By John So
Ever wonder what would be the next step for games like Battlefield, Halo, Tom Clancy’s: Ghost Recon, Call of Duty and other big franchises to improve on cooperative multiplayer? There seems to be only one choice: the addition of dynamic and evolving A.I. enemies that adapt to your play style and levels that change dynamically.
Using something similar to Valve's Left 4 Dead A.I. director, the A.I. will learn your tendencies (slow and methodical play style or run and gun), but it will react and respond intellectually to how you play and try to keep you and your squad from achieving your mission, whether it's the A.I. increasing its aggression towards you and your teammates or by moving to an alternate location to avoid your attacks.
Not only will this give the game unlimited replay value, but it will ultimately make players really rely on their teammates to do their jobs, and most importantly, everyone will be working together, making it a truly indescribable cooperative experience. Want to learn more? Keep reading.
Picture yourself and three others on a sniper mission, where your goal is to eliminate a high ranked officer at a specified location. One person is designated as the sniper, one the sniper's spotter, the other two are supporting classes (i.e. medic, engineer, heavy weapons). You enter the game and time starts as you move from location to location, closing in on your prey. You and your squad are notified by an NPC about secondary objectives that you can either ignore or act upon, but each decision will alter your path.
Perhaps the secondary objective was to help out civilians who are being threatened by a high risk militia group. If you choose to ignore helping out the civilians, then maybe you might cross paths with that same militia group further down the road on your mission, and because of that, they could jeopardize your goal of assassinating your target.
But continuing on, as you progress in the game and time starts dwindling down, maybe you receive intelligence that your target has changed locations. The A.I. may have been tipped off by something you did earlier in the level, or perhaps you and your squad successfully were not detected, but by a stroke of bad luck your squad took much time and the A.I. has decided to change locations.
In an instant, you have to alter your plan with your squad. You continue to track the target, and you reach a secure location where the sniper and spotter set up while the supporters cover the area. As you set up for your shot, the target spots you and your spotter, and within seconds the target goes into cover and instructs his men to go and attack your squad. But this is not the only scenario. Whether or not you eliminate your target, the A.I. may retreat, or they could become aggressive, however, it is ultimately the A.I. director that will determine what happens to you and your team.
This fluid but changing world continuously forces you and your squad to react, adapt, and change your strategy much like how real soldiers must feel on the battlefield. This type of intricate plan and execution of missions is just a glimpse at the ever growing possibilities that are capable with the right technology, and it could be applied to many different games.
If you're ever played co-op with a solid squad who knows how to communicate, you know much better the experience can be. But in today's co-op, communication isn't key. You can run and gun off on your own and make it through just fine ... unless you're playing Left 4 Dead. That game forces you to work together and stay in a group to support each other, and if other titles can carry that over, then the future of co-op gameplay looks very bright.
What would you like to see added to co-op gameplay?