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Respawn in multiplayer coop games

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Hello all fellow designers. I am a member of this project: Help Wanted Post I have been thinking about different respawn options in multiplayer coop games. Just having a regular unlimited respawn ( such as sven coop, the hl1 mod ) prevents mission failure at all which imho takes the excitement and tension out of the game. Also respawning often leads to splitting up the player team, which is undesirable. The other common approach is to disallow respawns at all and make the games "round based". ( Such as SWAT4 ). This isn't a good idea either ( unless maybe you have really short missions ) since killed players have to wait for longer periods of time if the other players survive to complete the level. So I started thinking about Left 4 Dead, and how their health and respawn system works. Basically when you "die", you fall from the ground and are unable to move. If another player helps you up, you are restored ( albeit with minimal health ). However, prolonged attacks will inevitabely kill you "permanently", that is if/until the rest of the players find a "trapped survivor" room where some or all of the killed players are respawned without any of their previously found equipment. This still leads to some periods of waiting( possibly the rest of the game ), as well as loss of equipment( which isn't too bad though ). So I thought about the best approach for the project I am involved with. I was thinking of something along the lines of implementing the first Left 4 Dead feature - Helping neutralized players up in order to restore them. ( Maybe using some kind of revival device such as an adrenaline shot or a portable defillibrator ). This way the teams will never get split up and the only way for the players to lose is if all the players are neutralized at once. If there is no such thing as permadeath it seems a bit unbalanced though, so I thought about different mechanics to punish players who abuse the revival items. Maybe some kind of confusion effect for revived players, depending on the time the brain has been deprived of oxygen? Reviving could also be a tedious process, taking some time for the reviver to perform. Having a finite number of revival charges is not an option though, as it would practically lead to the same thing as having no respawns, some players having to wait for the rest of the game ( or the game being too easy ), and such a thing might as well be done with conventional medkits. What are your ideas and thoughts on the subject? Maybe you guys have some brilliant approach which has completely slipped my mind :)

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You could just go the RE5 route, where if any player dies, everyone fails, and just use checkpoints.

If you use the Left 4 Dead way, you could have the risk of permadeath easily - if someone doesn't revive a downed player in time, they're out. That kind of sucks if no one manages to rescue you in time though, but it does provide a good incentive for teamwork.

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Confusion might work, but goofing with controls in an FPS is often quite annoying and even disorienting. And I'm not sure tedium is ever a good design mechanic, particularly because it doesn't scale well (repeat say 3 or 4 times) and worse you then skew the game toward those who have the stomach for it (tween-age males, typically) rather than those who are actually skilled.

What if you could always respawn mates but their fighting condition was based on the amount of time you had to invest some finite resource in their respawn, which itself was based on monster kills or mission progress? For the sake of argument, let's call this resource cash, although you'd want to use something more story appropriate.

Your mates could always respawn right next to you, but you'd have to choose between a quick, on the spot revival or a more time intensive and expensive revival. The more cash you spent, the better they would be.

If you have no cash to spend, your mates would always reappear in the worst shape playable-- be that with no armor, minimal health and little ammo. The healthiest players would then have to scavenge through the level, protecting the weakest or (even better) sharing what resources they had, maybe exchanging gear until the wounded got back to snuff.

As the players kill more enemies/monsters, they acquire more cash which naturally ensures that the level will come to a close (sort of a positive reinforcement loop similar to Risk, where increasingly larger reinforcements ensure that the game never gets stuck in some see-saw back and forth periods of strength and weakness with no victor).

To prevent the dynamic from being abused, however, revival costs rise as the game progresses. So players can make mistakes in the beginning and revive without too much penalty but have to be focused to ensure they get to the end. There's also a natural pressure to finish the mission sooner than later. (You could also make this mission phase / progress based as well so that it's more obvious, easier to balance and lacks the negative connotation of timed missions)

You can scale difficulty by how fast the revival costs increase or by how much bounty each monster is worth. Players who play poorly will be draining team resources constantly and eventually reviving with next to nothing. As more players fall it becomes increasingly likely that even the best players on the team will start falling and coming back with next to nothing, provided encounters are balanced enough to prevent someone from being Rambo. This raises the stakes and intensity and also guarantees that all players will eventually die in an encounter, which naturally brings the game to a close without having anyone sit out. This would also enforce teamwork, as a team is only as strong as it's weakest member.

Organized and focused teams, on the other hand, would a rise in a resource that they don't necessarily need. Because the revival cost increases, however, as the mission progresses they can't get too cocky as mid to late game they could easily see their progress reversed as they start going down the path outlined above.

One final thought-- rather than cash, you could be really different and make the resource something like lifeforce or even player health/blood so that it's directly tied to playability in the game.

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As this is a co-op game rather than a competitive game, having it unbalanced by no permadeath is not too much of a problem.

It is a bit like the "Save Game" problem, in that if you allow a player to save a game at any point, then it can be used to cheat. However, if a player want to cheat, having a "no save unless we say so" is not going to stop them. There will be walkthroughs on the net and such that would give them the information they would get from saving then seeing what is in the next room then reloading. In other words, you lose nothing by allowing the players to save when they want and create problems (frustration) by making them replay over and over again, the same part until they get it right.

What you are wanting to do is to create a game whereby players co-operate to complete the levels and experience your story, and what you are not trying o do is make the players have to repeat the same section again and again because someone got distracted.

This means that permadeath is not something you want for individuals, but maybe want for failure of the group. In Multiplayer co-op, you want to encourage cooperation which means success or failure must come form the group, not the individual.

So, I would go with the Left4Dead system where too much injury causes the player to be incapacitated, but can be revived by other party members. This way failure is only caused by the whole party being incapacitated. But when a party member is incapacitated, then the effectiveness of the group is reduced and so they become more vulnerable to other being incapacitated.

You can introduce other penalties for being incapacitated, like a limp so that particular character is a bit slower, or a damaged arm so that the player's weapon fire is less accurate, or such. This way being incapacitated is a long term problem as well as a short term problem of reduced team strength.

You can also use these penalties for team work. Say for instance you have a character who has been slowed by a leg injury, you could then have it so that if another team member assists them, they can move at full speed, but the assisting team member must holster their weapon (assuming it takes time to ready a weapon). So if the current wave of enemies can be handled by the remaining team members, and time is of the essence, then team members can work together to help complete the goal.

Also, have places where team work between all members is necessary, like having two players hold of a wave of enemies while the other two swipe security cards simultaneously to open up a door. This way, all players are needed so that you can't leave someone behind (but as permadeath doesn't exist, you know that they will always have the full compliment).

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Sorry for the late reply, I have been simply swamped with work on the project.

Thanks a lot for the very intelligent and elaborate responses! I am sure I can find a good solution by combining different aspects of your suggestions :)

d33ts - A combo could also work. Revive your comrade in time, or the entire team loses the game. I somehow dislike the idea of checkpoints though because it takes away a lot of the suspense. This game is meant to be scary and hard.

Edtharan - I fully agree with you that failure should come from the group, not the individual. And your point about failures being both a short term and long term problem for the group - exactly what I was going for, neatly put into words :) Randomly ( or somehow hit zone defined ) injured limbs is also an interesting suggestion.

Wavinator - Point taken about confusion and FPS controls. I like the fact that your system lets the players gain an edge from skilled play to act as a buffer against smaller mistakes, and that the scaling part still keeps them on their edge until the very end.

One problem I noticed though with a non time-based system are that players could theoretically camp in easily protected areas to kill enemies over and over, earning infinite revival points. The best possible solution for this that I can think of would be to let player resources ( such as ammo ) have a high degree of scarcity, forcing the players to move in order to find new stashes as they go.

I suppose the bounty amounts themselves could also be balanced by decreasing them for every kill of a given monster type. And after a certain point the players have to progress and kill even bigger monsters in order to get new revival points. Still not perfect though, as many players would probably simply stay in an area until they have collected all possible points before continuing.

Maybe it could also be solved by adjusting monster spawning with progressively larger/denser groups of enemies when the players act passively, remaining in a particular area for too long. Obviously this mechanic wouldn't apply to any kinds of safe zones, which we plan to incorporate into the game. Another solution could be to disable monster respawning completely. ( which would pretty much cripple the game though )

Another option would be to replace the monster bounty system with some other element, such as rewards for player stats between fixed points in the level. ( Like accuracy, number of player "deaths", completion time and the like ), encouraging progress. Although I guess a system like that would be way harder to incorporate storywise in a satisfying way.

Wow, this turned out to be a pretty long post. Anyways, thanks for all the suggestions and stay tuned for other upcoming posts about coop multiplayer games :)

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Use the revival system you have in mind, however, reviving a player saps a portion of health from every member of the team.

There is no limit to the amount of revivals allowed.

Eventually, if you are reviving too many members of your team for too often, then the entire team will die (from having really low health in a gun fight; they won't die from the revivals [read below] but very few more shots and they will die) and therefore lose.

Leave this trigger in the hands of those needing revival and not in the hands of the players still alive.

If it happens that there are no players left with enough health for other players to revive with, then the downed players are offered the option to change into a limited recon service for their (most likely) losing team.

This keeps them active in the game, and gives the (most likely) losing team with deficient team member count a chance to regain some lost footing.

Should the surviving members reach a health replenishing that allows for a revival of a member to occur, the longest waiting member will be offered the option first, and then the next longest waiting, and so on until all members are revived (of course at which point the "losing" option of recon is removed once all are revived).

This, I think, might accomplish your interests.

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Maybe it could also be solved by adjusting monster spawning with progressively larger/denser groups of enemies when the players act passively, remaining in a particular area for too long.

The problem here is that the players have found a highly defensible area in which they can take on virtually any amount of enemies, but your solution is to throw more enemies at them.

As this is the solution to players camping and racking up kills, I don't think this will solve the problem. Instead, what you should do is reduce the number of enemies spawned until the players start moving again.

This will do two things. Firstly it will enable players that are having too hard a time a break (allowing players to control their difficulty to a certain degree - and acts like a temporary safe house) and removes the rewards for camping (which was the problem that was to be addressed in the first place).

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