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The co-op conundrum

I’m one of those gamers whose favorite mode in any game tends to be the cooperative one.  That’s not to say I don’t enjoy good PvP – my exploits in Starcraft, WoW, and now League of Legends speak to that – but I’m not such a competative gamer that PvP is all I like to do.  In fact, given the choice between “beat up on the computer with my friends,” or “go alone against a bunch of people I don’t know,” I’ll almost choose to play with my friends (though “beat up people I don’t know online WITH my friends” also has very strong pull).

The issue with this of course is when most games have multiplayer it’s the competitive play they focus on.   This is totally understandable.  No game has achieved the longevity or fan-base of Counter-Strike, Street Fighter, or Starcraft due to their single player campaigns, oh no.  It’s because each of those games are prime eSports games that they are still highly played and highly regarded, and have a loyal fanbase. Making a solid competitive game experience gives a game developer much desired street cred and cash so the push in that direction makes sense.  It’s just unfortunate for those of us who would rather team up with your friends instead of frag them all day.

However, there is one genre of game that thrives off of it’s “Player vs Environment,” or PvE; One type of game in which the quality and challenge that the developer brings to the table for teams of players, both large and small, to overcome against computer-controlled opposition is what makes or breaks the game in the player’s eyes moreso than any amount of competitive play:  The MMORPG.

This genre is the lone online game genre where you can have the best PvP on the market, and if your PvE endgame is trash, everyone will quit your game after maximum level.   One need only look at the update schedule that World of Warcraft has used to see an extreme of example of what players expect.  If you can’t keep the player base amused with a continuing stream of new challenges and rewards, the players will bore, and move on to your competitor’s product.  To top it off, the most successful MMORPGs include a PvP element, even if it is tacked on, so that in between your large group assault on a computer-controlled dungeon you can go out and match wits against players as well.

Of course the genre has its own problems, specifically the presence monthly fees and the extreme time sink these games tend to be.  It’s a bummer that the only genre that caters so well to the cooperative gamer at the same time requires such a commitment from both their time and money.  It makes it difficult to sustain the idea of continuing to play such a game anytime another game takes your interest.  Right now I’m really enjoying League of Legends, but the game’s lack of meaningful cooperative play (because the bots are just a joke – provided they don’t take down bot play entirely), means that when I get sick of fighting my friends I have to play something else.  By the same token, it’s hard to justify the monthly fee for a game like Aion or WoW if I’m still going to devote most of my gaming time to something competitive like League of Legends.

In the end, as much as I want to escape having to pay a monthly fee for permission to play a game, until other co-op friendly games come around (or I can bring people around to Guild Wars again), MMORPGs will probably be the best place to go to scratch such an itch.  From a gaming stand point that’s fine, as I find such games fun and rewarding, but I just wish they were less intense in terms of commitment so if one “saw other games on the side,” they weren’t so horridly punished.

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