Friday, August 27, 2010

Teaming up with an old friend

Continuing from my last post, another game my first friend in the whole world and I played at the arcade last week was two-player Arkanoid. It is a classic breakout-style game from the 80s. In two-player mode we each controlled a paddle, increasing our chance at blocking the ball from dropping off the bottom of the screen.

I found the teamwork in this game to be particularly interesting. It was very hard to blame your friend for failing because you had virtually the same opportunity to block the ball that they had. Both of you have to fail for a bad outcome to result. The purity of teamwork made it very easy to enjoy playing together. There are a lot of "team" games that turn out to be two solo games played at the same time.  Time Crisis (from my last entry) suffers from this. Occasionally I was able to shoot an enemy that was taking aim at my ally, but I could also shoot my ally by mistake and I could choose to ignore enemies with their backs to me as I was in no danger from them. With separate scores we were almost competing more than cooperating.

Shooting an enemy whose back is to me is a particularly intriguing event. If doing so doesn't benefit me (if no points were earned, or if my teammate would earn those points), would it be a more interesting decision? If I want to beat my friend, I won't help them get more points and I won't reduce their chance of getting killed. On the other hand, in a real shootout I would always defend my friend, because losing them is much more permanent than it is in a video game. It seems like a subtle difference in the design can have strong consequences for the way the players interact.

The next time I create a teamwork mode, there are a lot of questions I'll ask myself about how the players will interact with each other, especially about how they interact with each others successes and failures.

  • Are their fates intertwined?
  • Are both rewarded when either succeeds?
  • What do they compete for? (Power ups, score, a place in the story)
  • What can they only accomplish together?
  • How can they directly help each other?
In other news: I plan to use the Monday-Wednesday-Friday updates plan for this blog. We'll see how that goes for a while. So, see you Monday!

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