Campaign vs. skirmish vs. multiplayer

I’ve noticed that for a lot of hardcore gamers, the campaign in a game doesn’t even exist. They jump into some skirmish to learn the game, then it’s off to multiplayer and they never look back.

I got into multiplayer with Red Alert back in the day, and later played around with Total Annihilation some, and spent some fun time with Team Fortress Classic…but having people disconnect instead of lose, cheat, and dealing with stupid kidz stuff got on my nerves.

I’m someone who enjoys playing MMOGs, so it’s not as if I don’t like interacting with people (though there I’m still mostly a single playing PvE wuss).

I like the feeling of “finishing” a game…for me, I play the campaign, then I move on to the next game. I get exposed to the game, I get to finish it, I get to feel like I’ve accomplished something, then I move on. Playing skirmish games doesn’t have much point for me…with the exception of Civ-style games, where there’s a take-over-the-world aspect.

Do you play the campaign? If not, why not?

Because they are usually scripted garbage. Even in boardgames, I generally can not stand scenario based games. I like the feeling of a more random, open playing field, where I don’t have to perform some trick at 5:00 into the game in order to progress to the next level.

About the only thing I’m discovering is not that way is Advanced Squad Leader (board game version), and that is in part because there are so many scenarios, the scenarios are often very open ended and flexible (i.e. not completely scripted), and I do not feel hemmed in or like I am puzzle solving in the same way I do in a campaign game against the computer.

Perhaps said another way, I do not enjoy puzzles, and I do not believe that they are games. I understand why others do, but it is not my cup of tea.

RTS campaigns can actually teach you some really bad habits that you have to unlearn when you play skirmish and multiplayer. So while I will play through them for reviews, I typically don’t play campaigns in RTS games that I intend to play against others.

That said, I do enjoy the boardgame-style campaigns in stuff like Warlords: Battlecry 2.

I only play the campaigns in RTS games. Occasionally when I really enjoy the campaign, or want to play it with my friends, I’ll often play a lot of skirmish maps, but for the most part I can’t be bothered. I enjoy finishing games and wrapping them up. Plus, I hate playing online RTS games because I know I’m no match in any way with the guys who memorize build orders and stuff. So I only play RTS multiplayer when I go to LAN parties with friends. So yeah I’m one of those who won’t buy an RTS that has a lousy single-player campaign. An adequate skirmish mode is not enough for me.

I like campaigns. I enjoy the scripting and the cheesy stories and voice acting. Then if I like the game I’ll play multi too. Skirmish generally doesn’t interest me at all.

I play mostly skirmish and mostly in SP, but will always try an RTS campaign. I almost always regret it, too. I can count on one hand the number of story based RTS campaigns that I can look back on with fondness.

Dave’s point about “bad habits” is a good one. If you start with the campaign and complete it before dabbling in the skirmish matches, your entire sense of pacing will be screwed up. You will wait too long to do much since the AI is scripted to not immediately kill you most of the time.

But they keep making campaigns so people must keep asking for them.


I actually don’t think it’s the right question.

Skirmishes are usually played more because they are often the best part, not really because the campaign is superfluous.

I also don’t think that the majority of players who get an RTS play online. That’s the most active and loud crowd but I always thought they were still a minority. So I think this is actually a wrong perception because my impression is that the large majority still plays the campaign.

Who didn’t go through the campaign in Warcraft 3?

I actually see things as one the evolution of the other.

We start from skirmishes that have little to do one with the other, then we have a campaign that brings on a story, so a sense of continuity, a thread that links together the various matches.

And today we have the beginning of the next step. A “sandbox” world where you lead your forces, like what we have in the war of the ring in BFMEII and DoW: Dark Crusade. Every match affects the other because you retain troops, manage your territory and so on.

So things transform more into a “campaign” where you are motivated to connect one match to the other in a greater scenario. Like playing a Civilization campaign and strategic game.

The point is that to do that part well these games have to dare to go a bit more out of the genre cliches. I guess it will take some time to do it well.

Single player first, then skirmishes. Usually I can spend a lot of time on skirmishes. Multiplayer only with good friends and over a LAN. Not much for playing with strangers.

  • The exception to this were a couple of NWN persistent worlds, always had the good luck to find good, fun people to go adventuring with.

It depends somewhat on the game, but I usually stick to the campaigns because I like the sense of story and continuity. I almost never play strategy or shooter games online.

I don’t do board games, but for RTS’s, it depends on the game whether I play the campaign or not.

Is the campaign heavy into story like Warcraft 3 or the DoW franchise? I’ll play the campaign.

Is the campaign based in WW2 with your standard allies vs nazi fare such as CoH? Skirmish and multiplayer please.

But like another poster said, campaigns teach you bad habbits if you want to go do skirmishes or multiplayer.

I never really play skirmish. It’s either campaign in games with a decent campaign and/or crappy multiplayer (Rise of Nations) or multiplayer in anything else. Although I haven’t really been into a RTS enough to play multiplayer since Age of Empires 2. I do dink around with skirmish a little bit just to practice build orders and the like.

I like Campaigns if they offer something not available from the skirmishes. That is definitely true for CoH, with quite a number of campaign missions having a unique feel. I don’t think I’ll forget holding Carenten (sp?) against waves and waves of Germans, or assaulting the hill, or holding it in the next mission.

Multiplayer for me is just much, much interesting. Computers are much less adaptible in game, and completely unadaptable out of the game. That is, in multiplayer, players are not only aware of the changing nature of the game, but are aware of the current dominating strategies, and the current best counters to those strategies, and the current best counters to those counters, each of which is constantly changing. The computers only know the strategies those devs programmed them with, and which are usually outdated quickly after launch.

It’s just a much more rewarding game, in my opinion.

I suck, so I usually just play the campaign.

I only play the campaigns. I appreciate that the AI is better in skirmishes generally, and have occasionally messed around with RTS games in coop skirmishes against the AI (loved doing that in StarCraft), but haven’t played a competitive multiplayer RTS game since WarCraft 2. I’m undefeated lifetime in RTSs! 3-0!

I just find time management games (i.e. RTSs) stressful, and they remind me of work. Turn-based wargames I generally only play multiplayer though.

Campaigns>>>>multiplayer>skirmish. I love how campaigns tend to force you to use nearly every unit by limiting your selection early on(Random memory of kicking ass with the Yaks in Red Alert 1 in the Soviet campaign. Those were absolutely worthless, but as the only air unit in a mission designed to make you use air units…), campaigns can have quirky or cool victory conditions(I’m a massive fan of “You have 5 minutes to construct defenses, then you need to survive for 10 minutes” missions), and some campaigns even have some degree of continuity between missions(I love having an uber-unit that I’ve carefully nutured lay waste to foes).

Also, again referencing Red Alert, Tanya was HAWT.

Playing Campaign right now on LotR BFME 1 (Just got it, and my computer can half run it, with some slow-downs every once in a while).

I haven’t tried Skirmish, because 8 player LotR scares the piss out of me.

And Multiplayer? Never on Computer. Always on 360.

This I totally disagree with. I think the skirmish is the most fun. It gives you the most even playing field. It lends itself to the most interesting strategies. A lot of campaigns in RTS games tend to be along the line of “figure out the puzzle” type gameplay, which is totally different than most RTS play. I think skirmish is where it’s at. I like to ally myself with a computer AI and take on a team of two AI.

This I agree with 100%. And if you liked her in Red Alert 2, you’ll love her B movie career. She gets nekkid a LOT. I’ve not seen many of her films, but I have seen . . . errrr . . . clips.

I really enjoyed that campaign until it devolved into doing a whole lot of skirmishes all over the map to grind up Evenstar/One Ring powers. The scripted missions are awesome though.

Now that you mention it, I did have a lot of fun playing multiplayer StarCraft with friends…and I also loved being able to co-op against the AI. In fact, if there is any game I may fire up in the future and try skirmish with, it’s probably that one.

On the other hand, I always stall out somewhere 2/3 through the campaign (possibly the expansion campaign), when for variety they dump you into indoor missions, when StarCraft doesn’t have a freaking indoor engine! It’s just painful at that point.

Have you tried the Homeworld games? In Homeworld 1, the way to get the best units was to steal them from the enemy, and you kept units through the entire campaign. I loved the fact that I was able to keep a batch of Ion Cannons I stole early on all the way through to the end, where they were a big help.

Homeworld 2’s campaign was better (with lots of the kinds of missions you describe), though unfortunately they mostly did away with unit stealing and with unit persistence. You could technically steal units, and your units did persist, but in reality you just burned through your units and built more. However, I thoroughly enjoyed playing through it for the challenge of the missions.

The Homeworld games also did this “zoom out and play from God-level” thing long before Supreme Commander, and it improves the game so much I really wish more games were going in that direction.