Co-op in single player games

Back in the days, co-op was always on split screen. I’m reminded on Need For Speed 2 where I used to race with my friends taking over Proving Grounds. For the longest time, split-screen was the most logic and direct approach to single couch, co-op.

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But then in the middle of it all, Sony came up with this mind-blowing technology of 3D TVs that would spit out two different displays for two separate headsets. The day they announced it, I was super excited to see where the technology was going to take us as it was plausible to refresh between two different views and have the glasses only pick up one. I could never get my hands on one and by the looks of things I do not think that technology went too far either.

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And now recently I played the game Bothers – A Tale of Two Sons and I just fell in love with the game. I’m not going to talk about the game and how beautiful the game design is, but rather their approach to how they’ve taken a game and implemented both single player and multiplayer elements which can be switched out any time the guests feel like. If my friend was to take a bathroom break, I could continue playing the game without having to wait for him. Also, the game can be played alone as well. The game has different challenges when played as single player and multiplayer.

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So the game works like this. You have two brothers, controlled by the two analog sticks of the controller. The brothers are controller separately and L2 and R2 is the only other key you need to use for the two brothers. Its a puzzle solving game, wherein the puzzles require interaction from both the characters and also needs to be in sync. They have also made use of the two buttons as a push and release mechanic to avoid using other keys. So if you’re grabbing a ledge by holding onto the button, directing it to another foothold and releasing the button would make the character jump towards that position. This mechanic was interesting and to build a game around just one button was fascinating.

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The environment was also beautifully and meticulously planned out and even though the game an almost flat interest curve without a lot of twists and turns during the game, it does end in a non-traditional sense of video game storytelling which the developers have ceased quite well and have used that in their favor. All in all, it was a great game to experience and play.

5 thoughts on “Co-op in single player games

  1. Anil, co-op in single player mode sounds like fun, though it struck me as a contradiction at first. So, the characters co-op but in real life you’re playing by yourself? Weird. I’d definitely like to hear more about the challenges and puzzles in Brothers, because I think there could be some really deep gameplay with having two characters you control at the same time. I’d also like to hear about what you found worked well and what you thought did not work in the game design, also if it was more fun to play multiplayer or single player. And since you felt it worked in Brothers, to make things really hairy, do you think there’s a way to make this work for more than two players, or so that the player can control multiple characters simultaneously?

  2. I think I have Brothers in my Steam library! Might as well go play it now.
    I don’t think too many big names in the industry are into making co-op videogames these days, which is a shame. It’s such an uncharted territory that there’s a lot of new things to do in it, which is probably why there are a lot of indie co-op videogames that feel pretty different individually.

  3. I’ve seen a lot of single-player games before with optional co-op. That always made them really well-suited towards having a friend step in or out. Which is nice, because it can be hard to coordinate playing through a whole game with a friend. For example, in Ratchet and Clank: Deadlocked, you play either with a friend, or with some AI battle bots. This allows them to balance the experience for a team of two either way. Other games just let you add other players for free, which perhaps makes the game easier (unless there’s some underlying tweaking of numbers I’m not aware of). Brothers strategy, then, can be seen as an interesting third option. I would be interested to know how the game changes between single-player and multiplayer.

  4. I have never played Brothers but it seem to be really interesting. I experienced a similar mechanic during the global game jam in a game called Torchlight Tango (http://globalgamejam.org/2016/games/torchlight-tango). They used the idea of controlling 2 characters with 1 controller which has to be synced up. It seems like the game may lead to some frustration due to the lack of control and the heavy emphasis of teamwork. It would be interesting to try out Brothers to see if it suffers from the same frustration from playing the Torchlight Tango game.

  5. I’ve never played Brothers as well but have seen you and Abhishek Ravi play it. It seems very interesting on how the co-op actually works because when I first saw you guys play it, I swear I thought it was a single player game but the player controlling two characters as done in many other games before is a very interesting mechanic. I like the game offering the player the freedom of either playing this game alone or with a friend instead of just forcing the co-op play onto the player.

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