Cooperative gameplay

Cooperative gameplay

Cooperative gameplay (often abbreviated as co-op) is a feature in video games that allows players to work together as teammates. It is distinct from other multiplayer modes, such as competitive multiplayer modes like player versus player or deathmatch. Playing simultaneously allows players to assist one another in many ways: passing weapons or items, healing, providing covering fire in a firefight, and performing cooperative maneuvers such as boosting a teammate up and over obstacles.

In its most simple form, cooperative gameplay modifies the single player mode of a game, allowing additional players, and increasing the difficulty level to compensate for the additional players. More complex examples exist, however, with broader modifications to the story and gameplay. Some co-op games include a new ending when completed in co-op mode. This new ending is unlocked only when players work as a team to complete the game. For instance, Bubble Bobble features an ending that can only be accessed when two players survive co-op mode, as do some console beat 'em up games such as Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, and Die Hard Arcade.

Co-op gaming can operate either locally--with players sharing input devices or using multiple controllers connected to a single console--or over a network, with co-op players joining an existing game running on a game server via a local area networks or wide area networks. Due to the complexity of video game coding, co-op games rarely allow network players and local players to mix. Exceptions do exist, however, such as Mario Kart Wii or Call of Duty Black Ops, which allows two players from the same console to play with others online.

Co-op gameplay has been gaining popularity in video games in recent years,[1] as controller and networking technology has developed. On PCs and consoles, cooperative games have become increasingly common, and many genres of game--including shooter games, sports games, real-time strategy games, and massively multiplayer online games--include co-op modes.

Contents

History of console co-op gaming

Early-generation home consoles typically did not offer co-op options, due to technical limitations which hindered the increased graphics required for simultaneous co-op play. Though consoles from the second generation of video games onward typically had controller ports for two-player games, most systems did not have the computing or graphical power for simultaneous play, leading most games that billed "2-player gameplay" as a feature to merely be the single player game with alternating players.

During this early era, many arcade games which featured co-op play (including beat 'em ups such as Double Dragon) were ported to less advanced home systems. Alternating play replaced the arcade's co-op play in the NES version (although Double Dragon II and III, for the same system, did retain their co-op gameplay). Most other titles featuring 2-player were head-to-head sports titles. Though most of the console beat 'em ups were arcade ports, original franchises such as Streets of Rage and River City Ransom also became popular.

The run and gun genre was also popular for co-op games. Contra, for instance, was far more successful in its NES incarnation than it was in the arcade, and is now considered one of the most popular co-op games ever. Gunstar Heroes for the Sega Genesis and the Metal Slug series for the Neo Geo were also well-received titles.

Electronic Arts has produced key co-op sports games, including the original NHL Hockey (1991) and Madden NFL (1990) installments on the Sega Genesis. These games allowed two players or more to play against the CPU. These franchises are arguably the most successful co-op sports games.[2]

Due to the lack of online multiplayer, co-op games in the RPG genre have generally been less common on console systems than on PCs. Nevertheless, some of the earliest co-op action RPGs were console titles, including the TurboGrafx-16 game Dungeon Explorer (1989)[3] by Atlus which allowed up to five players to play simultaneously,[4] and Square's Secret of Mana (1993) for the Super Nintendo which offered two- and three-player action once the main character had acquired his party members. Secret of Mana's co-op gameplay was considered innovative in its time,[5] as it allowed the second or third players to drop in and out of the game at any time rather than players having to join the game at the same time, which has remained influential on titles as recent as the upcoming Dungeon Siege III.[6] Final Fantasy VI (1994) offered a form of alternating co-op play for its battles, with the second player taking control of half of the characters in the party. Namco's Tales series allowed multiple players to take control of individual members in its real-time battles in some of the titles, such as Tales of Symphonia, while the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance games replicated the Diablo formula for consoles, offering two-player simultaneous play through the game's campaign.

With the release of the Nintendo 64 (1996, 1997), having four controller ports started to become a standard feature in consoles, as the Dreamcast, Nintendo GameCube and Xbox all later featured them. As larger multiplayer games became feasible, cooperative gameplay also became more available. The latest generation of video game consoles all feature wireless controllers, removing port-based local player limits. However, its effect on multiplayer is probably less pronounced than the advancement of console internet capabilities.

History of PC co-op gaming

First-Person Shooters

The release of Doom in 1993 was a breakthrough in network gaming. Though arguably deathmatch was both the most influential and most popular mode, Doom's co-op gameplay was also significant. Up to four players could travel through the entire game together, playing on separate computers over a LAN. Unlike many co-op games, the game's campaign mode was designed primarily for single player, but the difficulty was tweaked to compensate for extra human players. The following three games produced by id Software (Doom II, Quake and Quake II) all featured co-op modes.

Since around the year 2000, however, most FPS developers have forsaken co-op campaign play, opting to focus more purely on either a more detailed and in-depth single player experience or a purely multiplayer game. Epic's Unreal Tournament series has shifted almost entirely towards deathmatch modes (although it does retain a "team deathmatch" mode), and significant FPS releases such as Doom 3, Quake 4, and both Half-Life (Other then addon Decay for Half Life 1) titles shipped without cooperative gameplay modes. The moddability of these titles has enabled fan-created add-ons which enable co-op play in many of these cases, though.

In contemporary PC gaming, FPS co-op most commonly manifests in the form of competitive teamplay, which has generally overtaken deathmatch as the dominant form of online FPS muItiplayer, with titles such as Counter-Strike, Team Fortress 2, Battlefield 1942 and Medal of Honor gaining popularity in the early to mid-2000s. However, titles such as Electronic Arts' Army of Two, Valve's Left 4 Dead, and Croteam's Serious Sam games, all represent first-person shooters which feature co-op play as a major focus of the gameplay.[7]

Role-Playing Games

Most early computer role-playing games were inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, but were restricted to single player due to technical restrictions. The earliest RPGs featuring something resembling co-op play were MUDs, which would later evolve into the MMOG genre, though it is debatable whether these online worlds can be considered to feature cooperative gameplay as it is commonly understood.

Later PC RPGs became more powerful and flexible in simulating the shared real life RPG experience, allowing players to collaborate in games over the Internet. Blizzard Entertainment's immensely successful Diablo (1996), which incorporated Blizzard's online matchmaking service, battle.net, allowing the game's players to play through the entire single player campaign together. The D&D-sanctioned Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale games, released in 1998 and 2000, respectively, allowed up to six players to play through the campaign mode over a network. Atari's Neverwinter Nights (2002) was an official and comprehensive D&D simulator, featuring even more robust game-creation tools and developing a sizable online community. It allowed one player to serve as a Dungeon Master, shaping and altering the game world against a party of human-controlled players, playing cooperatively. (An earlier game, Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption (2000) was the earliest CRPG to feature this sort of "storyteller" mode.)

Contemporary MMORPGs such as Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft feature a mixture of single-player goals ("quests") and larger end-game challenges that can only be completed via intensive co-op play,[8] of up to twentyfive players.[9]

Gameplay characteristics

Display features

Many console games support split screen displays in order to show two or more players in different regions of the game. Split screen displays would usually split the main screen into either two or four sub-regions so that 2-4 players can roam freely within the game world. Many first-person and third-person shooter games use this technique when played in multiplayer co-op mode, such as the console versions of games in the Rainbow Six series, the Halo series or the fifth installment of the Call of Duty series, Call of Duty: World at War.

By contrast, in cooperative platform games, both players typically occupy the same screen and must coordinate their actions, particularly with regard to the scrolling. If the scrolling is limited to a forward direction only, players can potentially kill each other. For example, one player lagging behind could cause problems for his partner, as the screen will not scroll onward. If a player was attempting to complete a jump over a chasm, the "safe" surface on the far side of the chasm could be prevented from scrolling into view by a slow player.

Developers have attempted to counter these frustrations by using a camera that can zoom in and out over an entire level as needed, keeping both players within the scope of the camera. This type of camera was used to enable the display of four player cooperative gameplay in New Super Mario Brothers Wii.

Resource management

A common concept in cooperative games is the sharing of resources between players. For example, two players managing one team in a real-time strategy game, such as StarCraft, will often have to draw off the same pool of resources to build and upgrade their units and buildings. The sharing of resources, however, can be as simple as the system used in the Contra games (and other shoot-'em-up/beat-'em-up games) where a player who is out of spare lives could "steal" a life from the other player so both players could continue to play at the same time.

Local & Network Co-op mode

Video games with Co-op mode

For the manually edited sortable table of games that feature cooperative gameplay, see List of cooperative video games.
For the automatically generated list of games that belong to this category, see Category:Cooperative video games.

References

  1. ^ Kuchera, Ben (2009-01-28). "Co-op gaming is here to stay: Ars helps you find players". Arstechnica.com. http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2009/01/co-op-gaming-is-here-to-stay-ars-helps-you-find-players.ars. Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  2. ^ "EA Video Games - Electronic Arts". Ea.com. http://www.ea.com. Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  3. ^ Dungeon Explorer: Warriors of Ancient Arts Interview, RPG Vault, IGN
  4. ^ Dungeon Explorer Manual, Museo del Videojuego
  5. ^ Secret of Mana hits App Store this month, EuroGamer
  6. ^ Dungeon Siege III Developer Interview, NowGamer.com
  7. ^ http://www.l4d.com
  8. ^ "World Of Warcraft". Totally Warcraft. http://www.totallywarcraft.com/world-of-warcraft. Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  9. ^ http://www.wowhead.com/zones=3.3#0-3+1

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