Ubisoft talks splitscreen and The Division


We interview Magnus Jansén, creative director of Tom Clancy’s The Division, about his decision to leave splitscreen out of his co-op focused RPG shooter.

Split screen gaming is not in a good place at the moment. At least, not with the major publishers. When you have titles like Halo, which has championed couch multiplayer for well over a decade, removing the mode in favour of drop-in, drop-out co-op, then you know there is a problem. Developers haven’t quite worked out how to wield this new generation of consoles just yet, and split screen requires a sacrifice in frame rate and detail most are unwilling to make.

The problem is, same couch co-op gaming is incredibly fun. It’s less a mode and more a culture, and those who like splitscreen truly love it.

We recently spoke at length with Halo’s design director Kevin Franklin about this very subject, so recently took the opportunity to also confront Ubisoft Massive’s creative director Magnus Jansén about its absence in his new game.

The Division, as a squad-based RPG shooter, is ripe for couch co-op, but only drop-in, drop-out is offered with friends (or complete strangers). Here is what he had to say about the current state of splitscreen gaming, and the decision not to offer it in The Division.

Magnus Jansén

  • Magnus Jansén is the current Creative Director and former Lead Designer at Massive Studios, a Ubisoft owned development team.
  • Jansén worked on Far Cry 3, which featured a splitscreen mode.
  • Jansén cites the "progression nature of the game" as being one of the main reasons splitscreen multiplayer was not included in The Division.

“As a gamer, so not talking specifically about The Division, I think there is a special type of fun to be had with splitscreen, so obviously whenever that is possible I think it’s a good thing to include. The previous game we worked on was Far Cry 3, and that had splitscreen, so let me assure you I am a big champion for the mode.”

“One of the biggest reasons why there is nothing like that in The Division is because of the progression nature of the game. Being able to seamlessly move from single, to co-op, to online with the same character that you are always improving, is something that you want to do on your own. You don’t want to be tied to whenever another player wants to quit.”

You don’t want to be tied to whenever another player wants to quit.

“In your classic splitscreen experience, there is a defined challenge to overcome, whether it be racing a lap around a circuit or completing a mission. But the challenge in The Division is always ongoing; there is always something to do in the open world. There’s a new mission, or new people to group up with, so you never stop playing. So having your co-op friends able to just drop-in, but when they need to go off and do their thing you can continue playing, is good as you are not bound to them. I think that suits The Division. It’s such a constantly ongoing experience, that when tying you to someone else, splitscreen just makes it messy.”

“But there are also obviously technical reasons. For example, how much can we put on the screen when you move into the Dark Zone and run into other people? There’s also issues when online in regards to profiles, as well as rendering. So while I like splitscreen and it would have been really good to do, we were unable to do it for this game.”

Our Take

We appreciate Jansén’s view on why co-op did not fit with The Division. His parting line suggests that it was more a technological hurdle that couldn’t be overcome. In the perfect world, you could provide the option and let the player decide how they want to engage in the world – perhaps using cloud-based profile hosting to ensure that you and your friends can progress the same character together or apart. Perhaps that could be a feature in The Division 2?

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7 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    Darkstormz23087August 7, 2016

    So could the division 2 have split screen because my brother wants to play on the same screen to play with me so I think it might be a good idea to put as a different mode that does not need online play so people could just screw around with out being bothered or eBen do the missions. So put online in own game mode and split screen in another I know it will be hard but I think you all can do it if you really wanted to. So maybe you could try doing that?

  2. Default Gravatar
    MartinJuly 26, 2016

    I can remember having halo party’s where a dozen of my friends would rock out Halo on a 12” 4 player split screen and be loving it. Now almost a decade later I can hardly get a couch co-op game much less one that works with the online community.

    Often I have many friends and family that would like to play the same game I am playing. It would be great if we could all play on the same Xbox, game, and 60” inch TV.

    The reason why I am advocating for split screen is because my 6 and 12-year-old sons want to play, but I end up passing the controller around like it’s a mid 80’s Super Mario game. It would be nice to teach them how to play the game.

    Please consider adding this feature.

  3. Default Gravatar
    AmbellinaMay 30, 2016

    They should make it split screen so I can play with my love! :)

  4. Default Gravatar
    It'sMay 29, 2016

    How do you get split screen

  5. Default Gravatar
    NikitovicvukApril 2, 2016

    U both have wright about stupid reasons for non split screen . Only game what we can play like before is 2k sport game and fifa pes …. no more good games like in 90 on sega mega drive 16 bit. Whit 2 joypad and play whit friends until tomorrow hahaha. That was good life. Ppl today live lonely lives and playing stupid online games .. very very sad story.. bringing back split screen co op campaign will be very good things..

  6. Default Gravatar
    BamaboyrollinMarch 8, 2016

    Splitscreen obviously affects gameplay and frame rate, however, when i have company, which is very often, Call of Duty is the go to game, because, though it’s the weakest if all fps, they do at least understand, that gamers want OPTIONS, it should be our choice, rather we are willing to settle for lesser frame rates for more fun! options , options, options, that’s what gamers want! One day developers will understand thus, hopefully,we want more guns, more customizations, and more game modes to choose from! That’s why all the Ultimate team modes in all the sports titles have been such a success, because we have more content to choose from weekly. Split Screen is ALWAYS the first thing i look for when shooters come out, outside of COD, i’m ALWAYS disappointed,so , i almost never get to experience some otherwise pretty great games, because, outside of sports titles, it’s just NO FUN, for me to sit there by myself and play, nor sit there and WATCH someone else play, while i wait for them to due, so i can get my turn. Damn! I remember playing split screen all the time on shooters and racers, before i went and spent all my money on this MOST POWERFUL next gen machine. PLEASE give me back my split screen somebody! ” you can do it!!”

  7. Default Gravatar
    mecha-nekoFebruary 13, 2016

    Split screen would work just like one person playing except there’s two of you at once.

    And since they’re both there in the same room, you can both decide when to stop playing, and I assume your characters will be in close proximity (within the same level at the very distant, if you’re sniping or something), so there’s no big crazy dilemma when one player wants to do one thing and one player wants to quit.

    Solution: You quit split screen, save your statuses, see your friend to the door, they catch the bus, you return to your console, you click Continue Game > # Players = 1, and you resume your character in a non-split-screen game.

    So my question is this: what’s wrong with my approach? Seems pretty bulletproof. Anybody who’s co-oped Halo will recognise it instantly.

    You can have it for free.

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