Mike Booth, one of the founders of Turtle Rock and creator of Left 4 Dead, recently provided some insight into his creative process and his take on the current influx of co-op games in an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun.
The most surprising titbit for me was his assertion that there still aren’t enough co-op games out there today, despite their recent rise in popularity thanks to the pandemic. As Booth puts it, “It’s hard to make a good co-op game. Because you have to build the game from the beginning assuming that it’s co-op. To design a game assuming that you have to work together to win the game, and not in a punitive way, in a way that players want to do that, and it feels great, is a fundamentally different way of thinking and designing a game around that, and there just aren’t enough yet. There still aren’t enough.”
Booth concluded by reaffirming his commitment to making new co-op experiences in his work at Bad Robot Games and on the upcoming non-VR version of the digital tabletop RPG, Demeo. Discussion of Demeo formed the bulk of the interview, and the Tabletop Simulator-esque experience certainly looks like a good time. I was most intrigued by his discussion of the mechanics behind Demeo and the influence Left 4 Dead’s AI ‘Director’ had on it : “You don’t want to actually, behind the scenes, roll the die on individual things. You want to make a virtual deck of cards, shuffle it and deal it out. So that way it’s not possible to get the terrible thing happening 17 times in a row – I know it’s very unlikely, but it’s possible [with dice]. If it’s in a deck of cards, and it’s only one card, it can only happen once.”
It’s a fascinating peek behind the curtain so to speak, and a reminder that a developers often put their finger on the scale to make a seemingly “random” system feel fair.
I don’t know if I’m on board personally with the idea that we’re starved for more co-op experiences. My problem is always finding enough people with the time to commit to regular gaming sessions, but that might just be a me problem. Either way, it’s fascinating to get a better sense of an industry veteran’s perspective.