Almost Massive: How Destiny and The Division are Changing the Online Future

Kevin VanOrd examines the online concept dominating E3 2013's multiplayer games.

I've so often heard the phrase "massively multiplayer" used incorrectly in recent years that I've come to ignore the misuse. The MMO moniker has always applied to persistent worlds shared by numerous players occupying the same spaces. Hearing a game like Battlefield 3 or Diablo III referred to as an MMO game makes me cringe, but I've learned to grin and bear my discomfort.

But it's probably time for me to let go of labels, because a new kind of multiplayer is taking hold, as has become clear at this year's E3: seamless grouping in which individual players move in and out of each other's worlds with ease based on the needs of the level, the mission, or the players. We've seen mechanics like this before in the likes of Fuel, Journey, and other games. But major upcoming games are furthering the concept, with Ubisoft leading the charge with Watch Dogs, The Crew, and Tom Clancy's The Division.

I suspect, however, that Bungie's Destiny is the game most likely to have people's attention at this stage. That game, too, seems to bring people together as needed based on the wants of the party and the size of the encounter. During Sony's press conference, the Destiny demo began as a simple two-person dungeon crawl, first-person shooter style, but as the duo emerged into a gorgeous open environment, a public event began, and other fireteams were integrated into the space. The teams took down a terrifying mechanical monstrosity called a firewalker as a single unit. The specifics of Destiny's multiplayer structure aren't yet fully known, but I suspect that this online game will not be an MMO game as we know it, but one that blends traditional and MMO elements into its own brand of togetherness.

Heading back to Ubisoft, The Crew immediately grabbed me for mixing Test Drive Unlimited, Fuel, and Burnout Paradise into a special new flavor, characterized by a massive world in which players are brought together based on geography. Ubisoft says The Crew takes place in a persistent world, but again, nothing about the demo led me to believe that the geography is persistent in the way we usually mean it. Thousands of racers would crowd major city streets, colliding willy-nilly in pure chaos. No--this is the thrilling, barely charted territory where single-player, competitive multiplayer, cooperative multiplayer, and persistence merge. You hop about the United States to join your friends in races, but the vehicles you pass on the busy streets might be driven by the artificial intelligence…or by other drivers. Ultimately, the goal is for your crew to establish dominance in major cities across the country, but other crews won't be so willing to let you take over.

Another Ubisoft debut, The Division, proves that one of this year's E3 takeaways is the final breakdown in traditional online genre identification. The demo was structurally similar to the Destiny demo that came later in the day on Sony's stage, with a smaller strike team walking through exterior and interior environments. In The Division's case, however, the world is a near-future, high-tech world rather than an otherworldly science-fiction paradise. More intriguingly, the cooperative portion of the demo transitioned not into a public event, but a player-versus-player firefight. Well, in theory it did, since the demo ended before a PVP battle could begin.

None of these games are traditional persistent worlds. Instead, they're using both synchronous and asynchronous elements (a little Demon's Souls here, a little Borderlands there, some Phantasy Star Online thrown in, perhaps) to create experiences that we don't yet have a vocabulary for. It seems that we found a solution for console MMO games by creating a genre of its own: the quasi-massive semi-persistent online driving/shooting/role-playing game. I'm sure someone else has already found a more eloquent name for the phenomenon, but we can all probably agree that we'll see more and more of these games, particularly with so many publishers and creators pushing harder for an always-connected future.

What more is to come, then? We have reached the point--and in fact, we've been there for some time--where game developers can bring us together and then separate us with ease, allowing their creations to be as solo-friendly or as massive as they like in turn. The bright side of the always-online services we've grown to fear is that developers have found new ways of being creative with how they connect us. There's no single-player campaign, no multiplayer mode: there's just, simply, a game.

Written By

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

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108 comments
lorddarkdream
lorddarkdream

please if any one now the place where i´m go to instal this demo i thank you very much , please whisper me ok thanks .

lorddarkdream
lorddarkdream

hello all friends, please tell me is possible to play this in demo ? here i instal the demo to play a smal part ? i´m ask this because 1 friend tell me we dowload the demo , i can´t find the demo to download and do the istalation . please anser me and tell me where i wont to go to have the demo ?

gashoe13
gashoe13

Division looks amazing.... holy...

cirugo
cirugo

" Hearing a game like Battlefield 3 or Diablo III referred to as an MMO game makes me cringe, but I've learned to grin and bear my discomfort."

Why?  Why are you putting up with this?  There's no reason to slap a mandatory internet connection on a game that shouldn't require it.

JynxGSpot
JynxGSpot

Funny how it says "Online future"  because it strange that I don't see any PS4 fan boys pointlessly bitching. "Why can't it be an Offline future?!"

dcaseng
dcaseng

The crew looks too arcade like for me. I don't think the speeds look realistic, and I HATE the "boost" feature that reminds me more of an 80's arcade game.

dcaseng
dcaseng

I'm sick and tired of first person shooters.

AccursedGamer
AccursedGamer

Pretty soon our games are going to start playing like those Japanese animes, Sword Art Online and .Hack//.

GetafixOz
GetafixOz

Wow what amazes me about Destiny is how they have taken a superb looking world with great looking enemies and managed to make the gameplay look extremely boring. Thats quite an an achievement.

sdkingsht
sdkingsht

All three look great. Interested to see how the games work as I don't typically play with a crew online. But The Division definitely caught my eye the most. All three are looking like they could be must play games. 

StrallenVarekus
StrallenVarekus

I call them MOPs (Multiplayer Online Persistent), but it's unlikely anyone else is going to take up my acronym. =P

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

Destiny and the Division are what interested me the most.

basey
basey

also I imagine bungie would release destiny to compete alongside halo 5 so my guess is september/october 2014

halo needs to step it up a bit tbh its getting stale 

basey
basey

all looks good to me im more than happy with 4 player drop in/out co op 

nicolasetespqr
nicolasetespqr

"It seems that we found a solution for console MMO games by creating a genre of its own: the quasi-massive semi-persistent online driving/shooting/role-playing game." 

And here is Kevin van Ord proving that consoles limit game development yet everyone has to adapt to them because they bring the $$$ in.


The Division looks sweet tho, although i'd say it probably will come to PC, eventually. It is a Massive Entertainment game, after all, i hope they don't let us down.

supermoc10
supermoc10

Great article as always Kevin. Those are my two favorite games of E3 after inFamous: Second Son because of the things you mentioned.

Leria
Leria

You would think that shooters and RPG's (the old fashioned kind of dungeon-spelunking RPG's) wouldn't be 'good' for MMO treatment. Bucky, you would be WRONG!

I've played some online shooters on PC that have it where you cooperate as a team to take down enemies and even as a game-user-base as a whole to take down bigger enemies, sometimes with help from higher tier players and (if you go on a server that has the controls) sometimes with only people in a certain 'angel' tier specifically for the zone in question.

It works very good. Now that we are seeing blended game genres (RPG/Shooters/Driving Racers) things are getting very good for gamers today, just looking at the games themselves.

KrazzyDJ
KrazzyDJ

The Division FTW. And hats off to Ubisoft for introducing new AAA-esque IPs (Watchdogs, The Crew and now The Division). Not that any of these are out yet but from what we've seen, they couldn't possibly suck !!! 

xeidog69
xeidog69

I believe one of you was close when saying its a dynamic online game, but its really more of a combination of dynamic instancing with the online and how it seamlessly takes various players whom are all overlapped in the same gamespace but within their own specific instance, than when the public event kicked in the veil was lifted and everyone was suddenly within the same instance.. Basically on that area of the map is either a triggered instance upon a group showing up there or its an event that has a reset timer before the event pops again....Either way if wanting to meet specific people you know youd most likely do it before entering said territory and taking on such a dynamic event as their probably wouldnt be any gaurantees that your friend would get paired into the same instance without waiting and grouping beforehand.  So yeah I think its Dynamic Instancing.


1wikkid1
1wikkid1

I think we're heading for some problems because of games like this, more and more the publishers are trying to phase out singleplayer campaigns for multiplayer content (generally multiplayer games are much trickier to operate illegally.) As singleplayer is being pushed out there remains a sizable chunk of players who prefer to play alone, and they've got less and less options. Eventually when we reach a point where multiplayer is norm these people will stop buying games, personally I'd never pay for a game with no singleplayer content (and no, tutorials don't count as content.) Somebody will have to take care of these people, either one of the big guys notices us and decides to adopt us (MS/Sony and to a lesser extent Nintendo) or somebody new will step up to the plate. I wonder how this battle of the titans ends... but it's not looking good for us solitary players.

nesky
nesky

PSO2 says hello~

bmart970
bmart970

I'm really interested in how this is gonna work. This is one of my most anticipated games ever.

gonard9
gonard9

How about this: Shared-World Multiplayer.

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

I think developers may have found the secret to gamers NOT trading in their games: Offer them persistent worlds to play in that are continually evolving!

MissionCreep
MissionCreep

@GetafixOz you must be high. If Destiny is your idea of extremely boring I cant even imagine how you label 99% of other games.

adamh1122
adamh1122

@GetafixOz i think it was just the people playing it that made the gameplay look boring with their horrendous banter.

Grimkillah
Grimkillah

@SavoyPrime For someone who hate MP, this two actually looked interesting. I feel there are actually story and lore in these two more than the generic MP, a living RPG world if you will.

MissionCreep
MissionCreep

@basey Destiny and Halo 5 will not be released around the same time. Bungie will push to seperate these two games as much as possible. That way, the chances of people buying both games will increase, instead of most consumers being forced to make a decision to buy one or the other.

VR_Verdugo
VR_Verdugo

@nicolasetespqr Ha, I have to agree. When I read this I thought "what he is describing is a dumbed-down MMO". I'm not even trying to hate though, games like that may be a lot of fun, but I'm not interested in seeing this trend on PCs that are already proven capable of so much more.

jholden3249
jholden3249

@1wikkid1 Right. Not to mention if I buy a game, I want to know that I can still play it in 10 years. Online only console games will be nothing but worthless discs once the servers shut down, and to me that's unacceptable. I know Sony and now MS are not requiring online, but it appears that publishers are taking it into their own hands, and people are eating it up because the game "looks cool". I don't care how good a game looks, I WILL NOT BUY a game if it isn't fully functional offline.

TigusVidiks
TigusVidiks

@1wikkid1 that's my only concern. Little by little pure single player is vanishing.

talkcasual
talkcasual

What do you think of the MP elements in Journey? It's mostly a SP game and I think the MP actually enriches it

TheAmazingYeah
TheAmazingYeah

@1wikkid1 That's my big question.  Will these things scale during multiplayer like Borderlands or will there just be completely inaccessible areas if I decide to play alone?

Yomigaeru
Yomigaeru

@Kravyn81 That's a good notion, but the technology is still a stumbling block. Not the console or game tech, mind you, but the telecommunications tech. We've still got plenty of lag to go around, servers crashing, and just generally crappy broadband coverage. When there's heavy rain and/or storms in the area, my internet connection is spotty at best.

Basically, our internet connections are the x-factor. It's part of the reason that always-online consoles are really a good option right now.

JynxGSpot
JynxGSpot

@MissionCreep @GetafixOz Combat was too generic. Although, the same could be said for most other games. ie CoD, AC, side scroll fighting games. However, I do like the concept of the story behind it. Plus, the graphic fidelity is amazing along with the AIs

santinegrete
santinegrete

@Grimkillah @SavoyPrime  it's because it offers a consistent evironment that causes intrigue instead of shoebox map arena  that is the the typical MP shooter experience. I also, until stage demo was a heavy doubter, now I'm a light one. Gunplay, except for the magnum, looked pretty bland, with slow firing rifles and machineguns with so few rounds... but I'm sure the nature of the gameplay also implies you'll get better and funnier to use hardware.

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

@Grimkillah I'm not big on multiplayer at all really unless it's cooperative. Destiny and The Division just look to good to pass up. Especially Destiny. That demo during Sony's Conference I thought was pretty damn great.

soccerplyr128
soccerplyr128

Why would Bungie care about halo 4 or 5? That's all 343 now not Bungie.

1wikkid1
1wikkid1

@jholden3249 @1wikkid1 I actually had this happen already. Sometime around 98 or 99 I bought a multiplayer racing game (Motor City Online), way ahead of it's time obviously, most people who were online were on dial-up, but anyway, I loooved that game (classic and muscle cars, none of them currently popular rice-burners.) But then around 2002 the servers were shut down because the game was never popular in the first place (ahead of it's time playing in again) and immediately the game and the disk became worthless. It had no single player mode or anything... obviously not a smart way to draw clientele.

Leria
Leria

@TheAmazingYeah @1wikkid1 

That is a problem with MMO's today. Some people don't like to have to 'socialize' with other people and make friends in the MMO games to make progress by banding together for an 'uber'-boss that is too strong for one person alone.

One game I know of fixed that by putting in an option where it asks you "Okay, this is a group zone, do you still want to enter alone? Yes. Okay, do you want me to weaken the enemies inside to where they are still difficult but beatable for your level and the designated level of the usual player visiting this zone? Yes. Okay, I will do that!"

Leria
Leria

@Yomigaeru @Kravyn81 

Umm.... no. Lag is not an issue really anymore. Even with the 1.5 megabit internet connection at my grandfathers house in the West Virginia boonies, the lag is almost non-existent and comparable to my lag down at my main home near Havre De Grace in Maryland.

Now, the speed of the connection is an issue for game UPDATES, especially if like the latest update to Star Trek Online they are nearly 10GB's in size.