For many, some of the most memorable moments in gaming come from experiencing it with friends and family. Whether that meant in the same-room or same-server it stood out because of having shared it with someone special. Capturing that idea seems to be the main focus of Lyle Cox, Owner of Mount Olympus Games studio, with his game Together: Amna and Saif.
Player’s take on the roles Amna or her son Saif as they journey through an impressionistic styled world searching for their lost daughter/sister. What is truly unique about the game is that it was built around the concept of interdependence, and as such offers no solutions to the puzzles that don’t rely on communication and teamwork with your player 2.
“After months of trying to come up with a single player solution, I couldn't find anything that wouldn't compromise the core experience. So I decided to omit single player entirely,” declared Cox. We sat down with Cox to ask him a few questions about this take on same-room gaming, and why he wanted to create a game that forces his players to find a partner.
Jesse Tannous: In this day of online gaming what do you feel like is to be gained by encouraging more same-room gaming experiences like Together?
Lyle Cox: Fist I want to say there is nothing wrong with online gaming and I don't want to take anything away from it. I'm glad it exists.
There are things that can only happen when you are sitting next to each other. High fives, communicating with hand gestures and pointing at the screen, seeing the smile or expressions of shock and awe on each other’s face are some of them. Then there are a set of things that are made better by being in the same room over online play like verbal communication, flirting, and jokes. For competitive games you also have trash talking and showboating at a higher level.
Any of those things can create a moment. An experience that leaves an impression. What I think are often the most enjoyable parts of playing games with other people, and those moments happen more frequently when you play in the same room.
JT: Why did you decide on a mother/son relationship between the playable characters as opposed to friends, siblings, or even strangers working together?
LC: When designing the game I originally was thinking of having multiple sets of playable characters each with different missions. They included siblings, a romantic couple and some others, but they were cut. I kept the mother and son because I liked them best. It wasn't really a deliberated point but if there was only going to be one set of characters It made sense to have a male and a female. I chose a mother and son because it is an interdependent relationship which ties into the core themes of the game.
I also think mothers and women in general can be portrayed better than they are in media and I can do something about it with Together.
JT: What has been one of the most surprising observations you've made while watching people play-test your game?
LC: How wrong assumptions can be, and why it is so important to play-test. There are some puzzles I designed to be solved a certain way and then two people sit down and solve it completely opposite of the way I intended. Those times are fun and in some cases I modify the level to better accommodate the new solution. Other times I think a solution is obvious or a level is easy and then multiple pairs of people get stuck on it. So I modify or move those levels.