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Valve: Multiplayer not necessary, Portal 2's story taking a different route from the first

Valve are a bloody interesting company. Their games are interesting, their ideas are interesting, and whenever they talk about what they're up to, it's always very, very interesting.

So I was mighty (yes) interested to read a new interview with Valve Project Manager Erick Johnson. It's an exciting and in-depth talk about all things Portal 2, so obviously you need to check it out by default, but it reveals some important points in regards to Valve's stance on the current-gen domination of online multiplayer over single-player story. Personally, I stand very much in the latter camp, so I was really heartened to hear one of my favourite devs backing me up. Check out my selected quotations and tell me what you think.

Discussing the communal nature of modern gaming, Johnson draws a definite line between being connected and playing together directly, seeming to prioritise shared experiences over any specific method of creating them.

"Half-Life 1 was a really offline product. I think customers want to find ways to talk about the thing that they are a big fan of with other people, and ideally experience it the same way.

That doesn't mean every game needs to be multiplayer. With single player games that were completely in a box, and there was no way to experience anything else, I think there are things that customers want that those games don't take advantage of"

And as for alternative methods of delivering those "things":

"That could just mean that you want to be able to chat with other people who are playing through the same part of the game as you, or the fans can write commentary nodes in the game and everyone can experience those to take advantage of the fact that there is a huge community of people that want to interact with each other.

I still think the analysis that every product needs to be a competitor in multiplayer, or an MMO, is incorrect; there are a lot of people who want an experience without the stress, so I don't see that changing"

And I can't say I disagree. I love the connected, shared experience of modern gaming, but I don't like the way that a competetive model is usually the default one implemented. Games are as great a shared narrative experience as films, but we don't enjoy those by punching each other in the arm in the cinema.

And more specifically on Portal 2, Johnson revealed that the sequel's story and objectives are certainly going to be a shake-up of the scenario established in the first game. It seems this isn't just going to be another case of "work out Portal puzzles, defeat GLaDOS, escape":

"This is getting tricky to talk about, because it's about story stuff a little bit, but I think if you are telling players that the core of the story is "you are going do again what you did last time," for most people that is pretty unappealing. That's not what is going to happen in the game, but there are definitely some things that are similar to the previous game. In implementation, they end up being fun and different. You're still going to have a testing relationship with GLaDOS"

So, all things considered, Portal 2 seems sto be shaping up to be another strong narrative showing from Valve, with a purity of single-player experience (augmented by the new, separate co-op campaign, of course) and an interesting spin on the Portal universe's original tale. Are you as happy as I am by the direction it's taking, or are you still dying for Portal deathmatch?

14 comments

  • nomnom52 - November 10, 2010 5:36 a.m.

    I wish the 360 had Steam... I want Portal 2 on Steam, but my PC is nowhere NEAR powerful enough for the game. So Portal 2 is on the 360 for me. I just want t for Steam...
  • D0CCON - November 10, 2010 3:13 a.m.

    I was going to put this on my Christmas list. I'm more excited for it than anything coming out this year and early next year combined. Considering that Valve says Portal 2's single player and coop will both be twice as long as the original, that means I can beat the game in 4 sittings, but still, this game is amazing. Love Valve, love Portal, love Glados, love cake, it's all good. I lol-ed at the quote "I think if you are telling players that the core of the story is 'you are going to do again what you did last time,' for most people that is pretty unappealing." It sure seems appealing to the millions who bought Black Ops.
  • Syncmaster - November 9, 2010 11:58 p.m.

    @NotBraze I agree 100% with you. if the gameplay is good and the story keeps me going, im on it for as long as the game wants. multiplayer is just to have some fun afterwards, much more if its splitscreen
  • Crofto - November 9, 2010 5:43 p.m.

    I was glad to hear Valve's words regarding offline gaming myself, though I find it ironic that they come out saying this even though Portal 2 has a multiplayer component. =\ That aside, I reckon most - if not all - my top ten games are offline single-player titles, and a big part of that is the inherent ability for a single-player game to be immediately more atmospheric, and offer a better narrative for a player to absorb. Multiplayer titles and components have their place, but to constantly include them in former offline-only experiences is what annoys me. Resident Evil 4 is a game in my said-top-ten, yet Resident Evil 5 was rubbish; playing it offline is pure agony, while even in co-op it fails to match the excellence on offer when playing RE4 alone. I was worried about Uncharted 2 being ruined by multiplayer in a similar fashion to RE5, but fortunately that turned out okay. But even though the multiplayer ended up good for Uncharted 2 I would still prefer Naughty Dog had used the development time on single-player to offer more content, levels, challenges etc... Same for Red Dead too. Of course, multiplayer is a good part of gaming, and I enjoy it myself. However, I prefer it when a developer is always intending to focus on that component from the start of any project they have, rather than whacking it in with any sequels they make down the line. There was a time when the 360 first launched that I got a little worried about single-player games. The 360 itself seemed massively designed around the concept of online-play, and the games it highlighted all seemed to prioritise the function over offline content. I thought that this would be the new trend for all formats, but fortunately - while online play is definitely hampering offline potential in some areas - I think there's enough developers out there who still know what they're doing and are willing to make the games I like. For now.
  • gamebrain8505 - November 9, 2010 4:56 p.m.

    Crap, those fluid dynamics look way to hard for my computer to process... Gonn' need a bigger one
  • Bonesqaw - November 9, 2010 4:56 p.m.

    Just do it like Half-Life 2 did; release a small multiplayer component that uses the game's core mechanics. I'd love a portal gun in a future Half-Life multiplayer game
  • GR_DavidHoughton - November 9, 2010 4:14 p.m.

    Lionzest7: Just for the record, Half-Life 2 Deathmatch exists. It's available as a separate game from H-L2 on Steam. It should be pretty cheap these days, so give it a try if you fancy it. I used to play a lot of it back in the day, and I can personally vouch for it being a hell of a lot of fun. Gravity gun toilet kills never get old.
  • jim2wheels - November 9, 2010 4:09 p.m.

    Im all for the single player experience. I like the idea of online multiplayer, but I increasingly find the experience unenjoyable and repetitive. Personally, I think the online obsession with ranking, which on the surface seems great, is actually detrimental to the experience due to the "everyman for himself" mindset that is born from our competetive instincts. The strange thing is I feel I should like it, but it just doesn't hold any long term appeal to me. Just my thoughts...
  • Lionzest7 - November 9, 2010 4:08 p.m.

    I think that's a very good philosophy to have. Not even game needs to be manhandled into a multiplayer game. I seriously think some games don't leave much room for multiplayer. When I played MGO I felt like it's nice and all, it works, but it loses the whole metal gear solid point and feeling. I see this generation pastes multiplayer on everything and anything to better sell their game. I don't know if this route necessarily does much in terms of making anything better either. I'm glad developers like valve are willing to let people mod their games and such though, that it is possible someone could construct a great multiplayer using tools from portal and HL2.
  • thejadefalcon - November 9, 2010 3:59 p.m.

    @Tomkins: Valve tried Portal deathmatch in the early development of Portal 2. They discovered that it sucked immensely.
  • Tomkins - November 9, 2010 3:52 p.m.

    I love single player games, much prefer them to online games. Though Portal deathmatch sounds as though it could be interesting.
  • NotBraze - November 9, 2010 3:49 p.m.

    I'm happy to hear this too. I like multiplayer as much as the next person, but the reason i buy a game is because I want, first and foremost, a gripping single player experience and to me it's been extremely disappointing to see a lot of major games these days allow single player to take a backseat to multiplayer. That's part of why Call of Duty holds little interest to me, because the main reason for those games are the multiplayer. To me, multiplayer is a fun extra, something that extends the experience after I've finished the campaign, but the story is the most important thing. I'm glad to see that Valve understands that too.
  • Fusionmix - November 9, 2010 3:49 p.m.

    Looks interesting so far.
  • ShaneCedt - November 9, 2010 3:48 p.m.

    i want some cake. Ixnay on Portal deathmatch.

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