Cooperative gaming—tabletop lessons for online games

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My talk from GDC Next in LA, on November 6th, 2013. …

My talk from GDC Next in LA, on November 6th, 2013.

ABSTRACT: In the past decade, cooperative games have become an important category for tabletop play. Best-sellers like Pandemic and Flash Point: Fire Rescue are just the tip of the cooperative iceberg, with dozens more filling game store shelves. Meanwhile, in the online computer game field, quests and character specialization imply cooperative play, but the games don't necessarily embed cooperative mechanics in their code. This session will bridge that gap by highlighting specific tabletop mechanics that encourage, support and even limit cooperation, and suggest how they can be used in online games. It will do so using many references to specific tabletop games.

TAKEAWAYS: Attendees will learn about the design of cooperative elements in tabletop games, including cooperation styles and anti-cooperative incentives. They will be able to discuss basic cooperative theory, including elements of limited communication, hidden information and costly assistance. Finally, they will be able to apply these tabletop lessons to online design.

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  • 1. Cooperative Gaming: Tabletop Lessons for Online Games 
 Christopher Allen
 Owner, Publisher, Producer—RPG.net !1
  • 2. Christopher Allen Publisher: Producer: Co-Founder: Co-Author: www.RPG.net Beyond the Mountains of Madness, Arkham Horror,
 Infinite PDF App, Numerous iOS & Online Social Games iOSDevCamp iPhone in Action (programming) Touched: Revelations (graphic novel) A Friendly Game (forthcoming) !2
  • 3. What is a Cooperative Game? “Cooperative — an association of persons for common benefit.” —Merriam–Webster Dictionary “Players are given a common task that they must achieve, and they realize very quickly that they are doomed. The players realize that the task is essentially insurmountable, so competition and selfishness is replaced by a true spirit of togetherness against the common evil.” —Reiner Knizia,
 “A cooperative game is a game where groups of players may enforce cooperative behavior.” designer The Lord of the Rings (2000) —John Nash on Game Theory “Pure cooperative games rely on the players working for a common goal against a board and game system that will shift each game.” —Richard Lanius,
 designer Arkham Horror (1987) !3
  • 4. What is a Cooperative Game? “A game design such that players must cooperate in order to achieve a mutual goal, usually survival against an ‘oppositional’ system.” 
 — Christopher Allen !4
  • 5. What is Cooperative Play? “Activities where players cooperate in order to achieve individual goals.” 
 — Christopher Allen !5
  • 6. Spectrum of Cooperation Solitaire Competition Cooperative !6
  • 7. Spectrum of Cooperation Solitaire Competition Cooperative One vs. Many / Secret Traitor Individual Ranked Partners / Teams !7
  • 8. Online Cooperative Games There is a long history of online
 cooperative team games… NetTrek (1988)
 First Internet team game
 Two 8-player teams PvP Doom (1993)
 First big commercial hit
 2- & 4-player teams PvE & PvP !8
  • 9. Online Cooperative Play But in the last 15 years online cooperation has been more focused on cooperative play… Ultima Online (1997)
 First US major with significant
 cooperative “guilds” Everquest (1999)
 First US major with with “epic raids”
 Up to 72-player cooperative PvE !9
  • 10. Cooperation & Online Games ! Cooperative Play ➡ cooperate to achieve individual goals
 Cooperative Games ➡ cooperate to achieve mutual goals !10
  • 11. Tabletop Cooperatives Shadows over Camelot (2005)
 Cooperative with Traitor Arkham Horror (1987,2005)
 Early true cooperative game Battlestar Galactica (2009)
 Great Cooperative with Traitor Pandemic (2008)
 Great True Cooperative !11
  • 12. Applying the Tabletop to Online Play !12
  • 13. Applying the Tabletop to Online Play Supporting Cooperation Oppositional Design Limiting Communication !13
  • 14. Supporting Cooperation Strategic Cooperation !14
  • 15. Supporting Cooperation Strategic Cooperation •Symmetrical Strategy !15
  • 16. Supporting Cooperation Strategic Cooperation •Symmetrical Strategy !16
  • 17. Supporting Cooperation Strategic Cooperation •Symmetrical Strategy •Asymmetrical Strategy !17
  • 18. Supporting Cooperation Strategic Cooperation •Symmetrical Strategy •Asymmetrical Strategy !18
  • 19. Supporting Cooperation Tactical Cooperation !19
  • 20. Supporting Cooperation Tactical Cooperation •Shared Resources !20
  • 21. Supporting Cooperation Tactical Cooperation •Shared Resources !21
  • 22. Supporting Cooperation Tactical Cooperation •Shared Equipment •Shared Tasks !22
  • 23. Supporting Cooperation Tactical Cooperation •Shared Equipment •Shared Tasks !23
  • 24. Supporting Cooperation Tactical Cooperation •Shared Equipment •Shared Tasks •Shared Combat !24
  • 25. Supporting Cooperation Tactical Cooperation •Shared Equipment •Shared Tasks •Shared Combat !25
  • 26. Supporting Cooperation Tactical Cooperation •Shared Equipment •Shared Tasks •Shared Combat •Limiting Shared Tasks !26
  • 27. Supporting Cooperation Tactical Cooperation •Shared Equipment •Shared Tasks •Shared Combat •Limiting Shared Tasks •Special Powers !27
  • 28. Supporting Cooperation Tactical Cooperation •Shared Equipment •Shared Tasks •Shared Combat •Limiting Shared Tasks •Special Powers !28
  • 29. Supporting Cooperation Victory-Focused Cooperative Play !29
  • 30. Supporting Cooperation Victory-Focused Cooperative Play !30
  • 31. Supporting Cooperation Survival-Focused Cooperative Play !31
  • 32. Supporting Cooperation Survival-Focused Cooperative Play !32
  • 33. Supporting Cooperation Teamplay !33
  • 34. Supporting Cooperation Teamplay •Hidden Teams !34
  • 35. Supporting Cooperation Teamplay •Hidden Teams !35
  • 36. Supporting Cooperation Teamplay •Hidden Teams •Dynamic Teams !36
  • 37. Supporting Cooperation Teamplay •Hidden Teams •Dynamic Teams !37
  • 38. Opposition Design !38
  • 39. Opposition Design Opposition in Online Games !39
  • 40. Opposition Design Opposition in Online Games !40
  • 41. Opposition Design Opposition on the Tabletop !41
  • 42. Opposition Design The Oppositional Cycle Trigger Activation Cascade Decay !42
  • 43. Opposition Design The Oppositional Cycle Trigger Cascade Activation Decay !43
  • 44. Oppositional Design Oppositional Results THREAT Immediate CONSEQUENCE Future Concern !44
  • 45. Oppositional Design Oppositional Movement Triggers THREATS !45
  • 46. Oppositional Design “In the Lord of the Rings, the players are given a common task that they must achieve, and they realize very quickly that they are doomed. The players realize that the task is essentially insurmountable, so competition and selfishness is replaced by a true spirit of togetherness against the common evil. The evil is me, or at least all the nasty obstacles I build into the game system to work against the players!”
 —Reiner Knizia,
 designer The Lord of the Rings (2000) !46
  • 47. Limiting Communication !47
  • 48. Limiting Communication Communication should be restricted !48
  • 49. Limiting Communication Communication should be restricted !49
  • 50. Limiting Communication Information should be hidden & confusing !50
  • 51. Limiting Communication Information should be hidden & confusing How many swords? !51
  • 52. Limiting Communication Limitations should be
 surmountable !52
  • 53. What makes a great Cooperative? •It should be possible to fail •The future should be unpredictable •Choices should be uncertain, difficult, and allow for loss •The game should have momentum and be repeatable •Cooperation should improve over time !53
  • 54. Great Tabletop Cooperatives Saboteur — intro collaborative with traitor-like gameplay Shadows over Camelot — influential traitor cooperative Battlestar Galactica — sophisticated traitor cooperative Castle of the Devil — hidden teams Descent: Journeys in the Dark — overlord Forbidden Island — intro true cooperative Hanabi — limited communication cooperative Arkham Horror — foundational true cooperative, long but good Pandemic — influential true cooperative Ghost Stories + White Moon — advanced true cooperative !54
  • 55. This talk based on: ! A Friendly Game: The Design, Theory & Practice of Tabletop Cooperative Games by Christopher Allen & Shannon Appelcline We haven’t chosen a publisher yet, so feel free to contact us for more information! ChristopherA@RPG.net
 ShannonA@skotos.net !55