It recently became clear that Xbox and Arkane’s upcoming shooter, Redfall, would require an always-online internet connection. This isn’t great for a host of reasons and people, predictably and understandably, cried foul, launching a barrage of complaints. Now, it seems Arkane has heard the backlash and is planning to ditch the game’s controversial always-online requirement.
Developed by Arkane, the same folks behind the wonderful Dishonored series and 2017 imsim sensation Prey, Redfall is a co-op loot shooter set in a world filled with vampires. It looks a bit like Left 4 Dead, but actually seems to have more in common with games like Borderlands. And while it seems kind of cool, last month players learned that it would require an always-online internet connection to play. This has sadly become a more common trend in AAA games. Diablo IV requires a similar always-online connection as will the upcoming supervillain game, Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League. This is normally the part where I talk about how bad a trend this is, but for once I’ve got good news: Arkane is actually trying to cure Redfall of its internet addiction
In an interview with Eurogamer, Redfall game director Harvey Smith explained that Arkane and his studio “listen” to players and have a lot of “empathy” for folks who don’t have consistent internet connections.
“We do take [complaints about always online] with a lot of empathy,” Smith explained. “We listen. And we have already started work to address this in the future. We have to do some things like encrypt your save games and do a bunch of UI work to support it. And so we are looking into—I’m not supposed to promise anything—but we’re looking into and working actively toward fixing that in the future.”
Smith suggests that devs have two ways to react to these complaints: Listen and try to fix things or point out that everything else is always online.
“[Devs] could say: ‘Oh, my God, you’re always online. If you get on your Steam, and it’s not online, you freak out. If you get on your Xbox, and you can’t get the latest patch, or see what your friends are doing, you freak out. You want to be always online!’ But that response, I think, lacks empathy.”
He further explained that he understands that some people live in places where internet outages are common or “broadband is shitty.” He also understands that some players are “competing with their family members” who might be streaming a movie or playing another game on a limited internet connection.
So why even try to make the game always online in the first place? The obvious answer—and what is often the case in big games—is to sell players more products via in-game stores. But Smith says that wasn’t the case with Redfall.
“[Always online] allows us to do some accessibility stuff,” Smith said. “It allows us for telemetry, like—if everybody’s falling off ladders and dying, holy shit that shows up. And so we can go and tweak the ladder code. There are reasons we set out to do that that are not insidious.”
Regardless of why Arkane was planning on making the game require a constant online connection, I’m happy to see a studio listen to fan feedback about an important issue and try to fix the situation, instead of ignoring it.