Games Like Outriders Really Need Offline Modes

Games Like Outriders Really Need Offline Modes
Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku

Earlier today, I was playing Outriders. I was in the middle of a mission, about to beat a tough enemy, when I was disconnected from the servers. An error message popped up and that was that. But I was playing alone, in an area only filled with NPCs in a game with no PVP. So why did I even need to be online?

So far I’m digging my time with Outriders. The guns feel chunky, the combat is smooth and the co-op (when it works) is a blast. But over the last few days, Outriders has had server issues. This isn’t a shock. Most online games launch with server issues and regular downtime. What’s odd is that Outriders doesn’t seem like it needs to be online. I’m not a developer working on the game, so I can’t explain the specific technical reasons that necessitate an always-online connection. According to the devs, it’s because the game has “a lot of things happening in the backend.”But as a person playing the game, I see no benefit to forcing solo players to connect to shaky servers.

Before Outriders launched, developers People Can Fly explained that this wasn’t another live service game. That it was a complete package. While they had some plans for potential future content, for now, this was the game. Later, while players were enjoying the demo last month, the devs explained that cheaters wouldn’t be banned. They would be marked as cheaters and would be unable to matchmake with legit players, but their cheating ways wouldn’t get them removed. I saw some folks confused about this choice. But it makes sense to me. Outriders isn’t a PVP game. There isn’t some competitive balance you can destroy by hacking in powerful guns. Likewise, Outriders doesn’t have microtransactions or even a battle pass that could be circumvented with mods or nasty cheats. So cheating or hacking the game really only affects you and anyone you play with in co-op. On top of all this, you can play Outriders from start to finish solo.

Screenshot: Square Enix Screenshot: Square Enix

So why is this game always online? I can’t give you a good answer for that beyond what the devs explained and the connection to servers being a useful bit of DRM. Still, I don’t see the benefit of tying a game like this into servers so much that it all falls apart the moment they fail. At this point, it seems unlikely that Outriders will get an offline mode, even if it would be a great feature for solo players. These types of things aren’t easy to just add in after the fact.

That’s a shame because an offline mode would be a great addition and not just so folks could play the game they bought during launch week.

There are other, more worrying problems that come about when games, like Outriders, force an always-online connection. It brings about a lot more harassment from players. And this harassment will end up targeting individual public-facing devs and community managers who don’t have any power or control over the situation. Each time the servers collapse, these folks will face the brunt of an angry mob of arseholes and trolls. An offline mode would at least give these players an option during downtime and would probably spare a lot of shit being tossed at overworked devs. (Though this being the internet, it won’t ever get rid of all the arseholes…)

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There’s also the problem of what happens if in a few years if Outriders stops being a priority for its developer or publisher Square Enix. If the servers get shut down, this game in its current state would be unplayable. Pirates and modders might be able to salvage things and get the game running offline, but that would be unnecessary if there was a way to simply play this game without an internet connection. That missing offline mode would also help make it easier for folks to play on limited connections or in areas where the internet is unstable, shitty, or non-existent.

Building your game with an offline mode is basically a no-lose scenario, from what I can tell. And in a game with no PVP to balance or big social areas, unlike Destiny 2’s planets, an offline mode seems like a perfect solution to a bunch of problems.

I assume, as usual, greedy businessmen, a lack of resources, various contracts, and time restraints are a big reason why always online single-player games will continue to be a thing. This means that folks, both devs and players, will have to continue to deal with what happens when the servers inevitably stop working. And they always stop working.

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Comments

  • ‘A lot of things happening in the backend’ is a bullshit justification used to obfuscate the real primary reason, which is always, always, always: PUBLISHER BULLSHIT.

    It was proven with Sim City, Diablo 3 and Ghost Recon Breakpoint; high profile online-only games that enabled solo offline when it was convenient (and Breakpoint still forces you to log in initially for DRM purposes, but after that the client does all the work). In Sim City’s case, offlined early by a modder inside the first month, putting the lie to their ‘it’s doing a lot of stuff in the back end’ horse shit.

    It’s DRM, it’s social pressure, it’s anti-preservation. Those are the reasons. That’s where the online-only requirement starts. Configuring it be online-only comes after those reasons.

    There might sometimes be some nice little window dressing they can add as a bonus to pretend there’s a benefit to consumers: the designers making the best of a bad situation dictated to them from management. But there’s no consumer-friendly reason Outriders needed to be configured to run like a MMO with no offline mode. None.

    Don’t pretend this anything more complicated than selfish, anti-consumer bullshit.

    • And thats the reason that I have the Switch version of Diablo 3, due to the fact of the total bullshit about D3 needing the back end stuff for PC.

    • since theres no upvote button, this.
      but also, this is what refunds are for. tell the publisher/developer you will not stand for anti consumer nonsense and refund the game.

    • ^
      This. There’s quite a few MMOs that could function as single-player games as well if they took away the bullshit online DRM.

  • Its such a shame they went to so much trouble to deliver a faux live service looter shooter type game, that avoids pretty much every single pitfalls of the genre, all the while showing up some the former greats, expect this one thing.

    While its far from perfect in terms of story and world building, the gameplay and inventory management is some of the best and most flexible around. Sadly I was physically able to play more Anthem at launch than this and I am only trying to play sorrow. But the good thing is server issues are always momentary, so this speed bump while annoying, doesn’t ruin my appreciation for this game itself.

  • Outriders: A.K.A. Battleborn 2.0 and why I stopped buying Ubisoft games after Assassins Creed Brotherhood, and only buy EA games in cheap bundles.

  • Yep, it’s crippling fast resume on Xbox Series X, every time I try to jump back into an EA game it claims I’ve switched profiles and rather than going back to main menu I get endless spinning loading and have to manually quit and restart.

    I play 100% on my own on so hate online crap slowing everything down.

  • I remember back in 2003 a game called City of Heroes had a Open/Closed Beta and a 2004 Game Launch and I was shocked, it was the first MMO in years back in the day that had a good closed Beta that resolved server latency (even for an Australian) and Open Beta actually stress tested player numbers and had phased zones that scaled to player numbers, no queues and they met player demand.

    I was thinking this is the future of online gaming, a great game launch, great allocation of server and network resources. I remember that moment distinctly.

    That was followed up closely behind it with World of Warcraft. One of the worst game launches in MMO history, where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. 17 years later and every game is still making the same mistakes even for games that have lower server demands than an MMO and still its stupifying they don’t predict or properly test this stuff/fix this stuff, rather the go-live date is set… bugs be damned, marketing executives already set the date.

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