Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Hybrid Multiplayer Mess

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 1 Mar 2011 16:00
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But that's nothing I haven't banged on about before. It seems the release of generic mediocrities like Mindjack always make me ramble disconnectedly about the state of gaming today 'cos there's not much else to do in the follow-up writings. So let's go back to rambling disconnectedly about hybrid gameplay. Specifically, Mindjack's attempt at it, where multiplayer-inclined types can join someone's single player session and control individual enemy soldiers.

You know, thinking about it with my massive brain, I wouldn't throw out a single player/multiplayer hybrid game sight unseen. Mumorpugers do this very thing to a certain degree. At any time someone levelling on their own can cross paths with a group of wandering co-op players of the opposing faction and be immediately pounded into the floor in the name of making some reputation counter on some emotionless server somewhere go up by a tiny increment.

OK, maybe that was a bad example. I do think there is something to be said for a game in which one player is the lone hero and another controls the monsters. Not in the way Mindjack did it, though. Hopping from soldier to soldier was just way too fiddly for any strategy to come into it and I don't think it holds up long enough to not get boring and repetitive in a full-length triple-A single player campaign. No, I'm thinking more in terms of a game where the evil player drops baddies or groups of baddies RTS-style, with short-ish twenty minute matches, like some version of Left 4 Dead where a human player takes the place of the AI Director. Not specifically that, though, because, as cruel as the AI Director can be, it's still programmed to give the human players a breather every now again, and a human director would have no such compassion.

Right, I've got an image of it now. We make it one-on-one survival horror. Each match the lone hero player is dropped into a randomly generated labyrinth. Perhaps there's a choice of d├ęcor - brick and flaming torch dungeon or abandoned flickery-light space station. The other player controls an assortment of hideous Lovecraftian monsters or carnivorous aliens. They have a certain amount of points that they spend on placing monsters in the labyrinth, which they also spend on transporting the existing monsters around and temporarily taking direct control of individual ones. The evil player only regains the points to spend on abilities when the hero player moves, so the hero knows that every step they take through the darkness empowers their foe. The hero has a projectile weapon, so the best way for the evil player to win is to take the hero by surprise. Thus creates an extremely tense game for the hero with natural calm-before-violence pacing created by the point-spending system. It'll be great. Go make it. All game ideas I give in these columns I give freely without expectation of credit or financial reimbursement. They're my gift to the world.

Of course, this definitely wouldn't work as a triple-A game, but just as a fun little downloadable indie thing. Which is just as well, because if it were triple-A the publisher wouldn't release it until we worked in some quick time events and got Nolan North to voice a wacky sidekick.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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