Anyone who’s big into their online shooters will likely have experienced sitting in a lobby, scrolling through social media in a bored haze, getting increasingly frustrated as the matchmaking timer goes up.
It’s a common problem, especially with older multiplayer titles, compounded by the fact that the vast majority of online lobbies have nothing for players to do but sit in a menu, watching people join, call someone a random slur, and then leave to the sound of some monotonous music on loop.
Granted, it might not be a deliberate choice that the majority of multiplayer titles go for lobbies as dull as dishwater. It could just be a side effect of Bandai Namco’s 30-year-long patent on “auxiliary games,” essentially minigames that take place during loading screens. The patent expired back in 2015, but its sheer length has probably instilled a mindset that giving players something to do while loading or sitting in lobbies is a no-go.
However, times have changed, and that’s why when games like Splatoon 3 come along and try to make the wait between online matches as enjoyable as possible, the industry should sit up and start taking notes. Splatoon 3 has done away with the horrible menus and given players what is essentially a big playground to experiment with, complete with training dummies that let you test your weapons and abilities without fear of getting splatted in the back by some punk inkling with a Squiffer.
Regular squid kids will know that the training area was included in Splatoon 2, but having it available as part of the lobby is one of the game’s smartest new additions. It might not provide much entertainment for veterans who need live squids to feel something, but it’s incredibly useful for newcomers like me that can take advantage of the 30 seconds or so it can take to find a match to test out a new weapon before being thrown in at the deep end.
In previous games, the training room was a completely separate area, but in Splatoon 3 it’s embedded into the lobby itself. For example, MultiVersus also has a place where you can train with different characters while you’re waiting for the next match but having to load into it and check out move lists means that a game has usually been found before you can even begin to whale on Shaggy. Splatoon 3’s training area is right there as soon as you finish a match - all you need to do is pick a weapon and away you go.
As great as that is, the training area isn’t even my favorite thing about the lobby - it’s the social aspect. A ghost of each player in the same lobby as you can be seen roaming the area and while you can’t talk to them directly, it doesn’t stop the majority of players from trying to have fun with each other.
I’ve experienced several wholesome moments in my fairly short time with the game so fast. One lobby I was in was quickly transformed into a squid mosh pit as we all hopped into the matchmaking tube and jumped around for a while. Another had me and three complete strangers turn into squids, slowly slide up the stairs to the balcony area, and each take a seat at the bar. There are even clips on Twitter of people playing Pong and leapfrog in the lobbies.
On their own, these features aren’t much to write home, or for TheGamer, about. However, combining them and making them available whilst waiting for a new match means that the game never really stops, even when you’re not in a match. Splatoon 3 is a much more welcoming and enjoyable experience than your standard online shooter as a result. Most other games have you sitting in a menu doing nothing, ruining the fast-paced, in-and-out experience that I typically play online games for. Splatoon 3 has the answer to that problem, so it’s time future games of the same genre followed suit.