It’s time for the era of always-online video games to end | digital trends

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is one of the most anticipated PlayStation 5 games of the year, as it promises DC Comics fans will be able to watch their favorite anti-heroes wreak havoc in the Batman Arkhamverse. The cooperative action game features a story straight out of And if…? from Marvel. Brainiac brainwashes most of the members of the Justice League. And he has the distinction of featuring Kevin Conroy’s final voice acting as the Dark Knight. On paper, he has a lot going for him.

However, there is only one problem. You can only play it online, even when you go alone.

It’s not the only big 2023 release to take that approach, either. of Bethesda red drop it will also require a constant connection, whether you are meeting with friends or not. It’s one thing to design co-op multiplayer games to be online at all times so people can play each other (you can’t have a “massively multiplayer online” game without the online part), but it’s another thing to just block -Console game player behind that requirement. It’s a practice that only gets more complicated over time, creating unnecessary access and preservation issues, and players may be at their breaking point in 2023.

Why are single player games online?

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League and red drop they’re not the first games to be always online, and they probably won’t be the last. Rocksteady Games, Bethesda, and a handful of other game companies have used the practice to prevent hacking and cheating. Even in a single player game, persistent authentication allows companies to combat copyright infringement, which is a pretty reasonable concern.

When it comes to cheating, game developers have explained that they often use technology so that save files aren’t hacked or edited, even if the games have single-player story modes. grand tourism Creator Kazunori Tamauchi explained last year that saving files to grand tourer 7 they are stored on Polyphony Digital’s servers to protect them from corruption, forcing players to connect to the Internet to progress through the game in offline modes.

The boost makes sense, but it presents a double-edged sword. On the player side, constant connections can lead to poor performance or significant frame rate drops. Even when implemented with the best of intentions, the anti-piracy tools that come with always-online technology don’t do much to stop some players from buying games illegally anyway. Hackers can still largely find a way to circumvent always-online digital rights management measures, raising questions about the effectiveness of the practice. It leaves players wondering if the negatives outweigh the positives. That’s where it gets complicated.

Offline, no play

When it comes to the always-online debate, there are two key issues at stake. One is a simple question of access. Internet connection is not a constant factor; some people live in areas where the internet is as slow as molasses, while others can’t afford the kind of high-speed plan needed to run an online game well.

The debate surrounding the practice is not new. When EA adopted the technology for 2015 need for speed reboot, the publisher noted that it was necessary for its constant updates and Autolog, an Instagram-like feature that requires players to take screenshots and post them to the game’s social media platform. This proved controversial among many gamers, especially those whose internet speeds were not fast enough to run the game without buffering and frame rate drops.

Online-only gaming is part of a larger trend that sees modern gaming more tied to the internet than ever before. Take cloud gaming, for example. Well-intentioned tech posits that anyone with an internet connection can play high-end console games without an expensive device, but that’s not the case depending on where you live.

Chris Wedel, mobile editor at XDA Developers, a mobile software development community, described his frustration in an email at not being able to stream his favorite games on Xbox Cloud Gaming and Stadia (RIP) because living in rural Kansas restricted your Internet connectivity options. . However, Wedel’s frustrations go beyond cloud streaming. He posits that companies that make their games online-only limit their reach because the bandwidth gaps are larger than advertised by Internet service providers.

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“I once tried using Stadia and Xbox Game Cloud, and if the game actually loads, the images are unusable or will buffer and pause constantly,” said Wedel, who wrote an article for Android Central in 2021 about his experience. “For those with limited internet connectivity, online game streaming is essentially the same as it is for those who can’t afford internet: unusable. The online strategy alone greatly limits the reach of those titles due to larger-than-announced broadband gaps in the United States and other areas of the world.”

Heavy reliance on Internet connections disproportionately affects rural areas of the US and also disadvantages those who cannot afford high-speed Internet. It makes sense for a multiplayer game that doesn’t work without other players, but using technology for solo games avoids a frustrating hurdle for many.

Game over…forever

Even for players with reliable internet access, the biggest problem with online-only single player games is preservation. Once a game company decides to take down a game’s servers, that’s it. The game becomes inaccessible to anyone, even themselves. It is lost in time.

After Rocksteady Games confirm that Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League will be fully online, fans were quick to express concern that the company is making the same mistake that Crystal Dynamics made with marvel avengers. That game will be delisted on September 30, with the last major update coming on March 31, and in-game items once hidden behind a paywall will be free beyond that date. The game will remain playable for fans who have purchased it, but inaccessible to those who have not.

Deadshot, Harley Quinn, King Shark, and Captain Boomerang in Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League you may not have that same luxury. If Rocksteady Games decides to take down the game servers in a few years, everything the developers worked on and the players spent on will be gone forever.

The controversial decision is compounded by one specifically tricky issue: Conroy’s role in the game. The iconic voice actor, famous for his take on Batman, died at age 66 of colorectal cancer on November 10, 2022. Conroy’s last Batman role is in suicide squad, a game that might not exist for a decade. The only way gameplay and voice acting will be preserved is if streamers record everything and keep their videos on their channels for historical reference, but watching those videos won’t be the same as playing the game.

Locking games behind online connectivity to prevent misdeeds may be good for studios, but it opens up a complicated list of issues like that. It’s a short-sighted move with long-term repercussions for gaming history and our ability to preserve it. And until all internet connections are equal, it will always have an exclusionary side effect for certain players. Until there is a way to solve both of these problems, having always-online games in single player is sure to remain an unpopular move.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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