Ramblings | Offline Mode as a Feature
Our world is growing more and more connected every day. It’s gone from rude to almost assumed that smartphones come out at some point during dinner. Multiplayer in video games has felt quite a bit of this change as well. With rare exception from Nintendo, it seems that the norm for multiplayer is changing from something you do on the couch next to your buddies to over a webcam or headset. With that rise in the popularity of online multiplayer, we’re starting to see some games that don’t even give you the option to play by yourself, to the point where the latest game in the Call of Duty series actually lists “offline mode” as a feature
These online only games are still usually the exception and not the rule, but more have been cropping up lately and we’re starting to see some issues. Don’t get me wrong, people are enjoying the games, the issue lies when people in areas that don’t have a great internet connection are left of out being able to enjoy these games at all.
In a lot of these games, it’s obvious that the main draw of the series is the online multiplayer. Call of Duty and Battlefield certainly come to mind when thinking of this. Both of these series also throw a single-player campaign in there to make sure you can always have something to play and to craft some context around the rest of the game. It’s easier to feel connected to something if you’ve gotten a chance to see those characters and locations in a cohesive story. Are these stories always good? Absolutely not. In fact, plenty of them are downright campy and easily skippable. The main point of their inclusion, aside from adding that framework, is to make sure those people with less than ideal connections out there have an option if they want to play.
Backing up to E3 this year, Microsoft got in a bit of hot water. They announced that the Xbox One would require an online check of the ownership of the games around every 24–48 hours. This was, after an awkwardly long few weeks, changed, but it has since attached a stigma to the term “online” in the mass media. While anyone who has played a Call of Duty game in the past would look at the offline mode icon on the back and say “well duh,” it seems more like this is simply an attempt to make sure anyone who was concerned about it back then knows that the whole “always online” scandal does not effect their Call of Duty playing.
I’m not sure if the offline mode icon will begin to be a staple on the back of game boxes. Whether or not the game features online only should definitely be communicated, and clearly, but I honestly think there being an offline mode in a game should be a given and not a feature listed on the back of the box.