‘Outriders’ fixes two of modern online gaming’s worst problems
Riders is a success. The sci-fi shooter had a hectic opening weekend due to server issues, but that didn’t deter fans. After the online issues were resolved on Sunday, the game reached 125,000 concurrent players on Steam. Considering the number of launch issues that have killed games like Cyberpunk 2077, Riders seems to be doing relatively unscathed.
The server puzzle has led to a bit of talk about the game’s use of an “always online” model. This is usually reserved for live service games like Destiny 2 where players are never really alone. By comparing, Riders can be played entirely solo. The fact that it can’t be played at all when the servers are down is a bit of a headache.
As the game falls into this modern pitfall, it sidesteps several others. In fact, it fixes some of the worst things about online gaming … both on purpose and by accident.
Avoiding live service makes it more alive
First of all, there is the intentional side: Riders is not a live service game, period.
The third-person shooter tells a focused story that won’t receive an influx of content every week. What you see in the current game is what you get until it receives a traditional DLC update. It may look like Destiny 2 thanks to the loot system and space powers, but it’s a complete package on day one that probably won’t change much over time. And it definitely won’t have a daily, weekly grind cycle.
It’s quite refreshing at a time when every studio wants to hook players up for as long as possible. Without a battle pass, seasons or weekly challenges to speak of, the reason to keep playing Riders is it … fun. It offers powerful shots and plenty of missions without relying on the promise of good content down the line. It’s an online experience that doesn’t try to get players to engage in another game that’s in progress. The game is already here. And it’s pretty good.
This has been a real challenge for online games like Anthem Where Marvel’s Avengers. Both offer perfectly fun gameplay, but lifeless endgames. Fans expected an experience that would keep them captivated for a long time, but were ultimately disappointed when the games failed to deliver on those lofty promises.
Riders instead focuses on the initial quality of the content, not what is to come. The result is a game that offers exciting action that is immediately enjoyable, not gameplay that seems to improve over time.
Why is it Riders still online?
With that philosophy in place, it’s a little odd that he still opts for a restrictive “always on” model. This seems to go against what makes the game so appealing to gamers who are disappointed with the trends in live services.
Ironically, one of the best things about the game is a bit of an accident that bypasses its frustrating online model. Since the game is still online, players cannot pause the game. It makes sense in a game like Destiny 2 where there are always other players having fun. This is totally unnecessary in a single player game where you will never meet another human.
PC gamers who have an Nvidia GPU can get around this in a smart way. Riders supports Nvidia’s Ansel feature, which is a tool designed for screen capture. It allows players to pause a game and rotate the camera to take a photo. For PC gamers playing solo, this becomes an accidental pause button in a game that doesn’t have one.
Having the option to pause a game might seem like a minor thing, but it highlights another small annoyance in modern online gaming. You cannot get up and go to the bathroom unless you are ready to completely exit an instance. The fact that there is a way to do it in Riders is a welcome adjustment that we pray to become a full feature eventually.
Riders successfully resists some frustrating eccentricities online, but it could go a step further. By separating its single-player content from its always-online mode, the game could truly be free from the modern design annoyances that plague some of today’s biggest games. Even so, it’s already a solid foundation that should hopefully convince studios that constantly throwing a carrot in front of gamers isn’t an alternative to creating a solid suite of immediately enjoyable content.