OK, before we start, there is a chance that what follows might seem a little bit like sour grapes from a guy who hasn’t got any friends, and who is therefore projecting his ire onto what is – if he’s being honest – a fairly unimportant thing that means very little to anybody. And there’s a chance it might seem like that because – again, if I’m being honest – it probably is. But, like, whotevs….. My blog, innit!? Secondly, and related to the “unimportant” bit I guess, I’ve already gone on record as saying I’m sometimes a bit obsessed with Trophies and whatnot, and whilst rationally I know it’s all a load of meaningless bollocks anyway (in both ‘trophy inconsistency’, and “who even gives a fuck?” kind of ways), it is what it is. Also…. My blog, innit!?
Anyhoo….Trophies (or Gamerscore, or whatever the PC equivalent is) are a relatively new thing in Gaming, and as I said in that other piece, it’s something I personally didn’t give a shit about until even more recently. Back in my Xbox 360 days, I didn’t consistently have an Xbox Live sub, I had exactly zero other people on my friends list, so my Gamerscore was just a number that nobody would ever see, ever. My Xbox 360 backlog was also huge given the console’s lifespan – and the number of buy 47 for £20 offers that were a result of that lifespan – so I tended to not bother 100 percenting games purely because I had plenty more to keep me amused instead. I’d play the main campaign, hoover up collectibles because of my Gaming OCD, but there wasn’t a single game that I’d gotten every achievement for. Not one. When I got my PS4 though, a combination of the slow, early trickle of games, having PS Plus, and having a bit more time on my hands meant that I actually tried for one Platinum (Shadow of Mordor, if you’re interested) and I found that whole Platinum Trophy Popping thing all rather moreish, actually.
Since then, the number of Platinum Trophies I have gotten has gone up; a bit, but not loads. Mostly that’s because I’m shite – which is fair enough – but it’s also because, regardless of how good I might be, there are often Trophies that are still somewhere between ‘a proper pain in the ass’ and ‘damn near impossible’ for me to get. And that, I think, is bollocks. Because you’ve read my title, you’ll probably already have figured out that most of these are Co-op trophies. Online trophies are often the fucking worst anyways (not least because they’re effectively hidden behind an additional paywall), but when they’re only of the play this type of match/reach level x/win y games variety, I still might take a crack anyways. What’ll get me massively frustrated though – and have me swearing like a motherfucking sailor – is when they’re fucking Co-op ones, and for a whole shitload of reasons I’ma bore you with presently.
To start with, you really need actual friends to play Co-op (I’ll come to the problems with randoms in a bit), and for those of us who weren’t blessed with, say, a likable personality, anything in the way of social skills or who’re just not generally great at interacting with other humans, that’s already something of a hurdle. Then, even if you’re not an anti-social fuckmuppet, you need actual friends who also Game; who also Game on the same platform as you; who also own the same Game; and who also play at the same times as you do. Already, that’s a lot of ducks to line up, and if even just one of those things is out, things become problematic. Obviously, none of your friends having the Game is pretty much Game Over, but even the relatively simple Gaming at the same time thing can rapidly become a ballache. As somebody who’s GMT-4 for nearly half the year, a big chunk of my (admittedly quite sparse) friends list are often tucked away in bed if I turn the PlayStation on in the evening, and even at weekends 4 hours makes it surprisingly difficult to line shit up properly. The whole anti-social fuckmuppet thing actually works in my favour here because I tend not to get invited places and whatnot – so my schedule’s relatively clear – but even so, I’m reliably informed that normal people do have a social life, so it’s still often an issue anyways.
Now, Developers would probably argue here that co-op/online Trophies are either a nudge towards discovering and/or enjoying a particular aspect of their game, or that they’re a legitimate measure of whether you’ve excelled at all aspects of that game. In terms of the former, that’s an argument that kind of works for Trophies in general, I guess, and I’ll admit that some Trophies have alerted me to different areas, or tactics, or Gameplay options within a particular title. An obvious example of this is when a Trophy requires you to pass a certain section without alerting anyone (or, conversely, without leaving anyone alive) and in certain games, this can provide a different kind of challenge, and make you appreciate options you may’ve initially overlooked.
In terms of the latter; also fair to a point. Certainly as an increasing number of games either contain an online component, or are even mostly online games, it’s not unreasonable to expect a player’s achievements in said Game to encompass that element. Again, whilst these Trophies are genuinely a measure of effort or skill, I’m reasonably ok with that. Reach x level, or win y matches seems as good a way of measuring and rewarding proficiency (or effort) in a game as any other, and whilst they will always rely a bit on luck (your team, your opponents, etc), as long as they’re not ridiculously unlikely (reach number one in the world rankings, say, or win 25 games in a row) they’re reasonably obtainable by even casual Gamers, and more importantly, they’re still accessible for the Single Player. Sure you’ll likely be part of a “team” – and if you do have friends, you can usually have a whole sub-team within it – but, crucially, any Single Player can join a lobby and play multiplayer whenever they want.
Co-op Trophies, I’d argue, are different, and often fall outside of both these justifications and conditions. On top of all the stuff I’ve mentioned previously, they’re slightly more than “hey, check out this aspect of our game” in nature. Sure, if a Game features a Co-op mode, that’s quite a cool option to have, and undoubtedly it’ll provide a unique perspective, but in many games – particularly mostly Single Player Games – playing Co-op fundamentally changes the whole experience. Moreover, by locking Trophies behind Co-op parameters, you’re forcing a player to play the game in a profoundly different way, and one which they may not like, or even that they may not be comfortable with. People play games for a myriad of different reasons, and Gamers span the spectrum of personality types, so it’s fairly logical to expect that at least some of these will fall into – for whatever reason – the solitary Gamer category. Maybe you spend all day interacting with people, and you enjoy, like, not interacting with them again in your downtime (especially if it means strapping on a ridiculously oversized set of headphones to do so); perhaps you just like exploring a Game at your own pace, enjoy the challenge of being a lone-wolf, or any other of the millionty-twelve reasons you’d legitimately want to keep your game your game. Not for nothing, there’s also the possibility that allowing other people into your game, if they’re not people you know, can end up being actually quite unpleasant because – if we’re being honest – some people are just dicks.
Which brings me on to randoms. Depending on the game, and the Trophy requirements, it’s possible that a “co-op” trophy requires only that you allow another person into your game for a short period of time, and that you don’t need to coordinate, communicate, or in anyway interact with the other person aside from achieving a fairly simple and short goal or objective together (or against each other). That’s not the worst thing in the world, admittedly, and if it’s quick, simple and a matter of just turning on an online option for five minutes, popping the trophy and then going back to offline mode straight away again, no harm, no foul.
Increasingly, though, Co-op Shenanigans are decidedly more convoluted, and if you don’t have friends – or at least friends with that particular game – you’re entirely at the mercy of Randoms. There are ways to find players who’re in the same boat as you, and places like PlayStation Trophies usually have a Co-op/boosting thread which is invaluable, but not necessarily entirely reliable. I’ve used this option a couple of times, but with varying degrees of success – and there have been plenty of times I’ve been shafted. This shafting most often manifests itself in the old… well, whatever the opposite of quid pro quo is, where, in a show of good faith, I’ll help a guy get the trophy for performing x, y, or z first, only for them to fuck the fuck off immediately afterwards, rather than, like, reciprocate the gesture. There was one particular Trophy in Far Cry 4 that took me several sessions to get, for example, either because people hightailed it out of my game as soon as I’d helped them or, because the Trophy was quite fiddly, after only a token attempt at helping me get it.
In fact, if the Trophy’s of a particularly involved or convoluted nature, the chances of getting it with randoms seems to decrease exponentially or – conversely – the chances of getting shafted increase exponentially. At the very least, you’re left relying on a shit-ton of luck, and/or what I like to call the Blanche DuBois position: relying on the kindness of strangers – and in my experience, that rarely works out well. If it’s also a game that’s not “new”, you’re often left relying on a limited pool of strangers from which to draw that kindness, and that’s all different kinds of unlikely.
Finally – to bring all of this into relief – I’ma present the example of Dying Light. If you read my piece about Dying Light’s Learning Curves, you’ll already know that I was, to be frank, getting absolutely hammered by the game at the outset – so much so in fact, that there was a period where I was very close to abondoning it. I didn’t, and not only am I enjoying it now, but I’m actually pretty much a Zombie shitstorm surviving boss. In that respect, obtaining the Platinum for Dying Light would represent, like, some shit. Even though Platinum Trophies are wildly inconsistent, largely meaningless to everyone else etc, etc, Dying Light’s Platinum would be symbolic to me; of sticking at a Game, getting to grips with its challenges, and eventually spending a lot of time and effort mastering almost every aspect of it. Indeed, as more Trophies started popping, I began to think about exactly this but, when I checked out the Trophy List, I found myself in swearing like a motherfucking sailor mode almost immediately. Not only were there co-op Trophies, but there was one little fucker named “polyamory” that had me downright fucking livid. The requirements for Polyamory are as follows:
“Complete 5 quests in a single co-op game with the same 3 partners”
I mean, what the actual fucking fuck, Techland!? Even if I had friends, the chances of having three of them who own Dying Light are pretty slim, and even if I had, and they did, asking them to re-install a two year old game just to help me get a single Trophy would definitely be in taking the piss territory, and even then, organising a session with everyone playing at the same time would be a proper fucking challenge – even without time differences and whatnot. So, that leaves me with Randoms – either pre-arranging via a boosting thread, or, erm, randomly allowing randoms into my game. In the former method, that’ll be even more of a ballache to arrange (see again; randoms + a two year old game + arranging playing times/sessions with three other players), and in the latter case, I strongly suspect that the chances of three players entering my Game and all of them sticking around for 5 missions is miniscule. Even if I could overcome my crippling fear of smalltalk and whatnot and communicate with them in-game, what are the chances of three other players I’ve never met all doing that shit? I mean, it is possible in theory, but then Time Travel’s also possible in theory, but I don’t expect to be riding around on a Brontosaurus anytime soon. Because theory and practice are two very different fucking things. Remember, this isn’t one other player for one mission, but the same three players for 5 missions. Over two years after the game was released. If just one of those players fucks off, at any point, for any reason, it’s literally back to square one.
What that means, for me, is that Dying Light’s Platinum Trophy is likely beyond my reach, even though I’ve put in many hours, and even though I’ve largely mastered all of the Game’s various challenges. And it’s beyond my reach, not because of a lack of skill, or effort, on my part, but because one single Trophy is stupidly, prohibitively ballache-y to get – either with friends or, because I don’t have any of them, with Randoms. Polyamory is, admittedly, a particularly bad example of a Co-op Trophy, but even so, Single Player Games should be Single. Player. Fucking. Games. If Devs want to include co-op options, fine – even great for people who like that sort of thing, I guess – but for the love of God, please stop locking Trophies or Achievements behind them. Polyamory isn’t a measure of skill, or effort, but rather of popularity, or luck, and it leaves you relying on a shit-ton of stuff that’s out of your control. One of Gaming’s biggest appeals has always been the freedom, choice, escapism and sense of empowerment it’s offered the player, and whilst online shenanigans have undoubtedly offered a new element to them, let’s stop forcing it on people who, actually, might not give a flying fuck about having other people inhabiting their fucking game.
TL; DR – Guys, enough with the Co-op Trophies, yeah!?