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I'm designing a game where players are able to form alliances with each other.

The game has two winning conditions: When all other players are eliminated, the remaining player wins; or if all the teams work together to solve the problem that was set them against each other in the first place, then they all win.

I'd like to encourage the single player victory, as it's more fun, but I don't want to flat-out remove the cooperative victory.

How would I go about discouraging players from attempting to cooperate with each other?

One idea I had was to make alliances a vector for mistrust - alliances might be able to steal items from each other, for example.

For some small amount of context: the game involves capturing territory and destroying territory belonging to other players. When a player runs out of territory they are eliminated.

Cheers for any suggestions!

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    \$\begingroup\$ A bit more information about the gameplay would be helpful. Are the players controlling armies, do the players have ai-controlled armies, are the players alone, is it in first person view, stragetic overhead view, is it RTS-like etc. Some suggestions will depend on these details. \$\endgroup\$ – Pharap Apr 23 '17 at 17:20
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So going purely based off the information you have provided to us so far I think you have a few options (and the ones I have are by no means all your options).

First I would like to point out this sounds a lot like the online game hexagor.io.
Capturing territory, and destroying opponents', with the option for alliances.

  • Based off of that game, a pretty simple thing alliances give you is that you cannot attack/steal territory from others. As you already mentioned, stealing would be a good way to discourage this because if you let your guard down, trusting another player, they could begin to steal your territory from a possibly vulnerable front.

  • A way to discourage alliances would be to implement some sort of basic economy in your game and have their be a cost to maintaining an alliance with other players.

  • Depending on the scope and depth of this game, potentially something like espionage could be incorporated and allow you to siphon secrets or other information from an 'ally' that you could trade to your real allies in other places.

  • Another way to encourage and discourage alliances would be to "remove" the cooperative victory. Make it so that although you can work together, and maybe become to final two or more players, there can be only one winner and force them to fight against each other. (Or if you want to simplify that, just have a score system and the best score in the alliance is given 1st place).

  • You also stated that your single player win condition is more fun and the cooperative one is fighting against some other condition (AI or environmental perhaps?). That being said, you should try to emphasize the factors of playing solo that are more enjoyable. I wouldn't exactly say make cooperative modes harder, because that may just remove any interest in it entirely.

  • Lastly a way that may only work depending on the mechanics of the core gameplay (as was stated, more would help us better provide examples), you could make some sort of negative multiplier per the number of allies you are maintaining relationships with. For example, the more allies you have, the less of a standing army you can maintain.

As I said in the beginning, this is not a complete list, but it's some ideas that I thought of or I drew from other games. Without some more information about what you are planning on building, it'll be harder for specific examples to be provided. As of right now, your game simply sounds like the web browser game hexagor.io as I listed in the start.

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I think all you need are two incentives:

1) A solo victory grants more of whatever is good in your game to the victor

2) Backstabbing a team-mate gives a bonus of some kind, while removing the benefits of having allied with that team mate. The bonus should slightly outweigh the benefits. The timing of this should be a factor e.g. it would be benificial to ally while there are a large amount of opponents, but once there are only a few players it makes sense to be the betrayer (because of point 1) + whatever other benefits you want to code in

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