Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Minecraft seems to have jump-started an entirely new genre of cooperative and constructive play: the digging game. Super Motherload gives up to four players control over their very own Mars rover, but like if the Mars rover did nothing but dig and harvest resources… and fly… and you can upgrade it. It was clear from the outset that XGen's 2D co-op digging adventure had a lot more going on underneath the surface.
One of the developers relayed that he hopes the game receives certification from the Steam Greenlight program, and also aims to appear on the indie-friendly PlayStation family of hardware. At GDC, a PC version of the game allowed four conference-goers to use DualShock 3 controllers to play together. The D-pad allowed us to fly up, drive, and drill left, right, or down through the Martian bedrock.
Super Motherload transports players to an alternate Cold War history that sees the Soviet Union and America send mining teams to Mars for valuable resources that I assume will fuel the arms race. Of course, if I'm wrong, then Super Motherload is just a fun game you can play with friends to explore the crust of Mars, and that's okay too.
The Solarus Corporation employs and assigns you different resource requirements, and while you'll come to rely on the shop, fuel tanker, and repair bay, ultimately your exploration drives the story and action. Digging deeper and deeper without upgrading your fuel tank will devalue whatever resources you haul back to the surface because of the time you had to spend traveling back and forth. You can upgrade your drill bit, treads, propeller blade, armor, and more, but managing these systems grows more difficult with every added co-op partner.
Because everyone shares the same fuel tank, one player's eager digging can deplete everyone else's ability to harvest. If you want to maximize the money made for each dig, you need to communicate. The same can be said of densely packed mineral deposits. Bombs and TNT can breakdown these barriers, but placing them in the wrong spot will also destroy the valuable material.
Harvesting a bunch of platinum and hurriedly flying back to the surface is incredibly gratifying. Seeing your deposits tally up, upgrading a key component, and digging deep for more hooked me on a base level. It was a reassuring, relaxing rhythm. As new partners cycled in, I became the de facto foreman, barking orders and directing the excavation team back to the surface. Everyone there must have hated me; it's no wonder there was so much turnover on our Mars crew.
I left the GDC Play area and immediately voted for Super Motherload on Steam Greenlight. The developers hope they'll make it through the crowded indie showcase on the PC's most popular software platform, but it couldn't hurt if you headed over and let Valve know you dig XGen's latest.