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18-02-06 02:11

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Much like wow cheap gold Facebook and MySpace have rocketed in popularity through their focus on community and collaboration, a new generation of console games is offering more opportunities to create social modes of interaction. Unlike the solitary experience of playing a game by yourself or the high stress environment of playing competitively with other players online, co op offers an easier way to get into video gaming because you're among friends.

"Competition is fun, but it's just as fun to do teamwork," said , founder of Co Optimus, a Web site devoted to cooperative gaming. "Co op is more of a positive thing than going around and killing the other team. It's built around a story or an objective that you can accomplish together."

Video gaming has had elements of co op play for years. Two decades ago, arcade rats were playing Double Dragon and Contra side by side. With earlier consoles, gamers played on split screens on their televisions. More recently, hardcore PC gamers have banded together in online games like World of Warcraft to create epic battles and embark on various missions.

But in the past couple of years, there has been a co op renaissance as developers started building the feature into their games, this time with online play so friends can team up remotely. Gears of War, Rainbow Six: Las Vegas and NHL 08 have utilized co op to good effect. Upcoming titles like Resistance 2, Fable 2 and Haze are all building in more dynamic co op features that allow up to eight players to work together.

One of the best known titles in this new crop of co op games is Rock Band, a four player music game in which people play as members of the band. , vice president of product development at , the developer of Rock Band, said the style of the game and its cooperative play have helped the company not only sell 1.5 million copies in the past few months but also reach out to a broader audience.

"There is a whole vast audience, specifically women, for whom competition is not their main desire for entertainment," LoPiccolo said. "Rock Band has been a good fit for them. From the outset, we hoped we would pull in a new set of customers who don't think of themselves as gamers."

Building co op features into games isn't as simple as just adding a character. In Army of Two, the developers went to great lengths to ensure that both players can roam separately but also work well in concert. That can be harder in story based games, where one player's progress will set off events in the game. In Army of Two, designers had to be mindful of tracking two players, ensuring their independent movements still work within a linear story line.

The game also forces players to revive each other, work in tandem to move around, and cover each other during firefights. When done well, the game can be rewarding for friends who are playing only recreationally, said , senior producer for Army of Two at Electronic Arts.

"It's almost like watching a football game with a buddy as opposed to trying to compete with other," Schneider said. "It's a different experience with different expectations. This is more about the core enjoyment of playing together."

In Rock Band, designers allowed players of different skill levels to play with each other. But if one player falls behind and is on the verge of ending the band's collective round, a star player can save a bandmate through the use of stored "overdrive power."

"That can be really rewarding, if you're struggling and then you have a bandmate rescue you," LoPiccolo said.

Ted Price, president of Insomniac Games, which is releasing Resistance 2 this fall, said co op can bring new gamers further into the gaming world. He said games like Resistance 2, which will feature eight person co op play, can prepare people for more intense multiplayer battles online.

"We think co op can serve as a bridge between single player and multiplayer," Price said. "It's not about getting your butt kicked in multiplayer (games). We're introducing multiplayer concepts in a more safe way."

, president of the label, said he believes co op can draw players into games they might have thought were too daunting, such as shooters or sports games like NHL 08 or FIFA 08. By teaming with stronger players, new players can not only have fun but gain confidence, he said.

He said the co op play was one of the nice features of Gears of War, a title published by Microsoft when he was vice president of Microsoft's gaming business.

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