Skyrim was a single-player hit. So too was last year’s Batman game, Arkham City (unless you’re counting the online leaderboards for its multiplayer challenge modes).
In an age when so many games get tacked-on multiplayer to fill out a list of back-of-box bullet points, how did these two games not get the bonus of, I don’t know, some Elder Scrolls deathmatch or some Batman-and-Robin co-op?
How did they get away with just being single-player games that people loved?
I asked the men overseeing each game’s creation.
“We did a brief bit of exploration of multiplayer at the start but it came down to that decision of picking the bases we wanted to excel in,” Rocksteady game design chief Sefton Hill said of the Batman game. “That basically always means there’s things you can’t do in the same time.
“We didn’t want to deliver a single-player experience that was like a seven or eight-out-of-10 with a multiplayer experience that was also that.
“Very early on we had discussions about multiplayer and decided it wasn’t right. It’s not that I think that, fundamentally, any kind of multiplayer doesn’t work, but I do think that, for any kind of action adventure game that has multiplayer, you have to think very carefully about it and how to get the best out of it.”
OK. Batman’s a solo game. But Skyrim? That game is so huge! Why not make room for player two?
[imgclear] “We talk about it and, if we would do it, ‘What kind of format would that take?’” Bethesda’s chief game designer, Todd Howard, told me. “That’s not the key experience of the game for us. It’s not a small thing to just take on. So this is the game that we’d rather play.”
Howard said that multiplayer is “the most requested feature by fans.” But it’s just not been something his team has tried to do, not since a few Elder Scrolls ago. “It was more of a discussion at [the time of making] Morrowind,” he said. “It was more of a discussion then, and I think it becomes less of one [lately], though with this one we’ve seen games in our style do it well. Red Dead — I like the way they do it.
“So, we can see ways it would be done… but the ramifications of that change what we’re doing too much to have us really go deep.”
Solo Elder Scrolls games, it is!