The Joy Of Co-Op

By Jim Rossignol on July 28th, 2008 at 8:01 am.


This article was published last year in PC Gamer UK. It’s my ode to co-op gaming, and it features quotes from Epic’s Clifford Bleszinski and the excellent Harvey ‘Witchboy’ Smith. (Shame about that Blacksite game, eh?) I’ve revised it slightly for 2008.

It’s our favourite abbreviation: co-op. We’re not simply talking about your basic multiplayer here, and nor are singing odes to teamplay in Counter-Strike or World Of Warcraft. We’re talking co-operation. A couple of gamers versus the game. That is where some the very best gaming moments lie.

You see, the joy of co-op is like the joy of conversation. You’re not competing – you’re working on something together, each with your own angle. Also like conversation, a good co-op session spontaneously generates ideas that you wouldn’t have had on your own. In playing against the computer with the help of a friend you come up with different, and often wholly more entertaining solutions to the problems that games present you with. Whether it’s fighting Nazis in Brothers In Arms, or purging the hive in Alien Swarm, there’s simply nothing better than coming up with a plan, and then heroically saving your best mate when it all goes horribly wrong.

The Challenge

Despite our love for it, co-op has had a patchy history, and there’s a crucial reason for this: it’s really hard for developers to pull off successfully: the Half-Life games didn’t have a co-op mode, and there’s a solid reason for that. In fact the problems for the people making these games have only become worse over the last fifteen years. This issue is one of complexity. The simpler games, such as Quake or Doom, didn’t really create many problems for designers in terms of implementing co-op. They were essentially just rooms with monsters and traps, so all they had to do was drop in a second player and Bob’s your uncle sitting next to you with a gamepad in his hand. But as games began to learn the scripted, ever-so-finely-tuned lessons of Half-Life and Tomb Raider, they began to make such simple solutions near-impossible. When an experience was carefully engineered for the enjoyment of a single player, dropping in co-op, and a second player, became a task too far. Games broke down, enjoyment faltered, and the whole exercise just became too much effort to bother with.

Now though it seems that developers are beginning to crack the problem. Not only that, but their ambitions are bolder and their intention to provide co-op gameplay far clearer. Where games have long bolted co-op in as an afterthought or a neat alternative multiplayer option, new games such as Borderlands, Gears Of War, and Left 4 Dead have taken co-op as their central motif. With a second character on hand, often controlled by smart AI during a single-player game, there’s often an option for player two to drop in and play through a game with their chum. It’s not just a case of adding in player-two, it’s a matter of making the second character absolutely integral to how the game works. How long, we wonder, before the big-shots like Half-Life 2 have a second playable protagonist…

Developers, many of whom used to to shudder when we asked about co-op, are now warming to the idea. Harvey ‘Deus Ex’ Smith becomes rather animated when talking about Blacksite’s (proposed but not-shipped at the time of writing this) drop-in/drop-out co-op mode, but he’s the first to admit that it was tough to do: “We started off being so arrogant that we said “oh co-op will be easy” but then at every turn it has fucked us. It’s amazing how you can be in a room full of MIT grads, and people who have been working on games for ten years and play all the game, and look at the helicopter with one turret on it and then someone finally says “What about player two?””

About Player Two

The lesson for Smith’s Midway team was that two heads aren’t necessarily better than one when you’re trying to balance a complex action game for play. “It’s about tuning,” says Smith. “It affects everything from how hard it is to play, to how many enemies you can get on screen. It even affects the fiction. It’s a fun part of the game though, so I hope it works in the right way.” (Yeah, oh well.)

One group of developers who have consistently made it work the right way are the modders-turned-pro Black Cat, who made Thievery and Alien Swarm, and who are now working on Infested, a commercial version of Alien Swarm in the Source engine. Black Cat’s Jonathan Sutton told us a little of what a co-op focus means for their game design: “At the basic level, we provide tons of information about what the other players are doing. The overhead view helps with this, as you can easily see where your squad mates are positioned and what they’re doing. Then we have all sorts of detail on the HUD, showing you various stats about the other marines, such as their ammo, if they’re reloading, getting hurt, and so on. We also have about 100 speech cues that fire off automatically in response to game events.” Left 4 Dead pulls off the same kinds of tricks – automatic barks, and the ability to see your buddies through the scenery.

It’s this kind of scaffolding to player’s perception that the developers of co-op are having to come up with to really make the experience one in which the players compliment each other, rather than simply being bodies in the same shooting gallery. Having one player able to pull the other to his feet while under fire in Gears Of War is only possible because the upright player can see his mate’s location on the overview, for example.

The other way to make co-op compelling, of course, is to make the players work through their own skill sets – as we’ve long seen in RPGs. “We make sure the various equipment and skills in the game all have their own special role,” says Sutton. “In this way, you come to rely on the other players throughout the game, as their skill and equip selection will be better suited to certain problems. We also have direct dependencies, like relying on the medic for healing, or the guy carrying the ammo bag throwing you a spare clip when you’re running low.”

Of course we’ll have to wait until Infested turns up to see whether Black Cat actually know what they’re talking about, but their previous work hasn’t shamed them so far. An even safer bet is Cliff Bleszinski and his co-op shooter, Gears Of War, which has already been a blockbusting beast of a game on Cousin Xbox. Bleszinski talks of how tricky the co-op solution has been for modern developers, but he know longer believes that it’s a hurdle developers should choose to avoid. “It is difficult,” says Bleszinski, “but if you want to have a multi-million selling shooter you have to have a great single player and a solid co-op mode. I think there’s a huge gulf between casual and hardcore players, and co-op is way to bridge that. You can have a husband and wife, with one player leading another through the game. She might feel less intimidate with her husband’s help. It’s this kind of stuff that will bridge that gap.”

One of the most successful British games of the last couple of years was all about bridging that gap. It was Lego Star Wars, which featured ubiquitous co-op play throughout. Talk to the Lego team’s executive producer, ex-PC Gamer Dep Ed Jon Smith, and he’ll tell you how his primary goal was to create a game which kids could play, but in which parents would be able to help out with directly – by picking up a gamepad and jumping into the game itself, rather than having to shout advice from the sidelines. This is one of the most immediate and direct co-op experiences gaming has to offer – and it’s as much about solving puzzles as it is performing action-oriented death. Incredibly, Smith points out, this was one aspect of the game that the press uniformly ignored. Why? Because the reviewers played the game on their own. Perhaps if they’d made an effort to get their mum to play with them scores would have been higher still.


Hands Across The World

Challenges for co-op still remain. As more players are catered for in a game, so the number of things a developer has to think about escalates. Even cutscenes become more complicated, as Bleszinski explained: “As a developer we have to craft the cinematic experience with co-op in mind. There’s always the other character. What is Dom (the secondary Gears Of War character) doing? What is he doing if he’s player by AI, and what is he doing if he’s controlled by another player? The more characters you have, the more you have to figure out how you integrate them into the game.”

The interest co-op has generated in huge development houses such as Epic mean that there’s another, even bigger ramification for PC gamers at large: co-op modding tools. Gears Of War, Bleszinski has revealed, will come with all the tools required to make co-op work in a mod. Transforming single player mods into co-op mod will become a hell of a lot easier with this new toolset – the one that Epic themselves used to put their game together.

“I’d love to see more co-op mods,” says B. “Modders often take the regular co-op mode and say “okay we’re going to do this game, but in World War II”, but maybe they should take the co-op mode and say ‘okay now we can make this puzzle-oriented’. There are so many more cool ways to interact with each other.”

In time both developers and modders will be able to come up with cool ways to create variants for new games concepts like Left 4 Dead, which brings a hybrid of co-op and traditional multiplayer to the table. Left 4 Dead suggests ways in which gamers could create incredible co-op mods: an Evil Dead mod with two players trapped in the demonic cabin in the woods, an aliens mod with Left 4 Dead’s zombies turned Giger, a riot game with shop keepers defending a store from looters… Turn your co-op imagination to other games, such as the action-puzzler Lego Batman and Indiana Jones games, and you start to see that the possibilities are endless.

“Co-op” might have become a feature-list tick box for the most recent generation of games, but hot damn, if even a few of them get it right, we’ll be laughing, and slapping each other on the back.

SOME CO-OP CLASSICS

Doom

The classic of classics. You can bomb through the whole thing two player in a few hours. Your best bet these days is to pick it up with the rest of Id’s back catalogue on Steam.

Quake

Another Steam refugee from the past, Quake is even better than Doom for co-op action, not least because you get to fight shamblers together, with lightning guns.

Descent II

It’s tough to get hold of the classic 3D dimensional exploration shooter these days, but if you can pick up a copy of Ebay, or anywhere else, it makes a fun day in.

Baldur’s Gate

Getting through Baldur’s Gate with up to six other real-life players really does take some commitment, but it’s an interesting alternative to pen-and-paper D&D.

Half-Life Sven Co-op

This wasn’t just the mod that made the original Half-Life playable over a network, it’s also a mass of mad and maddening levels, packed with puzzles and weirdness.

Aliens Versus Predator

Defending the bunker against endless swarms of aliens: it doesn’t actually get much better than this. Watch out for that flamethrower, though, it’s not friendly fire.

Diablo and Diablo 2

People playing the Diablo and Diablo 2 campaigns over Battlenet is pretty much what made Blizzard the company it is today. It’s still remarkably compulsive.

Operation Flashpoint

A long-term favourite of many people here at Future towers – our first map editing mission was to set up tractors to race across an island as we were hunted by a helicopter. The campaign is good too.

ArmA

Op Flash’s updated cousin, with some truly excellent co-op missions, and some less good ones. Few games are quite as tense as this – electronic war at its nail-biting best.

Brothers In Arms: Earned In Blood

The series of co-op skirmishes provided by Earned In Blood will cause you to scream “Go left! Flank flank flank! Aiiiie!” They’re short and ever-so sweet.

Hidden & Dangerous

The bugs in H&D sort of add to the appeal of co-op, which is a slapstick nightmare at the best of times. When it does work, however, the intricate assaults are simply sublime.

Neverwinter Nights

The classic co-op RPG brings table-top RPGs to the PC with beardy panache. The entire sixty-hour campaign can be played through with chums. Let’s hope they’re patient, eh?

Freespace 2

Numerous mods and add-ons have perfected what was already one of the most intense and diligently-imagined space combat games in the world. Unmissable.

Freelancer

Exploring Freelancer’s self-contained galaxy is far more entertaining with a bunch of friends. A bit too much of a time-sink for most folks, but it’s nevertheless a portal to a better world.

SWAT4

Incredibly tight assaults on urban environments are routinely cast into disarray by the randomised elements inside. No one action is ever the same, particularly as you scream into the ear of a chum.

Ground Control 2

Incredibly, any of the campaign missions from Ground Control 2 can be played with a second human-controlled drop-zone. It might not be the best Massive game, but it’s still solid fun.

Lego Star Wars 1&2

You’ll need a gamepad for this one: Lego Star Wars is co-op friendly throughout, and there are dozens of superb puzzles for you to get your head around. Simply not worth missing out on.

Garry’s Mod HL2

The tools provided in Garry’s Mod actually allows you to play through the entire Half-Life 2 campaign as co-op. It doesn’t work all that well, but hey, who’s complaining?

Gears Of War

Ahead of the curve, as usual, Epic have delivered a shooter that is as refined in its co-op play as it is beautiful in its Unreal-powered visuals. Muscular co-op.

And coming up…

Left 4 Dead

A hybrid of both traditional co-op versus hordes of zombies, and multiplayer, with other folks taking on the roles of the specialist mega-zombies. This is going to be huge.

Borderlands

Gearbox’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi Mad Max on an alien world has a strong co-op mode. Very fast and brutal, and very beautiful. It could be the best game of 2008/9.

Dawn Of War 2

A fully co-op campaign for the game mostly likely to be something compared to Starcraft 2? Really? So they reckon. Exciting stuff.

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68 Comments »

  1. Ben Abraham says:

    Nice article. I love co-op and am eagerly awaiting Blacksite Left 4 Dead!

  2. Dr_Demento says:

    “It even effects the fiction” AFFECTS dammit. Sorry, I’m not normally a grammar nazi, but affect/effect really annoys me…

    Great article, though. One of the things which originally drew me to consoles was the number of good local co-op games – stuff like the flanking in R6:Vegas and the Warthog in Halo are so much more fun with a friend. It’s obviously much harder to implement in PCs, but it’s good to see developers finally paying attention to it.

    Personally I hugely prefer co-op to versus modes – you get more epic battles, and it doesn’t really matter if you’re mismatched as regards skill. 4-player co-op in Halo 3 lets my girlfriend play on Legendary without getting frustrated!

  3. Nate says:

    I just wanted to point out that most of the elements that interfere with easy integration of cooperative play are actually really irritating in single player.

    “Interactive” cut scenes have bloated as developers become increasingly confused as to what games do well– and no, it’s not straight narrative. The best gaming cut scenes are on par with the worst movies.

    Scripted sequences have always been a shortcut intended to fool players into thinking that the game is smarter than it really is. I guarantee you that there is not a single military base in existence that contains a door that closes with a pressure plate and cannot be opened in any other way. People do not pick cover by remembering one particular nearby area where they have cover from opponents arriving from a single direction. These sort of shortcuts suck even in single-player, which reward the most creative and skilled players (who find ways to exploit these scripts) by destroying immersion.

    Balance and polycount remain as significant issues, but aren’t really big deals. One more player = one less baddie. Not a big deal. Balance can be tweaked easily. Drop player damage output in half, and balance remains. Quake was completely unbalanced for coop, but that didn’t matter, because it was fun.

  4. spd from Russia says:

    great article.
    I never understood the appeal of coop – I just like to do things on my own. And in most games when someone dies he respawns far away from the other player, resulting in ether wait times (zzzz) or just braking the coop (quakes for example) Now games especially made with coop in mind (like GoW) are different. But I still want to get all the kills myself!

  5. KC says:

    I can’t believe Splinter Cell isn’t listed there, Chaos Theory had some of the best coop moments ever in it. I’m excited for Red Alert 3, it’s campaign is going to be all coop.

    I loved playing Flashpoint and Arma with a bunch of friends, I actually reinstalled UT2k4 for Alien Swarm the other day, and when FarCry came down to $20, I bought it and played (a poor) coop mod for it, which in turn only showed half the enemies on one player’s screen for some reason, I can’t tell you how long it took for us to figure out that a helicopter was only on my client, and not anyone else’s.

    And you can’t forget Freelancer, that game is the perfect example of what an arcade space combat game should be.

    One of the HL2 mods (can’t remember which one, I think it was Follow Freeman) lets you competitively play coop through out the game, in a race/score mode, seeing who can play the fastest or gets most kills etc.

  6. Jim Rossignol says:

    Clearly it’s not an attempt at an exhaustive list of co-op games, it was just as many as we needed to fit on the magazine page… feel free to suggest your own.

  7. Tichinde says:

    It has to be said I was pulled back into co-op gaming by a friend who turned up at my door with a copy of Gears of War in his hand.
    We’ve since tried RB6:Vegas and GRAW2 and we’re waiting on Left for Dead at the moment.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably still be playing CoD4 multiplayer but there’s nothing bettter than getting on vent or ts and shooting aliens/terrorists/whatever in the head while they are busy shooting at my mate.

  8. swaan says:

    Anyone remember Road Rash & Road Rash: Jailbreak? Now those were mad co-op fun!
    I still get the chuckles when I remember how I accidentally bashed by my friend who drove the sidecar in Jailbreak.

  9. vordhosbn says:

    I haven’t tried the coop features in Garry’s Mod but I can definitely vouch for the Synergy Mod for HL2:
    http://synergymod.net/

    It’s basically Svencoop for HL2, except the ridiculously scaled enemy hit points which completely ruined Svencoop for me. The vehicle levels in particular are an absolute blast. It comes with some custom maps too but they’re a bit weak.

    I’m glad to see SWAT 4 getting mentioned too since some of my best ever gaming experiences were from cooping it up with 4 to 6 buddies. Don’t miss the Stetchkov Syndicate expansion which adds new excellent maps, support up to 10 players and PUNCHING.

  10. RidiculeSwarm says:

    PC Gamer Sweden seems to use your articles for their big features all the time. Both the “365 Free Games” and “The Joy of Co-op” are in the July issue of PCG Sweden. And they have added their own names to the credits, as well. Heh. I guess translation means you helped write it, right? Maybe I should just read the features here, the way the were actually written, instead of in some semi-awkward translation.

  11. muscrat says:

    Vegas and GeOW CooP? Bah aboslute tripe.

    Give me ArmA, RavenShield, SWAT4, Sven coop, KILLING FLOOR 2.5 ect. ect.

  12. Nuyan says:

    I think Left 4 Dead could become a big breakthrough for this sort of thing, it’ll probably be very accessible like the usual Valve games, plus the enemy difficulty scaling.

    I loved playing Alien Swam a couple of weeks ago (after it being recommended on RPS, thanks!) with some friends on LAN, but it’s really hard and not very do-able if you play with some people that are a bit less ‘skilled’ with that sort of games. Left 4 Dead – will – probably much more accessible, and co-op needs to be accessible.

  13. phuzz says:

    It didn’t have a proper two player campaign, but me and a mate used to spend hours on Red Alert 2, teaming up against as many enemies as possible (6?), although we usually spoiled it by turning on each other at the end :)
    I’d also like to add another vote for lego star wars, apart from that bloody camera, and the vehicle controls there’s almost nothing wrong with the game.

  14. Ross B says:

    Funny that you name check half-life’s as games which aren’t suited to coop as these have been the most fun that I’ve had with coop (with various mods of course). In fact, the fact that they weren’t designed for it just seems to add to the fun, as they make no concessions to accommodate it. I often find the games that are designed for coop end up watering down the single player elements of it, just for that purpose and it tends to ruin it for me, it just ends up, as you’ve said of quake, rooms with monsters and traps.

  15. Saflo says:

    I once rented…I forget what it was, World’s Deadliest Police Chases: The Game or somesuch, about ten years ago. Nothing special, but my friends were visiting and we tried the co-op mode in which one person drove and the other hung out the window shooting at suspects, and suddenly it was a blast.

    So, uh, there’s my story.

    Addendum: Really, any co-op mode where your friend can drive a vehicle while you man the turret or fire from the passenger seat(or vice versa) is a guaranteed good time. Halo made excellent use of this.

  16. Aftershock says:

    SWAT4.
    Internet Cafe.
    6 mates
    Non-Lethals only.

    Hilarity ensues. Beanbag shotguns, pepper ball guns, tasers…. Its all good.

    Fantastic game. I’ll probly get a bunch of people to pick it up (its cheap now) so we can beanbag it up from the safety of our own homes.

  17. Zaph says:

    Co-op makes for some good times indeed!
    I played through Gears of War with a friend in two sittings.
    ’twas awesome, to say the least.
    I guess whoever has played CS during a LAN has tried playing co-op against “zombies” (overwhelming amounts of bots with knives only). Fun!
    A couple of my friends are anticipating Left 4 Dead as much as me,
    so I suspect that’ll get played the hell out of it when it arrives.
    Other than Syngery, another good HL2 co-op mod is Obsidian Conflict
    Oh, I just remembered, in Jet Force Gemini for the N64, there was a small flying robot that a second player could control to help you out. My dad played that with me! He’s awesome. I’ve also played a bunch of random freeware games (like TRIUMPH! WAR 2099) with my brother when we were younger, and he was less grumpy.
    Ah, good times, good times…

  18. Heliocentric says:

    Splinter Cell Chaos Theory!

    Stealth co-op, giving your mate a leg up into a vent then shouting at him over voip because he didnt let you up, and the ai ACTUALY HEARING YOU talk and come looking.

    Epic.

  19. Max says:

    Perfect Dark has amazing co-op gameplay, but then I suppose it’s not a PC game and we can’t have that, not on this site. Oh no.

  20. Norswap says:

    You ought to mention Red Alert 3 whose campaign is going to be focused on co-operation. In fact, it is meant to be played in coop and the IA is only the alternative.

  21. CJ McFly says:

    I know its not the topic that was intended, but one game I desperately wanted co-op for was Medieval TW 2 ! It wasn’t fair playing my friends and getting wasted every time when all I wanted to do was have an entire army of horse archers and elephants so that I could be the cavalry for them and save the day!

    And the poor man’s Left 4 dead: Cs Source with 20 CT enemies knife only, you and one friend
    pump action planting bombs. Intense. And hilarious.

  22. Kitt Basch says:

    I found Halo 3 and Gears of War unplayable in single-player.

    Getting shot and having to do whole sections again was just far too frustrating, but in co-op you get respawned within a few seconds and can get straight back into the shooting.

  23. The Hammer says:

    @Saflo:

    World’s Scariest Police Chases – and I agree. :)

    Titan Quest/Diablo is awesome for co-op, especially when your player names follow a theme.

    “GIVE ME A DAMN HEAL, CHARITY DINGLE!”
    “COMING RIGHT UP, ERIC POLLARD!”

    I’d be very interested in playing through an entire campaign of an RPG with some mates, though.

    @CJ Mcfly: Agreed on all accounts! Co-operative TW would be hard to do, but by gods it’d be worth it. And CSS is hilarious with knife-wielding terrorists.

  24. Jim Rossignol says:

    Max: we’re totally open to talking about other formats here, we just don’t cover them, that’s all. It’s not about PC puritanism, just PC advocacy.

  25. iainl says:

    Oh for a PC port of Crackdown, so you people without 360s can play it. It’s easily the best of these violent sandbox cities, because the interaction of the two superheroes causes all sorts of chaotic hilarity. In one instance, for example, I was fighting against some gang members in the middle of the street when I turned to see a big juggernaut coming right at me. Given my already low health levels I thought I was a gonner, but my brother (who I had thought was busy doing something completely different) smacked it with a well-timed rocket while aiming at something else. At which point the truck flipped end over end through the air right over my head, before crashing down right on the perp who was shooting at me instead.

  26. Octaeder says:

    The Warriors for Xbox/PS2 was fantastic for co-op. Me and my flatmate must have played through it 4 or 5 times. Co-op plus hat stealing = win.

    Really excited about Left4Dead although I’ve a nasty feeling the experience will be watered down by the fact that none of my friends have PCs that can play it, and I imagine it’ll be much less fun with random people.

  27. Yargh says:

    It’s this kind of scaffolding to player’s perception that the developers of co-op are having to come up with to really make the experience one in which the players compliment each other, rather than simply being bodies in the same shooting gallery.

    The game that springs to mind here has to be TF2 for me, the automatic compliments the characters throw at each other (‘Thanks Doc’, ‘Engineer is asset to team’ etc) really enhance the feel of teamplay.

    (/me fails at keeping a straight face while typing)

  28. Patrick says:

    Let’s not forget System Shock 2, this game had a multiplayer mode. didn’t make it any less creepy.

  29. hydra9 says:

    A friend and I played all the way through Baldur’s Gate I & II, Icewind Dale I & II *and* all the expansion packs in co-op mode . It took weeks, obviously, but it was fantastic, and I know I would never have played through ‘em all on my own. There was lots of frantic shouting and some intricate tactics during the crazier battles, and plenty of amusing pissing about, like when my dwarf fighter kept stealing his mage’s favourite hat. It ended in an epic chase and a violent pummelling.

  30. AbyssUK says:

    Firstly Serious Sam co-op on PC awesome but the classics of co-op has to goto the olde 2-player arcade side scrolling beat-em ups i.e. Double Dragon,Golden Axe, Final Fight, Captain Commando, TMNT etc.. lets not forget these.

    Sadly old 2player 2d games like these didn’t go well when put into 3d because of the camera etc.. i’d kill for a next gen remake of Final Fight. Button mashing at its finest

  31. hydra9 says:

    @AbyssUK:
    Yes! 2-player, side-scrolling brawlers! So much fun! There were always arguments over who most deserved chicken, though.

    I also loved playing through Smash T.V. on the SNES with my brother. We actually managed to complete the game, on about our fiftieth attempt.

  32. Nimic says:

    Sven Coop, ahhh.. I’ve spent A LOT of hours on that with my cousin. Particularly the Zombie levels, those were class.

  33. LQB says:

    You forgot to put Dawn of War 2 in the coming up slot.

    It’s campaign is supposed to be co-op.

  34. Melted Tuna says:

    “Having one player able to pull the other to his feet while under fire in Gears Of War is only possible because the upright player can see his mate’s location on the overview”

    Eh? It just makes them a bit easier to find, and it’s not like Gears has big environments. It’d probably be more fun without that to be honest, if you’ve lost your pal he’d have to describe where he is. Essential for single-player though, since AIs can’t do that.

    Serious Sam = best ever.

  35. RichPowers says:

    The best type of co-op is a good ol’ fashioned RTS comp stomp. Set the AI to max difficulty, turtle until your armies are ready, and commence invasion. Comp stomps are great for combined arms warfare and RTS sans tank rush. One guy builds air units, the other guy provides naval support, etc.

    Also, SvenCoop is the win.

  36. Muzman says:

    Good list. Most of them a sort of blast fests though (most, and that’s cool) If you want some more shared horror though folks really ought to try some flavour of Viet Cong.
    Slinking through the bush with no HUD and a laminated map and compass while the slightest sound could bring the Victor Charlies. That game was seriously terrifying. After while you know that one mistep or your first gunshot means now the enemy is aware of your presence, but they don’t shoot or charge, they’re just quietly advancing on your position. Maybe they can even see you right now.
    Having a friend along just means two sets of shredded nerves.

  37. rocketman71 says:

    Clifford Bleszinski?. Who’s that?

  38. sana says:

    I can’t believe nobody listed Unreal here yet!

    Also Super Mario Galaxy’s 2-player approach is pretty inventive, imho. One player controlling the character, with the other player being able to focus on collecting and shooting the sparkley star things. The second player also can help the first player execute some kind of super jump impossible in single player mode to reach some secret areas.

    Nothing too great, probably thrown in at the end of development to have a multi-player mode ready, but I’m sure it works better than standard 4 player deathmatch/hunt-for-the-stars!

  39. Retro says:

    One genre the article left out: flight simulations. Games like IL-2, Lock On or (the granddaddy of all) Falcon 4 are offering cooperative missions or even campaigns, with nearly unlimited replayablility..

  40. Max says:

    Fair enough Jim, I was just having a laugh :D

  41. deABREU says:

    you know, co-op used to be the only way multiplayer was.
    beat-em-ups, shoot-em-ups, snow bros… I don’t get why it took so long for designers to rediscover co-op

  42. Larington says:

    Unreal Tournament 2k4 – Invasion.

    Nuff said.

    I’d love to experience system shock 2 in its co-op glory but, have found it rather difficult doing so.

  43. Yhancik says:

    I had great fun with Operation Flashpoint or Serious Sam’s co-op, but I only started to Really appreciate co-op less than a year ago when I finally played System Shock 2 in co-op.

    And then, lately, we’ve been trying out a couple of co-op mods for HL2 with friends, and that’s like the best thing ever :D
    (this is from someone quite.. bored with FPS lately).

    Synergy is great, but some maps are really weak. Follow Freeman has a LOAD of great maps (including Minerva Metastasis part 1 and 2).. I still have to try Obsidian Conflict (thanks Zaph).

    Obviously, for the best co-op experience
    - play with friends
    - in LAN, in the same room (so you can talk together.. it’s important to build the story and characters)
    - the game should provide enough ammo
    - avoid monster makers
    - avoid the parts where you die and have to walk through the whole map to get back to your friends (Synergy is great because it allows you to respawn behind you friends)
    - in some complex maps, a small radar or something to find your friend would be nice (“hey, i found a new door!” “where ?” “well where are you ?” “in front of two large pipes” “which ones ?” “uh ?” etc..)
    - have the ability to “save” the game (so you can play when you want)

    Consoles are great for split screen co-op, but LAN pc co-op has some unique qualities that really have to be exploited by game developers (now I understand that it’s easier to plug an additional pad on a console than setting up a LAN where everyone has to bring its own pc)

  44. Thye Shedlocke says:

    @Jim: It’s fair enough that the article is not a list of co-op games, but the fact that you missed Halo and SC:CT is surprising. Halo was (aside from mod classics like Sven Coop) one of the first games to do Co-op so right in a first-person action scenario. Up until that point, as far as I can recall, no game had quite the same gift of being able to sit down with a mate, and work through an entire big SP campaign (that worked so perfectly with MP Coop).

    Chaos Theory also made some big leaps as the two players had to physically interact with each other to overcome certain obstacles. Again, there may have been games that had elements of this beforehand, but I really can’t think of one.

    Still, quality article, man. Heh, Cliff’s “Husband/Wife” analogy lifted straight from the Dom ‘n’ Wife plotline no doubt.

    In fact, myself, LSTAR, and friends were considering setting up some mega Co-op action on OpFlash’s classic zombie survival map ‘Volcano’. I guess if anyone was up for it we could get it going via our blog (above.)

  45. sinister agent says:

    The Chaos Engine did well out of it.

    Cough.

    Shuffle.

  46. Thiefsie says:

    loved chaos engine. bleeding hard tho!

  47. malkav11 says:

    I love coop. But I kinda resent games that a) require more than two players to get the proper cooperative experience – not that tough to round up one friend, who either has the game (for net play) or can make it over to my house (for local), but a pain in the rear to find more than that, or b) offer the wrong sort of coop for my needs. On the PC, obviously I want internet multiplayer. It’s very awkward doing same-system multi on my PC and the girl I mostly co-op with on PC doesn’t live anywhere near me. So games like Shadowgrounds or Obscure that would be great for playing with her aren’t an option because they don’t do internet (or even LAN…there are, after all, ways to do virtual LANs over the net). On the other hand, when I do console coop, I want to be right there in the same room – the girl in question doesn’t have any consoles (or a TV) and isn’t inclined to get them, but my local friends are much easier to round up for an evening of same-screen multiplayer than to catch at home with free time for internet multiplayer. And with the advent of the 360, altogether too many titles (Crackdown, most crushingly, but also GTA IV and such) are going the Xbox Live route. Ugh.

  48. Saflo says:

    Chaos Engine. They called it Soldiers of Fotune here. It’s been forever since I even thought of that game.

    I do remember Loaded well, though, which was sort of similar. That was great fun, especially with a friend.

  49. GeorgeR says:

    Left 4 Dead has me so excited. I really do like a game where I can work with people. Color me weird but I like the playful competitiveness of working together than fragging people all the time.

  50. sana says:

    I only finished System Shock 2 in co-op mode, because I couldn’t bear the scaryness alone. :(

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