Design Is online multiplayer a requirement?

JAG

Member
Hi! Im making a 4-player competitive brawler with GMS2, here's a video to give you an idea of what it's like.

I have been struggling with this question for about a year now: Is it worth the time and effort required for me to add online play?

So far in my investigation I have come to understand these two things:
1 Adding good networking functionality is extremely difficult
2 Adding good networking functionality will help my game gain a player base

What I have yet to determine is whether or not the investment is likely to be worth my time. I understand it's a gamble in any case, because if no one likes my game then definitely I will have wasted the time. But what if people like the game and want to play it? Will not having online multiplayer completely kill it? Somewhat kill it? Should the continuing adoption of desktop streaming tools like Parsec affect my decision (I mean, this is how I play it online...)?

As GM devs I'm wondering if any of you have opinions on this subject, especially if you have had to make this choice yourself.

Thoughts?

Edit: Also I am sure this discussion has been had many times before, so if you have links to other similar threads please share!
 

MishMash

Member
So let's break this down a bit, depends partially on what your intentions are with the game. If you plan on montezing the game, or just intending that its lifespan exists for a while, then yeah, online multiplayer is rather essential. The alternative target I guess would be a HTML5 release where you try and hit into that "school lunchtime" market, the sorts of games that 2 or more friends can sit around one computer and play. Having strict local multiplayer games like this function in a normal environment is challenging, given that I understand the essence of the game to require multiple players? Or is there a single player component as well (e.g. AI bot mode)?

Extending on from this, i'd also say that I don't think any desktop streaming tool would make much difference, I can't see people going to the effort to be honest, even for really really popular games. Unless they have a wrapper API that you can build directly into your app, so no one needs to download anything extra.

Now, to discuss the complexities of Multiplayer, you do have one rather big issue right now, and that is that it is rather difficult to retroactively add multiplayer to a game cleanly. Ideally, in order that your game adheres to good fundamentals, it is common to build the game with networking in mind from the start. That is, even local co-op is treated in a similar ilk to regular multiplayer, so that interactions and events can be cleanly defined with respect to a server-client environment, wherein the server is the clear master.
Second to that, if you are also not that experienced with networking, then perhaps you should experiment with adding it to other projects, or smaller test projects and then make a decision yourself. If you were to have a few years of experience, then it would likely be a no-brainer to try and add it, even given your game has already been in development for a while. Though, based on the need to ask, I'd be inclined to say that for you right now, it's not worth it. However, what you should do is start experimenting on the side, so that you can potentially work up to a point where it does become worth it.

Finally, going round back to the first point, for a game like this, you would also likely need a good backend/matchmaking system on top of the multiplayer itself and this system would likely cost money to run, so for a free game, you'd have to consider your values. Equally, it depends on the nature of the game. For a successful multiplayer release, you would also need a decent influx of initial players.
 
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YellowAfterlife

ᴏɴʟɪɴᴇ ᴍᴜʟᴛɪᴘʟᴀʏᴇʀ
Forum Staff
Moderator
Extending on from this, i'd also say that I don't think any desktop streaming tool would make much difference, I can't see people going to the effort to be honest, even for really really popular games.
The one in question was specifically designed for game streaming and involves minimal setup, which contributes to it's recent rising popularity.
Unless they have a wrapper API that you can build directly into your app, so no one needs to download anything extra.
They do, though most games can get away with just having a pinned post with instructions on how to use it.

Finally, going round back to the first point, for a game like this, you would also likely need a good backend/matchmaking system on top of the multiplayer itself and this system would likely cost money to run
Many platforms do have matchmaking APIs. I made an extension that wrap's Steam's services, for example.

But still, while having online multiplayer can help steer an indecisive player towards buying the game once they see it, the game needs to have a level of visibility for it to be any help, and most self-published titles these days just don't have that kind of luxury.

Also, regardless of whether you have local or online multiplayer, having single-player modes and/or AI is important.

But, if the game is indeed freeware, I wouldn't go further than setting up a Discord server with a matchmaking channel and instructions on getting Parsec. If it grows popular enough, then sure, see what your options are, but otherwise
 
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Khao

Member
Been wondering about this myself lately. I'm super early into development of a competitive/party game and while I do have working AI and have at least one single-player mode planned, the whole thing is set to be multiplayer first.

The game has already proven to be fun. Several people of multiple skill-levels have tested it, and most of them have enjoyed it. But I'm still scared that even if the game is good, the thing will be dead on arrival due to lacking an online mode. Is it possible for a semi-competitive, multiplayer-centric game (with some single-player features) to be successful without online in this day and age?
 
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JAG

Member
Thanks @MishMash @YellowAfterlife for your detailed responses, that's very helpful stuff and I really appreciate your input. This is definitely the kind of thing where there's no easy answer, which is very annoying :D

As a quick follow-up to clarify some questions you have:

1. Im a web developer by day, and while indie games is my passion, Im very competent at networking-related stuff. I am super comfortable with client/server programming. I understand game net code is probably in some ways more complicated than web, it can't be _that_ much more complicated than working with async distributed microservices (a Scala, Kubernetes, GraphQL, React stack). I mention this point to maybe suggest that while there would certainly be still a learning curve for me to do this, I assume it would be much more manageable for me than your average gamemaker dev (maybe famous last words though...).

2. I do intend to sell the game. I've put over a thousand hours into this and will probably spend at least that much again, and I think it will be worth selling. This is definitely not a quick throw-it-together kind of game, Im spiritually invested in making it great. That being said Im aware there are market realities beyond my control. I don't expect the game to make much cash, but I think it will be a good enough game to warrant asking people to pay for it. Most importantly I want as many people to play it as possible.

So perhaps that will inspire some follow-up comments, but all good if you've said all you had to say!

PS Is there some central location to view all (or most?) Steam-released GM games somewhere? I would love to have a look at that, maybe ask some other devs of multiplayer games how their experience was.

Thanks!
 
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