The problem with online gaming with random people is that there’s a severe lack of trust. Everyone is always looked at with skepticism. In such an environment, actual skill is exceedingly suspect. Unless you know the people you are competing against, a strong performance by a random player is always given the suspicious eye. They have some super high speed internet connection! They’re exploiting glitches! They’re cheating! The game is unbalanced/poorly designed! They have no life!
I played six or seven races of Burnout Revenge online a tonight — my first foray online with this game — against the same bunch of random guys (server persists). I won all the races*. The accusation that I have no life came up at one point. In reality, my total time with Burnout Revenge is a little over 3 hours. Maybe close to 4 hours by now. This is not much longer than some movies that I have seen this week.
Luckily, this group of guys was of a mature age and after rebuffing their comment, the games with them was quite enjoyable. Nonetheless, excuses and accusations were made and it really highlighted this point.
The biggest fault with Burnout Revenge is that, after mastering Burnout 3, Revenge feels really damned easy. It didn’t take me long to get into top form, and since then I’ve been flying through the single player campaign with little difficulty. At this pace, I’ll 100% this game in a matter of days (something that I still haven’t actually achieved in Burnout 3.)
This is a fault inherent to most sequels, really. If you ramp up the difficulty for those that played the previous games, you risk alienating newcomers; if you try to bring in new players, you risk boring the previous fans. The only way to avoid this is by either completely reworking the game, or by, you know, not going the easy sequel route and create something new instead.
However, as long as those with business degrees dictate what games should be made, both of those options will remain rare for developers.
* After the six or seven races and six or seven wins, I was launched to overall rank 390 on XBox Live. I’m still trying to make heads or tails of Burnout Revenge’s online ranking system. It seems that as you play you score points based on your race result and those points are used to level you up. This might or might not unlock cars for online play. This is an annoying — almost Battlefield 2 like — cheap design decision. This is the kind of system that specifically rewards, well, people with no life.
I’m not sure how limited the cars are based on your online rank, as I haven’t been online with the game enough, but a similar issue was a major sticking point for me in Burnout 3.
In Burnout 3, when playing an online game you could only use the cars that you unlocked in the single player game. This immediately made the multiplayer unfair to a lot of people. Unfair to people who couldn’t be bothered (or just couldn’t) get gold in all single player events to unlock the fastest car, be it for lack of time or skill. And because they couldn’t devote themselves to that, they were doubly punished for this by being handicapped in online races by being forced to use slow moving vehicles. Yet another cheap design decision.
Note to developers: if you are making a multiplayer game, in a multiplayer gametype make all available options present from the start. It is exceedingly annoying to start a game with a friend by going straight to the two player mode, and then finding out that: only half the characters/cars are selectable; there are only two maps/courses/arenas available by default; there are locked game modes; there are weapons made unavailable to you; etc etc. Fucking stop that.