Searching for game..... Usually they're not words that fill me with dread; it's just the familiar arrangement of letters that precedes my participation in an online warfest. The computer tells me, in simple terms, that it is trying to arrange a match for me against some similarly skilled opponents. Thanks computer.
"You're welcome Dave".
All I've had to do is visit a series of familiar screens, along the way pressing the buttons that have brought me to this point. Then I wait whilst the computer does its thing, talking to other computers on the interweb, trying to agree on the exact conditions that I, and several opponents, will virtually exist in for the next ten minutes or so. Then, when the loading screen ceases to be, I take over and the game starts. It's simple.
Perhaps I take it for granted that most games have more than adequate matchmaking capabilities. It's never something that I've ever had to worry about too much. It's certainly never something that's ruined my enjoyment of a particular game. Until recently.
Let me set the scene.
My online companion and I sat staring at a screen each, conversing through microphones. We were searching for a game. But where was everybody? It was a fairly new title sitting in our respective disc drives, so was it too much to ask that we should have a plentiful supply of opponents to aim at? We agreed that we didn't think it was.
So there we were, sitting, waiting, staring at a screen each.
We both knew that there were other games, that we both owned, that could've quickly and easily found us a contest. Arguably they're better games to boot, but we paid our money at the door and we were determined to get a game. But maybe, just maybe, we wouldn't bother coming back in the future.
It's a shame that some games let themselves down so severely in this regard. You rightly expect, as part of the 40 quid you invest, to get a solid multiplayer element when promised one on the back of the box. Is it too much to expect that game developers keep those promises and ensure that we get a solid experience when we take to the online battlefield/racetrack?
I'm not talking numbers here either. Even if there was only a handful of players still frequenting a particular multiplayer waiting room, you should still be able to find a game within a reasonable time frame. All things considered, that should be the bare minimum. Shouldn't it?
I know all this banter is just pissing in the wind. It's never gonna change anything. Game developers and their publishers can be a money-grabbing bunch, and some of them are more interested in you buying their game rather than ensuring that you enjoy it once you've handed over your wonga. It's the companies like Blizzard, Bungie and Infinity Ward that've set the standard; for them it's all about player satisfaction - they want you to love their game. They invest in that enjoyment.
And it works. Blizzard makes games that I enjoy, so I buy more Blizzard games. They make games that I enjoy and then they go on to support those games so that I can keep on enjoying them. It's a similar story for a majority of other companies; they want you to like their games. Pure and simple. However, there are some faceless suits out there who care not for your love of the game, but only on the money you've paid to play it.
That's up to them. Make broken games - that's your prerogative. Every now and then one will get past my defences and I'll buy it, play for a bit, then never go back to it. Then when I'm done with it I'll tell everyone who I know (who cares) just how rubbish that game is, and then I'll never buy one of their games again.
It's just a shame that these lazy, cynical publishers don't pay a little more attention to Blizzard and co. And I don't mean by just cloning their games - something that happens all the time. They should look at how these companies nurture their reputations by taking the care to make sure that we, the paying gamer, is satisfied with our investment. Ultimately it's the companies that take care of their customers that go on to thrive and make healthy profits, but taking the easy way and making the quick buck has always been too tempting for some people. And that's a pity, because when that happens, we all lose. They lose a customer, and I lose £40 on a luxurious drinks coaster.