Facts: I'm a dude in my twenties.
I work for MS on the Xbox, writing programs to test it.
I have a cat and two dogs.
I am programming a MUD from scratch and an SSL implementation, for fun in my spare time.
Conjecture: Nutella > Peanut Butter
Hard candy > chocolates
Sunny > rainy
Ruby > Python
Ancient Greek > Latin
Showers in the morning > those at night
over > under (re: toilet paper)
Subs > dubs
HTML+CSS > BBCode
Currently playi--who am I kidding? I'm just playing Dark Souls FTL Halo 4, at least ostensibly
Dark Cloud 2
Favorites: Dark Souls La-Mulana Geometry Wars 2
Metroid Prime series
Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3
English Country Tune
If you listen to me on Twitter it's no secret that I play a lot of Dark Souls. A lot of the time I spent in the game was in co-op play, or, as we Sunbros like to say, JOLLY CO-OPERATION. I've played over 60 games of co-op at this point, and I find it one of the best ways to get souls and humanity in the game. Plus, it's super fun! Everyone knows what the goal is (usually), and it leads to a really nice joint effort.
But there's more to co-op in this game than just putting down your sign or touching someone else's, then swinging away. There are definitely ways to be a good host or guest, and I think it behooves us all to try to be enlightened about these things. With that in mind, I'm writing this as a kind of guide on how to be a good co-op partner. I hope it will lead to much jollier sessions in the future.
I won't talk about the actual mechanics of summoning, because it's already covered in great depth elsewhere, but more about strategy and etiquette. I'm covering most, but not all bosses, omitting ones that aren't too interesting for co-op or which I don't have much experience with.
You know what? We're gonna do "DOs and DON'Ts", because writing everything out will be way too long. How do I know? I already tried it, then had to DELETE DELETE DELETE.
DO keep an eye on your guests' health, since they can't use Estus to heal themselves. You can use Estus yourself to heal the entire party.
DON'T assume that guests can pick up items or talk with NPCs... 'cause they can't. They can interact with the environment by opening doors and such, though.
DON'T try to lead the host around. It's their world; be... like a faithful puppy! Likewise, DON'T run off without your guests. After all, you want their help as much as they want souls for helping you.
DO try to help the host if they seem lost or severely confused or they're gesturing wildly like they want you to tell them what to do, or they're hitting walls and spinning in circles.
DO donate any spare weapons, armor, shards, and so on that you don't need. This kind of random kindness really breeds goodwill. I was able to skip fighting Gwyndolin a second time because some kind soul randomly dropped me a Darkmoon Bow! I filled up on green titanite shards somehow, so I'd sprinkle them about for fun. People love it!
Now I will move on to specific things I can think of for each of the bosses.
Usual places for summon signs are right outside the promenade leading to the blacksmith and right outside the boss door, where Solaire's sign is.
DO distract the second gargoyle once it enters battle, if the host is busy with the first one.
DO try to cut off the first gargoyle's tail before dealing heavy damage to it. The host may want the item for an achievement.
Usually I see summon signs right outside the boss door. This is a fun fight, and usually lasts only about 30 seconds.
DO take out the dogs immediately or distract the Capra Demon.
DON'T get all in the way and trap the host in a corner or something. That's not helpful!
Summon signs are usually around the closest bonfire and in the area near the boss door where Solaire's is.
DO try (again) to cut off the dragon's tail before dealing it heavy damage.
DO lead a confused host up to the Channeler's area to kill it so that it doesn't spew junk on you during the boss fight. Also try to take him around to kill Kirk while you're at it.
Usually summon signs are either around the closest bonfire in Blighttown or right outside the boss door, where Mildred spawns.
DO help the host kill Mildred, even though she's not very hard. It shows you're paying attention and willing to be helpful.
DO kill mosquitos if they are pestering the host. You never know what the host might be doing! writing messages, changing their clothes, eating a hotdog...
DO charge ahead using the safe line to Quelaag's Domain once the party starts moving, and in particular DON'T alert the boulder barbarians.
DO cure your own poison once you're on the shore, unless you have a dumptruck full of vitality.
DO watch the guests' health during the fight, especially if Quelaag does her abdomen bomb move; that thing has a pretty big radius and does a nice chunk of damage.
By the way, if you haven't noticed the tell for that attack, the sexy woman portion of Quelaag lies down on her stomach like she is fainting from suddenly realizing that oh my god, my legs are actually a SPIDER. A few seconds later, the abdomen blows!
This is really the first interesting boss from a co-op perspective. Big One and Small One are significantly easier in co-op than solo due to the simple fact that one person can distract one while you kill the other.
There are three common places for summon signs: the bonfire room inside the castle, right outside the boss door, and on the ledge in the cathedral hall where Knight Solaire's sign is. Let's talk about when you get summoned in the bonfire room.
DO actively help with taking out the knights on the way to the boss. Also follow the host's lead: if they're fighting the Royal Sentinels, you should help too.
DON'T be caught unaware in case the host summons you into a mob of enemies right outside the boss room. Have your correct boss-fighting gear equipped!
DO tell your guests in an Xbox message your preference of which boss (Fat Boy or Slim) should die first, if you care. Likewise...
DO try to figure out which one the host wants killed first, if he hasn't told you. You can try to be smart about this. While distracting Freddie Mac, watch out of the corner of your eye to see if the host is attacking Fannie Mae with gusto, which tells you that he wants to kill his first. Or is the host keeping Jim Sterling in a holding pattern? Then he might be hoping you'll kill Max Scoville first. Use that human intuition and do the right thing. That's what an excellent co-op partner should do!
DO heal your guests if they get caught in that lightning butt stomp. That thing is devastating!
DO (if you're the host) send a message to your guests telling them that you need the tail, otherwise the trick may fail.
DO (if you're the guest) attack only the tail, repeatedly many times.
DO (as the host) attack Priscilla only when you feel her tail has taken "enough" damage.
DON'T play this one co-op at all if Priscilla is already antagonistic towards you. It's not a hard fight and is made sort of personal in that the only reason you tend to fight her is to get her tail, which is not easy to coordinate in combat between two people.
Summon signs are near the bonfire closest to it, right outside the boss door, or--unintuitively--near the Hydra, since it is considered in the same zone as the Butterfly. The host may want to kill the Hydra, then proceed to the Butterfly.
DO kill the golems and keep them off the host's back.
DON'T stay far so away from the Hydra that it goes into spitter mode.
DO use ranged magic on the Butterfly if you can. Even fireballs work.
Summon signs are either right outside the boss door or near the entrance of New Londo Ruins. Guests who join near at the beginning of the area should be prepared to sprint the entire way; follow the host's lead. Guests who join near the boss door may spawn into several enemies who were chasing the host.
DO quaff an Estus before falling into the Abyss, in case your partners were damaged in the sprint to the boss room.
This is a very difficult fight for multiple people, since it's likely that more than one King will be present at once and might start attacking players who aren't directly engaged with one. Still, I think the best tactic is for the host to stay a little disengaged and keep the guests healed. They do large amounts of damage very frequently and can easily kill a guest, who doesn't have control of his Estus.
By the way, it's actually very doable to wear light armor and dodge a lot. I didn't even consider it myself until I saw it done. Then I tried it myself and had good success!
Seath the Scaleless
Seath, oh Seath, what a boss you are. Due to a lot of high level play in this area, I played the heck out of this boss in co-op. I had probably a 90% success rate in cutting the tail for the host, too. There are a lot of things to keep in mind for this one.
There are three usual summon locations: the bonfire in the archives closest to him; just outside the door overlooking the golem field; and near the boss door, probably before the clams. Obviously, the first is the most involved.
DO help the host unlock the shortcut if it's not open yet, in particular killing archers and Channelers to keep him safe.
DO help the host kill the giant golden golem containing Sieglinde if it's there. Furthermore, DO follow up by killing all the golems.
DO follow the host on the invisible walkways in the caves, but do take the lead if the host seems uncertain or lost. If you manage to lead the host off of an edge somehow, give them 1 humanity next time they summon you. Oops!
DON'T bother killing unnecesssary golems or the butterflies in the caves. They are optional and hazardous, and the host can do them on their own time.
DO fight the clams so that your guests aren't struggling to run through them after you. It also gives the guests a chance to change into curse resist gear for the boss.
DON'T aggro more than one clam. They hit like a truck and can be dangerous in a group.
DO equip the Covetous Gold Serpent Ring while fighting the clams, which may help the host get some of the good loot drops. This is the kind of thoughtfulness that sets great co-op partners apart.
DO send a message to your guests if you need Seath's tail cut. If you already have the sword, you could take it out and waggle it around to indicate you don't need it.
DO (on the first boss attempt) gesture for your guests to move to the far end of the room right by the crystal before triggering the boss. This puts them in a safe place when the boss lands. Likewise...
DON'T follow close on the host's heels as he goes into the boss room for the first time. When Seath spawns he will be pretty much on top of you, will swing his tail wildly until you're dead, then probably smirk a little. This happens all the time. Instead, DO wait outside and go into the fog door several seconds after the fight starts.
DO then wait for Seath to cross the room and destroy the crystal, himself. This leaves plenty of room behind him to work on the tail.
DO take the lead on cutting the tail if possible, being careful to stay out of range of the tail lash attack. Be careful and conservative!
DON'T do lots of damage to Seath's body until the tail has been cut! Why do I even have to say this!? Since you may be on the opposite side of Seath when the tail is cut, look for him hollering in anguish mid-fight; that's the tell that the tail is gone.
DO wail on Seath with extreme prejudice once the tail has been cut. Staying on the front side of his body can help avoid the tail lash attack.
Summon signs for Nito are usually at one of the two bonfires, so there is a treacherous walk to get to Nito.
DO help as much as you can with the skeleton beasts on the way. They can be very tough.
DO run ahead a bit and take out the skeleton archer when you get to that part, while the host fights the beasts.
DON'T forget the one giant skeleton just past the skeleton beast. If you forget him, he will jump on your head when you go lower, without fail.
DON'T aggro the 2-3 skeleton beasts grouped together. If you hug the right-side wall you can simply walk right by them without a fight.
I hope these suggestions help you be a more excellent buddy in this dark, dark world that goes out of its way to make you feel isolated. Even in NG+ I was able to get at least 10 more rounds of co-op, so keep your eye out for that. It's very helpful and especially fun to play with a bunch of super high powered players. Sun praising time!