A swarm of soldiers in Wolfenstein II

There's a lot of debate right now about the state of single player gaming, loot boxes and the "games as service" model. According to MachineGames, it all boils down to what type of game a developer wants to deliver. With Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, for instance, their decision not to include a multiplayer mode hinged entirely on a desire to deliver a solid single player campaign instead.

Gamesindustry recently had a chat with MachineGames' Tommy Tordsson Bjork about the development of Wolfenstein II and its focus on story. While it used to be unheard of for a game to skip over a campaign, many developers/publishers are pivoting to a new model in recent years. Rather than develop a story, they're instead creating a sandbox through which to funnel additional for-pay content to the community. According to Bjork, you can either do one thing great or two things decent.

The only way we can create these super immersive narrative experiences is if we can solely focus on the single-player. Having a multiplayer component in this work process would just dilute it all. That's the danger if you try to do two things at once.

Honestly, that's pretty refreshing to hear in light of recent developments. EA recently shut down Visceral Games because the Star Wars game they were working on was too focused on narrative. While I'm not too happy with this new direction, I can certainly understand its appeal. Even a top-tier, campaign-driven game that sells well will only earn so much money. On top of that, creating those narratives takes a heck of a lot of work over a longer period of time. The model many games are using these days just does away with that story content, instead focusing on reward loops that encourage players to buy cosmetics, stat boosts and other small investments. Those small purchases add up to a boatload of cash and keep players spending on a consistent basis. So, instead of just getting $60 per player for a story-driven game, you might get two or three times that out of an average player.

Bethesda, for the time being, doesn't seem to be too interested in this model. From Wolfenstein II to Prey and The Evil Within 2, they continue to invest in the development of games that put story first. And as Bjork states above, that's the only way to get stellar stories in games.

Of course, we've known this for years now. Back when more developers were transitioning to include multiplayer modes in games that had no business including them, we saw that both the campaign and online offerings were typically lackluster. The result was that development shifted back toward single-player campaigns and the quality of those games benefited because of it. Things are flipping now, but at least MachineGames is proving that not everybody is on board with the new norm.