How My Game Cuts Down On Online Gamer Obnoxiousness

Playing online games often exposes one to the worst of humanity. Within this den of scum and villainy, you’ll find 12-year-olds who act like four-year-olds, dudes that would be the worst drinking buddies, and silent, useless teammates that clearly have no idea how to play this damn game. Of course, when gamers act like jerks, it’s not always their fault. Sometimes it’s the game’s fault.

Kotaku’s review of Monaco arrived a week after the game’s launch, which left it in the unique position of being able to review the nature of the community that formed around the game. To Stephen Totilo, who reviewed it, it seemed as if the online world had suddenly become human.

Of course, YMMV. I’m sure there are trollish Monaco players, and when the game is released on the Xbox 360 this Friday (May 10th), the community might be very different. But for now, let’s take a look at some of the design considerations that were taken that may have something to do with the positive nature of Monaco’s online community.

Requiring Cooperation Is a Good Thing

When I first pitched Monaco to a big publisher, it was rejected because “games that require co-op don’t sell well.” And perhaps this is why online games are so often fraught with uncooperative communities.

There is a big difference between co-op games that require cooperation vs. games that simply reward it. A game like Team Fortress 2 rewards cooperation but doesn’t require it. If your teammates care more about teabagging than stealing the briefcase, that’s their prerogative and you have no choice but to ignore them or find a new server.

If a player wants to ignore the fact that they are on a team, they can essentially play in a go-it-alone style. Deathmatch trumps Team Deathmatch. This attitude tends to be contagious, too -- once the cooperative social fabric starts to break down, it’s hard to build back up.

But in Monaco, the game requires that all four players pile into the same staircase in order to progress, every 60 seconds or so. And when a player dies, the group can’t progress until someone has gone back to heal their teammate. This forced cooperation both reminds players that they are working towards a common purpose, and probably wards off the players that simply don’t like cooperating.

Between those 60-second segments, all hell breaks loose. Thieves will run around, collecting coins like mad. A hectic playstyle trumps strategic play, which trumps slow and stealthy. But, on a team of only four, players can often agree before they start the heist how they want to play. These types of agreements tend to break down in games with larger teams.

Intimacy Helps

A more intimate cooperative experience lends itself to a more human interaction. Other players in Team Fortress 2 may as well be bots, while the co-op partner in a game like Journey feels distinctly human, because there is only one, and he or she is within your field of view most of the time.

In Monaco, you remember when your buddy saved you with a smoke bomb, and you care that your teammate doesn’t die, because, if he does, it will be your responsibility to revive him.

In TF2, players rarely stay together, in Monaco, even when players split up, you always know where they are. Intimacy, proximity, and responsibility all create a social fabric that makes players behave like humans.

Getting The Ideal People To Love The Game

Of course, the social fabric of Monaco isn’t all the result of game mechanics... it’s also the result of who we’ve marketed the game to, who we let into our beta test, and who has fallen in love with the game.

While we were beta testing Monaco, we asked players to take a quick survey on the game. We asked them what they liked, what they didn’t like, what confused them. We also asked them to rate the game from 1 to 10. We wanted to find out which beta key giveaways were bringing in our most passionate users. We generally found that the highest proportion of 9 and 10 ratings came from RockPaperShotgun and Reddit users. Our lowest ratings came just after we did a giveaway via Destructoid.

Many of those RockPaperShotgun users became Beta VIPs -- we gave additional keys for those people to give to their friends, and we helped them set up the fansite www.monacohideout.com. Those passionate, mature voices helped us police our various YouTube videos, kept things running smoothly on our forums, and helped to introduce the game to the world from the perspective of fans rather than developers. They established the tone, and the overall community has maintained that fabric.

Building a co-op game is really not all that different from designing a commenting system for a blog. How do you allow people maximum freedom while maintaining a level of maturity and collaboration that is often missing from anonymous internet cesspools? In Monaco’s case, it came down to demographic targeting, required cooperation, and intimacy.

Or maybe people just read the message I put in the credits. Don’t be nut-punchers. Even on the internet.


Andy Schatz is the co-creator of Monaco. Find out more the game at the official Monaco website or on Facebook and Twitter.


Comments

    I know people like ragging on XBL, but to be honest, I've found it really depends on the game you play. First person competitive shooters on ANY platform I've found idiots tend to populate ANYWHERE. I've found assholes on COD on the pc, ps3 and xbl. In Red Dead Redemption, I've found nothing but nice people online to be honest? I've never come across any idiots. I've come across people who act like 'cowboys' who will shoot you on sight, but thats the nature of the game when you're in the west. On the PC when I was playing DayZ? Oh, I could write encyclopedia sized books on my experiences with the experiences I've had.

    Xbox Live players have done more than their share in the past to earn their stripes no doubt but again, it really does come down to the sort of game you play as well. Gears of War has its assholes, as does CoD, but its the competitive nature. Battlefield 3 on the PC has PLENTY of them, don't for one single minute think that it's a friendly, well meaning crew that play THAT game, even on your own side... just because the PC has its nickname 'the master race', don't think 'the master race' gets along in its own ranks, no sir...

    Shall we now talk about my experiences playing Little Big Planet 2 online where I was told to 'eat a dick and die' by what sounded like a ten year old???

      "Competitive shooters on any platform"

      I'd almost go so far as to say "competitive ANYTHING" - when you add competition where part of that is being able to hinder other players (which, granted, is especially prevalent in FPS/3PS), you inevitably have a number of people in it for themselves, to win at any cost. That kind of mechanic encourages people to be arseholes. Hell, even something as innocuous as Guitar Hero's battle mode. All it takes is that type of competitive mechanic to attract and/or generate arseholes, because acting that way is clearly advantageous from a win/loss perspective. The fact that the other players may stop playing because they're no longer enjoying the game is irrelevant - there are always more fish in the sea. Until that sea is just filled with arseholes.

        Yep completely agreed. When thinking about it I do remember being abused by people on Burnout 3 back in the day when I'd win races, I also remember being yelled at after kicking someones butt in Streetfighter 4, so yeah, definitely agree lol.

    More people need to buy Monaco. It's one of the greatest co op games I've played in the past few years.

    The problem is young males, always has been. Dont kill me yet! Not all of them obviously, but online gaming is like a nightclub mixed with a school yard. Thousands of young men playing together, not just competing with their peers, but also a horde of teens and pre teens looking to one up the older players.
    Nobody likes being reminded that they too were once a stinky snot filled kid with a high pitched voice, ESPECIALLY young men in their 20's. And the kids dont like being treated like kids, and so the war begins. Though they all unite for a common purpose when my partner logs on to ask her to show them her tits.

      Though they all unite for a common purpose when my partner logs on to ask her to show them her tits

      Thiis is why I avoid playing online :P

      "FoxyChix6969" logs on, cranks up a microphone and yells all sorts of profanity and gets offended when people tell her to 'show ya tits' :P

    So looking forward to taking Monaco for a spin Friday night. I'm all fo rthe co-op - it's why I play BF3 over CoD. But BF3 still has it's idiots. I'm expecting this to have a few too - but they'll disappear after they realise they don't get ahead by being a douche.

    I got given Monaco by my brothers friend, because he wanted us to all play together. But brothers internet is down, So I started playing with a guy who I played a little bit of Payday with.
    Its freaky how well we understand each other now (in terms of Monaco :P). Playing with randoms we burn through levels, often knowing what the other guy will do before he does it, always being where we need each other. It's kind of surreal.
    People need to get this game.

    Last edited 08/05/13 10:37 pm

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