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Grudge Match: Split Screen vs. Online Multiplayer

Submitted by on Tuesday, 9 December 2008One Comment

Welcome to a new feature at PS3 Attitude; the Grudge Match. Here we we pit two of our writers against each other and enjoy what starts with a war of words, but could end in loss of limbs. You, dear reader, get to witness the words (we couldn’t get YouTube to host the video).

This time in Grudge Match: Phreaky argues for friendly split-screen gaming, whilst Brodiesan laughs in the face of ‘having friends’ and plumps for online multi-player. Who wins? You decide!

Read through the arguments, and then tell us whether you side with Phreaky or Brodiesan in the comments. A lot is riding on your input in this one, readers; the winner gets bragging rights here in PS3 Attitude Towers.

Fighting the good fight for Split Screen is Phreaky:

Seconds out… Ding ding!

“Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury. We are here today to put forward cases for and against the virtues of the various multiplayer options on the current consoles. I shall begin this debate in the the same manner in which it shall finish – with me being right!

With the advent of the online gaming community, it is easy to forget the humble beginnings of the Split Screen multiplayer. Yet even great games such as the original Motorstorm have been criticized for not including this feature. For this article, I intend to fight for the red corned in favour of split screen multiplayer gaming over online gaming. Wish me luck…

I remember my first split screen game was on GoldenEye for the N64. I received the console for Christmas along with that one game. Having played the single player to death, unlocked as many secrets as possible and sworn more often than is polite at the screen trying to do “Bunker” in under 2 minutes on ’00’ difficulty, I was reluctant to give the multiplayer side of things a go. Particularly because my brother was notoriously good at simply picking something up and being great at it. Dammit.

We went straight in on the Egypt level. Boy what an experience. From the visceral excitement of the pace to the anticipation of the next gunfight there was a whole new challenge involved. This was not some AI bot that I was hunting; it was someone with an ever-changing plan of attack. A brain. A demon fast trigger finger. For the first time my brother and I got on really well. From jibes to laughs, we were pretty much in a joyous stupor.

For me, the split screen represents all that is great about any videogame. When executed well it can bring a group of friends together for hours of fun. There are no strangers warbling in an earpiece and no natty servers to wig out or freeze on you mid-game. You don’t need an online connection and you don’t need any more than one game, one console and enough controllers for the players (admittedly there is an upper limit there). The TVs now are generally of a size where the quarter of the screen you are allocated is more than enough space to see what is happening. Moreover, the modern consoles are more then capable of keeping the frame-rate and detail at a high quality throughout.

Best of all, these people are all in the same room, cursing you one moment for a great shot and chiding you the next for blowing yourself up with a mine or grenade. There is real camaraderie. If someone is blazingly good at something, there is always room for diplomacy to balance it out somewhat; they aren’t allowed to use that particular vehicle or weapon etc. It keeps things challenging and fun for everyone involved.

I find that I am not one for watching people game. I am more of a hands-on person. Whilst I enjoy the odd bout of just letting my friends get in about the single player, I prefer to game with them. In my experiene my friends have no interest in watching others play a solitary online game. For example, the recent LBP beta demonstrated a phenomenal amount of innovation regarding the multiplayer aspect. Offline multiplayer does away with the need for splitting the screen and in fact makes use of its absence. The fun of playing with friends you know is far greater than the fun gleaned from an online multiplayer game against unknowns.

Try saying that to Dr_L33t_$killz after he has fragged you for the 20 zillionth time only seconds after you spawn into the level. In fact, that may well be my biggest single gripe which turns me off online gaming; you always wind up with these obsessive compulsives who have completed the game on the hardest difficulty after three hours of owning the game. Apparently these people troll the servers and take great delight in the pwnage of n00bs.

I’m certain that none of my friends are like that. Even if they ever were, they are always nearby to deliver a dead arm to in order to get some tangible revenge.

I’m getting irked even thinking about it…

Another point worth making is on the safety side of things. In the safety-conscious world of today, every parent wants to make sure their kid is safe online. Everyone has seen and heard stories of the vicious attacks that some online gamers can dole out when things don’t go their way. And I am not simply referring to swearing; there have been numerous reports of racist and homophobic behaviour in a wide range of online games. Sure I can take many nasty comments, but my point is, why should I?

If your child has friends round and foul language is used, you can ensure that it is picked up at the source. How can you do that in the online gaming world where all you have to gauge a gamer on is their user ID? I accept that in games that are violent we need to accept that there should be an equal level of realism in the language, but that is for an entirely separate debate about certification of games. In the main, a game like Burnout Paradise is very much open to all ages. However, when you go online, you have to then contend with other people. The camera can cause problems in itself as far as inappropriate content goes. Then there is the voice chat to take into consideration.”

Brodiesan – holding the hand of the online multi-player:
*Pushes back chair, straightens over-priced Armani tie*

“Your Honour, my esteemed colleague “Phreaky” (if that is even his real name) makes some interesting and speciously valid points in his extolment of split-screen gaming whilst juxtaposed with what I can only describe as a diatribe against the virtues of online multiplayer.

Before addressing his frantic concerns regarding real-life violence, and the horrors of crass language, let me posit a simple premise to you now with the following: Split-screen gaming, for the most part, sucks.

Most Koreans can only make friends online. Fact.

Koreans can only make friends online. Fact.

True, it has served its purpose in an era of disconnection and before what has become known as the Great Gaming Diaspora phenomenon with young gamers growing up and moving away from their friends’ houses, but in this day and age, it has come to now be not only a troublesome hindrance for developers, sapping vital resources away from more worthy areas of game development, but an almost forgotten feature for the masses. Under-utilised, a remnant from a bygone age and now perceived by many as gimmicky and trite.

The fact is, we have moved on from the need for split-screen.  The device was, in the past, the only way we could compete against our fellow gaming man but now, with the advent of ubiquitous broadband, the field has been widened. The arena is now flavoured with possibilities only found with competing on a grander scale and the removal of the need to rely on other people being available in order to feed your competitive multiplayer fix.

So, you may think I am espousing a desolate and lonely existence. One spent alone in a room playing against face-less (though sometimes unfortunately not voice-less) competitors cloistered away from the warmth of human contact. A safe haven only found in the bosom of split-screen gatherings, perhaps? Not so! Many a night I can confess to having friends over and watching them play online, joining in on the frenetic outcomes displayed on my Sony widescreen TV. Encouraging them, assisting them (“Go right, over the dumpster, no, not that right !… “), spitting virulent damnations upon their cheating camping sniper-whore conquerors with them.  It is binding experience!

My eyes! The goggles! They do nothing!

My eyes! The goggles! They do nothing!

How does Split-Screen compare with this? Perhaps you have toiled with the logistically complex task of arranging a cadre of your friends over on the same night. Perhaps they all even turned up on time.  They might also all be collectively sober – of course, they might not. And how are you rewarded with this display of organisational deftness? A stuttering quartile of your screen so small and paltry you never saw that rocket coming.  I suggest that split-screen may truly be simply for the young, the siblings, that father-son time that, I put to you, could be spent better catching/kicking a ball or discussing the importance of safe-sex. It’s not for us. It’s not for the adults who have evolved past the need for beating our closest pecking order collective.

The one in red told me she likes you

The one in red told me she likes you

Yes, online comes with a price. There will always be the sniper-whores and rocket-bitches of this world who attempt to ruin it for us all.  For the most part however, the concept of being caught in the perpetual loop of “ass handed to you, spawn, shot in the face, spawn, shot in the face, spawn …” is a thing of the past.  As online multiplayer had evolved over the eons so too has the technology of control with new constraints mitigating the troublesome spawn-camper.  I suggest you try it again good Phreaky, for the battle-field has changed much since the days of Counter Strike and MOH:AA.

Real life violence that has resulted from online cajoling, which must be both immediately condemned and abhorred of course, is extremely rare.  And surely you can not attest that no such events also occur within the protective confines of the home?  Why, I remember distinctly receiving a punch to the back of my head after spying a friend’s secret location from his meagre section of the screen and then rewarding his covertness with a warm rocket. And people say the cheaters are online …

As for bad language, I fear we might be diverging on to a case that is being heard close by in Court #2 – “Who should be raising your kids: parents Vs. game studios”. Without wanting to infuse this debate with the other’s key issues I will say simply this: If a gamer is participating in a game where the sanguinary and horror of war is so realistically depicted with head-shots etc. they should be old enough to digest foul language. Of course, if bad language is being used in a game aimed or open to minors then the moderators should be doing more to weed out these culprits.  Try telling that to your split-screen friend who has just been riddled with bullets for the umpteenth time and is now taking his rage out on your coffee-table.  Split-screen, the choice of the more refined gamer indeed! Twaddle, I say.”

Twaddle indeed! If Brodiesan wants to be a part of the faceless online throng, so be it. I happen to prefer having friends in the same room as me. And that is not likely to change any time soon.