Deathmatch vs Co-op

Yesterday I finally got around to trying the Doom 3 (2004) demo. It was desperation more than anything else: I lost interest in the Doom/Quake games when the focus became multiplayer deathmatch.

All the gamers I know, all the gamers I work with, love co-op. We were discussing this at lunch on Friday and Granik made a very salient observation — co-op players tend not to be as visible as tourneying fraggers because you don’t just join random servers for good co-op, you tend to host a local LAN server and/or play with buddies.

Frankly, I think it has been the dearth of good co-op games that has fuelled the rise of the MMO industry. I really don’t think people want MMO games. Don’t look at WoW and say “millions of new MMO subscribers!” No, those are millions of gamers who have been stuck in single-player mode because they don’t love frag play.

All you have to do is look at how players huddle up into guilds and lock themselves away in raids and love it, even though the gameplay becomes tedious and repetetive and grindy. Yet they still love it. Why?

Because it’s co-op play.

Like most of the multi-player PvP games that have lasted – there is some form of co-op play. The problem is that shoebox games have to try and sell as single-player games, and so they have very linear, adventure like story telling which is very hard to translate (apparently) into a multiplayer game without using gimmicks to constrain the player group to the storyline.

MMOs, then, are the lazy designer’s story-telling solution: content is persistent but storytelling mechanics are transitory. In, say, Bards Tale, you might expect to return from a storyline progression to find the town changed with new NPCs or topographical changes.  In an MMO, generally returning from a storyline progression leads to a change in the dialog of that single NPC. Maybe, occasionally, one NPC will unlock new dialog from another, but generally things have to remain static so other people can consume their content too.

LotRO took a step forward with this – using iversioned instances of zones that you see as you progress through the storyline and a mechanism to let you visit an older instance for questing.

But, by and large, MMOs limit general storyline development to zone-access and dialog changes. Where the good story telling tends to occur is inside instances. Some MMO instance zones play out a lot like old shoebox co-op gameplay.

Some games waste this opportunity (I hate to say it but EQ2 is a prime example) by simply mashing all the players into single fights and creating a hyper-linear progression. Other games (such as EQ1, WoW, etc) create a far more co-op experience by throwing parallel activities at players. I recall with particular fondness some of the raid encounters in the Plane of Innovation.

I really think its time for some MMO experience to filter back down to shrink-wrap gaming and for some new co-op gaming to emerge.

21 Comments

I mean’t to add that I was quite surprized by just how much I enjoyed the Doom 3 demo – it had much of the vibe and freshness of the early Doom games. Had a lot of fun with it, gonna order the full game I think.

Yeah, Just got Doom3 back from my dad and played it again just for kicks. It was quite good. I agree wholly with the lack of good co-op. My ex-roomate and I lived through college playing like that – now it’s hard to find something good.

Preach it.

Yeah…by far the most popular games we played at der office were co-op stuff.

I love co-op modes in games…and there’s so so few of them out there…sigh.

If you guys find a good one and seriously get going, drop me a line and I’ll see if I can establish a decent connection.

…@/

Oh God, someone else who gets it. I love co-op, Hidden and Dangerous was always fun, I also played almost all of Baldurs Gate 2 as co-op.

I seriously don’t understand why Co-op isn’t more of an option in today’s game. Deathmatch is f’ing boring.

What you need is a setting where 4-5 or 8-10 players can go up against an opponent is tough enough…One of the limitations is that AI is no match for human co-op players unless they have overwhelming odds. That’s why I always thought a WHM40k/Space Hulk game might be loads of fun.

I think we might be starting to see a rise in co-op games now though, and I believe a couple of the gaming gods that be are moving in the direction you are pointing out.

Two worlds releases this week, and If the game is even half way decent I suspect it will do extremely well. 8 player co-op, with more Marketplace (download) content to come. I hear it compared to a cross between Oblivion, Diablo, and Fable.

Halo3 is rumored to have 4 player co-op.

Gears of War had awesome co-op with drop in, drop out. The best I’ve seen so far; however, it was restricted to only 2 players and it is that linear progression with no room to deviate.

Test Drive unlimited was awesome in it’s co-op experience and always connected and online world. If they used that architecture for a RPG…. Oh man!

I’m hoping there are some game developers out there, watching, studying, and analyzing this trend and are preparing to strike with the best co-op experience to date.

“All you have to do is look at how players huddle up into guilds and lock themselves away in raids and love it, even though the gameplay becomes tedious and repetetive and grindy. Yet they still love it. Why?”

Because they put the shinies there?

Squad based co-op (<= 12 players) is great. At the platoon level and above I tend to view it as either too much work to lead or not being engaged with the game to follow.

Sorry, those comments I think mostly relate to the RPG side of the fence. Shooters are by definition more engaging. Maybe I should actually play WW2 Online before I open my mouth? :)

I have no recollection of the world changing in The Bards Tale when you got out of the dungeon.

I do recall kicking in every single door in Skare Brae looking for the place you could level up, and mapping the entire game on 20×20 maps (or was it 16×16?). Never finished it, the disk broke 2 maps from the end.

Ahh the Bards Tale. Sort of like WW2OL where instant death awaits behind every doorway.

So, where does WWIIOL fall in terms of Co-op play?

ww2ol is team co-op.

I think for the person who likes co-op , other people are both hell and heaven.

In co-op you are removing the hell part (playing AGAINST other ppl) while leaving the heaven part (playing WITH other ppl)

When people say to me ‘but EQ/WoW is co-op!’ I have to agree but their is no point to the gameplay except to level up. There is no story, no meta-game (like in ww2ol there are three levels of game: winning the fight (ie tank vs tank, rifle vs tank), winning the town (woot we captured chilly!) and winning the map (well ok maybe if your Axis..:P). In WoW/EQ there is camping the same zones over and over again for the ‘ding’ of gaining levels. Nothing ever really changes. In ww2ol no two campaigns are alike, there is a ‘storyline’ to the gameplay.

Imagine playing through your favourite FPS with a friend or two? Half-Life 2 would’ve been a hell of a lot of fun to complete with friends.

I’ve always thought that mmolg’s should go for smaller servers that limit the number of total characters to say 100-200 and that have actual content that changes as the players advance. IE You clear the orc camp outside of town X and become known as gaaargh the orc slayer throughout the land…If you go back to the orc camp…its cleared…nothing is there, you don’t get to camp it 10 times for xp and loot.

Having a smaller playerbase and a crapload of content allows this system to work and becomes a tad more realistic (in a sense, how many hero’s are there really?) You get to be inimately acquintated with the 100 other players on your server without having to constantly waiting in a camp queue.

“Pickup” play is comparable to PvP Frag Play – it’s asocial, single-player minded gameplay. Everyone else is content.

If you join a guild, however, you have a refined pickup pool to play from – like having a clan lobby server where you can pick and choose who you group with – and the added bonus of a bunch of people you can chat with that you might not actually want to play with.

Whether you take your guild play on to raiding depends on the game. I’m really talking about “instance raiding”, with a focus on one or two man groups going and attacking the same group of mobs.

When you take it to 40 man raids the game really matters a lot. If its a 40 man raid where the entire raid more-or-less fights as a man (like EQ2) then it really falls to the far-end of the lazy side of the spectrum; if it’s more about a zone with lots of various encounters and activities that have interdependencies – like EQ1 and WoW – that would be the concept of “MMO-co-op”.

Troop, what you’re describing is disposable content. It makes for very uncompelling gameplay. You spawn in, Level 1, the server has been up for 30 minutes. You finish your character creation and you potter around the starter area talking to NPCs and getting ready to venture out into the land.

Option 1: You step out into the newbie zone and its empty. 15 people before you have cleared it out. None of the quests you got from in-town apply because you were too slow. You wander further and further from town looking for mobs to kill. Finally you find something, it’s level 6, it trounces you, and you go back to town.

Option 2: You step out into the newbie zone and bunnies, rats and beetles abound. You slay and quest your way to level 10 never seeing another soul. As you come to the end of your questing, the island looks rather barren. This is your first RPG in a while and it’s been slow going. You talk to the NPC that ports you thru to the game proper and … see Option 1.

Option 3: You spawn into your custom starter area, with lots of newbie content around it, and with several miles of content between you and the next player’s starter area. The server puts your starter area down someplace where ther people aren’t, and if you manage to get thru your newbie content and out into the starter area before one of them comes along, it will be yours for the picking. However, all of the content is randomly generated and kind of dull and lame.

Option 4: You spawn into your custom starter area, with lots of newbie content around it, and with several miles of content between you and the next player’s starter area. The server puts your starter area down someplace where ther people aren’t, and if you manage to get thru your newbie content and out into the starter area before one of them comes along, it will be yours for the picking. The content is largely pre-designed with a few customisations here to fit the terrain you start in. You pay aproximately $150 a month to play this game.

Will be ever possible for WWIIOL to instance some battles, like a Company vs Company fight with historical TOEs?. And spawn the whole mass of players in a specific map area (without AB, FB or MS setup)?.

May be the event server, specially the realism events, can be much agile (to be organized). Engagements in specific terrain features, can appeal a lot of designers of realism events.

One of the few MP games I play right now is Joint Operations Escalation with the International Conflict mod for custom co-op maps.
Loads of fun.

For co-op play, I prefer the module design, like pen and paper games. Neverwinter Nights did this extremely well, but I think they rely too much on player-generated content. I wish there had been hundreds of official modules, just like TSR released. I anxiously await the next game that is designed like Neverwinter Nights, but not linked to a specific license like D&D.

Been playing Operation Flashpoint co-op with a mate the last few Sunday nights. It is pure enjoyment to accomplish plans together, especially with a long-term friend. We are often still buzzing about it the next day at work.

Played a few WWIIOL Realism Events – they were all great co-op sessions too, although mostly due to only having one life (and being an infrequent occurrence).

IMHO WWIIOL ain’t really that much of a ‘co-op’ kinda experience. Sure, working with Squadmates can be ‘co-oppy’. But that is an experience only for those folks in that particular squad. There really is nothing to promote much ‘co-op’ play in a mission between Squads, between Lone-wolves and between Squads and Lone-wolves….which is the bulk of same-side interactions in WWIIOL.

One of the GREATEST co-op games I ever played was on one of the older Nintendo systems, called The Lost Vikings, developed by Blizzard, before Blizzard was Blizzard…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lost_Vikings

AWESOME fun there.

I love co-op games, and prefer to play them exclusively.

Mods are a great thing. For those that do not know, you can play Doom 3 co-op with up to 4 Mates (I generally play with one other player on a server I set up myself)

Check out http://www.d3opencoop.com/ for more info on the Doom 3 co-op mod.

Also, Synergy is another great co-op mod for half-like 2. Unfortunately it only goes up to Nova Prospekt, but it is a hell of a lot of fun to play,

I also read that a co-op mod was in the works for Oblivion, but I think that one was cancelled as I have not heard anything about it in months.

It has nothing to do with co-op. WoW is popular because:
1) a child can understand it. It’s very easy to learn and grasp by the unwashed masses.

2) it’s escapist. The game leads you around by the nose. Go do this. Go do that. Kill X of Z. Done? Go kill Y of Q. You go up against a stupid AI that does the same thing every single time. You die? Oh well, the ‘numbers’ didn’t add up. Come back with an extra player to overcome it.

Compare this to WWIIOL:
1) incredibly technical. You need to go to War College to grasp half of what is going on. Accomplishing something as simple as killing another INF requires army boot camp + marksmanship + advanced infantry training. Don’t even get started on tanking, air combat, bombing, and then a million other things.

2) It’s confrontational. You have to figure out where to go and what to do and you have to be good at it to boot. There’s no predictable AI to blame. It’s you against a thinking human being. You die? It’s because the other player was better and frankly you sucked.

Deathmatches are appealing for entirely different reasons.
1) they’re instinct based. You use raw impulse and adrenaline to blow shit up all you want

2) They require no time commitment. You jump in, get your fix, and leave. You can play a few minutes or a few hours and in the process you die, kill, and blow up shit about 3 billion times a minute.

WWIIOL could appeal to a wider player base by appealing to some of these things, by making some changes (not including improved FX and performance). Some suggestions

a) the pre-launch UI needs to refined to have three tabs, a ‘Beginner’ tab, an ‘Advanced’ tab and a ‘Squad’ tab. The Beginner tab would cut things down to a bare minimum and it would essentially boil down to a vehicle selection and ‘Quick Play’ button. The Quick Play button would send you to a) the heaviest action areas b) where there is a side imbalance. The player ends up in a busy area with lots of targets to shoot at for a quick shoot’m up fix without having to figure out where the f–k to go and how. The idea of taking a rifle and shooting something is not terribly complicated, but the way WWII is now, you need a War College degree to understand the pre-launch UI.

For more hardcore players, they can go ahead and knock themselves out in the ‘Advanced’ & ‘Squad’ section where they can choose brigades, yada yada.

b) Add a mission ‘journal’. Instead of the complex mission and brigade thing to just to find out what the heck your squad or HC officers want, just have a journal of missions that says, ‘Spawn and kill 5 infantry and return to base in area XYZ’. You pick the mission, you hit the ‘Quick Play’ and you are where you are supposed to be with a specific mission in hand to accomplish (you have an in-game journal). Upon success, they get rank points and a mission badge or something. It leads them around by the nose, giving them missions to do.

There’s lot of tweaks that can be done to make the game appeal to a wider player base without ruining the focus on realism.

regards,

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games to play at workSeptember 28, 2007 at 1:05 am

games to play at work

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