Multitap: Porting from PC to console? Bring friends!

April 24, 2013


PC games have historically been a bit less willing to feature local multiplayer, and for good reason: until the last few years, you were stuck around a desk, and that’s just not ideal. That doesn’t mean those games wouldn’t be fun that way, though, and developers know it. So when these titles get ported to consoles, they’re often retrofitted with some couch play.

The latest example? Diablo III. The upcoming PS3 and PS4 ports of the PC title are adding in four-player offline play, making it much more of a successor to the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance games. In many ways, this makes it into a much more compelling proposition than the always-on, pseudo-MMO original. (That said, we’ll check the game out when it releases this summer and give you a deeper look.)

There’s precedent for this, though. The original Diablo was ported to the PlayStation in 1998, and featured many of these changes. (Of course, it couldn’t quite manage four-player, but two was a big step.) Converting the game to direct-control combat and movement made it less of the click-fest it was known for, and basically a completely different experience for fans of the 1996 PC release. Of course, the console couldn’t keep up technically (a problem we still have today), but the gap is less of an issue to gameplay now than it was then.


The other path a game takes is the indie one; reaching a certain level of popularity lets an upstart project reach TVs. The one you probably think of first is Minecraft, a runaway success both in its original form and in its Xbox 360 port. The PC game is a great, deep experience, but there’s something different about gathering together and building in split-screen. It’s fitting that Terraria followed its lead with its own console port, as, while it has a bit more structure, it has much of the same appeal.

Let’s look at another classic. The PS2/Dreamcast adaptation of Unreal Tournament was an early FPS gem, bridging the gap between the GoldenEye and Halo eras. It sported a nice variety of multiplayer modes, as focusing on that and generally neglecting single-player options let it refine that focus.

We may be reaching the end of games like these, simply because the two formats are gradually merging. Console games focus more and more on one-person, one-system play, be it in campaigns or online multiplayer, and PC games have taken advantage of the advent of Big Picture Mode and general living-room PC usage to make the experience wanted without having to deal with a new version. (Great examples: Jamestown, Magicka and the increasingly-more-supported PC version of Dungeon Defenders.) Still, though, there are probably a few more years of extra console experiences ahead of us, as adoption rates catch up.


Even though some games only have two-player local play on consoles, they’re still worth checking out. Plants vs. Zombies lets players split duties and coordinate lawn defense. Anomaly: Warzone Earth took a similar approach for its “tower offense” gameplay, and ratcheted up the chaos in a wave mode. And Diablo wasn’t Blizzard’s only contribution to multiplayer console ports: StarCraft 64, while maybe not the best way to play StarCraft, did sport split-screen co-op.

What are your favorite PC-to-console ports? Or do you prefer the originals, and use LAN parties to play in one place? I’d love to hear your thoughts.