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Ketchaval

Reimagining Cooperative gameplay.

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Rethinking Cooperative play. Q. How can we improve cooperative gameplay modes? How does having several players working together change the dynamic of a game?, What kind of play modes can be made specificaly for cooperative gaming? Consider the cooperative games that you have played, and what their strong points and their weaknesses were.

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The important points are:

1) Both players play a "real" game. Most co-op games have one "lead character" and a few flunkies. That ain''t fun. Thus, if the game is story-driven, make sure that all players are equally important in the story.

2) Both players have to have something to do. In most co-op games, the game can also be finished with only one person. This means that, if you got a really good player, he is more or less playing the game, and the rest is just trying to follow him through the map, hoping that at some point they are the first ones to see an enemy, and they can finally make a kill...

Best solution for number 2: Classes. More or less. Like, in a tank game: don''t give both players the same thing, but rather, let one drive and one shoot. Or have one tank that kills other tanks on the floor, and a chopper that has to protect the tank. Or in shooters: have a "grunt" player walking over the map, and a "sniper" supporting him. Or have a "medic" trying to complete other objectives, and a "grunt" protecting him.

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Those are some pertinent points, I have played a few ''cooperative'' games, where there is very little need for the players to ever work together to defeat the challenge. It is like each player is just playing the single-player game, with a few extra enemies! There was no need to provide covering fire for each other, or to use different tactics like being the bait that makes the creature come for them, while the other player attacks the creature.

My personal preference is for games which allow two people to play on the same machine (either split screen, or with both players on one screen).

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Aye, we don''t have enough of those games.

Normal multiplayer games lack the communication you really need for nice teamwork. Typing is fun, but usually you don''t have time for that.

Splitscreen is always fun. A friend can come over, and you can have a lot of fun ^_^ Even with normal shooter games.

But, for now, I only know of one single game that has great teamplay: Ghost Recon. Basicly because enemies are so "strong" that you can die with one shot. You really need someone to watch your back ^_^

That reminds me of one great action: me and a friend were ordered to blow up a bridge. I was sneaking along the river, when an enemy patrol spotted me. I went like *OH SHIT!*, shot two of them with a burst, got hit, was bleeding and behind a rock, saw the last soldier walking around the corner, looking at me, and BLAM! He drops dead.

My fried finally made it to his sniper position, and killed the dude ^_^

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Co-Op gameplay is really something that hasn''t been explored enough. I''d love to see cooperative gameplay in a Single-Player Style game like Half-Life or Thief, where the main character(s) can work together to come up with solutions.

It would be excellent to see a game where the puzzles in an ongoing game (like HL and Thief) required more than one person to solve. It might be difficult to play with one player however.

Here''s one example of how it could be done, perhaps -- you could have a game where there are, say, 4 characters, regardless of how many players (1-4) are playing -- the AI characters can be given instructions like "hold position defensively" and "keep out of sight" and "watch my back" and "hold that position offensively" and so forth -- very much like Swat 3 or Ghost Recon actually -- but where the game is ongoing and (as I mentioned) has puzzles that require multiple characters, so that the player (if less than 4) has to switch to various AI team members to accomplish certain objectives. As a simple-and-not-very-creative example, switching to Character A, moving onto a weight-sensitive platform that holds a door open, telling Char A to "hold position defensive" while player switches to Char B, rushes through the door, stands on a second platform, then switches back to Char A and tell Chars C & D "follow me!" as he runs through the door.


Brian Lacy
Smoking Monkey Studios

Comments? Questions? Curious?
brian@smoking-monkey.org

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Commandos 2 is a game like that . Most missions are with 3-6 commandos , each with very different style . And each mission can be played MP , so each player takes 1 or more commandos for the mission . it''s actually quite fun , for the strategist that is :-)

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I would think that the designers should go for Co-Op on the level of ''Player one ultimately needs to accomplish THIS1, but can only do so with the help of player two. Also, player two must accomplish THIS2, but can only do so with the assistance of player one.''

Kind of like creating a co-op level that requires BOTH players (or hell, even the squad) to be playing.

The game I''m writing right now consists of squad-based combat, and if you don''t have one of the members of your squad, plan on losing.

The squads are formed of a sniper, a heavy gunner/demolitions specialist, and two riflemen. (yes, that''s a Marine Corp squad).

When in combat, you will come accross things like mines that only your demo boy can disarm, while at the same time your sniper is giving him cover from those bastards trying to nail you with artillery and your riflemen are covering that foxhole that fire is coming from and that ledge where a machine gun is giving you hell.

Anyway, I''m just givin my 34.9 Pfennigs.

~ Jesse

The gl2D Project

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As an example of co-operative gameplay that relies on more than task differentiation consider the following:

The level is a mountain. Groups of various sizes must work out the fastest way to the top. Individual players can climb one another, bridge gaps or hoist other players up to their ledge. Fastest times for each group size are recorded.

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I suddenly remember one design I created for a fast multiplayer game:

Each player would control several soldiers. There is one large castle in the middle. Each team would have there own start/cap point. With four players/teams, they are at north-east-south-west.

Downstairs in the castle is a flag. Whoever gets the flag to his starting point, wins.

The castle is defended by AI players.

The fun part of the game: all four teams fight each other to get to the flag, but as soon as 1 team has the flag, it''s a game of 3-against-1 to prevent that player from scoring

Forced co-op with your enemies ;P

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I still think that a chain-of-command is not necessarily a bad thing for co-op mode. Sure, one player will get to do more than another, but I think that's a given in any co-op game. You just have to make sure that there's a motivation for each player give it his all.

The great thing about co-op is that you can make the gameplay more diverse. Where one player might only be able to do X things at a time, two players could be able to do 2X things at a time.

I'd personally like to see a game where each player performs a very specific task but where they are all located within the same vehicle. The tank with one player drivings and one player shooting is a good example. But I'd like that to be taken to more of an extreme.

MechWarrior has always been an interesting title to me. Stick with me. MMO. Players start with little cash, purchase small, used Mechs. As they complete missions (quests) they become richer (bounty). The more money they have, the better Mechs they can purchase. The better Mechs they have, the more difficult missions they can complete. The more difficult missions they complete, the more money they get. Eventually, all players would have the top-of-the-line Mech under their control.

Now, bring in the extreme co-op mode. It all starts with one player having so much money that he is able to have a custom design Mech build, so big that it towers over all other Mechs, say 10 times the size of a regular Mech. This giant Mech can not be controlled by just one player. For example, one player would need to take care of movement, while another takes care of firing and reloading the missiles in the missile launcher that is located on the left shoulder. Yet another player deals with the massive laser, placed on the right shoulder. One player would need to play the part of commander, sitting in the head of the Mech, watching the action unfold before his eyes.
"Missile: target enemy 1. Legs: walk to position X. Laser: target pursuers."

The motivation for the players to place themselves under command of another player is that they will become better (be it player skill or character skill) and will gain a name for themselves if they manage to stay alive and perform well. "Yeah, this guy here has fought with me in 4 consecutive battles. He's pretty much the best missile launcher this side of the planet."

If the action is intense, and if each individual gameplay element is designed to be a game by itself (launching missiles, moving legs, aiming laser, etc), then all players in the Mech will have enough to do to keep them busy and entertained.

As an added motivation, let players gain higher amounts of money from playing this co-op mode than from playing single player (in the smaller Mechs). That way, a new player can quickly gain some money in co-op so that later on he can purchase bigger Mechs for the single player mode.

EDIT: Just watched Crimson Tide a few times, and think it would be nice to have that kind of structure in a game. "This is your captain speaking. We have located an enemy Mech two miles from our current position. We are going to close in, target it and blow it into a thousand little pieces. Destroying this Mech is worth 1000 gold pieces to each crew member. Let's do this people. Weapons: are missiles loaded? Is laser ready? Radar: any other enemies nearby? Keep an eye out. Engine: full power. Engage."

[edited by - Silvermyst on August 1, 2002 1:40:53 PM]

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quote:
Original post by Ketchaval
Consider the cooperative games that you have played, and what their strong points and their weaknesses were.


Everquest was my first cooperative game. By having classes, each with a specific job to do that the other classes could not do. You had to depend on other people. The strong points of this design is that you must group, meet people, etc. An essential part of an online community. Communication and planning were also essential to a successful group.

One of the weak points is that the job only your class could do was often rather limited. Clerics were essential groupmates, but their job of cast heal, sit and regain mana was boring and repetitive. Part of this was due to EQ''s overall design, but any game with characters having dedicated jobs could fall into the same trap.

The other weak point was that if you couldn''t find a group, you were out of luck and couldn''t do much.


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Silvermyst has broken through the "forest for the trees" problem. Giving people a well defined role at something they do well and enjoy is most of the battle. A little thoughtful organisation and integration with story & gameplay and we could have a shining gem.

Think about it in slightly more abstract ways, we have a number of people each doing a job and these jobs cooperate. It would work with several generals in a battlefield, each with troops to command (co-op C&C); or a team of racing drivers: one quick, one agile, one to bash enemies and the whole team wins if any member crosses first (i "invented" this one with toca and mario cart games).

Your allies aren't just your wingmen.


********


A Problem Worthy of Attack
Proves It's Worth by Fighting Back

[edited by - walkingcarcass on August 2, 2002 7:54:08 AM]

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is it a sytemic problem that for a theoretical system of cooperation to become real, one has to subordinate oneself to real structures which distort cooperation in one way or another?

For example, a game player may want to play a cooperative game. However, to do so the player has to become a programmer that is part of a team and the team will never have the goal of creating a cooperative game as long as it wishes to remain a team. Why? Because in a single instance of time, a game requiring the cooperation that keeps the team together would destroy it... unless the team consumed twice as many resources.

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