Tobold's Blog
Saturday, October 11, 2014
There is no such thing as cooperative multiplayer survival

Between Kickstarter projects, Steam Greenlight and Early Access, and more traditionally financed games there is now a large abundance of different games. So one might be excused to think that if there are so many games, they should cover all sorts of flavors and preferences. But curiously that doesn't happen. Certain features only ever appear together, although it would be perfectly feasible to separate them.

One example is multiplayer survival games. They are all set up in a way that players have very little advantage in working together, but are rewarded with the other player's gear if they kill them. Survival multiplayer games exist exclusively as PvP games, with a rules system where cooperative PvE is not really an option. Instead these games often have options which allow players to torture each other. And death caused by other players is extremely common as long as you play anywhere where other players are near.

Fortunately for us as a species our caveman ancestors were a lot more cooperative than that. If they had behaved like modern survival game players, we would long have gone extinct. In real life death is a lot more serious than in a video game, and killing more often has consequences, as the killed person's relatives or tribe tend to go after the killer. Multiplayer survival games fail to simulate these aspects, and so for all their claims of realism end up being extremely different from the real world, because the incentives are so different.

Which makes me wonder why among all those survival games there isn't even one with a rule set that encourages cooperative multiplayer survival. Either by turning PvP off, or by balancing the advantages and disadvantages of killing somebody much more realistically, with a strong chance of you being killed permanently if you kill another player. And such a game should have better tools for cooperation, where working together as some form of tribe is only way to survive the harsh environment.

Torturing and killing other people in an environment where your very survival is threatened by other factors is not a realistic or natural behavior. So why aren't there any games that don't do that?

Thanks for reminding me that I still haven't got a Don't Starve Together beta invite. :(
I agree.
Rohan had some similar thoughts:

I'm not convinced perma-death will ever be a core feature of a mainstream game (I don't think most people play Diablo that way), but I'd be happy to see someone try.
Twinoid's Die2Nite and Mush are cooperative multiplayer survival.
Killing Floor, Resident Evil 6, Left 4 Dead, Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha
As Jeromai mentioned, I think Don't Starve Together fits your general description. You could also point to Minecraft, although Minecraft is an example of how a server must heavily monitor griefing or it will become rampant, even in a game which heavily incentivizes cooperation.

In general, though, I agree with your point. I like some of the ideas from DayZ, but they decided to make it an open-PvP griefing game where the zombies and survival (other than surviving other players) are incidental.
IMO, the problem is too many 1337 gamers being developers and not enough suits. These leads to appealing to forums and fansites, not paying customers.
There's just so many other genres that fulfill the cooperative multiplayer genre, that strict cooperative multiplayer survival just isn't a strong niche I would bet. What would the gameplay mechanics even be other than horde mode (which is overdone and shoehorned into way too many games)? Something grander than basic survival?

At that point, there wouldn't even be much difference between that and most any other PVE game. Heck, if you want to cooperatively build an entire civilization, there's a game for that: Civilization.

There is.
Try it's okay.

I think the main reason behind aggressive survival games is that social freedom is more interesting than crafting/resource management systems. There are lots of games where you can use some resources to get other resources, the players are used to it. What they crave is freedom to experiment and to express themselves... one thing leads to another, and at the end of the day we have tortures. :]
The truly disgusting component of the 'PVP arena with zombies' that all of these games devolve into, is that vehemence of the PVPers in not allowing a PVE-only gametype or server rule.

The most common complaint is that if PVE-only servers are allowed, then all the PVP-enabled servers will be de-populated, leaving them with no-one to grief.

It's a very transparent complaint which serves as a serious indictment of the character of anyone against PVE.
If you want more co-op play you need to incentivises forming groups (possibly via complex trade and crafting systems that require multiple players working together). Buffing group play puts solo players at a disadvantage and considering the tagline for the the survivalist genre might as well be "You against the world" such changes might very well kill the game.
Cam, how can PvP-ers force the devs into not having PvE servers if there is enough demand for them?

If they are simply making an argument that opening PvE servers will damage the ecosystem, I think it's legitimate. Casualisation has harmed a lot of genres.

Couldn't PvE-ers make their feelings on the matter known too?
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