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Cross-platform online multiplayer - what's keeping it?


Meers
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This thought just crossed my mind: Didn't the last Shadowrun game allow for Windows users to play with Xbox 360 users via Windows Live? I have no idea if it worked or not, but it certainly proved that cross-platform multiplayer gaming is possible. Then why is that the only title that has done such a thing? My limited understanding of networking is that since it's all packets of coordinates and other data, a platform's power and graphic capabilities would not really matter when it comes to cross-platform multiplayer gaming, right? Correct me if I'm wrong.

So why am I not racing against PS3 and PC gamers on F1 2011 (to name a multiplatform title) in this day and age? Are the platform manufacturers not allowing it? Is it too expensive? Technical limitations? Would it hurt hard- and software sales?

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Platform manufacturers not allowing it is the big one. If you ever get crossplatform it's usually between the PS3 and PC or the 360 and PC. The last game to do it to my knowledge was Portal 2 on the PS3, you're able to play coop together if you're either on PC or PS3 for that game.

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PS3 and Vita seems to be reasonably well supported so far, and it's certainly less hassle then other combinations as it's explicitly supported by the platform holder. In the case of some digital titles you can even get both versions for one price. It's just too much hassle to do other combinations in any meaningful amount.

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Hehe, yeah, I never thought about that. The amount of people who would want it would probably be very low.

http://kotaku.com/55...360-online-play

It's a pathetic excuse frankly because they are the ones refusing to allow the keyboard and mouse support in the first place.

Although saying that, I'm not sure how many games took advantage of Sony's generosity in this department on either ps2 or ps3 (the Unreal Tournaments's did IIRC)

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It's a pathetic excuse frankly because they are the ones refusing to allow the keyboard and mouse support in the first place.

Yes, for people like me. I like playing PC FPS's on a mouse and keyboard, but I like playing console ones on a pad - and I like that everyone else is forced to do so as well. Doing anything else creates a two-tier system that ultimately means you'd have to use a keyboard to play online if you wanted to do anything apart from get killed over and over.

So I accept pads are worse. I still want console games to use them.

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I'm sure there are ways to indicate or filter players who have a preference. Is it really much difference than some people using low sensitivity and some people using the fastest? A good pad player could still beat a average pc player, and these days there are a lot of console players and there is a good chance there will be more or less as many, if not more people using pads. Some people even use pads for pc games, so there are a lot of variables. While on paper KB and mouse may be the 'superior' play method, it's foolish to blanket assume that pad players can't compete. The trouble is that unless there are more opportunities to do a comparison, you'll never get a decent test.

Has any developer tried to do balanced controls for a cross platform title?

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I *think* back with Shadowrun the devs tried to balance it by basically limiting mouse movement for the pc players, and amping up the auto-aim for pad players. I doubt many pc players enjoyed that, when they could play so many other pc fpses unrestricted, so it wasn't a very popular game. As you say, a very good pad player could probably beat an average m+kb player, but all the average pad players (the majority) would probably still lose to average m+kb players. To me it doesn't seem like either side would enjoy it more than playing with same-system opponents, and would just fuel a lot more control arguments. So I can see why not many companies have bothered. This is all just for straight competitive action games though - more asymmetrical or co-op games could use it well if the update/logistics factor wasn't a problem.

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To me it doesn't seem like either side would enjoy it more than playing with same-system opponents, and would just fuel a lot more control arguments. So I can see why not many companies have bothered.

Could they not simply dedicate some servers to pc only, console only, and some to open and mixed play?

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Could they not simply dedicate some servers to pc only, console only, and some to open and mixed play?

They could, but then what would the point of the cross-platform play be, especially if (let's say) two thirds of the players aren't using it? The only way and reason to do it for an FPS would be to specifically design the game for it from the ground up.

It could work quite easily for other genres, though. A diablo-esque game, or a co-op platform game, and I think racing games would see the best benefit - the playerbases in those games are often a bit small, it would be a good way to increase that. On consoles there's already a split between pad and wheel users, so there's no change with adding in PC players. Probably best for more arcade-style games (which are the best racing games).

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Could they not simply dedicate some servers to pc only, console only, and some to open and mixed play?

Splinters a community further. Would work for the top dog like Call of Duty, but in many games on Live 6 months after they come out, you're thankful for a game with anyone and can't be choosy.

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Now I think about it, it would be fine (in terms of control differences) even for an FPS in co-op. That would actually be quite good, rather than buying the 360 version of a game just so I can co-op with a non-pc owning friend.

Of course there are probably all sorts of other hurdles.

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Um yeah, in FPS terms, what's holding it back is not allowing you console owners to go up against mega rig PC owners who will split your virtual head open as if they'd used the mouse to casually float the pointer over the outlook icon and double tap the left button like they were opening their daily mail instead of your stupid skull. I love FPS on console but y'know.

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This thought just crossed my mind: Didn't the last Shadowrun game allow for Windows users to play with Xbox 360 users via Windows Live? I have no idea if it worked or not, but it certainly proved that cross-platform multiplayer gaming is possible. Then why is that the only title that has done such a thing? My limited understanding of networking is that since it's all packets of coordinates and other data, a platform's power and graphic capabilities would not really matter when it comes to cross-platform multiplayer gaming, right? Correct me if I'm wrong.

So why am I not racing against PS3 and PC gamers on F1 2011 (to name a multiplatform title) in this day and age? Are the platform manufacturers not allowing it? Is it too expensive? Technical limitations? Would it hurt hard- and software sales?

Cross-platform multiplayer gaming has been technically feasible since at least the Dreamcast.

Microsoft have consistently blocked publishers from implementing it. In the previous hardware generation this was fairly irrelevant as online multiplayer was a niche, and only MS were particularly invested in it.

In the current hardware generation it has become increasingly problematic, and several publishers have tried and failed to work around it. Around 2006 several publishers announced console MMOs (on the basis that SquareEnix had been able to negotiate a waiver for FFXI) which MS managed to fillibuster and delay until they had to be shelved. Valve have also pushed hard for parity between platforms.

It would obviously be massively advantageous for any third party publisher not to have to split their online audience. Forget about the PC and the controller issues that introduces - just merging the 360 and PS3 player bases for the likes of MW3 and Battlefield would be a massive win.

Yes, there are technical complexities involved in maintaining clients across different platforms, but (thanks to patching, greater resources and more configurable tools and engines) this is a much smaller problem than it was in previous generations. Portal 2 is a good example.

LOL at the Kotaku quote.

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It'll be interesting to see how the new EVE console game ties up with PC. I'll be disappointed if they don't affect each other in realtime

It's only for PS3 at the moment. Apparently Microsoft wouldn't have it on 360, though that's more to do with its free-to-play structure.

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Cross-platform multiplayer gaming has been technically feasible since at least the Dreamcast.

The Amiga and ST had a few cross platform multiplayer games. Racing games, mainly, IIRC.

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It's not really a selling point.

Whether it is a selling point or not is besides my point. It should be an established, fully integrated, out-of-the-box feature, one that we should have taken for granted by now.

They were planning to do it with the newest counterstrike between PS3 and PC, but I think it's been dropped. Pad vs M/K is a problem for FPS.

Why not only allow pads for the PC version? Or allow m+kb for Consoles?

I *think* back with Shadowrun the devs tried to balance it by basically limiting mouse movement for the pc players, and amping up the auto-aim for pad players. I doubt many pc players enjoyed that, when they could play so many other pc fpses unrestricted, so it wasn't a very popular game. As you say, a very good pad player could probably beat an average m+kb player, but all the average pad players (the majority) would probably still lose to average m+kb players. To me it doesn't seem like either side would enjoy it more than playing with same-system opponents, and would just fuel a lot more control arguments. So I can see why not many companies have bothered. This is all just for straight competitive action games though - more asymmetrical or co-op games could use it well if the update/logistics factor wasn't a problem.

Good points...for FPS games. What about my example - racing games?

Now I think about it, it would be fine (in terms of control differences) even for an FPS in co-op. That would actually be quite good, rather than buying the 360 version of a game just so I can co-op with a non-pc owning friend.

Exactly.

Why can't I play my Betamax tapes on my VHS?

Way to miss the point!

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Now I think about it, it would be fine (in terms of control differences) even for an FPS in co-op. That would actually be quite good, rather than buying the 360 version of a game just so I can co-op with a non-pc owning friend.

Portal 2 does this, but only between PS3 and PC.

Perversely, I play the PC version with a control pad. :P

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I suppose patching is a big issue. If you had to keep all versions of the game playing together nicely, because of all the hoops you'd have to jump through with the certifying and testing and the cost, it would really hold back the pc version.

Keep your daily updates, thanks. I'd rather have the very occasional and tiny patch on games that work right straight away rather than buying an unfinished game and waiting through 2-6 months of patches and changes before it's in anything like an acceptable condition like has become the norm for many PC games, essentially using early adopters as testers.

Why are PS3 patches so much bigger than 360 ones, incidentally?

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Keep your daily updates, thanks. I'd rather have the very occasional and tiny patch on games that work right straight away rather than buying an unfinished game and waiting through 2-6 months of patches and changes before it's in anything like an acceptable condition like has become the norm for many PC games, essentially using early adopters as testers.

There's more to patching than fixing errors. Look at Team Fortress 2.

Why are PS3 patches so much bigger than 360 ones, incidentally?

"Because they can be" is the main reason. Microsoft puts strict limits on patch sizes, and Sony doesn't.

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There's more to patching than fixing errors. Look at Team Fortress 2.

Exactly, patches that add content or fix balance issues can make one platform's version of a game much better than another's, and TF2 is a good example of this. I can see how cross platform play is not of enough benefit, or even maybe a good idea at all, for your average FPS game due to the control issues, but it could become essential if console MMOs are ever going to really take off. There's no doubt a fairly large group of people who would sit and play an MMO in party chat on XBL, but would never think of playing a PC game at all. But these games are about their persistence, so when players invest time into them they won't be too happy if they hear about some mystical PC servers where the game has evolved slightly differently due to more content and patches being available.

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