Splash Damage has a tall order. They always have. Since the announcement and unveiling of Brink at E3 and PAX 2009, respectively, they've held strong to their original vision for a game that seamlessly blends single-player, co-op, and multiplayer experiences. This week the internet is abuzz about Brink, and critics the world over are poised to release their opinions into our laps (including one of my favorite critics, Co-Optimus' very own Andrew Gaskill).
Whether or not Splash Damage has trumped Valve's Left 4 Dead series - in terms of integration between co-op and multiplayer versus modes - has one day yet to be seen. In the meantime, let's look a trio of quotes from Gamasutra's recent editorial highlighting what may be the first step in multiplayer and co-op evolution: Brink.
I don't know that it's a divide... I don't think there's a divide between people who like action movies and people who like comedies. I think some days you feel like going to see a comedy, and some days you feel like seeing an action movie. And some days I think you feel like getting into a very intense, single player experience, story-driven, and something you can do as a solitary exercise, and some days you just feel like going out there and doing something much more social. "I think obviously there are some people who really focus on stuff, but I think in general gamers are pretty broad in their tastes.
- Ken Levine
The director of Bioshock is no stranger to our pages; when asked what he thought the future of gaming was, he promptly replied, "co-op", in not so few words. This week he expands on that notion, not only speculating on the future of gaming but also the future of the key to the future of gaming.
(You lost? Me, too.) Next quote.
We are the biggest Left 4 Dead fans in the universe. We're so thankful -- I mean, we've been working on Brink since before Left 4 Dead came out, but when the first one came out there were so many things in that game that validate and legitimize the kind of stuff we're doing.
- Splash Damage creative director Richard Ham
I think I just heard some hearts sink and some start beating faster. Anyone looking for innovation in a game like Brink obviously does not want to hear it compared to another high-profile first-person shooter that was mostly hit and a little miss in the co-op department. Fact of the matter: Left 4 Dead did a lot of things right - and Splash Damage has been paying attention.
Probably the most important "borrowed" mechanic is the way that the game handles communication. Not only will your headset be defaulted to "off" - to avoid unwanted voice chat - but the AI Squad Commander will assign players to tasks according to what everyone else on the team is doing. Think about how Left 4 Dead's characters automatically called out what was going on ("Taking pills!") and then ramp it up to the next level, wherein Brink's Squad Commander will actually strategize for your team.
We've found in those sorts of situations the Squad Commander takes a back seat to players communicating directly, which is totally fine with us. The Commander is primarily a tool to help coordinate strangers who may not be able to work together effectively.
- Richard Ham
So, ultimately, the Squad Commander fills the gaps where needed, and rounds out what should be a tactical approach to playing against AI or human player alike. A great concept, to say the least, and by all accounts has worked very well during hands-on preview times.
Teamwork is inherently cooperative, if more than one player is interested in being a part of a team. Brink seems to be drawing new lines to define what a team is. As release day approaches, watch the Co-Optimus User Blogs for detailed impressions from our tightly knit community, and watch the front page for Andrew's full review.