Asymmetric Multiplayer
A multiplayer mode in which the different players have drastically different gameplay styles
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(permanent link) added: 2013-01-09 12:59:39 sponsor: BonsaiForest (last reply: 2013-01-14 10:33:24)

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Asymmetric Multiplayer is a multiplayer mode in which the different players have totally different roles and capabilities, unlike most multiplayer games, where all the players are generally doing the same thing and playing the game the same way. The Nintendo WiiU popularized the term as a way to describe how one player could play the game using the touchscreen-equipped GamePad controller, while others play on the TV, and the two groups have very different goals and even game mechanics. A perfect example might be New Super Mario Bros. U, where players who use traditional controllers control characters who run and jump on the TV, while the GamePad player can interact with the environment by messing with enemies, placing blocks in mid-air, and doing other things that affect the TV players' experience.

However, the concept has been around since ancient (by video game standards) times. Generally, it is quite rare in games, as creating two completely different gameplay experiences for two different players requires a great deal of balance.

This does not refer to such things as games where players can be different characters (e.g. a magic-user and a sword-user) but carry out essentially the same goal. This instead refers to games where the roles, abilities and gameplay experience are drastically different. To see if an example fits, think of the question "Do the players have a totally different experience than each other?" If the answer is "yes", it's probably Asymmetric Multiplayer.

Examples:

  • Possibly one of the oldest examples, Nautilus for the Atari800 computer, was a 2-player game in which one player controlled a submarine and had to destroy underwater buildings, while the other controlled a ship which dropped mines and depth charges and attempted to repair the buildings, but was unable to go underwater.
  • Savage, for the PC, was a cross between a Real-Time Strategy game and an action game. One player on each team would be the commander and could see the entire battlefield and issue orders to players. All other players would be individual soldiers.
  • Nintendo Land on the Wii U is all about this, and is the Trope Namer, as Nintendo were the ones to use the term Asymmetric Multiplayer. Many of the games have multiplayer modes in which one player has a vey different view of the action and role than the others.
    • Luigi's Ghost Mansion has an invisible ghost, playing on the touch-screen GamePad, try to sneak up on ghost hunters, while the ghost hunters view the TV and try to stop the invisible ghost.
    • Mario Chase has one player view the entire playfield on the GamePad while the others, using split-screen views on the TV, attempt to chase and catch Mario.
    • Animal Crossing: Sweet Day has one player control two guards on the GamePad to try to catch the other players, who are viewing the TV and trying to steal candy.
    • Pikmin Adventures has one player using the GamePad control Captain Olimar, and can fight by throwing Pikmin at enemies and objects by touching them on the screen, while up to four other players control giant Pikmin on the TV and fight enemies directly.
    • Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest has one player on the GamePad as an archer shooting enemies with a bow and arrows, including at a distance, while up to four other players use Wii Remotes to fight enemies up close with a sword.
    • Metroid Blast allows a player using the GamePad to fly a spaceship and blast enemies or other players (if playing competitively), while other players run on the ground and control human fighters.
  • New Super Mario Bros. U allows up to four players to control Mario, Luigi and/or two Toads, while another player can use the GamePad at any time to create blocks that appear on the TV and can be jumped on or interacted with by players and/or enemies. The GamePad player has other abilities, such as interacting with enemies, defeating enemies in some instances, spinning gears in the opposite direction, or revealing invisible 3-up life blocks.
  • In the Half-Life 2 mod Overwatch, one player controls Combine forces from an RTS point of view, while all the other players are on the opposing team and control an individual resistance fighter in typical FPS gameplay.
  • In Duck Hunt "Game A", the first player shots ducks with the light gun and the second player can control the ducks with the normal gamepad.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has a co-op mode where one player controls Link and the other used a Game Boy Advance connected to the GameCube to provide support (potions, bombs, etc.) with the Tingle Tuner in-game item.
  • Left 4 Dead has zombies vs. human survivors with completely different gameplay styles. The humans can revive downed teammates, and their goal is to reach the end of the level. Player-controlled zombies instead choose where to spawn, and must prevent the human players from reaching the end of the level by killing them. Their capabilities are also vastly different. Dead humans stay dead for a very long time, whereas dead zombie players revive shortly afterward to keep trying to stop the humans.
  • Natural Selection is a Half-Life mod with Aliens (who can respawn, but don't have guns) vs Space Marines (who cannot respawn, but have a Commander with a RTS perspective).
  • The Hidden is a source engine mod where one person with invisibility and a knife faces of against a heavily armed team of SWAT-type police with techno-gadgets.
  • This applies any time a 1 versus 3 minigame comes up in the Mario Party series, for the obvious reason that it would be unfair otherwise.
  • Another Wii U example: The Wii U version of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed has two exclusive modes: Banana Heist, where one person controls Aiai in a ball while everyone else races normally, and Aiai must take bananas from them; and Ninja Tag, where one person controls Joe Musashi and runs into the other players. In both modes, all of the other players need to defend themselves.

Those are the examples I have. Anyone have any more? Is this trope already taken?
replies: 12

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