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Other => Game Development => Topic started by: x4000 on December 06, 2013, 10:13:04 AM

Title: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: x4000 on December 06, 2013, 10:13:04 AM
Original: http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/2013/12/thoughts-on-alone-together.html

This is an idea that I originally had for The Last Federation, our upcoming title, but which I think could be applicable to all sorts of games, including our last title, Bionic Dues.  Right now it is just a for-future-exploration sort of idea, but I wanted to put my thoughts out there and see what sort of response players have to it.

So here we go:

Some Games Just Can't Do Traditional Multiplayer
Bionic Dues just isn't good for multiplayer for a lot of reasons, despite the fact that I absolutely want co-op in every game I make.  As I've said in the past, I believe that every game should have co-op (for social, not "check mark on the box" purposes).

The Last Federation also is a case where traditional multiplayer just would not work in a satisfactory way.  Both combat and the solar system map are pauseable realtime, with also a fast-forward function.  The combat flow is vaguely like Faster Than Light in the sense that you may want to pause and get your bearings rather than just plowing through.  And the solar map is vaguely like SimCity in the sense that sometimes you want to be paused for a long while, do a bunch of stuff, and then run on fast forward until you hit some sort of key event you are waiting for.

Neither of those things are conducive to traditional multiplayer, because the flow of time is so fragmented and so player-dependent.  Depending on what the player is doing, they may want time paused, running normally, or running fast.

A traditional RTS does not have this sort of problem (generally time just runs, period), but there are other examples of games that have this problem: Civilization IV and V, for instance.  I absolutely adore both games, but I do find that a lot of the enjoyment is sucked out of multiplayer thanks to the fact that I spend so much time waiting for other players to do things, even when we are playing simultaneously.  I read quickly, and know the game well, and don't do a lot of combat, so typically my turns are short and sweet.  If someone else takes several minutes on their turn, I'm literally sitting there reading a book until the "next turn" beep hits.

So I mean, multiplayer in Civilization does work, but it feels somewhat frustrating (to me) compared to the incredibly-addictive solo play.  With TLF or Bionic, it doesn't even work at all, just from a design/usability/fun standpoint.  Or SimCity, for that matter, if you were trying to have two people in one city.

Thoughts On Co-Op In RTS Games
I play almost all RTS games in skirmish mode with co-op on, and Arcen's own AI War: Fleet Command is designed solely around this mode of multiplayer.  In a literal sense, what is happening is that there is a constant flow of time, and all the players are mixed together, and in some respects it's no different from, say, playing an FPS game.

I mean, in an FPS game, all the players are in one arena and running around shooting one another in realtime.  In an RTS game, the difference is that you have lots of little guys running around shooting or stabbing each other, and you control them indirectly.  Right?

Here's the thing, though -- and maybe this is just me and how I play, so this is part of why I'm writing this long post to feel other people out on the idea -- in an RTS game, unlike an FPS game, for practical purposes the players are mostly "alone together" even though the space is shared and realtime.

What I mean is that I have my town/base/whatever, and you have yours.  You mostly focus on yours, and your resources and whatnot are all separate from mine.  Throughout the bulk of the game, we don't directly interact in a sense where we really need to be in the same realtime locale as one another.  If you really think about it.

There are exceptions: during battles we likely mass our forces.  In one battle I might position my guys to block guys from hitting your forces, so that you can regroup.  In another battle we might flank the enemy and come at them from two different sides.  If my town gets wiped out, I might retreat my last villagers to your town and set up a pathetic little camp that eventually becomes something useful, under the umbrella of your protection.

Those exceptions are admittedly really cool, and some of my favorite moments.  But the fact remains that the bulk of the time is players independently managing their own affairs, and coordinating verbally/textually with one another to have complementary strategies that ultimately result in victory.

What I posit is that for THAT aspect of multiplayer, the players do not need to be in a contiguous arena, nor in a timescale that flows the same for all players.  (Aka I can pause my part of the game while you are fast-forwarding, and we don't get in one another's way).

The Negative Gut Reaction
Obviously the gut reaction to this sort of thing is "that's not really multiplayer!"  And I'd have to agree, in a lot of respects.

Though it is considerably more multiplayer than, for instance, Super Mario Bros. 3, where players play until they die, and then the other player has their turn.  The only thing shared between the players is their joint progress on which levels they have completed (one player completes level 1-3, and the other player then can't/does-not-have-to).  But that's old school.  The way more fun, modern, way of doing Mario multiplayer is with everyone playing at once.  That was what made Chip And Dale: Rescue Rangers on the original NES so fun, too.

Networked Single Player Games
Because of the negative gut reaction, my inclination is not to call this multiplayer, or to advertise "this game has co-op!" since people would get really angry if they thought it worked one way and then found out it really worked another.  Instead, I'd call this "linking up single-player worlds."

And I'd be really literal about that, too.  You have your world, and you play it alone as much as you want.  While I am also around, I can take a single player world I am playing, and network it with yours.  During this period, we can collaborate in some way.  We don't directly enter one another's worlds, but we can take complementary strategies and pass each other goods and goodies, for instance.

It's the same as in a lot of RTS games: I take up production of resources X Y and Z (because I'm in a good position to do so, let's say) and pass a bunch to you, so that you can focus on some military objective that otherwise would be extra difficult.  Then you focus on production of some sort of awesome military craft that I need, and hand me these big guns that I otherwise could not use, which I then use to wipe up part of my sector.  And so on.

It's "alone together," and we each have totally disconnected worlds with independent savegames (I save my game and it does not affect yours, and vice-versa).  But it has the co-op advantages of being something where you and I can each play the game in a fluid and just-as-good-as-solo fashion (because it IS solo), while at the same time talking strategy and working toward mutually beneficial goals so that we each win our respective games thanks partly to the help we provide one another.

Pros And Cons
On the negative side, there is no escaping the fact that this is "alone together," and some people will not like that.  It may be a marketing fiasco if not handled properly (aka, I'd never say "yes this game has multiplayer).  But I think that if it was expressed properly ("ability to link single player worlds together") then the subset of people who find it interesting -- myself included -- could really enjoy it.

Also negative, it's something that people could use to cheat/farm, since their savegames are independent, and one person could just save prior to gifting a resource to their ally, then reload and repeat.  But let's be honest, there are lots of ways to cheat in games, and some games (AI War included!) even explicitly include cheat codes for people who just want to mess around.  So while this does bug me to a minor degree, I think it's unavoidable and the flexibility it grants is worth it.

On the positive side, if my wife and I want to sit down and do some gaming together, we can crack open Bionic Dues or TLF.  Or, heck, we could play Civ V without me needing to bring a book to read.

Also positive, this is really straightforward to code under the hood -- it's something that requires a network connection, and then there are just occasional data exchanges.  This is trivial to doing something more complex like synchronized RTS-style multiplayer, or constantly-resyncing action-game-style multiplayer.  There is no need for syncing at all, just occasional gift transactions.  This makes it a feature that can be added with a much lesser cost to the developer, thus meaning that even if it appeals to a smaller subset of the target audience, it still might be a net win in terms of value versus cost to create.

Then again, on the negative side, it does require a game design that actually allows for meaningful passing of... something.  So that's a potentially-nontrivial design task, and potentially nontrivial interface design as well.  So that does drive the complexity back up somewhat, though not nearly as much as doing full multiplayer code under the hood.

Examples Of This


Sim City 4 -- You can set up multiple cities in a region, and those cities then trade things back and forth.  This is optional, critically, compared to Sim City 5.  Unfortunately two players can't be playing in the same region at once, so this is only a partial example.  But if you altered things so that I could play in my city while you played in yours, then Sim City 4 would suddenly become a great example of this concept in action.

Pokemon -- This is only a semi-okay example, but the ability to trade Pokemon that you have found is definitely collaborative networking and something that is not "true multiplayer."  If the link was persistent and you could do more interesting things than just trade pokemon themselves, then this would be a better example.

(Hypothetical) Bionic Dues -- Each of us could be playing in our own city, but when linked up there could be missions in my city that could affect your city.  I could do an assassination mission or a lion's den mission that affects your city instead of mine, for instance.  The Bahamut Missions could grant us both epics, rather than just one of us, so that we could divide and conquer that sort of thing.  We could pass each other parts, pokemon-style.  And that's just with the game design as it currently stands.  Other kinds of missions or events could be thought up that would allow for even better collaboration, while still being useful in completely-solo play.

This would also work for TLF in a similar sort of vein, although since people are less familiar with that I won't bother going into a hypothetical example.

Thoughts?
I'm curious as to what the reaction/interest in this sort of thing would be.  To be clear, there's nothing in the short term that I plan to do with this either way, but it is something that -- if there is interest -- I would personally have great interest in integrating into both Bionic Dues and TLF at some point.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Draco18s on December 06, 2013, 10:35:30 AM
Sim City 4 -- You can set up multiple cities in a region, and those cities then trade things back and forth.  This is optional, critically, compared to Sim City 5.  Unfortunately two players can't be playing in the same region at once, so this is only a partial example.  But if you altered things so that I could play in my city while you played in yours, then Sim City 4 would suddenly become a great example of this concept in action.

Its optional in SimCity 4, yes, but still awful.  If you hug up one city in a region for whatever reason, every neighboring region will be polluted with the first region's fuckup.  Still better than 5, but probably the worst idea that ever came to that game.

As for the general idea:

I don't know.  Asynchronous multiplayer has come up a couple of times on the Dwarf Fortress forums and no one's really figured out how to handle it.  I see what you're trying to do, and I respect that, but I don't know if its something I want.  It would probably entirely depend on the implementation.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: x4000 on December 06, 2013, 10:39:56 AM
"Entirely depending on the implementation" is something that is pretty common, I'd say, with most things.  But yeah, points taken.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Mick on December 06, 2013, 10:40:42 AM
The passing gifts to each other sounds very social network gamey to me. Even though your implementation isn't based around building up marketing data or selling in-app-purchase gifts, it might invoke the negative feelings that come attached with those things anyway.

Am I going to feel like I'm losing out or playing sub-optimally if I don't link my world to a bunch of other peoples when I really want to just sit down and play the game myself? Likewise, will I feel like I'm cheating or making the game easier if I get gifts from others? Which style of play is the game balanced around after all?

It doesn't sound like something that interests me that much honestly. I'd be wondering what features were dropped to spend time on it, or how the gameplay was affected to try to stuff it in.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: x4000 on December 06, 2013, 10:46:25 AM
Hmm, the social networking aspect of this honestly had not occurred to me at all.  And yeah, I hate that sort of thing and have really negative reactions to it, too.  Some of my family were really into Gardens of Time, and while I'm glad they enjoyed it the social stuff was a real turnoff for me (aside from the fact that the game is not my sort of thing at all).

In terms of "needing" to use the networking stuff, that would definitely never be the case or this would be a no-go.  The idea would be that you'd likely want to scale up the difficulty if you want to have a comparable experience to true-solo.  Or if you are struggling with your solo game and don't want to lose, you can hook up to a friend and have him/her help you out.  That sort of "co-op should let a friend come help me" idea is something that gets expressed a lot, but in terms of a strategy game that might be a negative, I dunno.

Possibly to make it still "fair," you'd have to set how many players your solo game is expected to have, and it scales the difficulty from there accordingly (as in AI War).  And then you can only ever connect with that many other people in that specific game.  Or something.  That gets in the way of the nice "drop in, drop out" functionality, though.

The other thing that interests me for TLF in particular is building in some form of Succession Game support officially, because I think that sort of thing can be really interesting and hilarious.  But mainly I just want to be able to sit down and play TLF with my wife; that's pretty much my sole motivation for this sort of thing, to be frank.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Draco18s on December 06, 2013, 10:55:05 AM
The other thing that interests me for TLF in particular is building in some form of Succession Game support officially, because I think that sort of thing can be really interesting and hilarious.  But mainly I just want to be able to sit down and play TLF with my wife; that's pretty much my sole motivation for this sort of thing, to be frank.

Sorry, TLF?
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: x4000 on December 06, 2013, 10:55:29 AM
The Last Federation, our upcoming game.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Cinth on December 06, 2013, 11:04:07 AM
For me, multiplayer isn't something I look for in most games I play.  For one, I'm the only avid gamer in my home (my gf likes to play Mario Kart so there is that).  Second, my dad is usually the only person I know that plays anything I would want to play (usually RTS, played co-op vs an AI).  Third, my favorite genre doesn't have many multiplayer games (JRPGs). 

Now I've been gaming since it was cool to own an Atari 2600.  I've seen many a mp game, from Wizards of Wor and Joust (competitive) to WoW (competitive co-op).  I might should expand on that a little.  Competitive would be players pitted against each other and co-op would be players working toward a common goal.

To go back to a couple of games I spent way to much time with, SMB and SMB3.  SMB I would place as competitive as players played independently of each other yet had the goal of beating the game first (maybe that was just me and dad?).  SMB3 would be a co-op game.  Both players worked toward the same goal on the same map.
SMB had players run until one died, then the next player had a turn.  SMB3 had players swap turns after a stage was cleared or a player died. 

Multiplayer today is such a muddy term now-a-days (to me anyway).  To what extent do other players have control over my game?!!  How does it help me in the long run or hurt me (in the instance of competitive games).  Me? PvP isn't my thing.  There aren't many pure PvP games that can hold my attention for very long and I've been playing PvP since Rainbow Six was new.  That leaves co-op and that's where if I do play mp, I usually have the most fun.  Players working together as a whole or as individual efforts to accomplish the same goal.  Though out of all the games I own that are capable of that, I'm not playing any of them in that capacity.  So in the end, the SP experience has to keep me playing.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Draco18s on December 06, 2013, 11:04:20 AM
The Last Federation, our upcoming game.

Of course.  I was looking for context, but it was too far up the page. @[email protected]

Competitive would be players pitted against each other and co-op would be players working toward a common goal.

One of my goals in game design is to shake that idea up a bit.  My group has penned a few ideas for a game that has both a common goal and a per-player secret objective.  We aren't currently working on that game, mostly due to not being sure of a large portion of the mechanics, but we like the idea.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: x4000 on December 06, 2013, 11:08:30 AM
I absolutely agree that if the solo experience isn't up to snuff, the MP experience doesn't matter.  For the kinds of games Arcen makes, anyway.  But in my article about co-op (linked way above), I explain why I think that games need co-op (otherwise those who don't have the luxury of much solo gaming time can't play many games, and that includes me).
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Draco18s on December 06, 2013, 11:18:37 AM
(otherwise those who don't have the luxury of much solo gaming time can't play many games, and that includes me).

Ironically, I have the opposite problem. :V
I have a fair chunk of time I can devote to playing games most days of most weeks, but it never lines up with any of my friends.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: x4000 on December 06, 2013, 11:19:44 AM
Well I have that problem with friends also, but with a gamer spouse I wind up with both issues, heh.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Draco18s on December 06, 2013, 11:25:04 AM
Well I have that problem with friends also, but with a gamer spouse I wind up with both issues, heh.

Heh.  Yeah, I'm not married.
(Still living with my parents at 28 :o )
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: x4000 on December 06, 2013, 11:27:46 AM
It happens!
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Draco18s on December 06, 2013, 11:34:19 AM
It happens!

Rent's cheap and someone has to look after the animals* when both of them are gone.

*Dog, two cats, three horses, and seven chickens.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Cinth on December 06, 2013, 11:34:38 AM
I absolutely agree that if the solo experience isn't up to snuff, the MP experience doesn't matter.  For the kinds of games Arcen makes, anyway.  But in my article about co-op (linked way above), I explain why I think that games need co-op (otherwise those who don't have the luxury of much solo gaming time can't play many games, and that includes me).

Read the article and I can agree with a lot of it.  I picked up Castle Crashers just so I could have something that I could pick up and play with my kids.  Now they play Minecraft and LotRO (one I have little interest in and the other I set down long ago).  I don't get alot of time to play RTS games with my dad since the devs keeps tweaking the game to suit the E-Sports crowd (Blizzard killed it for us).  I agree choices are getting slim for a good sit down and play experience.  In the end each of us here end up playing our own games (or pass time how we usually do).
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: x4000 on December 06, 2013, 11:38:18 AM
Wow, that's an impressive array of animals.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Draco18s on December 06, 2013, 11:41:48 AM
Wow, that's an impressive array of animals.

It's been larger before.  But time passes and things change.
And the chickens still don't like to be cuddled. :(
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: x4000 on December 06, 2013, 11:50:51 AM
Haha, yeah, that would be a new one on me. :)
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Draco18s on December 06, 2013, 11:58:11 AM
Haha, yeah, that would be a new one on me. :)

Its understandable though, they're prey animals and we're large predators.  So they don't like having my claws on them. :P

They're still adorable and soft though!

<thread successfully derailed>
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: x4000 on December 06, 2013, 11:59:04 AM
Especially when you go out as a velociraptor.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Draco18s on December 06, 2013, 12:17:26 PM
Especially when you go out as a velociraptor.

I know... ;_;
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Wharrrrrrgarbl on December 06, 2013, 12:19:24 PM
So I was reading your post and it occurred to me that for a game like Bionic Dues, a "alone together" multiplayer mode could do something like expand the objectives of the game - perhaps something like an X-COM style "accomplish these milestones before the enemies get too strong to defeat". The idea there would be that certain missions would just be unbeatable (or super difficult) with certain Exo types/builds, so multiple players would have to coordinate different parties and swap equipment that didn't match their builds so that everyone manages their own tactical scenarios while contributing to a strategic whole. This could be enforced even more strictly by limiting the number of exos a player can have - maybe 2 per player, or something.

When I think about exo-specific missions, I'm thinking things like missions with weak enemies but reactors locked behind hack doors, or others filled with hundreds of mooks that you need good shielding to survive, or others with lots of short range but lethal bots in open rooms with long sight lines. Maybe even throw in missions which give intelligence on the content/layout of missions so you can divvy them up effectively.

For game flow, maybe something like a flag to advance the day which could automatically execute once everyone has completed one mission (which also would allow things like using an Axis player to scout missions for Meg and Rey players, strategically planning who completes which missions on the map to allow other players access to mission-critical ones).

I think there are a lot of cool possibilities for this kind of design, for sure.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Toranth on December 06, 2013, 02:06:09 PM
I would suggest there is one other type of multiplayer - the anonymous/uncontrolled multiplayer.  Dark Souls would be an example of this.  You cannot control invasions, or who you summon for help.  Nor can you even communicate with them.  Your interaction is short, uncontrolled, and mostly anonymous.

Steam Cards is another variety of this.  Whenever a player creates a badge, some other player, somewhere, gets a booster pack.  A short, uncontrolled, and anonymous 'multiplayer' interaction.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Draco18s on December 06, 2013, 02:07:59 PM
Whenever a player creates a badge, some other player, somewhere, gets a booster pack.

Wat.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Conir on December 06, 2013, 02:55:08 PM
wow a lot to read... i am not a native speaker, so maybe i got something wrong. but i would like to make a suggestion regarding TLF MP nevertheless.

you explained that the simulation and combat will be stoppable (aka turn-based) - which makes it difficult for mp since one player has the game paused and thinking and the other one is just ready to do something and cant.

so, why not take away the turns in MP? put two (or more) players in the simulation at the same time. they both have the same goal (to create the federation). neither the simulation nor the combat would be turn based, nobody can stop the game - realtime for both which means non-stop action and decision making for all the players at the same time. you could also prohibit player-fleets to engage directly, which would make it more interesting since you can only beat your oponent via the meta-game.

i am really sorry for my english, i whish i could explain it in german to you :)  hopefully i could get my point across.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Toranth on December 06, 2013, 03:41:05 PM
Whenever a player creates a badge, some other player, somewhere, gets a booster pack.
Wat.
Yup, that's how it works.

Quote from: The Steam FAQ
How can I get a booster pack?

Once you have received all of your card drops, you become eligible for a booster pack, which is a set of 3 trading cards that may include both basic and foil cards. Booster packs are granted randomly to eligible users as more badges are crafted by members of the community. Make sure you log in to Steam each week to maintain eligibility.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: doctorfrog on December 06, 2013, 05:00:21 PM
I like the idea of introducing a different kind of multi, and it's a thing I feel Arcen should continue to innovate on. The current idea isn't super interesting to me, essentially it sounds like creating a gift exchange, but it's a start in a potentially clever direction.

One way you might word this is that your player character has limited contact with alternative dimensions, and you can reach through to other parallel realities to exchange information and certain kinds of goods or resources. That sort of narrative also leaves room for variances in time.

I have no idea what TLF's gameplay is going to be like, but what if, in a battle, or on the main planning screen, you could siphon off some resources or battle help from someone else?

Or, what if you use some extra resources you have laying around to build a part of a giant space laser that you have no use for, but would be a real help to another dude?

Anyway, the whole "We all tend our gardens and meet at the market place" thing is certainly novel and I'd like to see it branch off further from it being a simple goods exchange.

Maybe even another (fairly simple) gameplay layer, like combining your forces to combat a trans-dimensional warlord that's been dogging both players' progress. That 'war' wouldn't necessarily be something you work together on in real time, but something that hums along in the background. Like, each positive trade results in an increase of entropy counter or something, and after a bit you have to both commit a certain amount of time/skill/resources to beating that down to avoid the effects of entropy on both universes. Those effects might be wormholes, interdimensional pirate attacks, spectral gremlins in the ship workings, etc.

And other horrible ideas.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Oralordos on December 06, 2013, 11:34:14 PM
I like that balancing idea. Increasing some sort of counter that must be below a certain level for victory and/or causes bad stuff in the solar system with each thing transferred over.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: brianc on December 08, 2013, 08:46:00 AM
For some reason it reminds me of those multiplayer Tetris games but backwards.  When you make a good move more blocks hit the other player and such but what if it wasn't always backwards and there was an option to play it exactly like that?  What I mean is instead of co-op I think a competitive mode in this style would be really, really cool since I fall in to the category of: not liking co-op multiplayer due to not having friends who like the same games as myself, but liking competitive multiplayer because competition makes the game more interesting and appealing to me.  A game like League of Legends makes me furious because I'll leave a match with 20 kills and no deaths that still results in a loss because I got matched with a bad team but if I lose a game in Swarm Arena or Total Annihilation or any FPS 1v1 or in a pub setting where my score takes priority over match win/loss count such as CS Source I can laugh it off and say I need more practice, I feel a drive to become better.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: tigersfan on December 08, 2013, 12:22:25 PM
Hmm, the social networking aspect of this honestly had not occurred to me at all.  And yeah, I hate that sort of thing and have really negative reactions to it, too.  Some of my family were really into Gardens of Time, and while I'm glad they enjoyed it the social stuff was a real turnoff for me (aside from the fact that the game is not my sort of thing at all).

The problem with this is, of course, that if the game is PERCEIVED as having those elements, then we'll never be able to combat that.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Wharrrrrrgarbl on December 08, 2013, 04:55:32 PM
For some reason it reminds me of those multiplayer Tetris games but backwards.  When you make a good move more blocks hit the other player and such but what if it wasn't always backwards and there was an option to play it exactly like that?  What I mean is instead of co-op I think a competitive mode in this style would be really, really cool since I fall in to the category of: not liking co-op multiplayer due to not having friends who like the same games as myself, but liking competitive multiplayer because competition makes the game more interesting and appealing to me.  A game like League of Legends makes me furious because I'll leave a match with 20 kills and no deaths that still results in a loss because I got matched with a bad team but if I lose a game in Swarm Arena or Total Annihilation or any FPS 1v1 or in a pub setting where my score takes priority over match win/loss count such as CS Source I can laugh it off and say I need more practice, I feel a drive to become better.
So for something like Bionic Dues, it'd be asynchronous competitive multiplayer where rather than defending your city against a robot uprising, it would be defending it against the other player's robot army, huh? Advance the robot manufacturing progression so that it eventually gets unwinnable, but the choices the players make can slow it down so the contest is to see who loses first?
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: chemical_art on December 08, 2013, 05:26:44 PM
I find the idea mildly interesting but fret with peril.

To start, one risks diverting media that would be on the games virtues to instead cover the gift giving. Is that really wise? The social media perception could dilute the perceived depth of the game due to association with like games.

Secondly, while the coding may be simple, balancing this would not. It seems like a mess when considering difficulty levels and differing player balance of how much impact it should have. This at the very least time consuming, and seems easy to get wrong. Doubly because it will be hard to judge from the alpha crowd  what things should be since they are different from the public crowd.

Time running short, but i don't want the potential chore of finding players .
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Pepisolo on December 09, 2013, 10:21:29 AM
Initial thoughts are that you are correct to be extremely cautious about the advertising of such a "co-op" feature. A while back I bought the game Wazhack as it seemed to be advertised as a co-op rogue-like, but once I eventually discovered that the game was using an "Alone Together" form of multiplayer I momentarily felt cheated. After chilling out I realized the game was still a good purchase, but my initial reaction was still one of annoyance. So, I'm in complete agreement that this game should not be advertised as multiplayer. "Ability to link single player worlds" sounds fine to me. There's no way I could take that to mean co-op in the traditional sense. ... Oop, gotta go, might as well post this quick.

Edit: added an idea about Bionic Dues multiplayer to the relevant BD thread. While this "Alone Together" mode sounds interesting and has potential for The Last Federation, I still think that BD could have a more traditional form of co-op.

Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Wingflier on December 09, 2013, 06:16:58 PM
I think there was a lot of very insightful thoughts and information in that article, and I thank you for being extremely honest and straightforward about why "traditional multiplayer" isn't an option for this game, but also willing to make a compromise for your players in the form of the "alone together" mechanic.

Specifically, the part of your journal where you explain that multiplayer RTS games already are "alone together" to some extent. I began to think about what you said. I play co-op RTS games with my friends frequently, and I hadn't even thought about it this way! When you brought this concept up, I began to realize that you were right. Most of the enjoyment of playing the RTS together is not the level of interaction we have (because with 2 separate opponents, we tend to be quite individually busy), but the mutual FEELING of co-operation, and the imagined goal of working together to achieve victory. Perhaps simply the idea of "if I succeed we succeed, if I fail, you fail" is what makes multiplayer co-op so fun. Though you may not be DIRECTLY influencing how your opponent does, if you begin to fall behind, he or she will certainly be paying the price in the long run. On the contrary, if you are defeating your opponent to a greater degree, then you can transfer some of your resources to your partner's battlefield and help them out as well.

As I was thinking about this concept, I began to question whether simply giving your friends "resources" every so often was really conducive to this same kind of feeling that we seem to be shooting for. For one thing, it's only positive. If this is really the system we choose to implement, you're only sharing the rewards between allies, not the risks, which is literally half the fun! Another important aspect that you mentioned is having to create or manage an arbitrary resources that could be sent "between galaxies" which would fit into this category. I'm never a big fan of "forced design", and honestly I think there are even better options than what has been discussed.

Have you ever played a multiplayer arcade puzzle game? Think Tidalis. One of the most enjoyable aspects of those games that we can probably all remember from our earliest gaming days is sending your opponent "difficult blocks" or "beneficial packages". True, each player was playing their own side of the puzzle, but their actions and success or failures had a very real effect on the other player.

What if we attempted to add a mechanic like this into TLF? True, each player will be playing alone, but every big event, victory or defeat, will send waves of prizes or enemies to their allies doorstep. In this way, the well-being and success of each player is, in large part affected by their allies. When one ally begins falling behind, all the allies pay the price. However when one ally begins to succeed, all the allies see the benefits. These "parallel universes" are connected in a fundamental way, and the ripple effects can be felt by all players involved.

This just seemed a lot cooler, more functional, and more unique than the suggestion that was originally proposed. Mixing popular elements of a puzzle game into a single-player RTS/TBS hybrid would be pretty groundbreaking from everything I know, and would probably be a lot more appealing to multiplayer lovers in the end, because it creates the same sense of dependency and group success of the traditional multiplayer model.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Tridus on December 10, 2013, 07:31:11 AM
Gotta be honest, this holds zero appeal for me. I wouldn't consider it multiplayer, any more than I consider Assassin's Creed 4's "send your fleet ships on the same mission as mine to speed them both up" to be multiplayer.

To use your Civ example, I've currently got a game of Civ V going with my best friend. We're not interacting all the time. We do interact pretty regularly, to do things like deciding on research priorities, figuring out who is going to try to build which wonders, arguing over who gets to put a city on that really great spot we just discovered, and trading units back and forth to help out in our wars. What I do has an impact on him, and what he does has an impact on me. We're trying to win as a team.

Under this model? Not so much. Aside from occasionally giving some stuff across the border (which feels like a Facebook game, as others have mentioned), we have no impact on what the other person is doing. If I get into trouble, he can't come bail me out. We can't decide to double team the biggest guy on the map. Strictly speaking in this model, there is no reason why we even need to be playing at the same time. (In that sense it reminds me of the MLP iOS game, where you needed to have lots of friends send you hearts back and forth to get some of the items.)

I'd be very careful about how you market it with something like this, because if you said TLF had "co-op multiplayer" and I got this model, I'd not be a happy customer.
Title: Re: Thoughts On "Alone Together" Collaborative/Competitive Networked Play
Post by: Bluddy on December 10, 2013, 11:23:35 AM
To give some examples of games that have this kind of asynchronous connectivity, Spelunky has the Daily Challenge mode where everybody in the world gets to try the same random seed for the day. You only get one shot, and scores can be compared afterwards.

Race the Sun also has the unique feature of allowing a friend to continue on from the point where you died, like a relay race.

From these 2 examples (maybe not enough to generalize but I don't know of any others), it seems to me that asynchronous multiplayer is best used for ancillary features. A clever asynchronous idea can enhance a game (Spelunky's daily challenge is one of its biggest selling points, but the game doesn't rely on it), but I don't know if it should be relied on as a main mechanic.