I'm making a game in which the goal is to reach as much entries as possible and I want the player to see that he is making progress somehow. However the game shouldn't be of competitive nature (it co-operative), so I feel that points might not be the right measure. I thought instead of a progress bar, so you work towards a goal of entries. However the problem with this is that there isn't a specific number of entries the user should aim for; The more, the better.

Is there a way of showing progress without assuming there is an end and without it getting competitive?


Give the players some recognized milestones.

Whenever they complete a certain number of objectives, make something happen to reward them. That something can be a new game mechanic, making more game content available, giving them more character customization options, a change to the game environment (which can just be a big "completed" over a whole section of your level select screen) or just a virtual trophy (like an achievement). None of these rewards really needs to be that big regarding the development effort you put into it. What matters here is that the game somehow acknowledges that the player fulfilled some arbitrary goal.

If you want the game to be cooperative in nature, you could make some of these rewards apply to all players equally.

Note that even if your game is designed to be "endless" in theory it won't be endless in practice. There will always be a point where the player had enough of your game mechanics and abandons your game. Ideally your final milestone should be as close as possible to that point for most players so that they have a feeling of completion. Where exactly is that point? That's something you really can only find out through lots of playtesting.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I really like this idea, the fact that there are milestones the entire way through. So the new reward always seems close. And I guess playtesting really is the only way to figure out how much this is, thank you so much! \$\endgroup\$ – JonSpr Jan 24 '17 at 14:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just to add. If you have some really big or exciting milestones (something that makes the player think "woah, what can I do now." And you place them right around the point that someone might be thinking they have seen all your game has to offer, you can reengage them. It is another question if that is treating the players in a ethical question, but it can be effective. \$\endgroup\$ – Richard Hansen Jan 25 '17 at 2:53

People will always find a way to compete. Either completion time, remaining HP/buildings, etc. It makes games for them more fun. You should be thinking about why is competition wrong? Competition can be detrimental, when one players' fun ruins the fun of others.

I am going to assume that the problem you want to solve is players who should be cooperating are instead competing for points. A simple solution: make the points shared, so cooperation will get them more points!

Specifically creating a system that both shows progress towards the same thing and is not comparable to the other persons is not possible. You can make it hard to compare their progress, but not impossible. A progress bar can still be compared to another progress bar.

However if you give players different objectives/side goals and a different way of showing progress, that could be a solution. This usually involves asymmetric gameplay. For example showing points to a healer based on his total healing or amount of revives, while the fighter would get a different number. There are other ways to do this too: make players focus on different aspects of gameplay, but its hard to go into details without knowing the type of game you are creating.

TL;DR: People will compete anyways. Give them different goals if you want their points to be incomparable.


If you like the visual aesthetic of the progress bar, you could have it fill up and then reset once full (perhaps with fireworks, or offering some other bonus)

If you prefer points, you could use points, but have it so both players share the same point total.

But as akaltar pointed out, people will find a way to compete. I know in one co-op game my friends and I were playing, we would race to see who could open each door first, even though the game did not care. God only knows what would have happened if the game actually kept track of that. Incomparable goals can help prevent that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Richard! I think I will look at this in combination with Phillipp his answer. I like the fact that there's always a new goal. \$\endgroup\$ – JonSpr Jan 24 '17 at 14:25

If there's progress determinable, you've got innate competition and cooperation.

How you motivate the players around that presentation of progress is going to determine if they focus on competing or cooperating.

So the presentation of progress itself isn't the problem, the context is.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Not necessarily, as they will move alone for the first part of the game and co-operate later. So the progress is really as a motivational aspect at first. \$\endgroup\$ – JonSpr Jan 24 '17 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ "How you motivate the players around that presentation of progress is going to determine if they focus on competing or cooperating." If one of those contexts is single player activity, the progress indicator is something they're competing with in the contexts of time, lives, multipliers and whatever else your single player version contains. As there's no chance for cooperation within single player, it's entirely about the context you provide... in other words, NECESSARILY... yes! \$\endgroup\$ – Confused Jan 24 '17 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm sorry, what do you mean with: 'Something they're competing with in the contexts of time, lives, multipliers'. Are you saying they will compete alone against the game? As in, by playing you're competing? \$\endgroup\$ – JonSpr Jan 24 '17 at 14:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ When challenged with a progress bar, there's a context within which that challenge exists. A challenge is a competition against those contextual challenges. If that's time, then yes, the player is competing with the system (that's the game) to gain the most possible completion in the time allocated. If it's a blend of challenges (death/lives, time, multipliers and bonus events) then they'll balance risks and reward to gain that completion against the competition with the systems (game) in their attempts to achieve progress. \$\endgroup\$ – Confused Jan 24 '17 at 14:50

People already provided some good answers, but I'd like to add my perspective to it.

1. Team Score:

I really don't see why people in a cooperative game should get individual scores. I'd suggest giving them a team score. You can add individual scores, as well, for "personal performance identification reasons". Just give it a less prominent position in the UI or scoreboard. You may also add some rewards for the maximum team score. Skins, or even achievements, will do. They will endorse cooperative play, and the better player will have more incentive to help the worse player.

2. Objectives:

As Akaltar already posted, give them different objectives. A cooperative game should be a-symmetrical in nature, or it's not worth cooperating with each other. If both players can do everything, one will steamroll ahead, while the other falls back.

3. Severely Punish Competition:

Just make it ridiculously hard to progress alone, and reward cooperative play in a difficulty sense. This is really genre dependent. Let's say it's an RPG. Give the "Tank" limited or no ways to heal, so they are dependant on the "Healer" or "DPS".

These ideas are, of course, very hard to get right. Going too far with them may be negatively perceived by the players. If one player is really good, and other really bad, it's just frustrating to the better player. You could help this a little by giving both players an individual difficulty setting. This way, people who really want to play together but are of different skill levels can still do so, and the high score hunters get rated off their lowest difficulty setting (or something of that like).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm sorry, I should have specified that for this part of the game, the player is seemingly alone. So a team score simply wouldn't do. But I'm definitely going with something objective oriented! Thanks for you answer :) \$\endgroup\$ – JonSpr Jan 24 '17 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow, this is dangerous. How are you dealing with the chance that one Player might be significantly faster than the Other? I only know two instances where I observed this. One is in Racing games, where the slower player often just has just a couple of Seconds to finish the race too. The second time was in Battleforge where one group of Players finished their Part of the Map first and had nothing to do for the Rest of the Game. This was very frustrating. \$\endgroup\$ – Gerier Jan 24 '17 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, it's a bit of an odd game mechanic, I didn't really explain all of it, since it will take a whole lot of paragraphs, but essentially the players first play individually, and 'take' their score to another game. Think about a conference setting where people walk about and come back. Or think about a raffle where you enter your numbers and come back later for the final game. \$\endgroup\$ – JonSpr Jan 24 '17 at 21:19

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