Created By: Koveras on September 7, 2012 Last Edited By: Koveras on January 13, 2013
Troped

Multiplayer Difficulty Spike

The multiplayer mode(s) are significantly more challenging than the single-player campaign.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
A tendency of video games that offer both single-player and multiplayer modes to make the latter a lot more challenging of the two. Comes in two variations:

  • Strategy and shooter games (especially post-2000) are often geared towards competitive player-vs-player modes, with the campaign serving mainly as an extended Tutorial Level sequence. The campaign AI is often handicapped while the player is gradually introduced to game mechanics; the multiplayer/bot AI, on the other hand, is completely unhindered in its task of taking you down. And, of course, the human opponents are, in theory, the biggest challenge.
  • Games with pronounced Co-Op Multiplayer increase the difficulty in it with the justification that more players can take on bigger challenges and stronger enemies. Some additionally impose penalties on the players to enforce teamwork, such as Crippling Overspecialization and artificial Caps. On the downside, if the game doesn't become popular, players may end up barred from most of its co-op content, unable to find enough co-players online to match the raised difficulty.

The downside of such approach is that players returning from multiplayer to single-player may find the latter boring and hardly challenging after the brutal online battles.

This trope applies specifically to games that offer distinct single-player and multiplayer modes. In Massively Multiplayer Online Games and games whose single-player mode is essentially Co-Op without co-players (in the vein of Diablo II), difficulty spikes proportional to the number of players fall under Dynamic Difficulty.

Examples of PvP difficulty spikes:

  • In WarCraft 3, the campaign AI is quite blatantly railroaded into the same attack patterns over and over again and protected only by cheating. Online AI, on the other hand, is intended to emulate how human players will act.
  • World in Conflict is actually a mixed example: by pitting teams of players against each other, it both gives them access to all the destructive potential only glimpsed in the campaign, and enforces Crippling Overspecialization mostly absent from the single-player.
  • Fighting Games in general as players research and exploit things the computer can't. Of course the computer has some aces up it's sleeve.


Examples of Co-Op difficulty spikes:

  • The Portal 2 Co-Op mode is a lot more challenging than SP, thanks to the puzzles requiring four portals to solve rather than just two.
  • Mass Effect 3 multiplayer caps the player level to 20 (compared to 60 in the SP), drastically reduces available skills, and consistently pits the players against Demonic Spiders rarely encountered even on higher difficulties in SP (or not encountered at all, such as the DLC-only Collector faction).
  • Kingdom Hearts Three Five Eight Days Over Two has the Mission Mode, which has a multi-player option. The enemies have buffed stats compared to story mode whether you have multiple players or not.
  • Evil Islands doesn't allow importing your SP characters to co-op (so you have to make new ones from scratch), makes all enemies a lot tougher than in SP, and drastically reduces the XP and money rewards for quests and combat.
  • Borderlands and Borderlands 2 state quite often in the loading screen messages that playing with other people increases the game's difficulty but also increases the loot quality that drops.

Will go under Video Game Difficulty Tropes.
Community Feedback Replies: 27
  • September 7, 2012
    mythbuster
    Kingdom Hearts Three Five Eight Days Over Two has Mission Mode, which has a multi-player option. The enemies have buffed stats compared to story mode whether you have multiple players or not.
  • September 8, 2012
    morenohijazo
    Evil Islands has the Co Op variation. In multiplayer you can't use your character from single player, you must create a new one from zero. Theorically you must build it by completing the multiplayer quest (different from single player). However, the multiplayer is very unbalanced, with the rewards from both killing enemies and completing quests being much smaller than in single player. The smaller experience gain means you won't be growing as fast, and the smaller money gain means you can't buy items unless you grind a lot (and this is a game where damage has an Equipment Based Progression). And, of course, the quests are incredibly hard, with enemies incredibly tough. To put an example, the standard mooks you find in the fourth and last set of quests have about 1000 HP, and regenerate very fast. The EliteMooks you find at the end of the single player campaign (Imperial Guards) have only 500 HP.
  • September 8, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ Can you elaborate a bit on how exactly the difficulty is increased? Even if it's the same as other examples, it helps...
  • September 8, 2012
    morenohijazo
    Oh, another thing to add: unfortunately, it's a game that Needs More Love. That means that you may find hard to find some people to play with. What sucks in a multiplayer where you definitely need those extra players to progress.

    You may wand to add this downside to the description, I guess that happens in other games as well.
  • September 8, 2012
    acrobox
    In almost all of the Ninja Turtles Beat Em Up games there would be more enemies as you added more players to co-op mode. Most notable in the last boss of the original arcade game. Shredder would clone himself to always have one more of him than their were turtles. i.e. on single player he would split in 2, with four players he would split in 5)
  • September 11, 2012
    Koveras
    Bump.
  • October 9, 2012
    Euan2000
    Fighting games in general as players research and exploit things the computer can't. Of course the computer has some aces up it's sleeve.
  • October 9, 2012
    NateTheGreat
    Page quote from Zero Punctuation's review of DC Universe Online:

    [I] was brought to an instance with three other guys and the instruction: "Now there are four of you, so I guess you won't have any trouble meeting a one hundred dude smacking quota!"
  • October 21, 2012
    Koveras
  • November 9, 2012
    Koveras
    Examples, hats?
  • November 9, 2012
    atheist723
    An elaborate example from RuneScape: when entering the instanced dungeons of Daemonheim, not only it would be larger and more difficult if you have a larger party, it also varies depending on floor (deeper = harder), complexity, and your skill levels to the point that all bosses have at least a dozen of different levels.
  • November 9, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ I considered adding that example, but I figured that it also falls under Dynamic Difficulty, and I had to draw the line somewhere. As it stands, I don't think it's fair to include games that do not feature a standalone single-player campaign.

    For this reason, I also removed the Yahtzee quote and the TMNT example, since they both seemed to refer to this kind of games.
  • November 9, 2012
    atheist723
    ^You could enter a dungeon with one to five players.
  • November 9, 2012
    Koveras
    I understand, but not having played the game, I read up its description and saw that it is a MMORPG, so it is basically multiplayer-only game. Yes, you can solo an MMOG but there is no quantum leap between one player and 2+ players there as in single-player games with a multiplayer mode.
  • December 25, 2012
    spacemarine50
    Wondering: Is multiplayer always harder because you're not fighting the computer, but other players? Doubles if you're used to the single-player's Artificial Stupidity and lose badly.
  • December 25, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ Yes, that's what most commonly happens in competitive multiplayer.
  • December 25, 2012
    morenohijazo
    Koveras, maybe you should do some Rolling Updates so that we can give you some hats as Christmas presents.
  • December 25, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ Just what exactly am I supposed to update? ^^ AFAIK all examples thus far in the comments have already been included in the write-up (except TMNT, as I explained in my comment), and the suggested page quote was removed for reasons outlined in the same comment.
  • December 25, 2012
    morenohijazo
    Pff, the problem is that there are very few examples. But I'll add a hat, I don't think it's going to get more in a short time.
  • December 25, 2012
    spacemarine50
    My point is that any game can be an example, if it has:

    Might be way too common if we find games that meet these criteria.
  • December 25, 2012
    DRCEQ
    • Borderlands and Borderlands 2 state quite often in the loading screen messages that playing with other people increases the game's difficulty but also increases the loot quality that drops.
  • December 26, 2012
    Koveras
    ^^ And what do you suggest we do, then?
  • January 5, 2013
    Koveras
    Bump...
  • January 5, 2013
    spacemarine50
    ^^ I think this is Not Tropeworthy. This will always happen with game that meet the criteria posted above, which are a lot.
  • January 5, 2013
    Koveras
    I don't think that being commonplace precludes a video game convention from being a trope. Unless it's People Sit On Chairs, but I don't think it's the case because this is about the gameplay difficulty, i.e. artificial rules governed by the designers' logic, not by common sense.
  • January 5, 2013
    Khantalas
    Also, not all multiplayer difficulty spikes are Pv P. As Mass Effect 3 players can attest to, even when you have no difficulties on Insanity in single player, you might horribly mess up even Silver difficulty matches in multiplayer. This has little to do with the AI (which isn't any smarter, just more aggressive), and a lot to do with many other factors.
  • January 12, 2013
    InsanityPrelude
    Would it be worth noting that some of those Demonic Spiders in ME3 multiplayer don't even appear in single-player? (The Collector faction, specifically, although most of them were in the second game... where Praetorians only appeared about twice, bringing us back to the "rarely appears in SP" thing.)
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=q13euj9he10jogs7qa5znlfl&trope=MultiplayerDifficultySpike