Who Killed Split Screen Co-op?

Dec 10, 2012
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Last night my roommate and I set up an old-timey game system, called the Playstation 2. Back in the day it was quite a well-known platform, with a plethora of games of all kinds. It was even capable of supporting four players at once, if they had the controllers and a pair of multitaps. Truly, it was a wonderful system, where friends could gather and shoot the balls off each other in four-way split screen deathmatches, laughing at each other's deaths and having a grand old time.

Now, the term "multiplayer" is only used in reference to the practice of connecting to another game system over an internet connection, or "interwebz," and randomly joining some twatrocket's circle jerk where you can't see the person you're interacting with and can, at best, only hear their static-y voice blaring childish obscenities at you as they slap their virtual dicks across your face and imply that you and your mother both enjoy it.

The world may have forgotten this relic of the past called Playstation 2, but its capabilities are still worthy of note. My roommate and I had a kind of fun that seems to have faded from the world. Timesplitters is a dead language, and no one seems to care that the beauty it brought the world is not even remembered today. What happened, my friends? Where did we go wrong? Where is the current-generation Timesplitters or equivalent?
 

Zhukov

The Laughing Arsehole
Dec 29, 2009
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- Four people playing together in split-screen requires them to buy one console and one copy of the game.
- Four people playing together online requires them to buy four consoles and four copies of the game.

Guess which one is more appealing to the people making and selling consoles and games.

Personally, I'm not that fussed since at my age I basically never get the opportunity to play split screen anyway. Getting four friends together online is hard enough, getting four friends together in one physical place for more than an hour or so is next to impossible. Turns out life gets busy as you get older. Who knew, eh?
 

Aris Khandr

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Oct 6, 2010
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The internet did. As the popularity of gaming online grew, split screen was used less and less. Rather than going over to a friend's house to play games, kids these days are going home and playing together online. It just isn't a feature that gets used much anymore.
 

Goofguy

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Nov 25, 2010
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I was randomly watching a Node LAN party video on YT today where they were playing Perfect Dark. Made me miss the days of playing split screen with my friends, thinking it was the most gorgeous game that could possibly exist.

To answer your question, I assume it's less profitable.
 

SnakeCL

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Apr 8, 2008
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If my girlfriend and I want to play a game together, we usually just lug her tv over and play together.

I just can't stand playing splitscreen since it hampers field of view and gameplay experience more times than not, but I do think it should at least be an option, even if I'd never use it personally.
 

Eclectic Dreck

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Sep 3, 2008
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Technical limitations are actually a bigger factor than you might think. While there isn't a significant increase in memory requirements, you are having to process linear transformations, lighting, and the dozens of other things four times as often. The necessary downgrade to offset this is staggering. Thus as games approach the limit of the hardware, introducing split screen has significant ramifications.

If you couple that with the rise of viable online play, the fundamental need for split screen as a way to play multiplayer largely vanishes. That a profit motive can also be found is little more than icing on the cake when it comes to getting rid of that particular feature.
 

surg3n

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May 16, 2011
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I guess more people just prefer to play on their own screen, nobody can blame them - but it does leave more social gamers out in the cold.

It's not all gone though, there's still Borderlands2, Halo4, and Minecraft.
 

Prosis

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May 5, 2011
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Unless its a party game, like Smash Brothers or Halo, its difficult to tell how much mileage a game's splitscreen feature will get.

Producers can see when players use online features though. Thus, according to sales data, online is profitable, while splitscreen is not.
 

Shoggoth2588

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Aug 31, 2009
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TheVampwizimp said:
Time Splitters is indeed a long forgotten piece of fun...a game in which you could shoot the balls off of a Monkey Robo-Cop as a goldfish in a robot body! Ingenious. What's more is the fact that if you can't gather four friends you can still play multiplayer modes and, maps with AI controlled bots. Bots died out before split-screen I think...I don't know who's to blame but there's a special place in Hell for them. "BUY OUR GAME! OUR GAME HAS THE BEST MULTIPLAYER IN THE WORLD! YOU CAN ONLY PLAY IT ONE WAY HOWEVER AND IF YOU ARE INCAPABLE OF PLAYING IT IN THAT ONE SPECIFIED WAY THEN YOU CAN'T PLAY IT AT ALL!!"

Duke Nukem on the N64 was my favorite example of this. Bot matches, 4-player split-screen and it was all on the N64. You didn't need to buy a 4-score (NES) or any other peripheral if your friends brought along their own controllers and rumble packs.
 

Jayemsal

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Dec 28, 2012
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Aris Khandr said:
The internet did. As the popularity of gaming online grew, split screen was used less and less. Rather than going over to a friend's house to play games, kids these days are going home and playing together online. It just isn't a feature that gets used much anymore.
Ninja'd so hard.

The internet was the death knell of in-house gatherings for gaming.
 

Polarity27

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Jul 28, 2008
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surg3n said:
I guess more people just prefer to play on their own screen, nobody can blame them - but it does leave more social gamers out in the cold.

It's not all gone though, there's still Borderlands2, Halo4, and Minecraft.
Thanks for the mention of Borderlands, I'll look into that. My husband and I play games (usually Halo) splitscreened every weekend. I've been lamenting the loss of it-- we don't have anywhere in our current house to set up another TV and xbox, let alone being able to afford it. It's a goal when we move, though, because I'd like a kinect and space to use it for exercise games. I just don't think it's going to feel the same. It's a lot more fun and a lot more social when we play together in the same room vs. when we used to play WoW together in our separate home offices.

I'm surprised it's going away-- sure, younger adult gamers aren't as much in a position to use it, but there are lots of people who want to play in the same room as their spouse or their kid.
 

Fluffythepoo

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Sep 29, 2011
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2-4 screens side by side LANing/Online cooping is more fun than splitscreen ever was or will be..

"Do not let the veneer of nostalgia cloud your judgement" -Catface
 

Jamash

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Jun 25, 2008
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Technological advancement killed splitscreen.

Back in the PS2 days on lower resolution SD sets, you wouldn't really notice the graphical sacrifices made for a console to render a game twice or 4 times (but even Timesplitters Future Perfect had severe limitations in it's splitscreen, like during the Co-op Campaign the two players couldn't co-exist more then 20ft away from each other, and don't forget the wonderful freedom and expansiveness afforded by the split-screen of GTA San Andreas).

Nowadays, when the games are so demanding that the console is barely powerful enough to render the game once, the sacrifices required to render the game twice or more in splitscreen wouldn't be acceptable to the player.

Seeing a game that runs at a solid 30FPS 720P being reduced to almost half of that, which the textures and LOD being drastically reduced to accommodate splitscreen would look terrible on modern HD displays and wouldn't be acceptable to many players.

It was both funny and sad to witness the controversy that erupted on the EA forums when the modern Need For Speed Hot Pursuit was released. People were outraged because it lacked splitscreen, they couldn't understand that because the PS2 namesake allowed splitscreen on closed environments at sub-HD resolution, why the modern version couldn't render the entire open world twice on one console.
Some people adamantly refused to accept that modern consoles weren't as twice as powerful as they were and accused Criterion of being too lazy to develop a patch that would double the hardware of the console, it's like that joke about downloading more RAM, but not as funny because they were serious and expected to download more RAM, processor and GPU power.

There are still a few games this generation that allow local splitscreen, but these generally aren't games that aren't too demanding or praised on their graphics or smooth and fluid gameplay in the first place, but even these take a noticeable performance and gameplay hit during splitscreen.
 

surg3n

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Polarity27 said:
Thanks for the mention of Borderlands, I'll look into that. My husband and I play games (usually Halo) splitscreened every weekend. I've been lamenting the loss of it-- we don't have anywhere in our current house to set up another TV and xbox, let alone being able to afford it. It's a goal when we move, though, because I'd like a kinect and space to use it for exercise games. I just don't think it's going to feel the same. It's a lot more fun and a lot more social when we play together in the same room vs. when we used to play WoW together in our separate home offices.

I'm surprised it's going away-- sure, younger adult gamers aren't as much in a position to use it, but there are lots of people who want to play in the same room as their spouse or their kid.
Yeah, Borderlands is a must - it's a lot of fun playing with just 2 players on the same screen - it has some decent depth to it as well, it's like most split screen games are basically a case of having 2 player 1's - but Borderlands is more about developing your own character and arsenal.
I know what you mean though, split screen used to be a major selling point - actually on the old XBox, I'd buy pretty much any game that has split screen, somehow a co-op mode would make up for some horrible gameplay. Most of my best gaming memories are playing split-screen games, especially playing the Halo series with my son, playing Gears of War with my brother, 4-player drunken MarioKart practically every weekend in the 90's... Good times. I'm currently playing through Halo4 split screen with my brother - so much better to play with someone who you can elbow in the ribs if they get out of line :).

Technology means that I'm not restricted to 3 players sharing a screen nowadays, I can have dozens of players in the same game - but frankly I'd swap all that for 3 actual friends playing the game, even if I do have to share the screen. There is something infinitely more satisfying about seeing someones reactions in person huh!. That's what made Halo and the XBox awesome for me, it actually made console gaming a real contender against the PC.
 

Frybird

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Jan 7, 2008
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Fluffythepoo said:
2-4 screens side by side LANing/Online cooping is more fun than splitscreen ever was or will be..

"Do not let the veneer of nostalgia cloud your judgement" -Catface
Good thing i have the hardware and room space for such a thing. Oh wait no i don't.

"I can't afford a bigger apartment just for side-by-side LAN/Online Games" - Frybird.


But yeah, as others said, it's somewhere between Hardware Capabilities and Resource Management.

With some Games Splitscreen just isn't technically possible, with others the feature gets scrapped because it would take more time to develop that on TOP of Online Capabilities, and there likely aren't much metrics that support that adding Splitscreen is a huge sales boost.

Still sad though, i like the Couch-Multiplayer...
 

josemlopes

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Jun 9, 2008
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To be honest the "Oh so awfull Blops 2!" (its an ok game) does have 4 player splitscreen with bots so yeah... Not too shabby I would say
 

Ambitiousmould

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Apr 22, 2012
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I used to play splitscreen games on the PS2 like Killzone and Timesplitters when I was younger and I think that not enough games have it nowadays, although I still have friends over to play Halo, and Gears Of War and the like even of they have them at home, splitscreen gaming is one of the best ways of strengthening the bonds of broship.