Worlds Without People: Persistant Online Worlds in Console Mech Games


Many types of games are moving toward a multiplayer focus. While more cynical gamers might groan at the prospect of having to interact with other people in order to get the most out of a game, I can certainly embrace a multiplayer focus in games like ChromeHounds and Armored Core V. The thing about it is: In these games, the other players rely on you just as much as you rely on them. Victory in ChromeHounds or ACV is a team effort, rather than in games like Halo or Call of Duty, where victory is, more often than not, simply a collection of individual efforts.

No offense meant to Halo or CoD fans, of course. I enjoy both of those games. However, to a certain extent, the game makes the community, and this is true for Armored Core, as well. Players have to get with the program in order to succeed, and that requires cooperation. Not only that, but, being a niche game franchise, the Armored Core community is tighter-knit than that of more popular multiplayer games. That’s just how it ends up.

Of course, problems do arise from the very nature of having a multiplayer focus to a game based around customization. Cookie-cutter builds, meant not to match a player’s playstyle but to simply min-max stats, cater to a generic combat style, and be easy to win with, arise when this sort of game goes multiplayer. This is another thing that just ends up this way. It’s in some gamers’ nature to seek out these “first-order optimal” builds and strategies, even if they break the spirit of the game and render the meta-game of tailoring a machine to your own playstyle and combat role irrelevant. However, the existence of these optimal builds is a game design issue at its core.

The issue for Armored Core V is a bit deeper, though, and is the same issue that ChromeHounds dealt with. Games that rely on a persistent online world like ChromeHounds and Armored Core V also rely on a devoted, and preferably large, community, moreso than most other games with multiplayer. These games are in niche genres however, so their communities, while devoted, are a good deal smaller than the communities for more mainstream games. Multiplayer games are nothing without a community, so this causes a sustainability issue, as the small, often shrinking, communities for these more niche multiplayer titles are all these games have to rely on, as they focus primarily on multiplayer.

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