World of Monstrous Design: Play with your Friends

4 in a series of 4 articles in the World of Monstrous Design series.

I’ve been writing a series on some of the quirks of the game Monster Hunter: World. I really like fighting the monsters, tracking them, learning new strategies, and finally learning their patterns. I like reading about the ecology between the monsters and how they interact. I also Like playing with my friends.

I’ll try to keep this one short and sweet, because multiplayer on Monster Hunter: World is fiendishly close to being great.

Where is Everyone?

Getting a multiplayer game of Monster Hunter: World set up is nothing short of a pain. Remember that bustling hub? It’s weirdly empty when you realize that you can’t have any other players in there. You’re alone with a bunch of automatons, some of which you may actually need to do specific things. Others say “hey,” and go back to shuffling their hands on the ground. The place is practically begging to have players hang around and interact, but it seems like a missed opportunity. I’m hoping we get something like Astera in another game, and that other players can show up and interact with you. There is a small gathering hub separate from the rest of the lobby where you can see your friends. Unfortunately, it’s missing a forge, so if you’re working on your build you’ll probably never see your friends until they meet you in the field.

If this game wasn’t so clumsy about letting you have fun and getting you into the game, I might say that the way the game’s multiplayer is set up is to make sure the engineered game experience isn’t messed up by dumb players. I’ve already pointed out that the game is designed like a High School play trying to discuss the intricacies of an ancient class structure. Subtlety and craft is lacking when it comes to the “story”.

You “Can” Play with Friends*

The Multiplayer weirdness doesn’t stop there. On story missions you usually can’t have others join unless you’ve seen a cutscene, because this is a single player game with an online mode instead of a multiplayer game. In most modern games you can form a party and play the game; a great example of this is Rare’s Sea of Thieves. Perhaps this isn’t a fair comparison, since for Sea of Thieves the entire game is about online play, but setting up a solo game, friends-only session, or getting onto a public ship is so easy that I could do it without groaning in agony, and I have less than half the hours in that game.

Monster Hunter: World is a bit of a mess: not only are there different “server” settings, you can also set up quests awkwardly. So I guess I’ll try to explain how it works: first either set up your instance or join a friend’s instance. If you’re setting up your own server, make sure not to pick some of the options, which don’t really tell you what they do. Awesome, so now you can go on a quest right? NO! First “post” a quest if you want, then everyone has to accept the quest that wants to go. If you don’t ready up, or the host departs without you, you can join at a later time but it’s kinda awkward. Oh, and if you set up your server wrong, your friends need to put in a password. Oh, and remember, if you’re doing a “story” mission, your friends usually can’t join. Oh, and if you want to play solo, you still need to be online, so hopefully that’s not a problem in the futureā€¦

Here’s how I’d fix it: let single player and multiplayer be obvious game modes. Let players join parties and let players in the same party show up in the same hub area: you know so you can hang out with your friends. When the host posts a quest the whole party doesn’t need to join it: they just do because they’re already in your party, right? If you want to post a quest and you’re not hosting, the host can just accept it and everyone’s ready to go. Games like Sea of Thieves make this a non-issue, so again I’m surprised how Capcom dropped the ball here.

Help Wanted: See Flare

One thing that’s pretty cool about the multiplayer is the “SOS” feature; if you’re running a Monster Hunter Mission alone and you’re really taking a beating, you can send out a flare to ask for help. If your server is public, this means that anyone can jump in and help kill the Monster you’re running. This is a lot like summoning, in Dark Souls except there’s no real PvP, and it’s not resource limited. If Capcom got anything right about the multiplayer features for this game, it was the flares.

One problem you might see with my praise of the SOS flare is if you’re running solo you can’t SOS. That’s true, but if we had AI hunters you could SOS them instead. This works in Dark Souls, and you can summon phantoms, or get invaded by NPC’s. Had they implemented it, NPC hunters could give Capcom more options for showing advanced tactics in the game rather than relying on a book inside the game. Maybe there’s not a good NPC hunter system, but that’s really weird to me because if you’re in a group of 1 or 2 you get an NPC cat to fight with you, and it seems to know things like “you’re going to die if I don’t heal you,” and “You’re stunned so I should knock you over,” so I’m not sure why there are no NPC Hunters besides the one beefy guy you never hunt with after the first couple missions.

Lessons Learned

My big takeaway from the multiplayer experience from Monster Hunter: World is that connecting players isn’t easy. The biggest studios and shops who have been doing this for decades still regularly have problems with online play. When games get it right, though it’s like a breath of fresh air.

Multiplayer Monster Hunter: World is really where the game shines. Learning new techniques, and interactions with players is a whole new layer of complexity that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully explore. Plus, once you start playing with others some of the potential builds (support, defense, elemental) get much more interesting.

If you’re a big Monster Hunter: World fan and think everything I said is a load of garbage, then [@]( me. I might come back to respond to them, who knows!