The Curse of Co-Op
Before I get too emotional to control my frustration let me say this: I like multiplayer and co-op like any other person, in fact there are several games in which i missed the lack of a co-op mode and I have been saying with friends for years that some games would be amazing with co-op play.
But what really gets me is that this current trend of focusing on the multi mode, and putting co-op in a game, mostly because it’s trendy and a good box to check out for the powers-that-be, is getting in the way of the actual game and its solo play.
Now let’s not mix apples and oranges. Some games main focus is the online mod and competitive play, mostly involving RTS and FPS. But even those genre do not tend to force co-op down your throat when you are doing the campaign mode.
The reason I am writing this now is because of Resident Evil 5 as you may have guessed. I have always loved the series, I’ve played 1, 2, 3, Code Veronica, Zero, 4… some several times.
I am not a fan of the new, more action-oriented, direction but they remain great games. With the release of RE 5 comes co-op play which is great when you actually use it… but becomes more then an annoyance if you don’t.
Sheva has no clue how to manage inventory, tends to really waste ammo and often gets in your way when you are aiming. Annoying? you bet!
Another game that had badly designed coop gameplay was Lego Batman. Robin would at times almost prevent you from going forward and you would have to plug in a second joypad to make him do what he needed to do.
Now why would developers implement such broken design choices??
It wasn’t so long ago that the bane of games were parts when you had to protect someone. Remember Emma in Metal Gear Solid 2 (she got what she deserved but still ;)), your sister in Fatal Frame 2 is a useless child as well and there are many more examples.
Still some games implemented the feature better than other such as Resident Evil 4 and ICO and in some cases the NPCs actually defend themselves and shoot enemies (or whatever might be required of them) but overall it very rarely enhances the game and is something we are glad to be rid of after the sequence is over.
and now we have those games which basically force a protect mission on you for the whole game which doens’t seem like an adequate game design to me.
Like I said earlier I’m all for co-op but it needs some work and cannot ever be a problem for the solo experience. If a game’s main focus is story and immersion don’t design the whole gameplay around co-op. Or at the very least don’t make game continuation impossible without the partner.
Maybe design the solo campaign so that if there’s only 1 player it is played solo and if someone joins THEN you get the partner. And that partner could either be your friend’s own character for RPG or characters that are already in the game ready to play (like Sheva in RE 5).
Or maybe make the partner someone with a sort of auto-fire feature that doesn’t use ammo (obviously don’t make it overpowered because that could break the game too) so that you don’t have to spend hours moving items in the inventory or realize you are wasting precious ammo.
There are solutions because I know some games that have AI-controlled co-op in games and they work really nicely.
You have the system which lets you control everything the partners do in games like Baldur’s Gate and the recent Dawn of War II. These games feature groups of 4-6 people on average and you can tell each exactly what they should do which results in no frustration since you make the decisions.
Another option is to have the partners not affect you. In games like Gears of War or Republic Commando you have a tiny group with you and they do their thing, but if they die YOU don’t and you can (depending on the games) either go and revive them right away or have them revive automatically at the next checkpoint. This results in you not becoming frustrated with your peers and creating a brotherhood of equal people.
I am sure there are other options i am either not aware of or that I can’t remember at the moment. Bur the options do exist. And I will say it again I love co-op play but please please please do not break single player in favor of a feature.
PS: Will be edited soon to add games that feature coop properly.
March 20, 2009 - Posted by nostalgeek | Random Musings | 4, 5, baldur's, batman, capcom, co-op, code, commando, coop, dawn, dow, emma, evil, fatal, frame, gate, gear, gears, gow, ico, ii, lego, metal, multi, player, republic, resident, solid, solo, veronica, war, zero
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