The Multiplayer Bug

I’ve been thinking a lot about Castlevania: Harmony of Despair recently. Castlevania HD (otherwise known as “that XBLA game made entirely out of recycled assets as a cheap money-making attempt”) intrigues me, even though I’ve never played it, for one reason: It makes a multiplayer game out of a genre that I actually like.

Now, I’ve always been vocal in my distaste for multiplayer. For me, gaming is a solitary activity. The parts of games that I tend to like — exploration, puzzle-solving, experimentation, tinkering with stats and systems, drinking in aesthetics — tend to run counter to what is valued in multiplayer games. (Good twitch skills, ability to adjust on the fly to changing situations, ability to recognize and react based on a few frames, ability to work as a team, willingness to put aside personal biases in favor of what works.) Gaming is and has always been something I do for my own satisfaction, and I don’t need anyone jawing at me for my lack of skill or my desire to use suboptimal characters or builds. Playing with other people always lessens my enjoyment — you play alone if you want to have fun; you play with others for the competition. I don’t like competition.

But then again…

What if I just don’t like multiplayer because multiplayer has traditionally been centered in genres I don’t like? I mean, let’s look at the evidence here. The traditional multiplayer genres are shooters of the first- and third-person variety, tournament fighting games, rhythm games, racing games, sports games, and MMOs. I don’t like any of those. Gray ‘n’ brown shooters bore me, racing games quickly grow repetitive, I suck at fighters, I don’t see the appeal of rhythm or sports games, and MMOs couldn’t do more to drive me away if they tried. Maybe if there was a multiplayer-centered game in a genre I did like, I’d be all over it.

Hence Castlevania. Castlevania HD has a few MMO trappings in the way it’s set up — you’re not grinding for levels, but you are running the same areas over and over collecting loot and trying to max out your favorite characters — but the basic game is a 2-D platformer. You’re running and jumping and negotiating moving platforms and killing enemies and collecting power-ups. Moreover, it’s a 2-D platformer featuring a lot of different means to tackle it — I believe there’s something like a dozen characters at this point, each of whom has their own playstyle. There’s even some variance in how the individual characters can be played. That appeals to me in a way that “here are some fighters, go at it” or “here are some guns, have fun” doesn’t.

Now, this is all theory. I haven’t played the game (mostly due to not having an Xbox), so maybe I’d get into it only to find that the power curve is too slow, or the game gets too repetitive, or that people kicking me out of their groups for wanting to use low-tier characters like Maria or Charlotte is just as irritating as it sounds. Still, though, it’s hope — maybe a game can be made that’s built around multiplayer which doesn’t annoy me by its very existence. It always bothers me when there’s something other people enjoy but I can’t get into, because I always end up feeling that the problem is on my end. I’d really love to play with the outside world — but my tolerance for infinite combos and “space marine kills bugs” games is critically low.


1 Response to “The Multiplayer Bug”

  1. 1 Gil February 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    I’m a diehard Castlevania fan and I was interested in this game when I first heard about it yet very reluctant to try it. I had trouble wrapping my head around how it would play and if it would be any fun. Well I went to visit my bro a while back and he had downloaded it. I tried it out and I actually kind of like it. I’m like you in that I don’t really enjoy multiplay in general. The game types that are typically multiplayer are all competitive and most often FPS type games (that’s not really my style)

    All I can say about Castlevania HD is if you like the typical side scrolling action of the metroidvania style Castlevania games and you love random loot drops, this game is well worth the price of admission. I like that you don’t level up your character in the typical metroidvania style. In Castlevania HD it is strictly your equipment that dictates your strength and defense. So it’s always a hunt for better loot. That being said, it can become seriously repetitive… but I honestly didn’t mind it. Isn’t repetition the name of every game?

    Well I am still waiting for a PSN version. I really don’t want to purchase any content on my 360 and that’s why I haven’t purchased it yet. I’m just more of a Playstation fan overall.

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