Cliff Bleszinski (who I will from this point forward be referring to as Cliff) was at PAX South this year to talk about his upcoming competitive shooter, Lawbreakers. PC Gamer’s assisstant editor Tom Marks got to sit down with Cliff for a short interview during which a very interesting point was made. I’ll transcribe a very short part of their exchange, and then we’ll come back to talk about it. I’m curious to see what you guys think about this.
Tom: “So we mentioned this earlier, that Lawbreakers is only going to be multiplayer, and a lot of other games are doing that: Overwatch, and Rainbow Six Siege and games like that… Why do you think the shooter industry is kind of trending towards that and what do you think of it?”
Cliff: “Because campaigns cost the most money, and it’s usually 75% of the budget, and you burn through the campaign in a weekend and then you guys go to multiplayer.”
Now to be fair, Cliff goes on to say that he does enjoy games with co-op campaigns, and that he and his wife enjoyed playing together through Halo 5 so it’s not like he’s saying all shooters should be going multiplayer-only. His point, though, is that the vast majority of a development budget is spent creating these campaigns that we burn through in a couple of days’ time before moving onto competitive multiplayer, which for games like Call of Duty, Halo, Rainbow Six, Counter Strike, and especially in MOBAs, tends to be the main appeal.
I myself have played every Call of Duty since the first Modern Warfare , and while I enjoyed the campaigns, I stuck around for the multiplayer. I still boot up the original Modern Warfare on PC to play multiplayer sometimes, and no, I’m not joking. Multiplayer is where the action is, and it offers endless variety because no two enemies you face are the same. Even when you’re playing the same people, they’re real human beings and they’re constantly adapting and changing tactics. You just can’t replicate that level of challenge and competition with AI.
Rainbow Six Siege has no campaign at all, and it’s the best FPS I’ve played in years. The replay value is remarkable because the gameplay is so intense , and the operators are all so well-designed and balanced. Now if 75% of Ubisoft’s budget for Siege went into an explosive, cinematic campaign stages, who knows what state the multiplayer would be in. Can you imagine Siege with even more matchmaking issues? Cliff’s point, and the thing I want you to consider, is that some developers and publishers are deciding to funnel the entirety of their funds (minus publishing and marketing) into the game mode that 99% of people actually stick around for.
I know none of you are necessarily expecting a single-player campaign from your MOBAs, but what about games like Call of Duty that have built reputations on having engaging campaigns? How would you react if the next Modern Warfare was revealed and it had no traditional campaign? Remember those co-op special operations / missions from Modern Warfare 2 ? Those were so much fun. If the next entry in the series included a bunch of those that were tied together by an overarching story, and the bulk of the game was centered on multiplayer, would you be okay with that? What if the multiplayer launched with way more maps than is typical, different classes with advanced, RPG-esque skill-trees and highly customizable weapons with hundreds of skins? Just imagine a Call of Duty budget completely devoted to creating the ultimate online multiplayer experience.
I’m not saying that the genre definitely needs to go this direction, but Cliff did have a valid point. For those of you who play Black Ops 3 on a regular basis, how much of that time is spent in the campaign versus multiplayer modes? It would make sense for the developers to reassess their priorities when allocating the budget, and to direct more of that money into the mode that brings fans back for years. I suppose in the near future we can look to Lawbreakers ‘ success or failure as a pretty good indication of what a multiplayer-driven budget means for gamers.