Online only gaming is still a strange zone for the industry. The idea of having gameplay restricted to those with an internet connection is almost exclusively the domain of web-based products and MMORPGs, and for a good reason; even the Xbox 360 community has a significant portion of users who do not use Live at all. When it was announced that Microsoft was publishing an online only experience in the form of a game show on their service, something that would be exclusive to Live Gold members only and would be scheduled rather than fully accessible by the users, it sounded a bit strange. It is certainly an odd cross-section of a user base, but with their online community topping the millions it has potential to take off.
I have already waxed fanatic about 1 vs. 100 on Xbox Live after spending quite a few evenings with the Extended Play. I made a few assumptions about how the real live show would work based on that, and certainly a lot of those assumptions were right. The game is fundamentally the same as the television program, where you answer multiple choice questions and gather money based on how many opponents are knocked out on the same question. If you manage to outlast all 100 members of the mob, you win, otherwise whoever is left once you are eliminated split the spoils and go their merry way. This is sped up to avoid Google-syndrome, meaning you have 6 seconds to answer the question whether you are the One, the Mob or the Crowd, so games move much quicker than the 1 hour epic that is part of the game show.
In Extended Play all the players are essentially part of the Crowd, a group that does not appear to any other player except yourself. You answer the same questions, and are there to rack up points rather than to not be eliminated. Doing so builds up your sweepstakes entries that can potentially get you into the Mob or the One position when the live show comes around. It’s when you move to those spots that the game changes. As a member of the Mob, your avatar appears alongside the other 99 players and you are playing for keeps. One question wrong and you are out of the game. No lifelines, no skips, you just go. Anyone left standing if the One is eliminated takes a piece of their pie and an Xbox Live Arcade game (although these prizes are not awarded during the beta). It’s a lot of pressure, and can be a defeating venture if you make it to the Mob and the One disconnects, because you are instantly thrown back into the Crowd with your entry spoiled.
As the One, all the pressure is on you. A slew of multiple choice questions are coming your way, you have a few seconds to answer and one slip of the fingers and you are gone with no prize at all. The pay, however, can be rather big, with up to 10,000 Microsoft Points on the line for outlasting all the members of the Mob. Every 10 you eliminate increases the prize money you can win, and after each milestone you reach you are given the option to walk or keep playing. You are also given 3 lifelines; Trust the Mob, Trust the Crowd and Trust the Brain. Trust in this case meaning your answer is locked into the most popular answer of that person or group, and the Brain is the highest scoring member of the game so far. It’s never a guarantee for victory, as some tricky questions can knock out a significant portion of the players. Same issue here that a disconnect means you one shot at glory has been squandered.
The idea of having a live host, Chris Cashman, is also intriguing, as it gives a little more life to the whole idea of having a scheduled performance. This is something that is missing from the Extended Play portion and helps drive on the players to pay attention during small breaks and advertisements. The host feels significantly under-utilized, however, mostly due to the fact that you will often not hear the host speaking although he is actually On Air. Some users may hear some segments, and others may not, it’s a bug that definitely needs to be worked out to keep that consistency and not make you feel like the show has been abandoned. Special guests have also added a little spice to the affair, with community celebrities sitting in on the experience. They have even encouraged players to send mail to the show, give shout outs and leave their phone numbers, and a few members of the Mob and the One have been called during and at the end of the show for small interviews. That level of engagement is what really makes the whole experience come together, and while it would be great to have the One be able to talk live with the host, the management of censoring the players who will obviously start spouting off obscenities is not likely worth the effort.
With 12,000+ attendees for each game that I’ve been a part of, it has been a great show and good start to the 1 vs. 100 experiment. Although I have not personally made it into the Mob or as the One yet, I hold hope that my time is drawing near. The glaring issues of a silent host and losing your seat in the Mob after disconnects is something that seriously needs to be addressed, but otherwise it has been a very positive experience and a great reason to gather around the TV at 10 EST on a Friday (yes, sometimes that’s all you have to do on a Friday night) and just do your best to win some imaginary-imaginary money, since the beta is not providing any prizes, through trivia. Putting your Avatar in front of thousands and declaring that, yes, I do know which of the great lakes is the largest based on volume. Never has useless information combined with sitting in front of the TV wielded such rewarding results.