Whenever I get an idea for a new game, it’s usually wild, outlandish, not feasible, over my head, and then I don’t make it. There’s always something that stops me, whether it’s too done-before, it’s something not many people would be excited about, it’s something I wouldn’t be excited about, or it’s just too single player.
Wait, too single player? Is that really a problem? Aren’t some of the most compelling and celebrated games of all time single player?
Well yeah. But things are changing too fast. Technology is letting too many people in on the same world, and it would just be a shame to exclude others from being able to enjoy the same fun together. So instead of designing a single player game, I’ve gotten really excited about a multiplayer game. Not for 2 players, or 8 or 64, but infinite players, theoretically. The game is called Choice Chamber.
Choice Chamber is a side-scrolling action game that allows one player to control the main character, guiding him/her through a barrage of enemies, environmental hazards, and likely other dangers. The rest of the infinite players are watching this game be played live, while constantly giving feedback to help shape the outcome of the game in real time. This is all done through twitch.tv. Other than a player needing the game to play, the rest of the players watching don’t need any additional software or login outside of being able to chat in a regular twitch chat room.
The game is still in very early stages, but this is the general flow of things: A poll appears on the side of the game, asking the chatroom to vote for their top pick. After the poll closes, the winning entry is awarded to the player (for better or worse), creating a new poll to vote upon. Voting topics include what type of enemies to spawn, how dangerous rooms become, and even what major weapon the main character wields (the game doesn’t even begin until this has been decided). This goes on forever until greeted by a game over.
In the past there have been similar interaction games dealing with live streams, but none* of them allow the chatroom to directly influence decisions in the game being played. One such game is SaltyBet, a gambling game where the chat bets on which computer-controlled fighter will win in a match. Another is Spelunky Death Roulette, where players bet on how they think a Spelunky player will die in a given run. They’re very cool and certainly give players a way to feel more connected to the games, but again, they’re not changing any outcomes. And on top of that, they require the gambler to go to a specific website and have a separate login (for saving winnings over time). The convenient things about Choice Chamber are that you not only affect the fate of the game, but you also do so through the regular chatroom on the official website. It’s simple, and it works. For a while I thought this was a unique idea – that no one really thought about allowing people to control a game from the chat – at least, not until this morning.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a twitch channel called TwitchPlaysPokemon appears, allowing the chatroom to type out button commands, which are then inputted into a game of Pokemon. It’s becoming wildly popular, with 10,000 concurrent players and growing as of this writing, despite appearing no less than two days ago. It’s a beautiful trainwreck of subtle progress and chaotic choices. Because of the ~20s delay between chat input and stream output, it’s tough even for a small group of viewers to successfully navigate a game’s world, let alone thousands of players, many of whom have no intention of providing useful inputs. Needless to say, being able to interact with a game on a massive scale is a wild and untamed territory of possibility, a realm in which I look forward to taking part.
I’ve done a few Choice Chamber streams on my twitch channel, but there’s a good chance it may be appearing on other channels soon enough. As the game expands, you’ll be finding more and more ways to play, in multiple senses of the word. I do announce on Twitter when a new Choice Chamber sesh will be going down, so keep an eye there for any news.