the School of Game Design at the New York Film Academy can help you gain the necessary knowledge to do it (campuses in New York and Los Angeles). [/su_note]

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