Nick - Lets talk about Co-Op stuff. I'm a huge co-op fan. I started a whole co-op dedicated site. That really appeals to me. You kind of already touched on it, that as you already progressed through the platforms of development, you saw the game naturally take on co-op aspects. How does that influence your design of the game to incorporate co-op?
Denis - We were lucky enough to have co-op as a major pillar from the very first day of design. With it being a pillar, and Microsoft setting up Live, the backbone and structure of Live already makes it so that we don't have to make it an MMO and it's free. There's a really good structure and community already. Things like Battle.net that had to be designed for Diablo, that already exist because people have it automatically who have a 360. So that alleviated a lot of the things that made it a must, you know a must design feature. With that in mind, the entire game is meant to be played cooperatively through the whole game. And, not only is it meant to play co-op, but it changes the experience pretty substantially. There is nothing like, as an example, being a defender and having a lot of armor and then working with a bio engineer and slowly healing all the time. You become this super tank, and suddenly you can do things you could never do before.
Of course, we scale the enemies, the number of enemies and setups change, when you play co-op. From that perspective playing co-op is not only a completely different experience but a seamless one. I think that people who like to play it single player [will enjoy it]. And then others are just going to be continually playing co-op, leveling up, finding rare items, trading items back and forth and getting those super rare things that you can only get through playing. From that perspective this type of game really really suits co-op well. It sort of, when we thought about co-op, we thought what is the best type of genre where co-op works, quite frankly, the sort of RPG/hunting and gathering dominion area of gameplay is what we hit with. So we said, lets do a game like this. This is the kind of structural framework that we think would work really really well for Too Human on top of the action elements, and that's really what we said from Day 1 with where we wanted to go with the gameplay.
Nick - What do you think the reason is we are seeing more and more co-op games? Do you think it's services like Xbox Live?
Denis - I think that's one thing. I think competitive gameplay can tend to be more on the anti-social side in some ways. There are people who can spend a lot more time, with the average consumer getting older - with the average being something like 39 years old, I myself don't have the time to be the best at Counter-Strike anymore. I used to play it all the time and I loved it, and when i was younger and could put more time into it, like 8 hours a day and give up sleep, and get to work the next day and still be cognitive. Those days for me are gone. This is a much more casual cooperative, helping people out, and I think co-op from that perspective is catching on. It's just a little less intense, but it's still just as fun. It allows people to be more social over Xbox Live, and certainly services like XBL definitely help that. I think that you are going to see with more connectivity that we'll probably lean towards more cooperative than competitive. I don't think competitive is ever going to go away. The cooperative space has been small, and really hadn't really thought about it. They just went right to competitive right away. But now that it's been actually more of an even balance.
Nick - Yeah, co-op used to be, ya know the days of the Genesis and NES, every side scroller had a 2 player option to go with a buddy and play through. About the time the Playstation came around, it just disappeared.
Denis - Yeah, it's strange. If you look at a game like Diablo, for a while they had that hardcore mode where you could actually kill the other person you were playing with. That's just something I never entertained at trying ever. Multiple people competing in that way is not rewarding. I don't think so anyway. It's good for ganking, if you want to jump on someone's head during the game. I don't understand it either. I can't explain it. Maybe it's just one of those phenomenas that happen socially.
Nick - In Too Human, is there any kind of bonus above and beyond the standard teamwork and trading items of playing through the game co-op? Is there any kind of special abilities rewarded for co-op play?
Denis - Yeah, absolutely. When we designed the game, we designed it from the ground up in every class tree. The very first node is a shared passive node. The Bio Engineer for example, will get a heal over time. So everyone that you are playing with gets that. That means that if you are a Champion or a Beserker, and you do a lot of the front line combat - you can be slowly healing all the time. Where the Defender gets armor bonuses, the Champion gives everyone critical strike bonuses. The Beserker gives everyone speed and combo bonuses. The Commando does rate of fire and explosive damage bonuses. So just by grouping with other different classes, because you'll get a different result, and also the bonuses stack - so if you get two Defenders you get a double armor bonus. So that alone is sort of the first level, but then we got other things too. There's different kind of specializations within the trees, there are different skill trees where you can pick certain spiders.
The spiders are one of the gifts from Cyberspace, and you can deploy the spider by hitting Y and it'll come out for a period of time and after a while you'll be able to use it again. It's kind of like a delayed offensive. One spider will do things like give everyone in the party a shield. Another is an anti-missile system, it sits there on the ground and fires laser beams at incoming missiles. There are lots of these spiders. These are the kind of things that really help co-op play. And when you are playing the game it's pretty interesting the combinations you can do.
Nick - I remember seeing a demo of the game, and it seemed like the spiders were a pretty big thing in the game.
Denis - Spiders are really cool. Some people focus builds solely around their spider. It's pretty neat. I'm trying one of those out right now. There's so many different builds you can do, but there's a class tree for human cybernetic, and on the skill tree there's a node that increases your spider duration. If you pump that up and your spider is on for a long time and you continually hit the y button, the spider will catch up to you and do things. There's this one spider that has this laser beam and it just sits there and fires at enemies. It'll sit there by the troll and go through body part by body part and go through destroying the troll. It's like your little helper. And in co-op you have a couple of little helpers, it's pretty neat.
Nick - Drop in and Drop out?
Denis - Yes!
Nick - Excellent.
Denis - We did it as seamlessly as we could.
Nick - That's good to hear. That's one of the most frustrating things lately, it seems like more games are adding co-op, but they are always missing one piece of it.
Denis - No, we did the best we could with it on that level. It is host based, so once the host leaves you have to restart the session.