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September 9th, 2014
02:19 PM ET

Destiny's mingleplayer experience

Few realize that many of the first video games were multiplayer. It took time for computers to be smart enough to provide decent opponents, leading to the rise of singleplayer games.

Now Destiny is about to introduce gamers to a new type of gaming: mingleplayer.

Destiny isn't the first mingleplayer game. But it is the first major blockbuster game to be built around the concept, which combines singleplayer and multiplayer.

The idea is to combine the best elements of singleplayer and multiplayer gaming. Destiny is a story-based shooter that you can play through on your own (or with a couple of friends). But as you progress through missions, you'll notice something different: Other human players you don't know will randomly appear in the game's large levels, carrying out their own missions completely independent of you.

Seeing other players run around "your" game world for the first time is an odd experience. The first thing you'll likely do is rush over to see what they're doing. But what sets Destiny apart is its less-is-more approach. You can't actually speak to any of the players that you randomly encounter. Interaction is limited to a few gestures like waving and pointing, so you'll probably never know exactly what they're doing.

The lack of communication feels limiting at first, but somehow becomes a little more liberating. There are no language barriers, no swearing 13-year-old jolting you out of Destiny's sci-fi universe. Instead, cooperation becomes a wordless exercise; see a fellow player in trouble, lend a hand, and move on. The reverse is equally powerful: Being outgunned in a fight and on the edge of defeat before a high-level player wanders in to casually overwhelm your foes.

Multiplayer games are wonderfully social, but effectively rely on other people to generate that experience. Titanfall's attempt to graft a singleplayer storyline on to a multiplayer game is an example of how it can go badly wrong. You can lose a mission in Titanfall's campaign and be the worst player on the team, but the game treats you as if you'd won the war. Singleplayer games have a tighter control on that experience and can position the player as central to the story, but they are often linear and there is little value in replaying the game once you've completed it.

Mingleplayer attempts to take the best elements from the two. Destiny is just as social as most multiplayer games, but with a storyline that's crafted tightly around you. And while that story may be fairly linear, adding an extra human element gives it a sense of randomness different to most singleplayer games.

It's hard to say how many blockbuster games will follow this formula. But at the very least, Destiny feels like nothing else in gaming.

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Filed under: Games • General • Technology
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