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Is there life after Fortnite? An emerging trend in game design brings novelty

While the game industry is swamped by the battle royale tsunami and its exacerbated individualism, a game genre is slowly emerging: Cooperative games where players should not compete but must cooperate to win.

While the game industry is swamped by the battle royale tsunami and its exacerbated individualism, a game genre is slowly emerging: Cooperative games where players should not compete but must cooperate to win.

It is in the sector of board games that their development is made more and more remarkable. Players praise the spirit of mutual help and the lack of prejudice against players who lack « skill".

The Cannes International Games Festival, which ended in February, testifies to the rise of these games. Thus, out of the 12 games named for the prize for the best board game, more than half are cooperative. The winner, The Mind, is one of them.

In addition to the absence of direct confrontation between players, these games offer new mechanisms. While in many games, players tend to seek to improve their own position, Spirit Island encourages them to help other players and develop common strategies to repel invaders. And in The Mind, players must synchronize, without communicating with each other, to play their cards in a certain order. Many cooperative games are also based on the prisoner's dilemma. In the latter, the players are placed in a difficult situation and they have the choice between tearing each other apart or cooperating, the latter being the best option.

These games are also characterized by innovative themes. In Pandemic, players embody doctors fighting viruses threatening to destroy the human species. Cerberus takes as a theme the underworld; players play souls trying to escape.

In video games, the use of cooperative mechanisms is not new. They are found in many shooting games in the form of team-versus-team modes. They are also found in MMOs which are largely based on PvE mode where a group of players faces hordes of enemies in instanced quests.

But several recent productions have pushed their cooperative dimension much further: Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes and A Way Out. In the first, one player visualizes a bomb to defuse and must interact with it while other players have access to documentation explaining the manipulations to be performed. Cooperation is essential. The second title, A Way Out, looks a lot like a console action game. Two players embody prisoners trying to escape. One of the strengths of this title is that it allows playing in split screen, as in the good old days of Halo 2! What characterizes these games is that it is absolutely impossible to win without close cooperation with the other players.

I, therefore, expect to see more and more games based on mechanisms of cooperation between players for several reasons:

First, many players are sensitive to the emotions generated by collaboration, even altruism. The human being is a gregarious animal that gives more meaning to its action when the latter is part of a group project. 

Traditional multiplayer modes generate strong emotions but many players do not dare to play for fear of being humiliated; no one likes to be beaten by other players. Conversely, games based entirely on cooperation are less intimidating. They allow players whose play skills are very heterogeneous to have fun together.

Cooperative games can renew gaming experiences by introducing new mechanisms or themes. In an industry where novelty is an important success factor, game designers will find new sources of inspiration in cooperative mechanisms. 

For instance, in Vigor, an innovative early access game on Xbox One developed by Bohemia Interactive, players can decide to spend their hard currency to increase the collection of resources, the loot, for the entire group of players in their session, even if they don’t know each other.

Mish Mash offers another interesting example. Developed by Kwa Qua, this game offers collaborative drawing experiences based on the game Cadavre Exquis (exquisite corpse) invented by surrealist artists in the 1920s.

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