The heart of Pyre, the new role-playing game from indie studio Supergiant Games, is basketball-esque combat in which two teams try to dunk a round object in each other’s, well, pyre. Known as the Rites, these battles can be played outside of the campaign in the Versus Mode, in which you can take on another person or the AI. But while online play is de rigueur in games these days, Pyre’s Versus Mode is a throwback: The two players have to be sitting together in the same room.
Pyre players are clamoring for Supergiant to add support for online multiplayer, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. In an FAQ on their website, the developers said they “do not have plans to introduce online play in an update.”
Here’s the thing about online multiplayer: It’s not necessarily difficult to do it at all, but it’s incredibly difficult to do it well. Large studios with giant staffs can simply throw manpower at the job, but for a small indie team like Supergiant — the Pyre credits list just 12 people at the studio — it’s a daunting task, especially when you consider that the company self-published the game.
“We strongly believe that a high-quality online multiplayer experience needs to be a central focus of a game’s development in order to meet today’s standards,” Supergiant said in its FAQ, adding that the studio was always going to focus on Pyre’s story mode above all else.
Supergiant did seriously consider including online play in the game. Greg Kasavin, the studio’s creative director, told Polygon in an email that the developers had a version of it running and tested it for weeks. But they decided that it wasn’t feasible, and dropped the idea — Kasavin said online multiplayer “did not come close to making it into the game” because the prototype presented “huge server-side challenges” and other significant issues.
“To have done the work properly would have extended our longest-ever project by a long amount of time, or required compromising on other parts of the game where we refused to budge,” said Kasavin.
Pyre launched a few days ago, and thankfully for Supergiant, the reception from both critics and the public has been overwhelmingly positive so far — even despite the lack of online play. Kasavin told Polygon that “a number of folks” have been asking about the feature, and said they’ve “always been very understanding” of the explanation in Supergiant’s FAQ.
Again, Supergiant doesn’t seem to be interested in adding online play to Pyre with an update. “Typically, this is not something that can easily be added to a game (at least not to good results),” the studio said in the FAQ. But Kasavin left the door open for something like a Game of the Year Edition re-release — not that he would’ve jinxed anything by using that term, of course.
“If Pyre became a big hit, we would of course look at opportunities to do more with it, much like we did with Bastion and Transistor before — but it’s way too early to tell at this point,” he said.