Real Horror Games Don't Need Co-op

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Real Horror Games Don't Need Co-op

Dead Space 3's Co-op mode goes against what survival horror is really about.

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Oh come on it's a concept that can work. Have you ever heard of the Hidden?

What I want is:
a much smoother but no less complex STALKER game with drop-in drop-out Co-op. It would make entirely perfect sense within universe for you to just team up with other guys, and there is absolutely no way of making nighttime not a horrifying experience.
So that's my completely irrelevant opinions.

But I can't say I was ever actually expecting Dead Space 3 to go back to being survival horror - or indeed, start being survival horror for the first time ever - when they seem to be perfectly happy with what they were already doing. That is, incredibly gory action games with a severe sensory overload problem.

This is something along the lines of what I was thinking whenever I heard people getting stressed or bitter over DS3 getting more action-y.

"Oh no, they made the new game into an alien-blasting romp, when the series used to be, uh... an alien blasting romp. Huh."

As for the clash between multiplayer and story, that reminds me of Bungie's upcoming Destiny thing. The developers talked a whole bunch about the world and the story, then mentioned that it's going to be full of other players, Other players who will inevitably be bunny hopping and teabagging and firing their weapons into the air whenever they get bored.

I'm anxious to read his opinions on the share button, because I really can't think of any problems with an optional feature that can (and it my case probably will) be ignored completely. Also seem to remember him being so proud of that one X-COM strategy he mentioned once that I can almost imagine him wanting to show it to the world.

Well, survival-horror in games has become what science fiction is now in film. All big-budget SF films made today have to be welded to another genre. Usually "stylish action thriller", but sometimes war film, noir, horror, or romance. There's a "we need a big audience to pay for this film" mentality going on there, I think. To see something approaching pure science-fiction, you need to go to low-budget indie films. Even a comparatively low-budget film like District 9 had to throw in a action-packed climax.

Likewise with horror games. Indie games can still do survival horror, but AAA horror titles always have to be action-y too.

Well I can understand taking time off to talk to people when you're not participating directly in the game, I would have thought someone who keeps harping on the story would have been slightly more interested in the dialogue. I know horror isn't as scary when you have someone with you, but you chose to ignore those cutscenes. I'm also not really sure the book analogy is accurate, because it's perfectly possible to share a story in co-op. But having story elements that are exclusive to co-op mode isn't the way to do it.

It's gotten to the point where I will avoid buying a game is co-op is advertised strongly. Sorry, I have MMOs for that.

Interesting(?) choice of title.

The bit of the end is my big problem, weirdly enough, with The Old Republic at the moment. They#re trying to tell a story and sell a setting in an MMO space and it just doesn't work because well, people. It's quite hard to feel like I'm in the Star Wars universe when two Jedi are calling each other knobheads and a Sith is trying to flog some second hand boots.

But they didn't even try. The whole story is 'you are the chosen one' BS which actively ignores the hundreds of people around you doing stuff. Instead of embracing it's MMOness and trying to write a story that fits the idea of thousands of Jedi battling across vast worlds trying to push back the Sith they give you a single player storyline that forces your brain to shut off everyone else to keep immersion

BurnedOutMyEyes:
What I want is:
a much smoother but no less complex STALKER game with drop-in drop-out Co-op. It would make entirely perfect sense within universe for you to just team up with other guys, and there is absolutely no way of making nighttime not a horrifying experience.
So that's my completely irrelevant opinions.

I was hoping that GSC, when they announced converting Stalker 2 into an MMOFPS, would do basically turn Stalker into an MMO with other people. That would've been wonderful.

OP: Here's something I think is relevant, and an opportunity to pull out one of my favorite reviewers (you just need to watch the first minute-ish of the video):

Yahtzee has not seen this article about social reading...

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2013/02/22/f-prpick-ebook.html

When Yahtzee said "pussy mode", my mind went to a weird place, which is not good when reading about a game where the monsters are mutated human corpses.
I never bought into the idea that the Dead Space games were survival horror, since from the first game, Isaac's main weapon was the Swiss Army Knife of power tools. And I think he could stop time or something.

I haven't played a co-op survival horror, so forgive me if this has been tried and failed miserably. It's my impression that, for the majority of these games, players are together in the same room, working on the same objective. Are there any games that force the separation, so you can still hear your partner over the headset, but are in no position to help them? It seems like, if you're going to shove co-op into a horror game, that would be the way to do it. You're not just trying to work your way through a level, you're trying to run through it in time to save your panicking partner who is low on ammo. Or maybe you're the one locked weeping in a closet, hoping you can force enough one-on-one melees to give your partner enough time to reach you.

The beauty of co op? It's OPTIONAL.

Some people can actually play through a game co op and get engrossed in the story. Some people wouldn't get engrossed even playing single player. Some people go alone first and then with a second player. Some people just go at it alone. Some people play games TO hang out with friends.

The thing is by giving person B the option of playing co op you aren't taking away from person A the option to play it single player. Although there are a few things about co op that developers seem to worry too much about:

1) Fuck the story. Seriously. Stop trying to force excuses for there to be two people in a cutscene. If it doesn't make sense in your story, then don't waste your time trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole. See Saints Row for how to make co op work in a single player story.

I would enjoy Bethesda games considerably more if it had Saint's Row's co op mode.

2) Co op unique story sucks. I know, I know, it was the second player's story, but it still sucks that it can't be experienced in single player. Maybe having a new game plus where you play as the OTHER guy would have fixed that right quick.

3) We don't have to be side by side AT ALL GOD DAMNED TIMES. Splitting up the team is fun, and it doesn't have to be for five second segments.

"[...] the recent example of playing Aliens: Colonial Marines co-op with a friend (review coming very soon!) [...]"

...

I'm going to enjoy this...

I think the problem is just that the co-op experience is in it's infancy. I look forward to a co-op horror experience designed to emphasize terror isolation and suspense.

- design it so that there are times when your co-op buddy will appear as monster (maybe after being poisoned), so you'll have to shout over the headphones "don't shoot me" "which one are you" "i'm at your 6. no i mean your 3. ahh!"
- design it so that your co-op buddy is mostly separated from you. mostly joining up when there are no baddies, to offer a break from the tension. and maybe swap items.
- design it so that audio cuts out at key points. like one player can see the other, but suddenly his mic goes on the fritz - making it hard to warn them.
(think of that scene in Alien. where one person has to crawl around in the ventilation tunnels, while another person tries to explain where the monster is, and which way they should run).
- design it so that it seems clear to player 1 what player2 should do ("go pull that switch, p2! what is taking so long!"), but design player2's path so that it's ridiculously hard to do the obvious (tons of critters around the switch that p1 can't see). foster tension between the players.
- record what one player says (perhaps based on volume or intensity) and then play it back later when, they are being attacked again. sow confusion.

- and most of all, play with the illusion of shared reality. ("do you see this thing on the table?" "no man, i don't even see a table. I see your dead body though." "uh, what?") DeadSpace seems like a perfect game for this sort of insanity effect. in fact, i thought it WAS in there. i was going to buy it BECAUSE i heard there were purposeful differences between each player's perceptions in co-op. uh. hmmf.

anywho. just because the lights go out, doesn't mean people shut up in a theatre. the movie has to be designed to demand their attention and respect. i think co-op is in a similar boat.

There are horror genres besides survival horror. Granted, survival horror is the one games are best equipped to tackle (which makes it odd that they also seam to be so bad at it lately)
But it's important to remember that survival horror isn't the extent of horror in games. That said, yeah, I still wouldn't call Dead Space a horror either.

one of the major issues is that there is no mystery to bring people together. everyone knows how to kill the xenomorphs, etc they know what their strengths and weaknesses are.

to take the aliens universe as an example. picture a colony all the players are members of the colony, there are no weapons to speak of and then after a period something is unleashed. some players have to block off areas, others to collect resources, others to try and research what the hell is hunting you. can you survive long enough for the amrines to arrive?

I want a "hey, this is my first playthrough and I'm actually watching that cut-scene, don't skip it" button.

1) Isolate 2) Seperate.... 4 quarters for a buck. 3) Pursue.... SO a rock rolling to squish Indiana Jones is an horror factor? Tomb Raider is an horror genre?

In my opinion, and I really respect Yathzee and love his Zero Punctuation serie, he is wrong about the WHOLE concept of horror genre. 1) Heavy Atmosphere, 2) Mutilated Death (decapitated, amputed or mauled), 3) Bloody or Ghostly Exposition (corpses or messages), 4) Unknown Threat/Inhumane Opposition (A serial killer or zombies are considered inhumane), 5) Unexpected Events, 6) Limited resource to fight back. "Survival" is just another word for "Don't die and it won't be easy."

Under such definition, COOP isn't incompatible : OBSCURE game is the best example of HORROR COOP done right. SILENT HILL (2) which is Yathzee's favorite Horror game is all about finding your way, shooting weirdly sewed bodies, solving puzzles, with unexpected cutscenes. Why is it good? Solid story. Resident Evil that many still consider an horror game have all that too. Adding a 2nd player wouldn't change it except for the difficulty that would be balanced by the need to carefully manage the resources between two players and may make one of them unable to fight and need to run.

Regarding VALVe, I'd also say they have figured out how adding co-op in a sequel to a single-player game should work: Make one SP and one co-op campaign. [Talking about Portal and Portal 2 here, obviously.]

Anyone who doesn't care about co-op gets their money's worth just playing the SP. Everyone who also plays the co-op gets a few additions to the game's universe. Win-win!

[Anyone who only plays co-op does something wrong, of course, but each to their own.]

erttheking:
Oh come on it's a concept that can work. Have you ever heard of the Hidden?

Its kind of how people thought that comic books movies didnt work. They didnt, untill they did.

Its all about doing it right and not fucking up.

Shit, you can even do multiplayer in horror (watch 6:00 to 6:40)

warrenEBB:
snip

Exactly, there is so much that can be done. The most important thing though should be picking the right friend to co-op with, wich is something that a lot of people dont seem to understand (its like taking a friend that doesnt shut up and is constantly messaging to a movie, of course it will suck but thats not the movie's fault)

Imagine getting in a corridor with multiple turns and doors and having a timer to find a particular item, the players will have to go through different rooms to find the item faster but after entering a room and loosing sight of the other player the rooms would change positions making hard for them to find each other again and get lost in a maze like scenario of repeating rooms (giving the illusion of being stuck in different dimensions).

It could be something cool to experience.

The Deadpool:
The beauty of co op? It's OPTIONAL.

Sweetie, EVERYTHING about gaming is optional. That doesn't change the larger point.

Especially when one of the major criticisms here was that you were left out of actual story if you didn't play co-op.

In that instance, it kind of is taking away from person A.

Kalahee:

In my opinion, and I really respect Yathzee and love his Zero Punctuation serie, he is wrong about the WHOLE concept of horror genre. 1) Heavy Atmosphere, 2) Mutilated Death (decapitated, amputed or mauled), 3) Bloody or Ghostly Exposition (corpses or messages), 4) Unknown Threat/Inhumane Opposition (A serial killer or zombies are considered inhumane), 5) Unexpected Events, 6) Limited resource to fight back. "Survival" is just another word for "Don't die and it won't be easy."

Uh, no. Isolate, separate, and pursue really is all you need. The idea is that these elements should provide the atmosphere that you put at number 1. Atmosphere doesn't just spring from the ground full formed, it's constructed with the aforementioned elements. Put you somewhere where you can't go for help, separate you from your friends, and then set something after you. You don't need mutilated death, just look at Slender. You don't need blood or ghostly exposition. And while it helps if the threat is unknown or inhuman, that doesn't matter so long as the character (and, ideally, the player) is isolated and scared. Unexpected events and limited resources are pretty common, yeah, but the latter tends to come from the aforementioned "Isolation" step and the former is just a part of storytelling. Pretty much everything ever written has something unexpected happen at some point.

In essence, so long as the character is on his or her own, unable to get help, and is under some kind of mounting threat, you have all the elements you need for horror. You can construct a horror story from perfectly mundane situations, provided you do it right. A lot of your list sounds like prerequisites for a slasher flick, which is horror but most certainly not necessary for all horror.

Silly Yahtzee.

There's no story in Aliens: Colonial Marines.

I'd say that I should be worried if he's an Aliens fan, since he'll probably be an even harsher Jim and shower poisonous spiders over some poor sap in Australia, but I think he's become so bitter and disfranchised with the whole video game industry that this'll just come off as one big "Meh."

DS3 in not more an survival horror, is another conversion of EA for milking more money from a series...

warrenEBB:
I think the problem is just that the co-op experience is in it's infancy. I look forward to a co-op horror experience designed to emphasize terror isolation and suspense.

josemlopes:

Its all about doing it right and not fucking up.

Shit, you can even do multiplayer in horror (watch 6:00 to 6:40)

Exactly, there is so much that can be done. The most important thing though should be picking the right friend to co-op with, wich is something that a lot of people dont seem to understand (its like taking a friend that doesnt shut up and is constantly messaging to a movie, of course it will suck but thats not the movie's fault)

Kalahee:

Under such definition, COOP isn't incompatible : OBSCURE game is the best example of HORROR COOP done right. SILENT HILL (2) which is Yathzee's favorite Horror game is all about finding your way, shooting weirdly sewed bodies, solving puzzles, with unexpected cutscenes. Why is it good? Solid story. Resident Evil that many still consider an horror game have all that too. Adding a 2nd player wouldn't change it except for the difficulty that would be balanced by the need to carefully manage the resources between two players and may make one of them unable to fight and need to run.

I'm quoting all three of you because I feel that you all need to be reminded of what co-op does to games. You see, horror is about making a person feel weak. They do this by using disturbing and uncomfortable events and themes, by taking away our means to combat them, and/or isolating us from any form of help or relief (among other things).

Co-op skull-fucks those concepts because human by their nature are social creatures. The more of us there are, the stronger we are because we can now communicate and co-ordinate to combat obstacles that arise, whether by physically lending a hand or by simple emotional support.

So when you add another player into a horror game, you remove those fear inducing aspects because there is someone else out there who is experiencing those same things, who can help you through them, and who can empathize with your feelings and support your psyche through the event.

Heck, the part of the Hidden video that josemlopes bid us watch shows exactly why Co-op horror doesn't work, as not even 5 seconds after the jump scare pops out and activates the player's fight-or-flight instinct (which could equally be done by your pet unexpectedly jumping into your lap in broad daylight), they're laughing. LAUGHING! A singleplayer horror game would have the player freaking out for at least 20 seconds as they scramble to find some form of comfort and safety, yet in the video the adrenaline starts to wear off almost immediately because those things are already there.

And the real kicker is that even the techniques that you mentioned about isolating the players from each other and mix-matching sensory inputs, the player will still be together, whether via online communication or even being in the same room. They will never be truly isolated from each other psychologically or physically, so they will never truly feel weakened. The only way to do so would be to directly sever any means of communication whatsoever between the players, and all that does is make a co-op game into a single player game that just so happens to have another player in the same game world, because the second player is utterly redundant to any feeling of horror that the game is trying to establish. Incidentally this is why even with a "right" friend for horror that the co-op is wasted, because why play with a friend if you're NOT going to interact with them?

And if you guys don't believe me, watch a horror movie (that you know can scare you) alone. Then watch it with another person with you. Even if that person is completely silent and unmoving throughout the entire epxerience (effectively acting like they're not there at all) the film will noticeably lose much of this horror capability simply because you will (consciously or unconsciously) know that there is someone else there who is sharing in the experience. Instead of every little creak and noise being the possible footsteps of some unseen monstrosity out to get you, one's brain will more likely attribute it to the other person/people there, as they are a known factor that is infinitely more likely to be the cause.

In short, real horror is not a group sport. Any attempts at it are never going to come close to the scares that one will experience when truly alone because the very basis of how horror affects us best is predicated on the removal of the things that comfort us, and even the most insufferable, obnoxious person on Earth is universally more preferable than the horrors of the unknown.

"Because I know what I always do when I'm playing a game with someone and a cutscene starts - I immediately turn to my colleague and chat about something. "

You don't do that in movie theaters, right? I get your point, but during a cutscene that would seem to be a fair comparison. I like coop modes because I like sharing the complete game experience-- game play and background story-- with another person without relegating that other person to being a spectator. Why rob them of half of that experience just because you've played the game before. What if they haven't?

we should all take it upon ourselves to play co-op deadspace3 with strangers, and try to scare them.
"Hey buddy, I'm staring at you while I take my various articles of clothing off."
"what?"
"what."

I agree that co up and survival horror don't mix I disagree with you when it comes to co up and story people watch movies in the living room without everybody constantly talking to each other so why should that be any different for games?

I also disagree that video games should consider written novel their closest peers that honor goes to tv shows mostly because there a visual medium but one that has much more time to tell its story then a movie.

Yahtzee Croshaw:

Dead Space 3's Co-op mode goes against what survival horror is really about.

I would suggest an additional, if I may;

Real horror games don't need guns.

Is not horror partly not knowing whether or not you will survive? Unless it's one of those cheaply scripted encounters where a critter will leap out of a shadow point blank at you, a gun means your survival is all but guaranteed. I believe there are two good ways to ensure sufficient atmosphere in horror games;

1- No music.
2- Make the player believe their automatic survival isn't set in stone.

Zachary Amaranth:

The Deadpool:
The beauty of co op? It's OPTIONAL.

Sweetie, EVERYTHING about gaming is optional. That doesn't change the larger point.

Especially when one of the major criticisms here was that you were left out of actual story if you didn't play co-op.

In that instance, it kind of is taking away from person A.

a) You should probably read the REST of the post.

b) Sort of but not really... A solo player missed the story of the NPC. You get to view Isaac's story in its entirety since he is the single player character.

The Deadpool:

a) You should probably read the REST of the post.

I did. I even referenced parts I didn't quote. If you had actually read my post, this would have been evident.

Accusing me of not reading your whole post when it's evident you didn't read the entirety of mine (or at least understand it)?

Additionally, it's kind of ridiculous to argue it's okay to relegate character development of an NPC to co-op. That sounds more like an excuse for bad storytelling than an adequate justification for calling single player complete unto itself.

See? Once again I addressed your whole post even though I quoted only a portion of it. I normally would have quoted "B," but thought this would make a solid example of exactly how one can read and even respond to the whole body without quoting it directly.

Though the last one should have been a decent example, too.

That A:CM anecdote made me realize just how fun it would be to play video games and bullshit with Yahtzee. If he can make that game fun...it's all fair game.

Yea... I don't know what goes on in Borderlands unless I play alone. All I know of the story is go and kill shit and cash in reward.

As for the Share button... can I get a cheaper controller without the share button on it? Thanks Sony.

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