Bare Bones – Multiplayer Coop Dream Game

There are a lot of games I would really love to play. Unfortunately, plenty of them don’t exist yet. In the same way that conjecturing about possible magic systems felt like some of the best writing I’ve done in ages (if only because it’s productive instead of critical or referential), this is going to be some fun stuff to outline.

I’m going to describe a mish-mash of mechanics that I’d love to see, making up a game that I’d love to play. These are going to be very bare bones descriptions – I’m not outlining an entire game start to finish. This time, I’m going to examine the skeleton of my ideal multiplayer coop game.

My dream coop experience blends very different bits of two of the most sublime coop experiences in gaming lately. In the same way that my versus dream game was a blend of Pokemon and FF12, for coop I want to play a blend of Monster Hunter and Journey. Unlike the versus, where I feel the elements I chose were pretty clear, some of the elements I pull from each game on this one are a little less overt. Let’s piece together the best coop I can imagine (well, there’s already Secret of Mana, but just for the sake of argument I’ll give this a go).

Plot

Humorously, I realize that the major similarity between this and my multiplayer versus game is that I’m not particularly attached to a specific plot. So, lets go with a simple and uninspired sample plot, just for a context to discuss the mechanics of this imaginary game. It’s a fantasy world, where huge beasts made by an ancient civilization roam about and destroy anyone they encounter (sound like Shadow of the Colossus? this is meant to be a framework, not a brand new idea… so, yeah, it’s Shadow of the Colossus, more or less).

Gameplay

Monster Hunter is a very fun game, one which I love dearly. Unfortunately, the gameplay is highly bounded and controlled. Each hunt occurs in a set area, and within that area all of the actual locations are divided into distinct zones (or screens, if you want to think about it in 2d terms). This is fine, and makes for some interesting tracking/understanding of the monster’s habits, but given the opportunity, I’d love to see a seamless world (as in Shadow of the Colossus).

That being said, the monsters in Monster Hunter are pretty much spot on for the desired sort of encounters. Creatures with specific habitats, behaviors, and complex movesets with clear and identifiable wind ups for each move, that’s what I’d love to hunt across an open world. That being said, while the combat would be very similar, there are quite a few Monster Hunter elements I’d like cut out of this dream game.

First, drop all of the item collection and careful item management and usage. Focus purely on the combat, and include a small number of infinite use items (a short range weapon, a long range weapon, maybe a trap with a heavy cooldown).

Next, in a more Journey-like fashion, none of this three deaths and the hunt is over business. Deaths should certainly factor in as far as how the player is rewarded at the end of the hunt, rather than force an annoying restart of the entire fight. One of the worst feelings in Monster Hunter is having a hunt that’s going well otherwise ruined by a companion hunter dying three times. An even worse feeling is ruining a hunt for someone else by dying three times in online play. So, cut out that feeling. Punish the player in a different way for deaths (temporarily diminished health/stamina/damage), but not with irritation.

Okay, so we have the monsters of Monster Hunter, and they’re roaming around in a big open world (or, if you want a bounded world, go Journey-style – make your way through an area, hunting the monster from start to finish before moving on to the next area. Linear progression could be okay for this, but SotC open world where the monsters are moving around and living their lives rather than just waiting in one spot would be preferred). Now, what about the Journey elements?

First, cut communication down to very, very simple interaction. The gestures of Dark Souls would be at the more informative end of this, while the pinging effect in Journey would work just fine. I can’t stress enough how much I love this element of Journey – you can get attention, but you can’t really insult or distract. How is it so hard to create a communication system where communications are only pleasant? It’s not very hard, as Journey shows us. How hard is it to be intelligent enough to learn from and implement a similar system in other multiplayer games? Apparently, it’s very, very hard.

Next, with the dropping of the death counter, it’s possible to allow another brilliant element from Journey (that I’ve always liked the idea of seeing in a long battle game like Monster Hunter) – the drop in/drop out multiplayer. Having a variety of companions through the course of a long and drawn out battle would help add some needed spice to lengthy and brutal battles. On that note, the fights shouldn’t be insanely long, but I’d say a ten to fifteen minute minimum would be excellent. That being said, two varieties of damage could be dealt to a monster – temporary and permanent. If you decide to cease hunting a monster for a while (too difficult, taking to long, whatever), the monster would only be able to heal up to a certain point, and you could go after it when you’re more prepared later.

Okay, I think that’s all of the elements I’d like to see. Drop in/out huge monster fights with less item management and open worlds. Man, now I just really want to play something like that.

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