Years ago, gaming was a solitary passion with players embarking on single player campaigns with little or no multiplayer component. This has all changed. Gaming has become more social and players regularly face off against each other over the Internet. My own epiphany was playing Unreal Championship
over a 56k modem and (when I was lucky) having about a ten-second life expectancy between respawns. I raved about how multiplayer was the future and both the industry and I never looked back.
As with most things in life, multiplayer gaming is not without its perils and pitfalls. Online gaming can be an absolute blast with friends and good teammates. Unfortunately, you also play against complete strangers and faceless voices with avatars. Whilst the technology is impressive, it is not without its faults, failures, and exploits. As much as we all enjoy playing online, it sometimes feels like we are walking into a potential minefield, and with that in mind, these are the things that drive us up the wall the most.
It's worth noting that we have not mentioned any specific games in the list as the issues are more generic, indiscriminate, and affect more titles than we would like. Honorable MentionsDLC Map Packs
Having spent many years playing on a PC and being part of the modding and mapping community, I was used to having access to hundreds of different maps, and even contributing my own to the community. There were new maps coming out all of the time; so coming to console gaming was a bit of shock. The idea of having to pay a premium price for an extra few maps was a little galling and it still is. It's true that you can always vote with your wallet and opt not to pay, but when the majority of the multiplayer community moves over to newly-published maps, your own world becomes a little smaller, a little quieter, and your options a little less.Oversized Maps and Undersized Teams
Whilst this can be generally directed at one particular franchise (no names mentioned) when servers are quiet it can apply to a lot more. Although moveable spawns have helped solved the problem, it still remains incredibly frustrating to respawn seemingly miles away from the frontline, scrambling to reach it whilst feeling like you're the only player on the battlefield, and then, just as you reach the combat area, taking a hit and being sent right back to the previous spawn point. In some matches, games, and maps if feels like you spend more time "Oscar Mike" than you do engaging the enemy. Respawn Times
If there's one thing worse than actually running miles on your own to reach the battlefront, it's sitting there, on your own, in your chair watching the battle rage around you whilst you wait to respawn. No matter how short the time spent watching death cams or spectating other players, it is always too long. No amount of kill streaks, perks, or prestige will save you from this fate; respawn times will keep you sitting there, itchy trigger fingers at the ready, chomping at the bit to get back into the fray. Top 55 - Lone Wolf Mentality in Team-Based Games
The history of shooters began with players rampaging like Rambo through single player campaigns, guns blazing, and single-handedly saving the world. It appears that some of our online players have not quite got that out of their systems. The principle still works very well for deathmatches or team deathmatches, but it doesn't work quite so well with team based goals such as capture the flag, domination, or king of the hill. There's nothing quite so frustrating as finding yourself playing a CTF round with a team of players all armed with sniper rifles claiming to be giving covering fire on the flags that they are meant to be capturing. Equally frustrating, are those moments when you are working on a team objective and one of your teammates rushes off randomly or goes rogue leaving you are your own. A special mention goes to those players who decide to run ahead, trigger the horde, upset the witch, and get themselves killed through their own actions while leaving the rest of you to struggling to avoid being overrun; team dysfunction at its best.4 - Matchmaking and Lobbies
With Internet services becoming more reliable, actually getting online is not a problem. The new problem is finding the right match. Most games now have a matchmaking mechanism that tries to find the best active game that is most suitable for you. Whether waiting to play your favorite sports title, racing title, or deathmatch, you find yourself in a waiting state while the game searches through all of the current matches. When a suitable game is found, often you still find yourself another lobby with the curse "Waiting for other players to finish" or "Waiting for game to start" hanging over you. Just to torture you further, it's in those lobbies that you often get the first impression of those gamers you're about to play against, and that's not always the best. After all the matchmaking, searching, and waiting, you realize that you are not in the right place for you, and it's time to jump servers. Happily, when we find a match we like and a server we like, we tend to stick with them for our gaming session, which brings us nicely on to the next point.3 - Server Issues, Closures, and Lag
Servers; a blessing and a curse. Without them, we would be severely restricted in our multiplayer activities and yet those technological wonders can cause no end of grief. We all know the frustration of sitting down for a spot of our favorite multiplayer game only to be denied when the servers are not available. Even when we get online, there is the potential issue of lag, an age old curse for the online gamer. Admittedly, lag can be caused by a whole plethora of reasons, but it's still no comfort when your screen has just stuttered, resulting in a missed shot, an enemy escaping your cross hairs, or worse still, your own death. You can be playing the match of your life in FIFA
, giving Barcelona or Real Madrid a hammering rarely seen, only to find that you have lost your connection to EA servers and it's all for nothing. Finally, if that wasn't enough, there comes a time when servers are taken offline permanently as they retired. Server closures deny us the opportunity to play our favorite games, and can even deny us certain online achievements. We barely notice them when they are working, but we certainly know about it when they are not.2 - The Other Players
To be honest, we could all write a top five/ten/twenty on this subject alone. We love playing alongside our friends, as part of a team, or part of a clan, but with the Internet representing a microcosm of society, there always seems to be that group that is ready to ruin your evening. There's a name and a label for them all, the sergeant major, the military encyclopedia, the nostalgist, the DJ, the whiner, the rager, the whistler, the resident map expert, the singer, the I'm-so-cool-because-I-smoked/drunk-this, the nine-year-old-with-a-mic, and a the list goes on. We've all met them, played against them, muted them, and eventually walked away from them. They're a plague on multiplayer gaming; let's not give them any more page space than they deserve.1 - Cheaters and their Exploits
When Dante wrote his Inferno, the last two circles of hell were reserved for the fraudulent and the treacherous. I'm not sure to which circle cheaters should be condemned but both seem fitting. Why certain people still feel the need to go online and cheat to make themselves feel superior is still baffling, especially as it is only a game, and yet for some it is obviously more than that. Whilst cheaters feed their self-gratification, their ill repute completely ruins the experience for the rest of the gaming fraternity and is a detriment to our hard-earned stats and rankings. It's a horrible feeling to have your own figures dragged down by someone who is clearly not playing fair. The consequences go further than just the online experience, gold exploits unbalance game economies, leaderboards become polluted, and sometimes stats have to be reset. Ultimately, we end up searching for new servers and playing somewhere else, but the experience can ruin not only an evening's gaming but can ruin a game totally.
The TA Team will be bringing you The TA Top Five every Sunday until we run out of coolness to debate and discuss. If you have an idea for a Top Five you'd like us to do, be sure to let us know in the comments!