Available for a limited time only.
It's a sad fact that even the best online multiplayer games peter out over time. Maintaining a healthy population of engaged players to keep them going is a monumental challenge that only becomes more difficult as games age. Eventually, entropy (or progress, depending on your perspective) claims us all.
Dutch development studio Vogelsap seems to get this, and is taking an unusual approach to multiplayer game design with their debut project, The Flock. A first-person horror game set in a ruined Earth, players assume the role of wretched creatures roaming the surface (known collectively as "The Flock"), drawn toward an artifact which will either transform or destroy them.
The game is, in essence, a scary version of the children's playground game, "Red Light, Green Light." Play begins with an item called the "Light Artifact" being dropped into the map and the goal of the Flock players is to collect this artifact, transforming them into the "Carrier." As the Carrier, they must then try to retain possession of the artifact and use its light to capture objectives on the map. The artifact can also be employed to destroy Flock players, who can only survive its light by remaining motionless.
Every player death in every game session will contribute to depleting a pool of lives which represent the total population of The Flock. Once that population reaches zero, Vogelsap will cease sales of the game entirely and only players who purchased The Flock prior to this point will be able to participate in its finale event, after which the game will be taken offline permanently.
It sounds like an curious experiment, both in terms of design and sales approach. More studios (such as Robot Loves Kitty with their supremely strange Upsilon Circuit) are starting to consider a multiplayer game as an event, rather than a product that limps on until the audience loses interest or a new iteration arrives, and it will be interesting to see what (if any) impact these ideas might have on multiplayer gaming in general as time goes on.
The Flock is currently expected to release on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux later this year, and a playable demo will be available at Gamescom next month. When it ends, it seems, will be up to the players to decide.