Post news RSS Gamercamp and IndieCade Debrief: Couch Multiplayer Games Unite!

The dust has finally settled from IndieCade and Gamercamp and we're back to work. So apparently people really like crowding around a television and playing in a group. Sometimes when you're developing a game you don't know what elements people are going to really cling to.

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Design Note: Sometimes when you're developing a game, you don't know what elements people are going to really cling to. Design FOR these elements.

While we were showing Runbow at IndieCade, someone quipped that couch multiplayer, the recent upswing of games that use two-to-four players on the same screen (you know, like every game used to) was on its way out. The trend had seen a resurgence, and now we're somehow already on to the next thing. As though we could already be living in a post-couch-multiplayer society. I barely scratched the surface of dubstep and now it's gone too...

Well, according to our recent journey to LA and our subsequent show at Gamercamp, not only is the trend not going away, it is louder and crazier than ever. For us, having the only 9-player game at IndieCade helped us have a crazed crowd of people cursing us (mostly Tom, our Game Director) for causing them to lose run after run to perfect strangers. Also, most comments on our trailer range from people scratching their heads at how this is possible to how much they'd like to rope 8 friends into an all-night Runbow session.

Sometimes when you're developing a game, you don't know what elements people are going to really cling to. We're lucky to get a chance to try something that few people have tried before on the Wii U, but we weren't the only ones screaming at crowds of people to dominate each other.

One of our favourite games from IndieCade was Sportsball from fellow Nindies TooDX. The game is rather succinctly summarized on their website as "Soccer + Jousting + Flying Birds." We watched them whip people into a frenzy in tournaments alongside us at IndieCade's night games, goading people into juggling balls with a cadre of brilliantly balanced birds. With 4 teams, each with their own 4 unique birds with their own strengths and weaknesses, the game is a masterclass in character balancing for multiple players. Sportsball has just passed Nintendo's certification process and we're looking forward to picking up a copy to start streaming and screaming in the office.

Another great find for a local and asymmetrical multiplayer experience was Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, an asymmetrical puzzle / party game where one player wearing an Oculus Rift must defuse a bomb while someone verbally talks them through the bomb's instruction manual. It makes you realize just how much we rely on eye contact and visual information when we play, as we watched people try to describe symbols by making panicky finger drawings in the air.

The examples continued at Gamercamp with Shoot Shoot Mega Pack from Jon Remedios Games having crowds of people giggle through rapid iteration cycles of 4-player shooting and dodging. The game is elegantly simple, and features a lot of variation on a basic last-man-standing version of multiplayer Asteroids. One game mode (Fade) has players fading out of view until they shoot, another one (Sync) makes all players thrust if one player thrusts... SSMP has a lot of replay value for such an easy game to pick up and play.

There were tons more... Clusterpuck 99, Toto Temple, and the incredible Chariot to name a few. We're going to be devoting the next little while to looking at what makes a really fun multiplayer game, especially as we try to build one ourselves. The key point where all these games really succeed is not just throwing as many players into the action as possible, but designing with those players in mind. In the coming weeks we'll talk a bit about what it's like to build a game for 9 players and still have it be playable, understandable, and most importantly, fun.

Always Taunt,

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