Why I Love is a series of guest editorials on GamesIndustry.biz intended to showcase the ways in which game developers appreciate each other's work. This installment was contributed by Phil Duncan, co-founder of Ghost Town Games, creator of the BAFTA-winning cooperative multiplayer game Overcooked.
I've always been drawn towards cooperative games. When my dad bought me and my brothers a Mega Drive back in the early '90s I remember the frustration whenever I'd have to compete with my older siblings. I was always much more drawn to games we got to play together: Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, ToeJam & Earl... Hell, I'd even tag in as Tails in Sonic 2 if it meant I didn't have to get my butt whupped in Street Fighter again.
There's something about that shared experience of tackling a game together that really stuck with me, and it's something I've enjoyed in games ever since. When I used to work at Frontier Developments, my friends and I would meet at lunch times to play whatever local multiplayer games we could get our hands on but were similarly drawn to games we could team up to play, games where we worked together towards a common goal.
Storage Inc. was a strange little find, a downloadable indie game on the Xbox 360 created by solo developer Stolpskott Studios, which saw players take control of forklift trucks in order to ferry boxes of unknown content around a series of differently laid out warehouses. As new boxes arrived you need to organise them in the warehouse while simultaneously looking to ship out the older boxes, all while trying not to block each other in or get in each other's way. It was a deceptively simple premise, one which really sparked something in our group and which influenced Overcooked in a number of different ways.
The physicality of the game was one of the things that really stood out. This was a game where the dimensions of your avatar really mattered, where you could influence the outcome of the game simply by being positioned in the wrong place. You had to be aware of your surroundings constantly so all players could access the boxes they needed. You were forever having to back out of corridors to allow an incoming player to pass or participate in that awkward left/right shuffle as you try to negotiate your way past another player. There was a real sense of being in the space and it led to a lot of hilarity and frustration in equal measure--a lot more of the latter if playing with the wrong kind of troll. :-)
The other thing it revealed was a need for good communication, this was a co-operative game where you couldn't simply carry out your own agenda in silence, you'd quickly find yourself heading to a box only to have it snaffled away by your teammate. A lot of the joy came in trying to quickly articulate your intentions as you careened around the stage in your tiny forklift desperately trying to ferry your box to the delivery zone. What I remember really being drawn to was how much the game changed depending on who you were playing with; the best teams were always those who could communicate well and wouldn't fly off the handle. The real game seemed to be much more in the interaction between the players than what was necessarily happening on screen.
Finally, I liked the fact the game didn't have an enemy as such, just a benevolent hatch delivering differently labelled boxes one after the other, your common goal to survive as long as you could against the waves of deliveries as the warehouse gradually filled up with more and more obstacles for you and your teammates to negotiate. In Storage Inc., you don't succeed or fail as an individual, you do it as a team. It's not a game where one person can be so good at it they can carry the others. Your success depends on the strength of each member working together.
It's not the most aesthetically pleasing game, and there are some odd choices in the game's design which can at times leave it feeling more frustrating than fun, but what I love about Storage Inc. is that it works on principles I really admire in games and in life. You get to experience first hand the challenges, the frustrations, and ultimately the sense of satisfaction when you succeed as a team. It's the little moments: where you realise it's quicker to pass a box to a friend than trying to bully your way past to do it yourself, a sense that working as a team is not only easier than working alone but also more rewarding.
Overcooked was very much influenced by games like Storage Inc. Oli [De-Vine, the other half of Ghost Town Games] and I both love games which bring people together and encourage them to think or act in ways other games might not. It sounds cheesy but I wish more games would embrace the spirit of cooperation and communication in the same fashion, so that more gamers get to share in the same experiences I've enjoyed so much over the years.
Upcoming Why I Love columns:
- Tuesday, October 10 - Dizzy creators The Oliver Twins on the BBC Micro
- Tuesday, October 24 - Yooka-Laylee's Gavin Price on Super Mario Kart
- Tuesday, November 7 - Wasteland 3's Brian Fargo on Inside
- Tuesday, November 21 - Voyageur's Bruno Dias on Magic: The Gathering
Developers interested in contributing their own Why I Love column are encouraged to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.