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Designing for cooperative gameplay

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Topic: Cooperation

I am making a cooperative version of Rodent's Revenge (Link). At this point, I am wondering what can be done to make the game more cooperative.

Q: What are the principles for designing cooperative gameplay?

Attempt: Bunnies World

[ Play (Flash) ]

Genre: Arcade, Action Puzzle Multiplayer (1-4), Casual, Cooperative
Game: Bring enough carrots home before the timer expires.

This is a console-like game designed to be played with gamepads.
The keys used for the bunnies are:
P1: [TFGH] [Y] [R]
P2: [IJKL] [O]
P3: [WASD] [E] [Q]
P4: [ARROWS] [SHIFT] [Z] <- The game tells you to use these.

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Elements that make a game cooperative:

Shared Goal:
Let the players work toward the same goal. When the goal is met, everyone wins, otherwise, everyone loses. (e.g. In each round, all bunnies win if they collect enough carrots together.)

Different Abilities:
Separate the abilities so that a player character cannot do everything that the game allows using the same character. (e.g. The game has four bunnies. White is fastest, Blue can push the most bushes, Yellow can get the invisible leaf easiest, Pink can destroy bushes the quickest.)

Different Standpoints:
Create situations where a player character can be benefited by an action done by another character at another location, regardless whether they have the same set of abilities. (e.g. A bunny can block a fox with a bush to help another escape.)

Elements that promote tacit understanding:

(By tacit understanding I mean the situation when your teammate can tell what you need by observing your character without your asking.)

Indicative Possession:
Let the possession of a character reflect the player's intention. (e.g. If a bunny has a carrot, the bunny is probably trying to go home.)

Indicative Action:
Let the current action of a character reflect the player's intention. (e.g. A bunny going toward a fox is probably trying to trap it.)

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4 players on one keyboard sounds like it may not work, due to hardware limitations of the keys. Do test this aspect!

I don't have much to add to what you've said already. I think you've nailed most of the abstract aspects - it's just a case of translating those into implementations relevant to your game.

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Re: 4-players

So far I tested 3 player and it works. For 4-players, at any moment, the players would use at most 8 keys (all dragging the bubble). So I need to test whether they can all run around dragging the bubbles at the same time.

As I add enemies and interactive stuff in the game, I realize that not all additions make the game more cooperative. Designing specifically to add cooperative gameplay seems like a vague problem. What are the essential questions I should ask?

Q: For each challenge in the game, what what can a teammate do to make it easier?

Challenge 1: The Snake is under the bush

Teamwork potentials:
o Let a bunny have the ability to tag a snake to make it more visible
o Let a bunny have the ability to remove the leaves of a bush to make snakes more visible

Challenge 2: Gophers are digging too many tunnel

Teamwork potentials:
o Let a bunny have the ability to fill up a tunnel
o Let a bunny have the ability to color a tunnel

Challenge 3: The Fox runs too fast

Teamwork potentials:
o Let the bunnies have the ability to slow down a fox without trapping it

How do I create new situations that have teamwork potentials?

Q: What are some situations where a person needs help?
Q: Why do people need help?

Situation 1: Insufficent strength
o The mover needs help because the object is too heavy to move by himself

Situation 2: Insufficent time
o The farmer needs help to harvest because the crops all ripen at the same time

Situation 3: Insufficent attention
o The writer needs help proof-reading because he can miss his typos.

Situation 4: Insufficient precence
o The thief comes when no one is paying attention

Situation 5: Trapped
o Needs someone from the other side to open the door

Situation 6: Incapacitated
o Needs someone to haul away

Situation 7: The prey has two escape routes
o Needs another person to block the other exit

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