Analysis: Don’t Despair! Infrastructure is Here!

December 20, 2006 at 1:35 am Leave a comment

Single-player gameplay was so last generation, right? The next-generation consoles all put emphasis on their internet connections, allowing players of consoles to connect to a virtual portal full of thousands–if not millions–of players who also want to do the same thing as you: play real people. The AIs might be getting better, but nonetheless, you will never see what you saw coming in multiplayer with an AI. Simply because the AI’s instructions and directions in coding will never be able to compete with the vast and intelligent human mind. The DS has also emphasized this with its handy Wi-Fi internet connection. Luckily, the PSP has the same, utilizing two types of multiplayer. Ad-Hoc and Infrastructure are the two types, but Infrastructure allows for gameplay with others from across the world. Infrastructure is coming to more PSP games, and this is opening up a big question: how should developers do it?

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and Madden NFL 07 are two games that have “Infrastructure” multiplayer. Thousands of gameplayers who own both titles play online with others and have fun. It is obviously better to play with a human mind–especially a friend who might live on the other side of the world–than with a boring AI, right?

In the upcoming year, though, more titles will be incorporating infrastructure features. Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters and Test Drive Unlimited are two superb games that will push the online multiplayer barrier when they arrive. To much anticipation, a number of shooting and sports games will also incorporate the feature. But, how should developers incorporate it?

Some say that it should be straightforward and only used when necessary. Who cares about unwanted infrastructure–such as the ability to see other people roaming around, but not the ability to interact and compete with them, right? Obviously, sports games and FPS’ are the first indications of good infrastructure. Useful companions that will entice your $40 and allow you to do something other than beat the crap out of the AI in single player and in campaign mode. But, there are also fighting and driving games–both of which should incorporate infrastructure, aye? It would be awesome to fight with Jet Li in Tekken, wouldn’t it? Or to race Danica Patrick in NASCAR, right?

Here’s what developers need to do:

  • Competing: Fighting, driving, sports, and FPS’ are perfect ways to bring infrastructure into the picture. They are straightfoward and make for easy gameplay. They also allow for 2-on-2, or several other variants, allowing people from across the world to compete with each other. This can both be a challenging feat & at the same time be extremely fun. Gamers from across the world have already rejoiced at the site of some high-profile sports and FPS infrastructure games, but will marvel if the fighting and driving genres can catch on.
  • Interacting: SOCOM revolutionized this term when it began utilizing a headset for the PSP. The $50–now cheaper–component allowed for SOCOM players across the world to interact while playing. Set strategies without having to type into the rigorous and non-existent PSP keyboard. If more games utilize the ability to interact with others, it will clearly and dramatically change the industry.
  • Virtual Portals: Similar to what Test Drive is doing, there needs to be more virtual portals. To where real people can be in one world effortlessly. Competing & interacting will be one click away and it will allow for users to just jump in without having to look and scan for players first. This is a better way to interact with players, anyways.
  • MMORPGs?: The PSP–and probably the DS–will most likely never have a massively multiplayer online role playing game to marvel over, but it is great to hope for. World of Warcraft and Guild Wars have effortlessly sold millions of copies and attracted thousands/millions of users. Virtual portals where people interact with each other while joining a role-playing game. This feature could create numerous databases and could become the next thing. WoW: Portable Ops, anybody?
  • Infrastructure Campaign Modes?: How would you like to be playing Medal of Honors with the ability to quietly participate with other infrastructure gameplayers in campaign modes–such as a group of 5 soldiers running around trying to intercept a bombardment by sneaking into a barracks or camp of the enemy and stealing their TNT? A campaign mode, except highly interactive & wondrously fun. This would surely attract a large amount of gameplayers.

The possibilities of infrastructure multiplayer are pretty much endless. SONY, as a first-party developer, needs to incorporate infrastructure in games other than SOCOM, such as Killzone: Liberation, which deserved infrastructure from the get-go, and not as a future additive. SONY, as a large business, should influence third party corporations to step up and develop new unique ideas with an infrastructure service. SONY can do this by creating a portal that would house all of these multiplayer venues. Not just making the developers create their own systems and their own communities. This would allow for hundreds of games to include this multiplayer feature. Good luck. 😉



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