Sunday, December 7, 2014

Co-Op Games: The True Value of Teamwork

Little Big Planet: A game where friends explore environments together
There are many games out on the market that put an emphasis on multiplayer action, but only the kind of action where 2 to 4 players go up against each other in head-to-head play. This is the most common thing that gamers think about when multiplayer games are mentioned. However, not all multiplayer games can just be about one player going up against another player. Video games are meant to be flexible and imaginative, and throughout the history of gaming we have seen new ways of incorporating more than one player in a game world for a single game campaign.

Who says we can't have a Campaign Mode without more than one player? I believe that there is more fun to be obtained when we have Players 2, 3 and even 4 included in the mix. Showing a few examples of this genre, Co-Op Games have proven that a group of gamers can band together and achieve the same goals without having to destroy each other's characters. Well, all 4 players can destroy each other if they want to just for the fun of it, but then that might not be beneficial for completing a level, right?

Little Big Planet is one example of how gamers can use teamwork to conquer levels. This is a game where you can collect stickers and you can post these stickers on anything that is in the environment. This is a game where you can customize your characters, called Sack Things, and express you characters in ways that you want them to be expressed. There are some missions in Little Big Planet games where you as Player 1 will be required to either tag out to Players 2, 3 and/or 4 and let them handle certain jobs, or you must work together as a team to reach certain spots and collect items that you need to 100% complete the game. The Little Big Planet environment is very welcoming to more than just one player and it encourages teamwork tactics in order to get the full satisfaction of completing tasks. Many gamers hold these games in high regard.

Battletoads: A challenging game that emphasizes quick decision-making
Let's press the Rewind button in gaming history for a little bit. Remember this game pictured above? This is Battletoads, one of the first games to really put emphasis on the Co-Op feature. This wasn't the only NES 8-bit game to feature a Co-Op Mode, but this was a game that left a big impression on gamers for years to come. It left the kind of impression where you either liked it or you didn't. Whether you were playing by yourself or if you were playing with a friend, you found Battletoads to be a brutally tough game to play at times. You would fail by yourself and you would fail with your friend. There were some obstacles that some gamers found impossible to get through unless they went at it in Co-Op play.

You could probably classify Battletoads as a great first learning experience in Co-Op play. Player 1 may have cleared a challenging jump in a level, but Player 1 wouldn't be able to go anywhere if Player 2 wasn't able to clear that same jump. After a while if one player lost all of his or her lives, the other player would have to move on alone. Battletoads was one of the first occurrences where players realized that they weren't in competition against each other, but rather they had to find ways to help each other out to succeed together in a single campaign.

"Okay! Now avoid hitting that falling icicle!" says Player 1.

"Oh! Thanks! Now don't get hit by that throwing object!" replies Player 2.

When players cooperate and learn how to play the game together, they are better prepared for what's ahead.

Portal: A Co-Op game that features thorough location-based puzzle solving

Now another example that not only encourages Co-Op teamwork but also presents puzzles that aren't exactly easy to figure out would be Portal, a game that takes on a Science Fiction theme. Using laserguns to open up portals, players are pitted against environments where they need to navigate through tough spots in order to reach stations where they can recharge their robot characters. Remember puzzles like the Rubik's Cube, Sudoku and typical brain teaser quizzes? Well, Portal is the kind of game where players need to be aware of their positioning because if they go through an ill-positioned portal, they will wind up in spots where they will be trapped or they will lose a life.

Trial and error can be experienced by more than one player and if 2 players take on puzzles together in Portal, they will take less time to figure out where exactly to place their portal laserguns. If Player 1 doesn't position himself correctly, then Player 2 can make that correction and lead the the team to the right spot through the right portal. Placing the cubes in the right places, and by cubes I mean objects that you can place on pads that redirect lasers, is another factor when it comes to teamwork in Portal. If you forget where you placed a cube, then it would help to have a Player 2 back you up and fix any mistakes that you as Player 1 made.

Co-Optimus: Co-Op Gaming Website

Here is a link to a website dedicated to just Co-Op gaming. This is a website where you can view Co-Op games and gather the information you need if you are interested in playing Co-Op games. There are certain criteria being used on this website when it comes to reviews, and I think that these reviews, news headlines and general content are all helpful for the types of gamers who love playing Co-Op games. In order to enjoy a Co-Op game, you can't just consider whether or not you yourself would like playing it. Would your friends consider playing this game along with you? Is this the kind of game that your friends would emotionally invest in? Do you know that your friends would love playing this Co-Op game that has this particular theme attached to it?

General Idea: Light Competition Co-Op

I am always thinking on the fly when it comes to game development strategies, and the subject of Co-Op games has intrigued me in recent times. One of my own custom game scripts that I have been working on involves the use of Co-Op play. I don't necessarily call it Co-Op Mode for my custom game, but it basically has that Co-Op Mode element that I could easily put in since it's that flexible. If anything, I compare my Co-Op mechanics to that of games like Sonic Heroes where you just press a button to switch between characters, or less sophisticated RPG games where you can easily switch out characters in a party.

One idea I have been interested in using for a Co-Op game would be to allow players to go through an entire Campaign Mode where they work together as a team to defeat opposing AI forces. However, I am intrigued by the idea of "flipping the script', so to speak, and then pit the group of 2 to 4 players against each other towards the end of the game. The 2nd-to-last level would be to have 2 to 4 players battle each other and whoever wins that battle would go on to play the final level where one last huge AI force needs to be defeated. I find creative paths like this fulfilling to a gaming experience and it adds another ripple into game development planning without being over the top. It stays within reason while giving players another incentive to play and stay on top of their game.

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