Addictive and Quirky: Make a Multiplayer Game

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Brainstorming a new game concept can be tough. Before you’ve even began the designing and coding, you need to birth the idea, discover the story, imagine the characters.

With there being such a variety of styles of games out there, the challenge can be picking a style of game to focus on. However, have you tried to make a multiplayer game?

A particular type of game we can all agree on being one of the most hilarious is multiplayer games.

Either the ones we take turns playing at parties or the more serious co-operatives played between friends or couples; there are plenty of multiplayer games that we could name as being one of the most entertaining games ever.

I’m certain even by just saying that, a few games came to your mind. Maybe Mario Kart? Or Wii Sports? How about Call of Duty?

We’d never have moments like this if it wasn’t for multiplayer games:

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Players are constantly on the prowl looking for the most entertaining, wacky game to enjoy with friends.

It can be hard to know where or how to start developing your own co-op adventure or competitive argument solver.

That’s why today, we are going to explore:

  • Case Studies of games that come to mind for being addictive multiplayers.
  • Advice from developers who have made quirky games.
  • What makes a successful multiplayer game?

Make a Multiplayer Game.

Focusing on the starting stages of concocting a multiplayer game, we focus on the initial, brainstorming steps.

We have searched long and hard for gaming’s most recent yet entertaining multiplayer games. We discover what it is that made each of those games unmissable and continue to hear from the developers of those games. Enjoy!

Ultimate Chicken Horse

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While cooperation is certainly an option, that won’t win you the game.

The simple objective is to get your animal from A to B. Succeed and you are crowned the Ultimate Horse / Chicken / Sheep / Racoon (delete where appropriate).

As you start, you won’t be able to get to the goal, Fact. However, as you play each round, you are allowed to chose one item each to help you reach the end.

During the first few rounds, you can work together to build a path. But if you all manage to make it to the end then the game doesn’t award any points; no one wins.

This is where things get interesting. 

You can place traps and bombs to make reaching the end all that much harder. Choose from killer plants, slippery ice, cross bows and more to kill your opponents.

What Made Ultimate Chicken Horse Successful?

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We found this game to be an excellent stress release at the end of a busy day at the office; everyone on their own PC to battle to the death.

We were giggling ourselves silly until we had forgotten all the stresses that had followed us throughout our day.

So with the characters and objectives within the game being so wacky, Ultimate Chicken Horse acted as a fantastic distraction. No matter how scaring the day had been, this game still managed to make everyone laugh.

It also allowed everyone in the office to interact in a different way other than doing work. You can associate with those around you in a fun and memorable way through this multiplayer game.

One thing I particularly loved about this game was the art style.

The characters look like they’ve been taken out of some cute cartoon and have been animated brilliantly.

Advice from Clever Endeavor Games

How do you brainstorm creating such a unique game?

Speaking with Kyler, Chief Creative Officer, he gave a brilliant insight into how he deeply immersed himself with the game he was creating.

“When we are thinking up new things to put in the game, I always like to think from the perspective of the cartoony animals in the game.

Like if it’s a new block, I imagine which character would have decided to build it, and how they added it to their imaginary game.  This helps make the blocks feel a little more believable in the universe of the game.

After we have the idea, we test it a lot to see how it feels and what wackiness it can create.  We also fine tune all the physics values to make them result in the funny situations that you often see in the game.”

What is the thing that you believe makes a multiplayer game like Ultimate Chicken Horse successful (besides being multiplayer)?

“I think how “watchable” Ultimate Chicken Horse is, has gone a long ways to making it successful.

People who aren’t playing the game still feel very invested in the action, because every round is a new little drama taking place: Will the Chicken or the Horse succeed or fail. How will the new level design change the outcome?  How will this end in a hilarious disaster?”

The way the game engages people watching it as helped make the game spread to new players in person, via YouTube and via Twitch

 What tips would you give developers creating a fun, fast-paced multiplayer game? 

“Have a playable menu scene.”

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“Ultimate Chicken Horse level select system is a platforming level. 
 
This allows players to always be the character that they are, and to get a feel for the jumping and running before they are put in a life threatening action. 
 
It also makes the downtime between runs more engaging and enjoyable, control isn’t handed over to player 1, everybody gets to stay engaged and in character.”

Death Squared

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Death Squared is on the complete other side of the spectrum compared to Ultimate Chicken Horse.

Killing all the other players through a gruesome violent death is something you desperately want to avoid.

Through tactful, careful movements, you need to move your square onto its respective circle. Once everyone is on their circle, you can progress to the next level.

Simple? No.

Be warned, this game is impossible without working together. You won’t be able to move you square on your own – guaranteed.

Communicating with the other players, you have to move in certain ways in order to make sure no one else dies.

What Made Death Squared Successful?

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The simple controls in this game is what makes Death Squared so popular.

It isn’t testing your hand-eye coordination and your ability to use a controller. It is testing your cognitive skills and ability to work in a team.

It is awesome to be given the chance to play a truly puzzling game. Especially when everyone else’s moves affects yours; it gives you much MUCH more to think about.

Thanks to this, saying you aren’t a good gamer isn’t an excuse to not play.

Anyone that enjoys puzzles will love this and not having played games before won’t get in their way.

Advice from SMG Studio

The Sydney based developers gave their own insight into developing Multiplayer games and a useful bullet point list including a number of things you need to consider.

How do you brainstorm creating such a unique game?

“Be open to all sorts of ideas in and outside of gaming, movies, books, sports, theater etc. Test with people who aren’t gamers and prototype quick and fast. Your game should be fun with not artwork and just boxes. 
 
Death Squared and many of our other games were the product of “game jams” in which we rapidly prototype different game ideas in a short period of time 24-48hrs. Go in with no idea, give yourself extreme constraints and then see what comes out of it. 
  • What if you can only use 1 button?
  • What if your voice was the only control?”

What is the thing that you believe makes a multiplayer game like Death Squared successful (besides being multiplayer)?

“The ability for anyone to be able to play. Death Squared was made to be accessible to your grandparents to kids.”

To prove their point, they even supplied a brilliant picture of a local, Aussie gran playing the game on Nintendo Switch. Check out that Switch Stand!

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“We had a lot of people say “I don’t have people I can play with” and we tell them to play this with their non gamer friends as it will help convert them.
 
Also in Death Squared you work together as opposed to against someone. So this makes it a much more enjoyable and rewarding experience. As a good player can play with a “bad” player.”What tips would you give developers creating a fun, co-operative multiplayer game?
  • Make it pick up and play without needing instructions. You want to just shove a controller in someones hand and say “lets play”.
  • Allow the game to be fun / playable even with drunk.
  • It needs to work without sound too as you will have people just yelling / laughing at each other. You dont want them sitting their shushing each other.
  • It needs to be balanced but if it’s local co-op you can have some over powered exploits (if they are fun) and just let them players implement their own “house rules”.
  • Focus on simple & fun. Games can take themselves too seriously sometimes.
  • If you have any “adult themes” have a toggle for a G rated version so parents like me can play with younger kids.

Gang Beasts

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This game, once again, varies dramatically from both of our previous examples.

Neither does it require skill and patience to win this game nor does it require co-operation.

Instead, Gang Beasts is one of those good ol’ button mashers. Of course, there are controls there to help you win but you get so caught up in the moment that you end up pushing anything in the hopes that it does something.

Gang Beasts involves players picking a character who appears to possess no bones inside its body. They then proceed to fight their characters through fast paced punches until one is knocked out. Once unconscious, you need to kill your opponent in whatever way is available on the map to secure a win.

The game is so intense as you fight to death that you easily forget the controls and hope for the best.

What Made Gang Beasts Successful?

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Similar to Ultimate Chicken Horse, the sheer craziness in this game is enough to make you forget about any worries you had throughout the day.

What’s particularly unique about this game is the quirky controls used to direct the characters.

They can be so challenging at times that it feels like an accomplishment mastering the techniques and killer moves without have to win the game!

Of course, winning does feel good though.

With the colourful people being made of jelly, getting them to stand can be funny enough letting alone trying to kill the other players.

Advice from BoneLoaf

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James at BoneLoaf offered some inventive answers to our questions:

How do you brainstorm creating such a unique game?

He explained that the niche in the game, the cartoon combat, was birthed from previous game concepts:

Gang Beasts came from the suggestion to add a punch mechanic to a high fantasy game prototype we postponed making in late 2013.

We added a limited punch mechanic to test if the prototype could be modified to make a mêlée fighting game similar to Capcom’s Final Fight but prioritised work on local multiplayer game modes to help with stress testing and iterating the game and character physics and character systems by playing the game against each other.

What is the thing that you believe makes a multiplayer game like Gang Beasts successful (besides being multiplayer)?

“Fun. There are multiplayer games that are successful because of the balance of their fight mechanics or the immediacy of their gameplay.

We think Gang Beasts has been successful because it is a platform for casually inflicting silly cartoon violence on friends and enemies in absurd and hazardous contexts”

What tips would you give developers creating a fun, co-operative multiplayer game?

They explained that the variety of controls used within Gang Beasts can make multiplayer games more popular amongst players.

For party games, accessible control schemes and game modes are important to support inexpert players to play with other more informed players without victimisations and frustration.
“Gang Beasts has a complex control scheme but this is split into two tiers.
 
A basic control scheme for the default character movement set (moving, jumping, punching, head-butting, kicking, and grabbing).
 
And a secondary character movement set using multiple buttons pressed or held concurrently (lifting, climbing, sliding, leaping, drop kicking, and diving head-butting) to trigger more complex and aggressive moves to approximate the immediacy and accessibility of console party games and the scope of movement of classic arcade fighting games.
 
Complex moves are more forceful but are difficult to execute without exposing your character to assault.”

Key Tips Learnt for Making a Multiplayer Game

We have found that the most important thing you need to consider before starting to conjure up your game is whether you want to make or break relationships. Do you want a cooperative game or a competitive one? 

We have created this mind map to give you some influence as to which you’d rather create. Here are reasons for creating competitive games against reasons to create a cooperative one.

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The next question that needs to be asked is what ability do you want to test and compare between players?

Do you want to see how quickly and skillfully players can run across a difficult, deadly map like in Ultimate Chicken Horse? Or do you want to stretch their mental capacity in order to succeed like in Death Squared?

Finding new ways to test players abilities can make you game all more desirable.

Another question that should pop into your mind is who do you want to play your game?

This follows from what skills you want to test in your players. You’ll find that the more difficult the game is to control, the younger your audience will be.

With such simple controls, Death Squared found much older generations enjoy their game. However, the fast technical play in ultimate chicken horse would have a younger audience.

The final question to ask is what do you want players to achieve from playing the game? 

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You can either achieve a sense of accomplishment from working together or victory from defeating all the other players. Players could use the game to settle arguments and use it as the final decider.

Adding on this questions, you’ll need to decide the speed of the game.

Gang Beasts is a very fast game where you don’t have time to think. Therefore, people playing this game will achieve a different sense of accomplishment compared to those playing Ultimate Chicken Horse as those people have more time to win in the game.

Both are competitive games but both have different achievements available.

I hope this article has given you some food for thought and will inspire when you decide to make a multiplayer game.

 



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