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.
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- 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.”
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?