There is no denying it - co-op is on the rise! Developers are catching on to the fact that gamers like being able to play together rather than alone or against one another. One in particular, Christopher Park, has taken it upon himself to explain some of the reasons behind Co-op. This gives us a very solid Case for Co-op!
First, lets explore what Christopher Park is responsible for in the co-op world. Arcen Games, Christopher's company, is building AI War: Fleet Command from the ground up around co-op. AI War: Fleet Command is an RTS that promises to do co-op correctly. None of this 2v2 skirmish co-op, but real objective and missions based RTS. We've really only seen this with Dawn of War and Halo Wars, so it's a welcome addition to the family!
While gaming single player is fine, and even a good versus match from time to time can build character (or achievement points) - co-op is becoming increasingly important. "Why is that?" you might ask. One of the biggest reasons co-op is making a huge comeback, is the age of gamers that play them. That's right, us old fogeys that stood shoulder-and-shoulder in arcades of lore want to reconnect with our old neighborhood friends online. Or, when significant others and children come into the picture, we don't get much single player time anymore; it's share and share alike here in couch Co-op land.
If co-op is done right, players of all skill levels can game together! Games like Gears of War 2 take the adjustable difficulty literally, and each player can set their difficulty to account for their individual skill. Otherwise, many games will allow the stronger gamer to head to the front lines, while the more casual of the group brings up the support. Bridging the gap between casual and hardcore, what better way to bring a family together?
To add to this, Christopher seems to have the right idea with how co-op should work with players of different skill levels.
"It can even help to naturally give weaker players a boost, leveling the playing field so that the advanced players take the more difficult position/class/loadout/route/whatever, while the newer players take the easier path. Thus everyone is doing something skill-appropriate, while still contributing to the team goals. The weaker players aren't overwhelmed and the stronger players aren't bored."
Why is this bridge important to Arcen Games?
"I think that the "cooperative hardcore gamer" demographic is a growing one, and an under-served one. We need games of all kinds, and at the moment what is most lacking is full-featured cooperative play."
We couldn't possibly agree more! Many titles will slip in co-op, but it feels like more of an afterthought feature, than an actual element of the game. Christopher has a few tips for adding co-op to your games, and we would like to see it done more often as well!
"There are many great ways to integrate co-op into your games, but the key thing is to at least consider it. The question should not be "how can I add this feature with the least amount of effort, since only a few people use it?" But rather, "how can I make this feature really shine, so that more people will buy my game specifically to have it?" "
Co-op also gives game designers a great advantage when creating scenarios to challenge players. While competitive multiplayer pits you against players or AI with similar skill and units, Co-op is free to throw in the storyline elements of a single player game. For instance, bosses are important to the single-player experience - so, why not tackle them together? To illustrate that:
"Mario faces off against everything from lowly Goombas, to the slightly-better Koopa Troopas, to giant and powerful bosses. Just think how boring the game would be if Mario's only opponent was Shadow Mario, an evil counterpart that has exactly the same abilities as the player."
Bridging our gaming gaps from hardcore to casual, bringing us bosses to tackle together, and enthralling us with story - co-op can really have the best of all worlds. We'd like to see more of it taken seriously, instead of tacked on as an afterthought.