The lights are on
Until recently, co-op play on consoles has been limited to local multiplayer. Before that, you could go to an arcade and play X-Men with five strangers. Do you think something was lost in terms of co-op play with the death of arcades? Do you think online play now is bringing some of that feeling back?Paul: I think the death of arcades is an interesting one. I think that might have been why it sort of vanished for a while. I do think online has empowered more people to be able to play together, especially as our world gets smaller and people move away but still want to keep in touch. Online stuff allows people to still do that, while you can’t really do split-screen with your friend that lives in Los Angeles. Yeah, that’s interesting. I hadn’t really thought about that. Online is definitely bringing it back, and I think people have started to realize that gaming can be a time just to get together and enjoy being with your friends. I think there’s a large segment of our market that doesn’t have that antagonistic, in-your-face trash-talking. They just don’t want that from their entertainment time. I think that’s another thing that co-op is bringing, is “hey, let’s get together and play a game and not want to kill each other after we’ve been playing for a while!” A more camaraderie-type of experience; I think that’s a big part of it.Jonathan: I remember playing tons of arcades and lots of co-op, and I loved it. I think there’s something very civil about having someone in the room with you playing. Also, you’re always on the same screen, so it’s really easy to have this shared experience. You’re looking at the same enemies, so when I say “he’s over there,” my friend knows what “over there” is. Games sort of moved away from that and moved to first-person shooters, and originally there were some technical difficulties to bringing those co-op moments back. Once you go to first-person shooter, you’re almost by definition on separate screens. At the very least, if you’re even doing split-screen you’re looking at two different things. It makes the indication a little more difficult. With co-op play over the internet, we have the anonymity over the internet and people aren’t quite as civil. As a culture, we’ve sort of had that experience. We’ve sort of realized “hmm...I don’t like that.” We want a more civilized co-op experience. I think games have kind of opened up to this and the culture is kind of opening up to this. Now people are playing online with extensive friends lists and they know who they want to play with and who they don’t want to play with. You see games going on a larger scale of like “if other people think you’re a jerk, we’ll rate you like this. If you’re rated well, you get to play with the nice players.” I think there are a lot of things that happened really within the last two or three years that are really creating this explosion of co-op gameplay. We’re really trying to surf that wave with Borderlands.Paul: We’re at a moment in this generation where a lot of games haven’t really done a lot with co-op. People who were enjoying the co-op experiences that the few games that were doing it, they were looking for “where’s another co-op game? I want a co-op game. Ok, let’s go grab Borderlands and play that together.” We were really able to take advantage of that. The other thing that’s really allowed co-op gaming to explode is Microsoft putting a microphone in the box. They put a microphone in the box, and you didn’t need to set it up, it just worked. That has allowed that communication barrier to get dropped.Do you think the fact that Sony didn’t include a microphone has hurt their overall online experience?Jonathan: Absolutely. Absolutely. The thing that kills co-op gaming faster than anything else is not being able to communicate with my buddies. By definition, it’s supposed to be a shared experience. That means communication.Paul: One of the most heard things when we watched people play Borderlands is “Where are you?”. How are you supposed to do that when you don’t have a headset? You can’t even find each other, you have to pull out the maps and all that kind of stuff. The microphone is a big part of it for sure.Jonathan: I’ll call out one more game that I think is doing a great thing in the area of co-op, and that’s Portal 2. It’s co-op puzzle solving, and they put in a lot of little tools to be able to say “hey buddy, look at this!”. You need a lot of timer things, and other tiny things that really bring forth this co-op experience that allows people to play together easily without frustration.