I'm really feeling it!

Always-Online Will Always Be a Flaw, Never a Feature

Exhibit A.

It has been a shitty fucking week. I was away visiting my girlfriend’s folks during an extended Easter weekend when on Monday, we got a call from our apartment complex management informing us a fire had started in another unit at our building and spread to ours. This, our wasted bathroom, was what they were talking about.


Luckily, this was the only damage we ourselves suffered, and more importantly, nobody was hurt during the whole ordeal. It may have been literally the best possible case to hope for with something like this. Not so luckily, it also meant that we had to spend all day Tuesday—indeed, the day after this whole mess—both packing up our things and moving to another apartment in the same complex. Plus, contending with the reality that what we cultivated into a home for us two (plus cats) could be taken from us in a single evening because we apparently cannot even trust our neighbors to prevent burning everyone’s stuff down...it has not felt awfully nice.

It also meant being without internet access for our place until that Friday, when its related services could be transferred over. For someone who wants to play some video games, that can make matters somewhat difficult, considering how the medium has come to increasingly rely more and more on an online infrastructure for powering games over the last decade. It has come to a point where the internet is assumed to be so easily and readily available, that some games are now designed specifically to always be online.

And I do not mean that as in “primarily online though with some things that can be done offline.” I mean games that are literally unplayable without an internet connection. And it is not even relegated to only multiplayer games, stupidly enough, because it can even affect single-player titles! For example, there’s this game that I have been quite into over the past two months, even to the extent of writing some glowing words about it, Gravity Rush 2. However, during my temporary new-apartment internet drought, there would have been no way for me to play it.

That is due to this annoying thing it does where it will not load up without an internet connection. As in, I cannot get past the title screen.


Gravity Rush 2, it turns out, is an always-online game. This is an embodiment of the future that I, and doubtless many others, feared might come to pass in the internet gaming age.


Update 4/26/2017 3:18 pm: Or maybe it could be something else equally annoying which adds yet more fuel to the DLC fire.

This is infuriating. You mean to tell me that I cannot get into my SINGLE-PLAYER GAME without being online? The game does have features that use the internet—treasure hunts, uploading pictures you take in-game to be rated by others and also rating others’ pictures, challenge leaderboards, a few aspects of the Delvool trench mines, etc.—but none of these are essential to fundamentally being able to play the game. There could have been an “offline mode” set up where these things are temporarily toggled off due to the lack of internet connectivity, but evidently that must not have been in the cards.


It is even more insulting when you consider the multiple other single-player games with supplementary online components that do not have this problem. Take Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, arguably the closest analogue to what Gravity Rush 2 was looking to do with its supplementary online-based activities, and sarcastically marvel at how it still works perfectly fine offline! Hell, if you want the absolute ideal for sensible design, look at Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which comes with an option to switch its online-based capabilities on and off right in the options menu!

Had Gravity Rush 2 done any of those things, maybe I could have been spending some of my free time from unpacking stuff that wasn’t already taken up playing Ballz leaping and flying around a bunch of floating islands. Instead, I spent my time indulging a resurgent interest in Mortal Kombat X.


There should be a game design commandment for these modern online-soaked times: Thou shalt always remember to make games that worketh—even if only in a reduced capacity—without being online. It is not a luxury item; it is a quality-of-life issue.

And make no mistake, primarily online multiplayer games are not exempt! Which means that yes, Overwatch, I must take you to task for being unable to get past your title screen.


Ideally, it could have made like Splatoon and put in some single-player despite multiplayer being the clear priority. Even if it did not do that, however, there are several existing features that seem like they would work perfectly well offline. How about the firing range where you could test out everyone’s abilities? How about rejiggering the AI mode so there could be 11 computer players and one human player? Or setting up similar AI-utilizing versions of 3v3 elimination matches and 1v1 mystery duels?


Even the current PvE Uprising mission, which is in large part a Left 4 Dead-style map in miniature, could have done the Left 4 Dead thing and provided AI teammates if someone was playing alone. At the absolute barest minimum, viewing and changing skins in the Hero Gallery—not even purchasing new ones, just working with existing ones—should not require an internet connection.

These would all be significantly inferior experiences versus the full experience of playing Overwatch online, that much is inarguable. But when there is no online to turn to, whether from a service outage or being exiled from your apartment because someone else burned it down, it would still be good to have something to do in-game if one so desired.


The internet is not this constantly-available resource. The less games act as if it is, the better.

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