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Aperson

Online multiplayer: Why I feel Local is better

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So, this has been a bit on my mind recently. For many years I have harbored this idea that online multiplayer is nowhere near as good as local multiplayer simply due to how I have found myself enjoying times when I've played against friends in the past and how, when playing online, there isn't really that same sort of drive anymore. But for years I still wondered exactly why I thought that... now with the past decade having come to pass and myself having dedicated a lot of time recently to online games like Magic the Gathering Arena and Pokemon Trading Card Game Online I think I understand exactly why that is.

 

The short answer, I believe casual gaming is incompatible with an online environment. Basically if you're playing online, regardless of whether you want to or not you're playing competitive. Playing competitive means that if you are playing online you HAVE to know what that game's metagame is. Depending on the game there's very little room for experimentation, for trying something different. People don't play Online Multiplayer for the taking part, they play it to win. Yes, at heart we all play to win in many ways but online you have to be prepared to deal with the cheapest, most degenerate tactics in whatever that multiplayer game is.

 

One of my earliest examples of this was playing Metroid Prime Hunters online. I would often play the game online as it was a major part of the game. I didn't get much done online in terms of actually winning games, but quite honestly I never really had much of a chance. Playing the game online means entering the competitive side of the game and frankly Hunters is terrible in terms of competitive as Sylux and Trace are so much better than every other character. That is under normal gameplay conditions but the meta for that basically became, play as Trace, Hack the game, stand INSIDE a wall where you can't be hit and snipe everyone. That's not fun... except for the person playing Trace and doing it that is!

 

Things continued in many ways. Smash Bros is one of my all time favourite multiplayer games and was the go to many times in a group of friends in multiplayer, we loved playing it together. Online? Barely touched it. I know Smash isn't exactly a great experience online but even so, playing with friends is usually an established level of competition that you are used to, so I don't venture online as much as I'm convinced that it just wouldn't be as fun even though they have tried in the past to have a dedicated online mode for competitive gamers. Thing is, with Smash I feel that the loss of human interaction is a big minus as far as the online is concerned. I am not ever so great at Smash Bros so I feel playing that game online a lot would not be a very fulfilling experience as I'm very unlikely to win any games, my playstyle would likely see me lose a lot as I don't do some of the things that I should be doing in fighting games as I just end up goofing off.

 

The same can be said for other fighting games in some ways. I liked playing Pokken but barely did much online as even outside of the ranked mode I was getting absolutely creamed. I was mainly playing as Chandelure who I felt was a ridiculously powerful character but that didn't really show online. Because I had no plan to deal with opposing cheap, degenerate strategies things just fell away rather quickly, I think I faced a lot of Gengar online and struggled to deal with it. Though in hindsight it looks like Gengar is one of Chandy's weaker matchups. Similarly I tried playing a few teams online in FIFA 18 Switch seasons but didn't fare too well, however I did notice a common occurance, everyone was playing as PSG and basically just passing the ball to Cavani and spamming the same long range shot over and over again and every time it was successful in going in. So in this instance I am basically punished for going online without knowing what the meta was for Seasons.

 

This brings to present day. I have found something of a happy medium with online TCGs, mainly with Magic Arena and Pokemon TCGO. But now this goes into the live service problem in many ways. Both these games are rather generous in their opening matchmaking and allow you to play against other people with beginning level cards. However, after the leashes get taken off, my natural instinct for both is to experiment. Create some cool fun decks... the problem with that is that as a free to play player these decks can take a long time to create and end up being the objectives of my play time on the game. When your collection is limited it can be very good to create a consistent decklist but then you also have cards in your collections on both games that are just way too good not to play so I found myself putting those one ofs in to help me with a view to finishing the rest of the deck later. But here's the problem, since these games are being played online, you run into a metadeck in pretty much every game you play, with a few exceptions. Even then you'll just seen some people playing the same cheapest degenerate deck they can find within their card budget. For example on Pokemon Trading Card Game Online everyone who isn't playing a Meta deck tends to end up playing this Charizard deck, probably because it's Charizard. Admitteldy I think Pokemon's Standard format right now is a rather miserable experience because there are so many decks right now designed around stopping the opponent from being able to play or just overpowering the opponent on Turn 2 or 3, this all ties back into the meta in many ways as one of the strongest decks came about because of a ridiculously overpowered card that everyone does not enjoy facing as it basically allows you to take extra prize cards for every knockout and making it extremely easy for them to win, especially when it exists in the same format as a card that basically allows said player to choose who they knockout. It would be fine if there was a ranked mode so that players who play that deck could stay in there while a regular play queue would allow all kinds of wacky deck ideas to be played. However, experience with Magic the Gathering Arena tells me that even if there was a ranked queue people will still play competitive decks in the regular play queue.

 

This all ties back into what I think is the modern popularity of competitive gaming. It feels like these days, in part because of Twitch, everyone wants to be a pro. With the pros so prominent on Twitch and Youtube it's easy to watch these players play the game and to watch competitive tournaments on whatever your favourite game might be. This ends up reflecting in the game's online itself, everyone just jumps on the latest trend that (insert pro here) has decided to show off recently because everyone wants to be like said pro. I also hear that MOBA games like League of Legends can be a miserable experience if you aren't playing meta because everyone else you are working with will expect you to conform to said meta. In that game's case it seems like there's so little room for deviation that it is even publicly acknowledged by Riot that this is how to play the game. The popularity of online games is also seemingly at an all time high, every big game you hear about that gets big these days is an online multiplayer game. Heck, the fact that the most popular game among kids is Fortnite gives a clear indication to the aspirations of gaming these days. A lot of people playing the game aren't just going to be playing it for fun with their mates, they want to be the next Ninja!

 

So yeah, maybe this is just the ramblings of an ageing man who has nostalgia for the times spent playing multiplayer with friends as a teenager and is struggling to accept that kids these days won't have the same experience, perhaps I'm just deluded and should just "get gud" at these games but I thought I'd open it to a topic of discussion, is online multiplayer fun for any of you guys? Does it depend on the game? In which cases do you find local multiplayer better. Or are you someone who only enjoys games when you win? Thought this could be an interesting discussion.

 

Tl:dr - I have mixed expreience with online multiplayer, I think it's too competitive, I think local is better, do you agree or disagree.

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I think a thing you missed out on in talking about online multiplayer is the social aspect. As we all get on in years it gets harder and harder to actually meet up with our friends and family due to other life commitments. Being able to jump online and have conversations whilst playing a game together is the best way to replicate the days of people gathering in a single house and playing games all night.

I remember listening to a few podcasts not long after Destiny was released and on each of these podcasts you had people who used the game as an online hub for all of their banter with friends. It wasn't so much about playing the game but rather more about just hanging out with each other.

Myself and others on here have been very vocal over the years about party chat functionality on consoles and such a feature has been a godsend for keeping in touch with friends and family with interests in gaming. It's a big reason why I don't do much online gaming on Nintendo consoles. Sure, you have things like Discord and Skype but these things should never be an excuse or defense for a missing feature that has been standard for 2 generations now. It infruriates me when people play down the problem.

As for online being more competitive than ever, I think this is true and the reasons you speak of play into that. You often find that a lot of online games dont have much variety in terms of layout or character selections because once a valid strategy hits the likes of YouTube then everyone tries to copy it. Sad thing is that a lot of the time you do have to fall into line and do what others are doing otherwise you won't win. 

Best thing I can advise is just play online with people you know, have a laugh and shoot the breeze while you play a game. 

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18 minutes ago, Hero-of-Time said:

Best thing I can advise is just play online with people you know, have a laugh and shoot the breeze while you play a game. 

Yep, this. The difference between casual play and competitive play is usually who you're playing with.

@Aperson you should see some of the shenanigans us N-Europers get up to in Smash Bros. Chances are, we're choosing random characters with items on and choosing stages that are more funny then balanced. Winning is nice, sure, but the aim is more comedy than victory. Final Smashes flying everywhere and a few of us have a habit of taunting if we happen to not get killed by one. (I know I do)

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I generally dislike online multiplayer, especially competitive.

For me, the best online game I've played is Burnout Paradise and I think it's a shame that nobody has copied its format.

 

You and other people (friends or open it up to random people if you want) just drive around the city. Co-op challenges can be activated, everyone takes part, the game points out who did best (for boasting reasons only), you can turn on modes, set up races or just make up your own stuff (verbally, like "Marked Man, but everyone stays in the airfield), let's see who can get the biggest flatspin, X location is a good place).

 

It's competitive in a friendly way, it's a great laugh and to me is the perfect game to just hang out with friends. You choose your own fun.

 

I wish there were more games like it.

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Online co-op games are fantastic. It's why I love the Monster Hunter series, especially on platforms that allow for party chat/full keyboard chat, and have fond memories of things like Halo 3, ODST, Reach, Army of Two, Resident Evil 5 and Phantasy Star Online. 

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3 hours ago, Hero-of-Time said:

Online co-op games are fantastic. It's why I love the Monster Hunter series, especially on platforms that allow for party chat/full keyboard chat, and have fond memories of things like Halo 3, ODST, Reach, Army of Two, Resident Evil 5 and Phantasy Star Online

I'm a simple man, I see that someone mentions Phantasy Star Online on a forum, and I instantly like that post, then proceed to talk about it. :D

PSO is a fantastic game, there is no other title quite like it, and that is thanks to its unique type of cooperative gameplay, which can't be found anywhere else.

It is a title which you can also play in solo, which is good for testing out the general limits of your character, but the game really comes alive when you play it online.

Up to four players can go off to one of twelve different locations, (adding up the original four from Ragol in episode one and each area of Gal Da Val island from episode two, not counting episode four from Blue Burst) where you will do battle with various creatures, using a robust, combo-based battle system, which rewards timing and patience, more than your average button-mashing, action RPG.

There are plenty of weapons to use, tweleve different character classes, lots of item management, and that great feeling of getting a red box rare item. :)

Four difficulty modes are available to you over time, Normal is for lvl 1-20, Hard is 20-40, then 40-80 for Very Hard, with Ultimate being available for level 80 all the way up to the cap of 200, but you won't really be holding your own on Ultimate until around level 130 - 155 depending on various factors.

But the whole fun of it is getting there, it's a fantastic shared experience, and one which I've continued to this very day, thanks to the Schthack server and people on there who I play online with on at the very least a weekly basis, I've got a FOnewearl called NiGHTS who I've gotten from low level up to around 127(?) I think it is now, currently working my way through the levels so that I can equip a high level armour which was kindly gifted to me by a player on there, there's also an event on there now where you can hunt rare rappies and the lobbies and Pioneer 2 has seasonal decorations applied to it, which makes it all the more fun to come back to, as a shared online game, just as it was always intended. :peace:

I don't really play many other games these days, but PSO will always keep me coming back to it.

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I think the most important point you miss here @Aperson is that you say local is with friends and online is with randoms. Like @Glen-i mentions, online can be fun and a whole lot less competitive when you are playing with people you know. The weekly Smash sessions or the N-E Mario Kart league (although the latter I would qualify as pretty competitive but due to the rule set it is leveled out a bit) are a good example, but I've also enjoyed some other online games with N-E people.

For the rest I don't have many gaming friends outside of N-Europe, but I know people who frequently get a squad together to play Call of Duty or something similar. That is what I'm missing the most from my online gaming experience; a weekly game with voice chat and banter, especially in the Covid times where I'm not going out much to meet friends (and I'm horrible in keeping contact via Whatsapp or other chat apps). I agree with @Hero-of-Time here that it's baffling that we still can't talk through a Nintendo system. Going back to the people mentioned previously who play CoD, they just talk through the PlayStation without the hassle of extra apps. Take a game like Animal Crossing, I'm typing messages on my bloody phone as communication, while in this day and age I should just be able to plug in a headset into my Switch and shout at the other people to stay the hell off my flowers. :grin: 

I also miss the times of local co-op, for me they died when I left my student apartment. Getting a bunch of people together to play Smash Bros., or Mario Kart, or even a complete band in Guitar Hero, those were the days. And before that it was meeting up with friends after school, all the way back to primary school when we would play the NES or SNES or link up Game Boys with cables. Yeah, that's not coming back. Best I can do now is a very sporadic one or two friends over who still enjoy Mario Kart. I would love to have an online equivalent of that but somehow it's difficult to get that going on the Nintendo platform.

For online with randoms, I can definitely enjoy that, but then it's mostly co-op games. Stuff like Starcraft II co-op missions, Paladins vs. bots, or Left4Dead 2 or World War Z which are made for co-op play. Games like Battlefield work as well as there are so many people in one game you will always find someone there who is worse than you and who you can shoot. :grin: And if you want to play PvP, yeah you will get slaughtered unless there is some proper matchmaking.

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1 hour ago, Vileplume2000 said:

I would love to have an online equivalent of that but somehow it's difficult to get that going on the Nintendo platform.

Thats probably due to the lack of ability to actually communicate with anyone on your friends list.

On the other consoles you go online, see what everyone is playing and then can either send them a message or invite them to party chat. It makes it incredibly easy to hook up with mates for a gaming session at very short notice. On the Switch or 3DS you have to arrange a session via other methods and ahead of time. It's ridiculous.

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Besides the occasional N-E Smash casual bouts, I only play online if I want to be competitive about it (this applies to any game I've tried online, from chess, to Magic, and even Pokémon).

Even then, it's a subpar experience, because it's hard to comment on matches, it's hard to read the opponent, it's hard to set the mood if I feel like a change of pace, and it's hard to learn anything because tips and advice aren't an encouraged part of the experience. Things get better with voice chat for sure, but even that can be limited (and I never chat with randos).

Our Smash community has depended on online this year, and it's been a subpar experience, to say the least. Even with Discord picking up Nintendo's shortcomings and the community organising itself properly, it's still a fact that social interaction is heavily reduced, and casual matches are much more cumbersome to set up. I get "checked out" from a match much more easily this way, and I felt disappointed with my experience more often than not.

And yeah, that's also why I generally never demand online from any of my games. Don't like the environment, anyway.

...

That said, there is one exception... Among Us. This little Mafia game is perfect for online. Sure, it isn't competitive, but it makes the most out of social interaction.

Edited by Jonnas

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Online multi is always going to be an inferior experience to local multiplayer.  Fundamentally, it is a substitute for when an equivilent local multiplayer experience is either impractical or impossible.

That being said, there are methods developers can use to help mitigate the shortcomings of online play (such as voice chat, chat moderation, anti-cheat systems etc), but you fundamentally have two problems with online multiplayer that do not apply to local multiplayer.

First, there is the social interaction aspect.  No matter how well designed an online multiplayer game is, it's never going to be the same experience as sitting within punching distance of your buddies.  Mario Party is probably the ultimate example of this; what is an absolutely riotously fun local multiplayer game would be an absolute snoozefest when played online, because you just don't have that same communal feel that makes the board game aspect so fun.  Even in the best case scenario, with all of the online chatting tools in the world, it just isn't the same when your friends aren't in the same room as you.

And as for online with strangers? You are also inevitably going to come afoul of pricks and trolls online who want to spoil your fun.  No matter what kind of game it is, no matter how well thought out an anti-cheat system or well staffed a moderating team, there will always be cheaters and there will always be people who will hurl abuse at you and your kids.  This can fundamentally ruin even hardcore competitive games, let alone casual fun ones.

Second, the technical side.  You will never have as seamless and stable an online multiplayer game as you get with local multiplayer.  Even with a perfect fiber connection on both sides, some gameplay experiences will just never work as well with online as with local.  Games like Pikmin 3 and Super Mario 3D World will never work well online, (and for the latter, we're about to see this disaster actually play out in a couple of months :laughing:) because they rely on pixel perfect and frame perfect precision in a dynamic & constantly updating environment; where any amount of lag at all will ruin the experience.

Of course, this works both ways, as some games (Battle Royales and MMOs quickly come to mind) are just completely impractical to make work in a local multiplayer setting.

The second problem is perhaps solvable in the (very) distant future, but I don't think you will ever really see a solution for the first problem.  Online multiplayer certainly has its place, but it'll never be a true substitute for local multiplayer.

Edited by Dcubed
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Local multiplayer is all well and good but it can't match online multiplayer mainly due to the fact I can sit in my underwear or PJs whilst chatting and gaming with friends. Can't do that in local multiplayer. I mean, I suppose you could but it would depend on how close you are with your friends and whether or not you want to be invited back for another gaming session. :D 

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Local multiplayer is much better than online multiplayer. I can sit there butt naked and be unnecessarily sexual with my friends and/or strangers. It's just not the same doing this online.

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I was going to follow with a semi-sensible answer, but not sure I can follow the last two comments! 😂

Ultimately, like others have said, most of my multiplayer gaming is so much more enjoyable being able to be sociable & talk & share the experience.  Nintendo absolutely needs some simple way of being able to talk to others.  I enjoyed the few times I was able to join in a N-Europe Mario Kart session in the past, but only being able to share & see the experience others were having afterwards through forum comments wasn't quite the same as being able to comment & say things in the moment.

Local multiplayer remains my favourite multiplayer experience.  The downside, besides difficulty of arranging it, is also the lack of screen space. When you’re used to having a while screen to yourself, I’ve always found it takes a bit to get used to then only having half or a quarter of your usual screen-size.

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