Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
never required to play a role in any group, which means they can't harm a
group through lack of skill. Similarly, many games have both single- and
multiplayer modes. Players cut their teeth on single-player mode, where
their failures don't affect others, before diving into multiplayer. Again, this
means that most people online won't be utter beginners, even if they're
not experts.
Finally, games can reduce skill differentials with good adaptive
training. For example, Left 4 Dead uses an adaptive training system to
tell novice players exactly what to do in every critical situation. When a
Hunter zombie jumps on and disables an ally, a message flashes on-screen
instructing the novice to save their friend. This occurs for every critical
action in the game—completing objectives, helping allies, and getting
resources. So, while a newcomer might have poor aim or an unrefined
strategy, they at least aren't left fumbling around in total confusion.
If we can't reduce the skill differential, we can make it less important
by reducing interdependency between players. Many people treat inter-
dependency between players as an unalloyed good—but it's not. Because
while interdependency can create a feeling of shared victory, it also re-
quires that we suffer because of the failures of others.
The best result is a system that eliminates that shared failure while
permitting shared victory. For example, shooters such as Halo: Reach have
team combat modes in which players fight on teams while mostly ignoring
their teammates. But here and there, two or three players will form an
impromptu alliance, defeat an enemy, and split up. This creates teamwork,
but only on an optional, short-term basis, thus enabling shared victory
without often enforcing shared failure.
Many naïve designs are based on the assumption that players will
work together. And if we assume that, wonderful things seem easily possi-
ble. But truly cooperative, skill-matched teams are rare in the wild. A game
that assumes their presence will collapse. A multiplayer design needs to be
robust enough to handle the constant low-grade chaos caused by players
dropping out, griefing, missing key skills, or deciding to play wrong.
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