For Honor, Ubisoft's upcoming multiplayer melee combat game, recently gave console players their first chance to go hands-on with the game in a closed Alpha. The feedback was strong and several key decisions about what to include, remove, and tweak, have been made as a result. The in-house interview; which you can see in full below, with producer Stephan Cardin, gives us some insight into what players had to say and what will be changing as a result. Perhaps the most significant point we can take away is that split screen co-op will be completely removed in favor of polishing on-line co-op.
For those who'd rather not sit through the entire video; the comments come around the 4:24 mark and run as follows:
We decided this week to cut the split-screen, it was a feature that we loved, but, when we looked at what needs to be done to support online co-op, for us it was critical to make a decision now so we can polish all the features at the AAA level and make sure that we have the most amazing experience.
Taken on their own, the comments in the video certainly suggest the feature is being removed completely. We've reached out to Ubisoft for further comment.
It's not surprising that features in a game will change after a closed Alpha. We know that this is a fairly common practice. If a developer feels they can deliver a better core experience by removing additional features, it can be absolutely the right call. What's surprising about this announcement, though, is that sources close to the game have previously suggested that local split screen co-op would be a key feature.
Way back at E3 2015, Creative Director Jason Vandenberghe told GameSpot that split screen was:
Super-required, because this is a game about fighting with weapons, split-screen [is] absolutely a key feature for us [...] You want sit on the couch and beat up your buddy, that's the thing.
Even more recently, at the publisher's annual investor day in February this year the Managing Director of Ubisoft France John Parkes said:
With a fully-fledged story campaign, playable in solo or co-op, all modes available in split-screen, and a deep and rich multiplayer with competitive gameplay, For Honor will drive heavy engagement in-game[...]
For Honor still has another gauntlet of fan feedback to run, the public Beta is currently taking sign ups for early access. It's likely that any changes that come from the second phase of testing will be less significant, though, as we approach the game's Valentine's Day 2017 release date.
For Honor's Alpha was impressive, and if the overall quality of the game is genuinely going to benefit from the removal of the split-screen feature, then this is no different from the removal of any non-essential feature. I generally agree with Vandenberghe's previous sentiment, though - this game is perfect for couch co-op, and I will be sad to see it go.