Cathode Tan - Games, Media and Geek Stuff
logo design by man bytes blog

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sims 2 And Cooperative Gameplay

The Girl and I burned several hours over the weekend playing Sims 2 on the PlayStation 2. It has a two player split screen mode which is more or less serviceable. Basically you each get a sim to control at the same time. Some downtime is inevitable as one of you will be sleeping or working while the other is trying to chat up some local tart. It's a perfectly fun way to play a very fun game (even if, as The Girl puts it, you do little else but worry about the toilet and sleep).

It illustrates, though, how difficult two player gameplay really can be to develop. Also this weeked I started to put down some foundation on a Defender clone which would be centered around two players. Simple right? Well, because of the speed of the game it would also need to be split screen and that causes new questions like do you also design a different experience for one player, how would any "campaign" portions of the game work, etc.

For me, coop breaks down like this:

Similar Experience
Basically, two people happen to be playing the same game. They don't necessarily share much in the game. This is how I would classify Sims 2. I'm not helping The Girl in her pursuit of getting abducted by aliens in the game, but I'll happen to be around when it happens.

Shared Experience
Here you're fighting the same fight, more or less. It's like the similar experience but it's got the added bonus of sharing goals. Most coop falls into this sort, even if it does somewhat shabbily. Two player Diablo would fall into this example.

Gestalt Experience
This is the holy grail of coop play. It's fun because the experience relies on both people being active not just with the game, but with each other. You're aren't simply rushing ahead to the same goal ... you're forming new goals in between which rely on the other playing. Diversification is key here. One player saving the other from impending doom or boosting their stats during a really difficult fight, or one player solving a puzzle while the other fends off the incoming hoarde. Guild Wars breaches into this category from time to time, albeit sometimes clumsily (often because the group isn't aware enough of the surroundings to know when to be organized).

Right now I've been able to envision how the second one works in my projects, but I'd like to get the third going. Closest I had, I think, was my Riftwar mod which featured three teams and often required coordinated offensives or defensive strategies ... but that's certainly on the weak side of the fence.

tagged: ,


Patrick Dugan said...

I'm very interested in cooperative play, particularly the gesthalt variety. I'm hoping to acheive that in my current project, where players can co-operatively play on a team with a focused goal, and in between missions, socialize in a more relaxed social sphere.

Citizen Wii said...

It's the kind of experience we went through at my household when getting through Animal Crossing. Of course, it wasn't exactly the same as in the Sims, but the shared objectives of filling the museum and keeping the town spotless kept us working in a very cooperative manner, albeit one at a time. Our proximity made it easy to discuss "offline" about in-game things, which made it all seem all the more alive.