Saturday, September 8, 2012

Wake Up and Smell the Ashes

Five days, Doctor Freeman...

I have no idea how I'm going to emotionally prepare myself for this release. I still feel like I'm in some bizarro world where impossible, beautiful things actually do happen. It's such an alien feeling to be able to look forward to something and have good reason to believe it's going to be good, instead of a vague hope (unlike Asylum of the Daleks, more on that later).

To keep myself occupied, I've been looking through their wiki again, ogling at all their new models for Xen aliens. After I made it my mission to read their whole wiki I found this page. This gist of it is that they have absolutely no plans to include cooperative gameplay and have redesigned all the maps specifically for single-player. I don't care what you think, that's hot.

I hate cooperative games like nobody's business. I hate how every game that comes out now has a co-op component tacked on. Why is it so wrong to release a proper single-player game? When did developers decide that every game has to play like a social networking site? I know there's a boat-load of people out there who disagree with me, especially mackdombles. On paper co-op sounds like a good idea; it's not just you playing a game, you're inviting a friend to share in the game's world, forming a bond in a hand-crafted world of adventure. In theory, co-op games promote trust and cooperation. Heck, it's even in the name.

But that's the linchpin of the problem: in theory.

The awful truth is that most people who play co-op games are unsavory egomaniacs. They do not cooperate and they rarely contribute anything besides angry demands on the other players. The result isn't a group of like-minded friends working towards a common goal, it's a bunch of backstabbing bandits looking out for themselves, gobbling up all the items they can and running ahead of the group to distance themselves from their perceived failure.

I think this is part of the reason why Alien Swarm isn't as popular as it should be. You're stuck, relying on other people. Well that's bad news because those people you're forced to depend on will more often than not try to kill you in exclusion to the aliens. Yes, even when friendly fire is deactivated. These developers forget that the natural inclination of all people, especially gamers it to evil and when they're playing a game on the Internet, their inherent wickedness is magnified to such a degree it would make Marquis de Sade blush.

But let's assume that your teammates don't want to kill you. First of all that's not possible, second of all they're still going to steal health kits and ammunition from you. It's a given. In fact, the easiest way to tell if someone playing Left 4 Dead is a computer-controlled bot is to see if they're healing someone, because only the computer ever actually bothers to try and heal teammates. Everyone else hopes they can make it to the safe room first and use the rest of the team as bait.

Not only that, but they're stupid. And they're foreign. Despite what 80's cop movies told us, there's no such thing as a multicultural team; if you can't speak the same language how can you yell at each other for stealing the good weapons? What if they're just plain stupid? Then it won't matter what language you're speaking because they won't understand you anyway. They'll go on attacking enemies twice their size and setting everyone on fire without a care in the world.

And don't tell me I'm being an old fart, because I know this is true. I know because I turned into the very picture of a bad co-op partner when everyone was playing Killing Floor. I could see myself undergoing a hideous transformation into a hateful, frothing loony. Maybe it's because I played as the Berserker in exclusion of any other class. Or maybe it's because I used the samurai sword in exclusion of any other weapon. For whatever reason I started to scorn everyone's lack of honor. My team wasn't a help, they were a hindrance. They were an obstacle to my own personal honor and glory. Without realizing it, war drums started sounding in my brain. I would run to the far end of whatever map we were playing, trying to keep as much distance between myself and the dishonorable fools I was trapped with.

I would loudly belittle their choices of classes and weapons. I would painstakingly explain to them how they could achieve no honor by playing Demolition. You'd think I'd get some sort of comeuppance for my obvious loathing for those people, but no. I tore them up verbally and I tore up all enemies literally. And there was nothing anyone could do about it because, and I cannot stress this enough, they had no honor. None of them.

And that's really the heart of the problem. Online games aren't good for cooperation, just competition. When I see another player there is no part of me that wants to empathize with them, only to destroy them. That's why there's no such thing as teamwork in Team Fortress 2. It's more trouble than it's worth to try and get everyone working cohesively, especially when it's so much easier to do your own thing and kill the other team however you see fit.

This is why single-player games are so much more emotionally fulfilling. In a game like Half-Life you're not tied down by some jerk you met online. It's you, all alone against the whole world. You can take all the time you need to explore the environment, because you're not worrying about someone else's schedule. You can go at your own pace and take in the scenery.

So there, I got that out. I actually feel a little better now. Plus I think we've learned a valuable lesson here today: Steve Moffat is a terrible, terrible writer.

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