Problem: Non-host players have no control over multiplayer.
There’s something for everyone in Burnout Paradise! There’s online races, stunt runs, demolition derbies, and the team-based ‘Cops and Robbers’ multiplayer, as well as things to discover and challenges to complete based on the number of players in the game.
The problem is that only the host can determine which activities everyone will be playing. The other players have no power over the game – they can’t suggest activities, vote for what to do next, or veto the host’s choices. The best they can do is to call out their choices on voice chat, or spam the host with text messages.
This weakens the game’s multiplayer mode, because everybody wants to be the host in order to complete their list of multiplayer challenges. So instead of 10 awesome games filled with 8 players, you would be more likely to see 30 games with 2-3 players each. This makes the online play seem much more sparse than it actually is.
Nowadays, I have only a few challenges that I’m still trying to do. The only way to get anything done in Burnout is to start an online game, then go away and do something else for an hour or two. When I come back, if I’m lucky, there will be 4-5 players still in the game, and then I can start a challenge, and hope that everybody doesn’t immediately drop. Sound lame? It is.
Solution: Allow FPS-style nominations and voting.
Burnout Paradise just needs to implement systems that allow players to have a voice, similar to what you might see in a FPS. Between events, players can access the list of available activities and challenges, and suggest one to be the next event. The game takes all the suggestions, chooses one randomly, then puts it up to a vote. Players can use up and down on the D-Pad to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ If half the players vote ‘No,’ then the event is cancelled, and the next random suggestion is put to a vote. Otherwise it starts immediately, with the player who suggested it in control of the event setup. (In other words: if nobody votes, it’s assumed that the suggestion passes.)
In order to prevent griefing with this system, players can also nominate other players in order to kick them from the game. The same voting system applies, and if a majority votes ‘Yes,’ the player is kicked from the game and prevented from rejoining for a few minutes. (In other words: If nobody votes, it’s assumed that the kick attempt fails.)
The system isn’t perfect – a bloc of 3-4 players voting together can control the game – but it gives players a greater incentive to just choose ‘Easy Drive’ and join a random online game, knowing that they’ll be able to exert some control over the game events. A player can now expect to be able to make some progress on their list of challenges, or to be able to get into a good race, without needing to host the game themselves and just hope that enough players show up.