December 2017

In Search Of: Five-Player Co-Op

I love co-operative online gaming. I've been playing co-op games since the late 1990s, when my friends and I discovered games like Baldur's Gate, in which up to six players joined together in an epic role-playing adventure based on the rules of the tabletop RPG, Dungeons & Dragons. My friends and I spent the better part of a year playing that game, meeting online one night per week, beginning a ritual which continues to this day. Over the years, co-op gaming has allowed us to continue playing games together, even as we've moved far apart and rarely get together in person.

But our weekly ritual is getting more difficult to pull off all the time. Why? The problem is that there are five people in our gaming group. As I said, Baldur's Gate allowed up to six players at once, and golden-age MMOs like World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online had five as the standard party size. These days, though, most co-op games limit you to four players maximum. I don't know how four became the industry standard for group size. I put much of the blame on Left 4 Dead, the four-players-versus-zombies game, simply because it was so successful that it spawned a host of imitators like the Payday series and the ridiculously over-titled Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide.

Nothing's worse than when a great co-op game comes out and, because it's only four player, we either have to skip it, or work in sessions around someone's absences. The latest culprit is Divinity: Original Sin 2, a wonderfully updated take on the classic Baldur's Gate formula that we fell in love with all those years ago. Hey, look, here's the loading screen. Doesn't this look like a five-player co-op game to you?

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But it's not. It's four player. Those five characters are all in the game, but only four of them will ever be together.

I know I'm not the only person who is bothered by the player limit, because someone has made a mod that allows five players, but it's buggy and may lead to game-halting issues. What we need is a little support from the game makers. Please, developers, make games that scale up and down to allow a little variation in party size. If you're going to all the effort to make a great co-op game, make a little extra effort and make a game that all my friends can enjoy together.

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A Simple Introduction to Algorithms

I've created a simple introduction to the concept of an algorithm that doesn't require any knowledge of programming to understand and enjoy. If you're curious about what an algorithm is, you'll find out, using the task of ordering playing cards as an example. Check it out!

This is the first in a new series of videos about algorithms. In the next video I'll talk about some clever methods that allow us to put items in order with minimal work.

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