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.

Assassin’s Creed Franchise’s New Features

I’ve been a huge Assassins Creed fan. From the time the franchise started in 2007, I remember playing the game on my Nvdia 8600 and as Altair framed every other second. The Ezio story-line blew the franchise into a global phenomenon and Ubisoft took the franchise into new heights. I was fine with the way Revelations ended even though they left us hanging with the story-line. But they eventually caught onto something interesting.

I was blown away with the ending of Rogue and how it branched out into Assassin’s Creed Unity which in my opinion was a complete game even though quite a few people begged to different. The game was different. It showed branching narrative in each of the sub-missions. More importantly, each of these paths had a story-line to it.

Recently Assassin’s Creed Syndicate came out and I was so excited for the game, I went and got myself the Charing Cross Edition and no doubt it looks beautiful. The game starts off well and puts you in the boots of Jacob and Evie Frye, siblings in the Victorian London era. One way the game was different was, most of the main story-line stemmed from the train in which you took “shelter”. For some reason I did not completely understand that. At this point I’m doubting myself cause I’ve played games for a while now. I usually play the main story-line and then branch out into the side missions. But this time the narration between the characters forced me into the side missions for some reason and I still can’t wrap my head around that. I finished all the side missions and realised the entire game was still remaining.

This wasn’t the troubling part. The troubling parts began as I moved around the city of London. To start off with, the new rope launcher mechanism was interesting in terms of scaling buildings. But what annoyed me the most is that I could never cancel it. Accidentally pressing L1 would trigger this launcher and the protagonist starts to scale the building. Circle (O) didn’t do anything! I could never command him/her to not stop climbing. But while they were gliding from one building to another, they could cancel it in mid air which even facilitated air-assassinations. This was infuriating! Batman had a similar gadget and he could cancel it in the Arkham games.

Another issue that I faced were the camera angles that were implemented when we took over different territories. I felt it was ripped off from Shadow of Mordor. The way the people stood and ran head long into each other felt the same. Nothing was different. The protagonist would say his final words and then attack. Extremely similar to Shadow of Mordor. I don’t know why Ubisoft did that.

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Another feature that was borrowed from Shadow of Mordor (which was where I found it first) was the ‘R3 to reveal the protagonist’ feature. That matched Shadow of Mordor so well as it was part of the Nemesis system. Each Uruk leader was different. They had their strengths and weaknesses. Assassin’s Creed did not need that. Even though the idea of a territory was similar to that of Shadow of Mordor, they could have atleast implemented it differently. They did a half-ass job of copying an interesting mechanic that worked well for another game which did not translate well into this game as it did not involve stealth to defeat the enemy. It was a head-on confrontation. Losing that battle would only result in you getting killed unlike the Nemesis System which respawn you with the Uruks being more powerful and bearing scars from your previous encounter with them.

As I started the main story-line, killing the first leader (Rupert Ferris) was an instant let down for me. I could never come to terms with why the game designers did what they did. Once the protagonist is killed, they entered the Animus’ setup where they have their final exchange of words. Everything was going well as he was lying on the floor with Jacob (Evie) beside him. What happened next threw me away from the game instantly! While the protagonist talked, he was no longer lying down. He was standing up and talking straight at me.
I understand Ubisoft wanted to make you feel responsible of the decisions the guest took but this was not the way to do it. There was absolutely no connection between the guest and the protagonist. I was only introduced to him 5 minutes before the mission. He was speaking to Jacob not the guest. Assassin’s Creed, with its history, has never been about the guest. Its always been protagonist centric. Be it Altair, Ezio, Connor or Cormac, its been about their journey. It has never been about the guest’s journey. Forcing the guest’s reaction on themselves with this move, in my opinion was unwanted and unjustifiable.

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If you notice, his hat is on the floor. In the next shot, he’s wearing his hat and talking to the guest. I had discussed this issue on the Ubisoft Forums and the responses I got revolved around how the game is paying respect to the dead and also about how the choices made are the guest’s and not the avatar. From lectures I’ve attended from leading game designers like Jesse Schell, one thing to takeaway is that the guest never wants to be in the game. He wants to be the avatar. That’s the reason why features like mapping your face to a character in the game is still frowned upon.It is a reason why SIMS is so popular. Nobody wants to be in the game. People want their avatar to be in the virtual world, interacting with other virtual beings.

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The combat system has been improved. But there are times when the counter just never works even though you’re timing the counter perfectly. There have been frustrating times they kept happening but then again, the aggression in the kills and the fluidity in the combat took precedence over these minor issues.

I really like what Ubisoft has done with the franchise and their decision to make their launch every 2 years was a great move. As a fan, I’m not looking for a new Assassin’s Creed game every year, but a polished, well designed and developed game. With the recent announcement about how the next game will only be out in 2017, I’m really hoping the next instalment in the franchise will be more fun and exciting.