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A paradigm shift in "Cooperative gameplay"

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Alot of games these days have cooperative game play. These games are usually represented through two players moving through the world doing the exact same thing. I.E. Both running through a level shooting the bad guys. This seems to be the same whether or not you are in a console game, like Halo, or an MMO like WOW. While this is fun, what I'd like to see are more complex cooperative modes. Ones that work more like a Mission Impossible team. Where each person on the team has a vastly different job to do, that may not even require them to be in the same area. As an example, I'll toss out a hypothetical mission. You and 3 buddies are given an assignment to go blow up an enemy building. In most games, every one runs through guns blazing until they reach the objective. In my opinion, it could be more fun to run through it with 4 different archtypes. Hacker Gunner Stealther Demolitions Expert The team divides into two teams. Stealther and Hacker go for the computer room. WHile Gunner and Demo go for the objective. Stealther clears the way for hacker by taking out the guards. Hacker then gets himself set up at the computer terminal. He goes through the hacking game and gains access to the security systems. Gunner and Demo start making their way to the objective. Halfway there a guard locks a door. Demo has a few different charges so she blows her way through this door. She uses a few here and there to help along the way. Gunner kills things with his big gun. Eventually, Hacker uses the security cameras to help them out. Telling them where incoming bad guys are coming from, turning sentry guns on them, and unlocking doors. Stealther is out setting up traps to help protect Hacker from any annoying incoming guards, he is also taking care of a secondary objective by opening up the escape route. Eventually when the objective is reached, Gunner holds guard position, protecting demo while she goes through the Arming/Demo sub-game. Hacker is using sentry guns/cameras. Once the explosives are set, Stealther comes in with a truck, Gunner and demo hop on and they drive away. Hacker goes out the way they came in, and they all meet up down the road at the local bar.

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well, the problem with this approach, is that, taking your example, stealther plays for 10 minutes (in the meantime, the rest of the guys just wait), and after that it just sits there. The real problem, is that the majority of players want to blow things up :)

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You should take a look at Tanks and Rogues, me and a friend did it together with a couple of Internet people. While not strictly a co-op game (it is designed for 2 vs 2) it reflects your idea perfectly.

The problem with co-op games is of course that you have to rely heavily on your co-player. You can't play these games alone. That's why I think big developers hesitate to explore this genre, even though gamers have been begging for it for ages. I think you have to be bold about this. You can't make a co-op game with the same amount of freedom as a regular multi-player player game, you will have to restrict the players, force them into team-play. Force them through game mechanics.

Tanks and Rogues does this by many small mechanics.
You can't kill enemies by yourself.
You regenerate health/ammo only when close to your friends.
Capturing flags makes you really slow so you have to rely on teammates to protect you.
Player classes play differently and do different things but always together.
You can pull off power moves by synchronizing certain inputs.

Take a look at it at http://www.moddb.com/mods/tanks-and-rogues

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Quote:
Original post by mystb
well, the problem with this approach, is that, taking your example, stealther plays for 10 minutes (in the meantime, the rest of the guys just wait), and after that it just sits there. The real problem, is that the majority of players want to blow things up :)


True, alot do want to run and gun. But alot like to stealth, and many would like to hack (If only the games gave them a good version of it)

In the above mentioned scenario though, the two different teams split down different paths. So the stealther and hacker are moving quietly towards the computer room, while Gunner and Demo are blasing thier way down. After Hacker gets set up, Stealther sets up some protection for him, and then goes and secures a van for transport (how he does this could be his own little adventure, with some interaction with Hacker)

Also keep in mind that if this is an XBOX360 style game, all the players would be connected (hopefully) through their headsets, providing constant communication.

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I think there is probably a middle ground. As people above have pointed out, making a good game is hard enough, but four unique roles requires you to effectively create four good, different, games!

I really liked Splinter Cell: Chaos Theories co-op - both players constantly felt involved and important, whilst still just getting them all to do the same thing. I think that is the other problem with the current style of co-op, the less good players feel redundant as the superior players would be able to do it without them.

As for your idea, I think the middle ground is to make both players dependant on each other but constantly able to switch between the different roles. Don't cast one player as the hacker, and the other as the explosive expert. Instead, make it so the game needs both an explosive expert to create a distraction for the hacker to sneak in and do their hacking.

Oh yeah, and don't do four player co-op, not only does this mean you have to create four good games, or at least missions with four different things to be doing all the time, but for quite a lot of people, getting four people together for a lengthy period of time, while cool, is quite a rare experience. A way round might be good bots, but they have got to be damn good :P

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Original post by thk123
I think there is probably a middle ground. As people above have pointed out, making a good game is hard enough, but four unique roles requires you to effectively create four good, different, games!

I really liked Splinter Cell: Chaos Theories co-op - both players constantly felt involved and important, whilst still just getting them all to do the same thing. I think that is the other problem with the current style of co-op, the less good players feel redundant as the superior players would be able to do it without them.

As for your idea, I think the middle ground is to make both players dependant on each other but constantly able to switch between the different roles. Don't cast one player as the hacker, and the other as the explosive expert. Instead, make it so the game needs both an explosive expert to create a distraction for the hacker to sneak in and do their hacking.

Oh yeah, and don't do four player co-op, not only does this mean you have to create four good games, or at least missions with four different things to be doing all the time, but for quite a lot of people, getting four people together for a lengthy period of time, while cool, is quite a rare experience. A way round might be good bots, but they have got to be damn good :P


Keep in mind it is just an example (perhaps a bit extreme.) But it does illustrate the point. I am inspired alot by a couple of stages in Final Fantasy 6, The Pheonix Cave and the Assault on Kefka's tower. Where you have your different groups moving through cooperating, and at the same time, not just one big group.

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It's extremely annoying to try to get a group of people organized to do something cooperatively online. It's also way more fun if I can do all the playing styles on one character, while systems designed to force players to cooperate (an inherently bad idea IMHO) tend to restrict each player's character to only a small segment of the possible gameplay abilities, and if you can't recruit a person with the correct level and type of character there may be group activities you just can't do.

So yeah basically I think complex multiplayer activities would generally make for horrible play experiences - waiting, frustration, failure for reasons beyond your control, the generally low quality of people available to recruit, etc. My personal policy is to not play any game that has mandatory activities or an optional but large percentage of the game that requires more than 2 players.

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Gears of War 2 had brief segments of gameplay that would separate the players so they could accomplish a joint task. I don't know what they did when there was only 1 player.

I'm curious how this kind of coop could be implemented in a way that defines the game.

My starting point- maintaining player interaction when they are divided, so that in a sense they can reach out and touch each other . Also, I'd want the the HUD to make the other players presence continuous, IE have real-time intel on his status, to the effect that players will know when each other have a close call, or a great killing spree. These are 2 ways to preserve the traditional link between coop.

Having said that, I still don't know why I want to separate the players, as the mission impossible thing isn't enough just yet. Perhaps there is a mechanic associated with split objectives that will reveal itself as the reason.

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Original post by Bitinit
Gears of War 2 had brief segments of gameplay that would separate the players so they could accomplish a joint task. I don't know what they did when there was only 1 player.



For single player, the AI filled the role. However, in Gears of War, the elements (like the vehicle sequences) felt like token gestures. Like, we haven't had a bit with the players split up, lets stick one in now. It never made much sense, some times you split up, other times you didn't and it all felt very scripted.

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I think that it is indeed very important to make players feel their partners' presence. You can do this either by forcing them to stick together or by showing somehow what they are doing on your own hud. I think some games even have picture in picture for this, evolve comes to mind but I'm not sure, and it was probably not even multi-player.

Again, I really don't think we should be so afraid of forcing players to play a certain way. There are restrictions in every game, in a way, the restrictions make the game. It's really just part of designing the game mechanics. If you want a game where people can have fun cooperating you'll better make the cooperating mechanics of the game the most fun. Otherwise only a handful will try to cooperate and thus not be able to find partners. More importantly, if team-play isn't forced and success can be achieved without it, team-play will seem unimportant and negligible.

I think Natural Selection is great example of when this has worked very well. It is a mixed fps and rts where one player is the commander and gives orders, gathers intel, plans buildings and research just like an rts while the rest of the team are his soldiers playing like an fps. You would assume lot's of games would be ruined because so much depends on the commander but practice has shown that it works. Partly, that is because players can vote the commander out if they're not satisfied. In your example, this could perhaps be a vote to switch two players' roles. What I'm saying is that you would need some way out of situations where the whole team is held back by one player.

One more point is the importance of match making in these kind of games. With a large enough player base and a sophisticated match making system finding players with roughly the same amount of experience shouldn't be a problem. You must learn from the past though. No match making system is perfect and if you don't provide players some way to bypass it when they think they can do the job better, you're going to get frustrated players.

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The key of course, is that a game with Co-op like this can't have it as an afterthought.

It must be considered from the get-go that this will be in the game. Its even better if the whole game is wrapped around this concept of teamwork.

Shadowrun pops to my head.

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The best 'multi-role' coop gameplay I've had was in the Battlefield series: I was a chopper pilot most of the time (Desert Combat and BF2). Other people preferred tanks or jets. It was entertaining when the griefers weren't ruining it for us.

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Valve's Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead accomplish co-op in a much more intuitive way.

Team Fortress 2 uses the class system your talking about but uses it in a much more active way. Each team uses several classes to try and accomplish an objective. Every player can try and do this in their own way choosing whichever strategy they wish. However certain classes can cancel another classes strategy, and other classes can cancel out THAT classes strategy. This turns the game into something of a 9 sided rock-paper-scissors match. Each team relies on each of it's individual members to help attack/defend for their team, utilizing strengths and weaknesses in an attempt to tip balance in their own teams favor.

Left 4 Dead turns team work into the players only chance of survival. Players have a possibility to fend off the enemy by themselves, but when encountering certain kinds of enemy they become helpless and must rely on their team mates to help them succeed. In turn the team mates must also rely on the other players to help them out. The game FORCES teamwork, creating a very "One for all/All for one" type of feeling. Either everyone on your team survives or no one does.

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I think designing a cooperative game properly is very, very hard. I also think it's the most fun you can have playing a game, so I'm curious what happens in that direction game design wise.

As far as I know, the best examples come from the MMO world. Cooperative play is the very bedrock of the raid instance. There's also nice cooperative play in team oriented competitive games (WoW arena, any of the teamwork oriented FPS games). Part of the problem though is organizing, which the game has to help facilitate. I can't stand playing a team FPS with random people who don't work together.

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Natural Selection does a unique job of integrating coop game play. A squad of marines play as individual FPS soldiers on the team, and one officer plays an RTS game with live units.

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