Will cross-play hurt my current multiplayer fix?
Howdy folks, this blog probably going to be a messy one because I love to incoherently ramble about this kind of subject but I'll try to keep things clean and tidy. I generally write my blogs in a singular flow and only do minor spell-checking so I a bit of forewarning since I expect this ones not coming out great, it's also maybe a tad controversial since I know a fair amount of people are in favour of cross-play but... Let's get to it.
So I've been anxious for a little while about the cross-play update hitting Apex since back when it was announced. I don't really know any details about it and whether that's because there isn't anything concrete posted about it out there yet or just simply because I don't usually research into this kind of thing (never even read each updates patch notes for example lol, I just play the game and see what's new myself) but to me this could be a biggie. This could potentially dictate whether I could continue to realistically enjoy and play the game anymore.
Cross-play, in it's most simplified explanation sounds like a no-brainer (hence why generally people agree with the push for it). It sounds a great idea for a multiplayer game to allow friends etc. to play together despite buying different platforms but in practice it typically causes a lot of issues to the base game (that I'm admittedly too lazy to go into here otherwise I'll be here all day but maybe in the future I can explain why I feel the cross-play gimmick is bad move for games overall) and I am also strongly in favour of it always being at least optional if it has to be there at all. No one should be forced into the cross-play ecosystem if they don't want to and should be able to enjoy/play the game they bought on the platform they bought it for.
In theory a lot, heck, most of cross-play titles are optional right? They often have a button in the settings to enable and disable, what's the problem? Well, in practice barely any multiplayer games have TRUE optional cross-play because of both the way the opting system works and how matchmaking is ultimately divided. Most of the games I've seen have a very hard divide between on/off matchmaking. If you have cross-play turned off you will match only with other players with it turned off and that's it. This means you can't even match with solo queueing players on the same platform because they have a different cross-play setting to you. This became super evident when I played PUBG which doesn't have a very strong console player base to begin with (though PS+ may have helped with it now) and if you turned off cross-play you could literally get games with only 10 or fewer players in them at times forcing you to enable cross-play just to actually play the game... and that's not through a complete lack of PS4 players as thanks to a website called PUBGLookup I can verify that in those cross-play lobbies they consisted of about 80% PS4 players most the time so it's clearly weighting in favour of same-platform, but that remains a chunk of players that are still completely locked off from those matchmaking when turning off the cross-play option despite that 80% likely not being in cross-platform parties or actively engaging in cross-play themselves. The reason they're locked off is just that the 'option' was turned on by default for them and they never bothered to turn it off because it doesn't matter to them (and if you do make the call to have it off, if matchmaking takes a while, which it will, it'll come with a pop-up telling you that you should put it on and with 1 button press its back on again and you'll plop straight into a game almost immediately as you switch matchmaking pools, no one wants to wait that long so the pool shrinks as even those players give up having it off).
A few ways to improve this system to make it truly optional (and I pray to god games try to stick to implement something like one of these, I know a couple games do) would be to either change the cross-play into an explicit 'opt-in' setting you have to make the active choice to turn on (not just a pop-up people skip by on first booting) rather than the 'opt-out' favoured system so that the general playerbase will just match together by default on the same platform and if you specifically want to play with friends on another platform you can enable it. Whilst that can still divide matchmaking and lower the pool of players with it turned on since its off by default that's somewhat balanced by the fact you now have access to the other platforms player pools that also have it enabled so it can help smooth things out rather than creating one dead player pool of 'opt-out' players on a platform. It could also help balance the fact that everyone in these matches will likely be in pre-built teams, but that's more of a neat side-effect and not the intention.
Another alternative is to lessen the divide between the matchmaking pools itself so that players with cross-play disabled can still match with players who have it enabled so far as they're on the same platform (this feels a no-brainer to me but... apparently not I guess?). To do this players with it on (unless they're in a cross-platform party obviously) should end up being prioritised for same-platform matchmaking and just generally get included in the non cross-play player pool for that platform. A player with cross-play off shouldn't be cut off from everyone else on their platform, it doesn't make sense, why should I, as a PS4 player not be able to play with/against a fellow PS4 player?
Ultimately the general population don't practically care either way, they'll default to whatever the game defaults them to so it feels slightly more like just a battle between two minorities, one who specifically want it disabled or out of the game entirely and the other who specifically have cross-platform friends they want to play with regularly (which is actually much rarer than you'd expect, not that many people are making regular use of the feature). The way most cross-play is now is that by appeasing the latter category in the way they're implementing it they're also penalising the former when it's perfectly possible to please both without any compromises for either camp. I know some of this is teething problems but it does suck that a vocal minority pushed this whole cross-play thing so hard in recent years that we have some poorly cobbled together messes of cross-play systems. Not just the matchmaking, but the poorly executed friend systems that don't work properly and just generally how messy it has been to just use it for those that wanted it in the first place. It's genuinely been tainting some otherwise really fun multiplayer experiences and I don't honestly want to have to deal with it in regards to Apex, I'd honestly rather uninstall it to save my dwindling hard drive space if I had to and wait for them to resolve any of the issues if they've botched this, make sure it's truly optional before I hop back on it (and I didn't think I'd ever consider uninstalling Apex 👀, damn game has been cemented on my hard drive along with P.T)
So, yeah there's a slight vent/ramble of sorts, let me know what you think of the inclusion of cross-play these days, does it seem cobbled together? Do you agree in any of my solutions to appeasing both camps? Or is there another alternative you think could make cross-play more seamless and not penalise those who wish to have it disabled?
Also, as one little extra note, does anyone have any ideas for any future blogs? I know I'm very infrequent and spontaneous with my blog subjects and I would like to try and put more out, I just don't know what to talk about and I'm not one for writing 'here's what I did this week' type of blogs personally, though maybe I should at least write something a bit more personal and about me sometime... Eh, anyway, thanks for reading and have a great day.