Thaaat's... not a good thing...
Co-Optimus: During our play session, we noticed how the different weapons could have different parts put on them, such as a laser sight or forward grip, that affect the gun's accuracy and stability. Are these customizations that players can apply to the guns they pick up, or are they customizations that are part of the weapons themselves?
Omar: Each weapon has several variants, each of which feature a different combination of one or more accessories. The Player isn't able to modify them, but we've tried to select combinations that will suit differing styles of play.
Co-Optimus: There are two basic abilities that every character has - a barrier that protects them and their squad mates from incoming fire and a kind of radial explosion - and each character has one of two variants of that ability. Was there ever a point in the game's development when you considered allowing players to choose from a list of powers in order to customize their character, or even powers that would be completely unique to a character?
Omar: We did consider totally different abilities for each character, but we were also conscious of maintaining balance in the XP/scoring system, so that no character had a clear advantage. In Episodes 1 and 2, in the same way that we are establishing the foundation for what we hope to be a deep, ongoing story, with the abilities we are also laying a common foundation that we hope to build on in the future with character-specific abilities and actions.
Co-Optimus: In the game, there’s an experience system tied to the character that's awarded based on actions you take, such as killing enemies, reviving fallen teammates, and using the character abilities. Can you tell us a bit more about it and if it will carry over to future episodes?
Omar: The experience system is more for people in co-op and player-versus-player games to be able to get an idea for what kind of Player you are. If you see someone with a high rank in the 'Co-op' category, for example, then you know that this person does everything they can to cover and protect their team-mates. Likewise someone with a high rank in 'Assault' will be someone that likes to fight up close and personal. Since it's more of a 'kudos' thing between Players we will definitely have it carry over to future episodes so that you don't lose the ranks that you have built up.
Yes, it's rather lonely when you don't have any friends around to comment on that ridiculous statue in the background
Co-Optimus: What’s an experience you’ve had while playing the co-op campaign that stands out over the single-player playthroughs?
Omar: Although I've never been able to fully enjoy the co-op story elements from a fresh perspective (that's what I get for writing them!), I have definitely enjoyed observing Player reactions to the in-game events and the character-specific flashbacks. It makes for a point of discussion that you just don't get in other games, because it relies on you being observant enough to catch the various hints or clues while watching the flashback and then passing them on to your buddies while playing. If you didn't notice something or mis-interpreted something, then that could result in your co-op group coming up with a wildly different theory about what is going on!
Co-Optimus: What has been one of the biggest joys, and challenges, you've experienced in designing a four player co-op game?
Omar: Working on a co-op game automatically means that a big part of your testing is done with your colleagues as fellow players, rather than as observers watching over your shoulder. I've always felt that co-op can make almost any game a much more fun experience than when you're on your own, and although the game is fully playable (and fun!) in Singleplayer, co-op is where it really shines. It's those laugh-out-loud moments when you all see something funny happen, or those situations where the group is in trouble and you have to fight within an inch of your life to get out alive, that really make the social aspect of co-op gaming a magical thing.
As for the challenge, I would say that the pace of the game has to be flexible enough to accommodate people rushing through and having adrenalin-fuelled moments, but at the same time it needs to function if you have people who spread out and arrive at critical events separately (even if only by a few seconds). Many of those shock-factor moments that you see in great action games are, while not impossible in co-op, certainly trickier to pull off without risking some or most of the group not even looking in the right direction to see it.
Co-Optimus: What have been some of your favorite co-op games this past year?
Omar: Wow, there have been some great examples as of late, and honestly it's tough to choose between them (so I won't!). I've really enjoyed Resident Evil 5, Left4Dead, Borderlands and Fable 2, but there are still quite a few on my list that I haven't had time to try yet!
Co-Optimus: Any plans for additional co-op games in the future?
Omar: Here at Tragnarion Studios we've got plans and ideas for a whole host of games and genres, several of which are definitely suited to co-op. While we're not a co-op exclusive developer, I can honestly say that I personally am *always* looking for ways to make game mechanics and designs co-op friendly, because I just don't like playing on my own! You can sit me in front of the most amazing Singleplayer game out there, and although I will probably appreciate the craft put into it, I will probably get bored and lonely pretty quickly. If I have my way, I'll be given the opportunity to work co-op into every game I work on. Fingers crossed!
We'll keep our fingers crossed as well. We'd like to thank Omar Salleh, Jean-Philip Rodriguez, and all of the folks at Tragnarion Studios for taking the time to provide us with a preview of Episodes 1 and 2 of The Scourge Project and to answer our questions. We look forward to future co-op titles from Tragnarion, and hope Episodes 3 and 4 of The Scourge Project won't be too far behind.