It's no secret that publishers often foist multiplayer modes upon single-player-focused games to make them more attractive to would-be customers, but it's rare to hear a developer speak so openly and contemptuously of this practice as Spec Ops: The Line lead designer Cory Davis does about its bolted-on multiplayer. The box-ticking addition to please 2K Games came out as a "low-quality Call of Duty clone in third-person," he said, which "tossed out the creative pillars of the product."
"The multiplayer mode of Spec Ops: The Line was never a focus of the development, but the publisher was determined to have it anyway," Davis told Polygon. "It was literally a check box that the financial predictions said we needed, and 2K was relentless in making sure that it happened--even at the detriment of the overall project and the perception of the game."
As our review noted, Spec Ops: The Line came with a heavy moral dimension, pushing players into difficult decisions then confronting them with the awful consequences. It was inspired by Conrad's classic novella Heart of Darkness, and carries that through better than you'd expect from a third-person army man shooter released in 2012. Not so the multiplayer modes, which were simply about shooting all of the men.
"It sheds a negative light on all of the meaningful things we did in the single-player experience," Davis said. "The multiplayer game's tone is entirely different, the game mechanics were raped to make it happen, and it was a waste of money. No one is playing it, and I don't even feel like it's part of the overall package--it's another game rammed onto the disk like a cancerous growth, threatening to destroy the best things about the experience that the team at Yager put their heart and souls into creating."
However, Davis does note that adding multiplayer made 2K feel more confident in the game, letting Yager get away with the single-player shenanigans. "They took a hell of a lot of risk with the project that other publishers would not have had the balls to take," he said. "I'm proud of what we were able to achieve, and it was not easy."
Spec Ops: The Line was released on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in June, netting sales figures which Yager said earlier this month don't "look too great."