With the recent launches of local multiplayer games like TowerFall, Samurai Gunn and Sportsfriends, players are making their arguments for the inclusion of online multiplayer.
For developers, the issue of online multiplayer goes something like this: Sure, adding online multiplayer to your game is massively time-consuming, very costly, and not exactly the greatest fun you’ll ever have — but it can potentially bring in multitudes of extra players and sales, so it’s always worth it, right?
Of course, we all know this isn’t always the case, thanks to as plethora of examples were developers have put time and energy into including online multiplayer options, only to find that no-one bothers using them, and expensive servers remain dead and empty.
So when is the right time to add online multiplayer to your game, and how much effort is it going to take? Gamasutra talked to half a dozen developers who have integrated online multiplayer features in their games, to find out what the experience was like, and whether they’d do it again.
ibb & obb is a co-op platforming in which two players work together to tackle a variety of puzzles and obstacles. The game was released on PlayStation 3 last summer, and is about to hit Steam on May 26.
Richard Boeser from Sparpweed Games tells me that, “deciding whether or not to go for online multiplayer was one of the hardest decisions, and I could probably talk a full hour on that.”
The original plan was not to include online multiplayer in the initial release, and perhaps add it in later if the game sold well. However, Sony warned the team that co-op games on PSN were rarely local multiplayer only, and that it would be wise to invest the time in online co-op.
“I will definitely stay away from it if the game mechanics require accurate player-player interaction.”
“We weren’t fully convinced as we figured that on console most players would play ibb & obb locally,” says Boeser, “and we also felt it was by far the best way to experience the game.”
So Sparpweed put Sony’s advice on the backburner and chugged on with their local-only approach. However, as development drew close to completion, Boeser and co. had a change of heart, and the decision was finally made to postpone the launch in order to add online multiplayer.
Eight months later, the online multiplayer for ibb & obbwas finally ready, and the game could release.
“For ibb & obb it was quite difficult,” Boeser admits, “mostly because the interaction between the two characters is crucial. The players can push each other and need to be able to accurately jump from each other’s head. Also the way our system works is that your own character never has lag and the other character is updated as well as possible. This makes it a lot more complex than just having one host and a laggy client.”