Worlds Without People: Persistant Online Worlds in Console Mech Games

When I push Start on the title screen of Armored Core V, I am greeted by my mecha’s female computer voice saying “Good morning (Regardless of what time it is). Main system: Checking pilot data.” as the game connects to the server. The computer voice speaks again, “Main system. Normal Mode activated. Now resuming mission. Welcome back.” and on the screen appears a world map, where I can see what territories have changed hands since last I played. From here, I can launch a single-player mission, join a teammate on an invasion into enemy territory, or make some money by hiring myself out as a mercenary.

I never selected a thing. All I did was press start, and now here I am, thrust into an ever-changing online world.

Armored Core V got me both thinking and looking back. The shift to a fully-online gameplay style was a drastic one for sure. Armored Core For Answer gave players the option to have a player from the internet join in a single-player mission, just like Armored Core V does, but this is different. Armored Core V launches the player into a persistent online world from the get-go. The game revolves around it. It expects the player to be online. An offline mode is available, but it’s significantly limited, completely disconnected from the online mode, and only accessible if the game cannot connect to the server.

Armored Core V has single-player missions, but even those contribute to the multiplayer by helping the player’s team level up. Part availability is linked to team level, making it difficult for a solo player to stay competitive. Players need to be online and part of a team to properly enjoy the game. This is a serious limitation, not only from a playerbase perspective, but from a longevity perspective as well, and I’d like to explore how Armored Core V executes the concept of a persistent online world, as well as the limitations that concept presents.