Riders is a success. The sci-fi shooter had a rocky opening weekend due to server issues, but that didn’t deter fans. After the online issues were resolved on Sunday, the game hit 125,000 concurrent players on Steam. Considering how much launch issues have killed games like Cyberpunk 2077, Riders seems to have escaped relatively unscathed.
The server puzzle led to a bit of talk about the game’s use of an “always online” model. It’s usually reserved for live service games like Destiny 2 where players are never truly alone. By comparing, Riders can be played entirely solo. The fact that it can’t be played at all when the servers are down is a bit of a headache.
While the game falls into this modern pitfall, it bypasses several others. In fact, it fixes some of the worst things about online gaming…both on purpose and by accident.
Avoiding live service makes it livelier
First, there is the intentional side: Riders is not a live service game, period.
The third-person shooter tells a focused story that won’t get an influx of content every week. What you see in the current game is what you get until it receives a traditional DLC update. It may look like Destiny 2 thanks to the loot system and space powers, but it’s a complete day one package that probably won’t scale much over time. And it definitely won’t have a daily and weekly grind cycle.
It’s quite refreshing in a time when every studio wants to hook players up for as long as possible. With no battle pass, seasons, or weekly challenges to speak of, the reason to keep playing Riders it’s just… it’s fun. It offers powerful shots and plenty of missions without relying on the promise of good content down the line. It’s an online experience that doesn’t try to entice players into engaging in another ongoing game. The game is already there. And that’s pretty good.
This has been a real challenge for online games like Anthem Where Marvel’s Avengers. Both feature perfectly fun gameplay, but lifeless finales. Fans expected an experience that would keep them captivated for a long time, but they were ultimately disappointed when the games failed to deliver on those lofty promises.
Riders instead focuses on the initial quality of the content, not what comes next. The result is a game that features thrilling action that’s enjoyable right away, not gameplay that seems to get better with time.
Why is it Riders still online?
With that ethos in place, it’s a little odd that it still opts for a restrictive “always online” model. This seems to go against what makes the game so appealing to players who are disappointed with live service trends.
Ironically, one of the best things about the game is a bit of an accident that sidesteps its frustrating online model. As the game is still online, players cannot pause the game. It makes sense in a game like Destiny 2 where there are always other players having fun. It’s totally useless in a single-player game where you’ll never meet another human.
PC gamers who have an Nvidia GPU can cleverly bypass this. Riders supports Nvidia’s Ansel feature, which is a tool designed for screen capture. It allows players to pause a game and rotate the camera to take a photo. For PC gamers playing solo, this becomes an accidental pause button in a game that doesn’t have one.
Having the ability to pause a game might seem minor, but it highlights another small annoyance in modern online gaming. You cannot get up and go to the bathroom unless you are ready to leave an instance completely. The fact that there is a way to do it in Riders is a welcome tweak that we pray will eventually become a full feature.
Riders Successfully resists some frustrating eccentricities online, but he could go one step further. By separating its single-player content from its always-online mode, the game could truly be free of the modern design annoyances that plague some of today’s biggest games. Even so, it’s already a solid foundation that should hopefully convince studios that constantly dangling a carrot in front of gamers isn’t an alternative to simply creating a solid suite of immediately enjoyable content.