Pull up a chair you handsome young thing you, let’s have a chat about a little thing called co-operation!
From as early as I can remember I’ve loved co-operative gaming. I grew up with 3 brothers (presumably because my mum knew this would be ideal for multiplayer gaming) and some of my fondest memories are of the four of us crammed round a tiny screen, shouting at each other as we attempted to thwart the advances of various 8-bit ne’er do wells.
I love multiplayer but I’ve always really responded to co-operative games. That particular bond that develops when you work together to take down the Horde, or Death Adder or those monkeys with machine guns in Time Splitters. I still remember playing Katina, a multiplayer level in Lylat Wars (Star Fox 64) which was designed for players to compete to see who could destroy the most ships in an Independence Day style dog fight, we stayed up for hours trying to max out our combined score just because…. well it was more fun that way!
When I worked at Frontier I was lucky enough to find another group of kindred spirits. Every lunch time we would gather together to play any multiplayer games we could get our hands on. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing games over a LAN but there’s just nothing compared to the roar of joyful expletives you’ll hear when a group of devs are gathered around a single screen in the same room.
So it was little surprise when we approached our first game that co-op was at the forefront our minds, but there was one particular footfall we were keen to avoid, and it’s one that many co-op games fall foul of. I like to call it: First to Fun.
You may have experienced that moment in a co-op RPG where you’re rushing to hoover up the most loot from a fallen foe, or charging through a co-op FPS to kill the next enemy because, well, that’s where the fun is! That feeling that it’s the fastest or the most skilled player who reaps the rewards, rather than the combined work of the team.
With Overcooked we wanted to create a game where only true co-operation is rewarded. Where only by working together could players truly overcome the game’s challenge. To do this we set it in the most stressful place we could think of, a place where co-operation is vital to success, and where everybody gets to shout at each other: A Restaurant Kitchen.
The mechanics of the game are simple enough: You have to prepare, cook and deliver meals to match the orders of the hungry customers. The catch is that the tasks needed to fulfil these orders all take too much time in total to be carried out by a single player alone. Just as with a real-life kitchen you’ll need to divide up your tasks: 2 players might find themselves chopping vegetables, while a 3rd man’s the frying pan and a 4th must switch between serving and washing-up dishes.
It’s this dovetailing of work and this constant spinning of plates that provides the backbone for our experience. No one player can be more skilled or will be more empowered than any other, it’s the strength of the team and their ability to communicate quickly which will give them the advantage. When rats pour into your kitchen, when ovens catch fire or when pipes burst you’ll need to work as a team to keep on top of things. And most importantly there will be shouting, lots and lots of shouting : )
This has been a particularly good week for co-op. Having worked his notice, Oli has now officially moved into the offices of Ghost Town Games (my living room) and together we’re working to deliver the most kickass co-op game you’ve ever experienced. We won’t be alone either, our friends at Frontier who help conceive the game will be helping us, our new indie dev friends have already starting lending their thoughts and soon we’ll even be co-operating with the game-playing public to help us deliver the goods.
Let’s re-cap then: Co-operation is… great! Don’t believe me: just ask Voltron