Hiyo blog space. It’s been a while. I’ve been busy, sort of. I’m gonna probably try to write more often now though. Making the time to formulate complete thoughts about games seems like a reasonable thing to do with my time.
So! Here it is.
I’ve been playing a lot of Local Multiplayer games lately.
I have the good fortune to live near people who are willing to try out and enjoy some of the games that I like. It’s been great! I’m gonna talk about why. But I’m gonna do it on a game-by-game basis, because specific games are awesome to play with people for unique reasons. They’ll be talked about in a completely arbitrary order.
Rocket League is really amazing. It does a really good job of letting players of all skill levels enjoy themselves (unless they’re on opposing teams.)
This is because the core gameplay mechanics are really simple, and the dynamics of gameplay are really intuitive.
What I mean by that is this: anybody who’s played games has at least some familiarity with the conventions of either racing or soccer games. Most people who play games already know how cars control and they already know how the game of soccer is played. Hence, a large gamut of players can access the game and engage with it in a meaningful way immediately.
Additionally, another huge component that makes Rocket League awesome to play is its watchability features (watchability is a word now.) When you score a goal, a replay of the play is always shown- and that allows for some really fun moments! Friends can brag about cool shots they made, argue about who deserves credit for a play, and best of all- blame whoever messed up.
And after all this, you may be thinking- “well duh, Rocket League is obviously great, and it’s online, too!” To you, disembodied voice, I say you’re right! But locally you get a much stronger, continual reaction from the people you’re playing with. Online, what you get is a push-to-talk voice chat system and the quickchat inputs. In person, you get instant personal feedback from pretty much all your actions. It makes the game better!
Helldivers is something else. And I mean that in a good way. In my opinion, there are two things that make Helldivers extraordinary- how easily you can harm your team-mates and how you cannot go off and explore on your own.
Firstly, the realization of how easy it is to harm your team-mates put a huge smile on my face. It was one of those rare moments where I could imagine all the potential heartache that these systems could produce. The team-kill mechanics force you to play collaboratively, carefully, and sometimes- spitefully.
Secondly, the restriction on going lone-wolf in team scenarios augments the significance of the team-kill mechanics, and enforces intimate collaboration. Since players actually aren’t able to explore on their own, they need to work together! Everybody is stuck on the same, tightly packed screen, facing the same hazards at the same time. This works really well locally- your screaming is much more effective in person than over the internet.
Finally, the marriage of those two elements creates the opportunity for really remarkable player experiences. The amount of things that can go wrong in a session of Helldivers is immense- and, almost invariably, something extraordinarily wrong always happens.
For example, I remember when my friends and I almost finished a grueling mission objective on the fifth attempt, but while reviving a team-mate- a Strategem Air-drop missed its intended target and crushed all of us instantly and mercilessly. So memorable!
Towerfall: Ascension is another game that is really, really great. Towerfall is easy to learn and feels so freaking good. A good series of Towerfall matches is intoxicating in the best possible way- and being intoxicated with friends is much better than being intoxicated alone.
Like Rocket Leage, Towerfall is easy to learn- and that’s huge (it lets players of all skill levels enjoy themselves!) But Towerfall accomplishes its accessibility in a different way. Towerfall has a very limited amount of inputs. There’s horizontal movement, jumping, shooting, and dodging. That’s pretty much five inputs that all serve very specific purposes- which encompass everything you can do in the game. That’s not the case in Rocket League, where you have a complex physics system to interact with- predicting ball trajectories and battling gravity when boosting through the air.
Back to Towerfall. Like I said, the game feels good! The way the characters animate in response to your inputs and to other players actions is clean and slick. The player movement, the way you shoot and pick up arrows, walljumping- are all natural extensions of the way you want to interact with the game’s rules. Even the sounds are really crisp and satisfying! No action you have in Towerfall feels out of place.
And as far as making local multiplayer sessions great specifically, the short match times really go a long way. By having rounds take 10-15 seconds a piece, conflicts rise and resolve very quickly. Which is good in its own right, but beyond that, the short few seconds between matches allow players to quickly barb at each other- and quickly get back into the game. Additionally, this also lets players who aren’t playing well to recognize the patterns to their failure, allowing them the opportunity to try different engagement strategies.
Towerfall is fun!
Lethal League is also super cool! It’s another game that’s easy to learn- and while Rocket League and Towerfall both certainly have lots of room for high-skilled play, Lethal League really lets the best players shine.
And that’s what I think is the best part of Lethal League, or, the best part of playing Lethal League locally with others. Seeing high-level Lethal League play is genuinely thrilling. The exhilaration from game-freezing contacts with the ball and the punchy impact of successfully stopping a fast volley is visceral.
Bone-crunching hits, striking sound effects, and hyper-exaggerated animation all enforce this spectator-friendly dynamic of the game. Beyond that- it’s also really exciting when you see the top players get beaten by those who are usually less performant at the game!
Anyways, that was a lot of words.