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The Multiplayer Gamers’ Bible

Multiplayer based games seemingly drive the industry. In many cases, a single-player campaign seems to be little more than an add-on for delivering a bigger and better multiplayer experience (you know who you are, Call of Duty). Of course, there’s more to the online gaming scene than just first person shooters, and entire professional leagues have grown up around the click-to-attack MOBAs or mouse-twitching RTS games. The true core of the online gaming faithful are operating at a level that most others only dream of. If you want to get up to speed onto the multiplayer scene, it’s time for you to hear the good news of gaming.

Start with the Technology

One of the most frustrating feelings in multiplier gaming is when lag or a glitch leaves you open to a rather rude and inconsiderate headshot from behind. Or seeing the oncoming Zerg rush stutter in and out of existence on their way to maul your poor Marines can be more than a little frustrating as well. This means you need to be extremely careful about aligning the games requirements with your system specs. If you’re determined to play a specific, resource-hungry game at a serious level, it may be time to upgrade.

Of course, I’m not just talking about the specifications such as CPU, RAM, and graphic cards. Do a deep cleaning of your system and clear out applications that may be eating up memory cycles and clear out any bloatware that could be clogging your gaming PC’s system with memory-hogging background processes.

Assess Your Multiplayer Prowess

Determine your own ambition, skill and experience in the multiplayer realm. Are you interested in playing competitively? Does the thought of a weak kill ratio keep you up at night? Then it is definitely worth investing in the hardware that can support your desired elite status and get on the forums to learn more about specific tactics and winning strategy. On the other hand, if you just enjoy the occasional skirmish, prefer co-op multiplayer, or just haven’t played online all that much, then you can focus on more casual play with a rig that will support mid-range performance.

Who are Your Gaming Buddies?

One of the inherent problems of random online play is that you could very easily end up playing with or against the stereotypically loud, racist/sexist, and almost eloquently foul-mouthed 12-year-old. That kind of experience does discourage people from playing online and pushes them to stick to their existing friends. On the other hand, it can be very difficult to improve your game if you only play the same people from your friends list over and over agin.

Going online to play for the first time, whether it’s for Black OPS 2, StarCraft 2, or League of Legends; it means you probably will get creamed a few times. Everyone starts out as that person who gets kicked out of the session for weighing down the team. But if you really want to get better, you have to take your digital lumps. Stick it out, and soon you’ll be the one annoyed by the latest noob who doesn’t know his grenade launcher from a hole in the ground.

Stepping Up To Competitive Play

If you do intend to play multiplayer games at a competitive level, you’ll really need to fine-tune your system and game-play style to run with the professionals. There’s a reason that elite gamers turn to high end peripherals like a customized mouse grips, gaming keyboard and multiple monitors; run of the mill gear doesn’t cut it for them. When you’re competing, it’s the little differences in reaction time and performance that can make the difference between being merely a serious gaming enthusiast and a competitive hardcore gamer.

What Happens to Cheaters?

What kind of bible would this be without a warning to the unconverted? Cheating has always been a concern for gamers and designers alike because multiplayer games die if cheaters ruin the experience for others.

Some games level a temporary ban on people who have too many complaints for inappropriate behavior and permabans for players who blatantly cheat by using mods or other tools that go against the terms of use. Game developers go to great lengths to try and ensure fair play online (sometimes creating even more problems (now, you know who you are, Diablo 3), but this will be an ongoing battle.

Game Modes

A lot of focus has gone into creating unique multiplayer game modes. What once was just a feature that let friends cause as much mayhem as possible in a single arena is now the major focus of many triple-A development teams.

In other words, a simple death match isn’t enough anymore. Intense development focus on multiplayer features means a new diversity in the type of game-play you can specialize in. Still, most games come with some basic modes, which include the classic free-for-all death-match (team or solo games), some kind of co-op mode, and other objective-based missions. Be prepared to find your niche.

Choosing the Best Multiplayer Game

How do you judge the quality of a multiplayer game? First, the size of the community is probably a good indicator: how many people are regularly playing? Will you be able to get into a game whenever you want? Second, how many modes are available? Does it offer enough unique content (possibly extra downloadable content) to stay interesting?

One final thing to consider though is that with the ever-changing multiplayer environment we’re starting to see a lot of new production and monetization models that are impacting how games are made and played. The most obvious example of this is the Play-to-Win vs. Pay-to-Win styles of online games.

A lot of these things become clear as you spend more time in online multiplayer spaces. And you’ll quickly identify where the weak points of your own skill level and gaming setup are. The multiplayer scene is constantly evolving, too. While these recommendations are not carved in stone per se, they don’t look to be changing too much any time soon.

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