I got into this great Twitter discussion the other day about whether or not FPS games like Destiny or Titanfall are losing anything by excluding a splitscreen multiplayer option. (For those of you who don’t know, splitscreen is what we call it when your TV image gets split to offer the differing POV for two or more players at the same time. Like Picture-in-Picture, but a bit more awesome).
The thing about where I am in my life right now, I can clearly see this through two lenses.
On the one hand, the core-gamer in me doesn’t GAF about playing with friends locally. I can count on one hand the number of friends I have who are still core gamers at this stage in their lives. (Jobs, Kids, Vacations, Mortgages, Rent, Grocery, all these things take a huge amount of time, time that could be better spent shooting Vandals in the head, I grant you, but still, once you accept those responsibilities, they tend to expand to fill all available space.) So, for the Gamer-Me, splitscreen is nice to have, but by no means a necessary. I can go online, mute my mic and play with a handful of real-live humans any time I choose. Yay Gamer-Me.
On the other hand, I am a Gamer Parent, and I have three Gamer Kids plus one Gamer Spouse. That’s FIVE people, and we are lucky enough to have ONE Xbone in the house.
Now, sharing is a thing. And I recognize that, yes, having all of use share a controller is of benefit for a whole bunch of “Real Life” reasons.
But now (especially in games like Destiny, where the whole game is, essentially, crippled unless you get your *ss out there and team up with people) instead of my kids being able to invite friends over to play Titanfall or Destiny or whatever the current favorite FPS is, they can only get their teamwork on by going online and gaming with a randomly assigned group of strangers. Which works well, in theory, but when you are 14 year old trying to team up with a bunch of adults who have been playing FPS’s since DOOM, you’re going to have a bit of a skill gap. The players who suck (or who haven’t managed to lay their hands on a particular special item… LOOKING AT YOU GJALLEHORN) get kicked repeatedly. (Destiny is addressing the “special item” issue in an upcoming patch, btw, because they don’t like it either).
NOW. For those of you who think you know where this is going. Shut up for a minute. This is not a “special snowflake” rant. I love my kids, but if they suck at a game, then they’re going to have to practice more. This is a true thing. BUT…
If we had splitscreen for these games, it could solve a couple of problems. First, getting local kids to team up would be much simpler, AND (for you core gamers who hate the squeakers) would let them bang their heads against missions without them getting out into the broader team pools. In essence, they could team up with each other, deliberately, and they wouldn’t be bugging all you core players who b*tch about tweens in the mix. When they do get into the bigger pool of players, then they will at least have had the opportunity to become a better player beforehand by playing with friends who won’t kick them for missing a shot. (And when you kick them off your team, they’ll have someplace to go to get better). They’ll get the chance to memorize the maps and min-max their weapons without having to rely on players they are getting randomly teamed up with. The whole player pool gets improved.
Now, all that said, as a professional game developer, I can see a handful of reasons why splitscreen simply isn’t practical (some are addressed by the 343 team HERE, for the upcoming Halo release). BUT I would simply like to ask the AAA group to please keep it in when you can. Don’t kid yourself, your audience for these games goes down to the Elementary School set (especially when their parents are also gamers). If you want to keep expanding your player base, you’ve got to allow more than one player per console.