Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Still Alive

I haven't abandoned you lot, I swear. I spent all of last week glued to my TweetDeck and the E3 feeds, and as such have yet to recover from the eyestrain, the neck cricks, and the damage all that Pepsi Throwback has done to my kidneys.

Seriously, though, that is a LOT of information to digest, and there's still news trickling in that I've yet to read through. I can't believe E3 was only last week. I'm worn out, and I wasn't even there. I can only imagine what it will feel like when I drive out there for the event next year. Good grief. . .

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

1 vs. 100 Live Beta

The One must choose between the Money or the Mob during 1 vs. 100 Live Beta Monday night. (Credit: Video Game
Last night I participated in the (very early) beta for the new MMO 1 vs. 100 Live on Xbox Live. Yes, it is an online version of the television game show, and you're in for a shock: It's actually good.

I admit, I was skeptical that such a concept could work. I mean, a regularly-schedule online game show, with a live host, commercial sponsors, and real-time interaction from console players? I was almost certain it would fail mightily.

Mark this one on your calendars, kids: I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

If you are unfamiliar with the television game show (which has been canceled, apparently), the concept of 1 vs. 100 is quite simple. The One, an individual contestant, competes against The Mob, a group of one hundred contestants who all want the same thing: To outlast The One and take the prize for themselves. Everyone gets the chance to answer the same multiple choice questions, most of which pertain to current events and popular culture. If a member of The Mob answers a question incorrectly, they are eliminated, and the next round begins with whomever is left. This continues until the entire Mob has been eliminated, or the One chooses to take the money and run. If the One answers incorrectly, he or she gets nothing, and what money has been racked up gets split between the remaining Mob.

As with many game shows these days, there are "lifelines" that the One can utilize to help him or her out. This is where the video game begins to diverge from the television show. In the TV version, the One had the following options:
  1. Poll the Mob: The One picks one of the three possible answers for the question, and polls the Mob to see how many of them answered the same way. He or she can then to change their answer if desired.
  2. Ask the Mob: At random, two mob members are chosen, one having answered the question correctly, while the other did not. No one in-game knows which is which. Each takes a few moments to explain to The One why they chose their respecitve answer. Afterwards, the One must choose his or her answer.
  3. Trust the Mob: The One's answer will match the one chosen by the majority of the Mob. In the case of a tie, he or she must choose between the remaining two answers.
In the online game, though, the options differ slightly:
  1. Trust the Mob: This is the only Help option that stayed the same between the two versions.
  2. Trust the Crowd: This works just like "Trust the Mob," only a tally of the most popular answer amongst the Crowd (aka the audience) is taken instead.
  3. Trust the Brain: This one is completely unique. The One's answer will coincide with that of the current highest-scoring player, be them from the Mob or the Crowd.
What else makes this different from the television show is the inclusion of The Crowd, Xbox Live players who get to answer questions right along with everyone else. This is also the player pool from which the One and the Mob are chosen. If my sources are correct, your chances of being chosen from the Crowd for either role are dependent on the number of total questions you've answered, as well as your accuracy and speed. These statistics will be reset each week, which evens the playing field for new players and hardcore fans alike.

For a game that's in early beta, it played pretty well. I only had a few problems with it, though some of them can be attributed to my own idiocy. (More on those later.) The main problem I had was getting into the actual game, because the place was PACKED. It took 15 minutes of constant refreshing, but I eventually got in. You begin in a theater lobby, and watch stats and trivia scroll on a virtual Jumbotron while you wait to be "seated." Groups of four friends can play together, either locally (i.e. from the same living room) or online from your Xbox Live friends list. If you're by your lonesome, you'll just be grouped with three random XBL members. Each player is represented by their Avatar, and while you wait, you and your teammates can watch your virtual selves dance, jump, wave, or applaud, among other things. These movements are tied to the D-pad and the Y button, and while your choices in moves are limited and randomized, I thought this was a quirky little touch that made the game just ever so slightly more fun. Just like you wish you could do something during loading screens and end credits in other games, this little feature gives you something to do during commercial breaks and "stat checks."

You read that correctly: There are, indeed, commercial breaks. However, rather than your normal 2-4 minutes of annoying interruption, these breaks consist of 60 to 90 seconds of sponsorship touting or commentary from the live host. They also serve the function that normal commercials do, which is to give you the chance to quickly run to the restroom or grab a snack from your fridge. Some may find the frequency of these breaks to be irritating, but I welcomed them whole-heartedly, since the game episodes can last as long as two hours.

Since we're on the subject of time, let's get back to that matter of my own idiocy. I played for the entirety of Monday's episode, with the exception of the 15-minute waiting period I experienced. In the beginning, I was on FIRE, with a 96% accuracy rating and a speed of .9 to 1.4 seconds per question. As the night wore on, though, my stats started tanking due to eye strain and general fatigue. (Not surprising, given that I was playing from 10:45 pm to 12:30 am EST.) You see, each question has three possible answers, each of which is tied to one of the colored face buttons on your Xbox controller. As time went by, I found myself accidentally mashing the wrong button and getting the answer wrong, even though I had the correct answer in mind all along. I could have opted to leave the game for this reason, but after the trial of getting onto the server to begin with I just couldn't bring myself to drop out. That, and this game is quite addictive if you are a trivia junkie. As it happens, I am.

The other great thing about this game is that it is free to Xbox Live Gold members. Worry not, however, if you don't have a Gold membership. Anyone can play, as long as you or someone you know have an Xbox 360. . .but only Gold members can win prizes. From Microsoft points to fun little gadgets to free Xbox Live Arcade games, all members have a chance to win. For the beta period, though, everyone just gets multiple entries into a sweepstakes, though the top three players do win an Arcade game download. There will be a different set of prizes each week.

All in all, the game is fun, rewarding, challenging, and an absolute blast if you play with your friends. Each region will have it's own content team, and with the ability for players to provide their own questions and comments via email, the trivia is promised to never repeat. I recommend 1 vs. 100 Live for anyone over the age of 15, as sometimes the questions get into risky subject matter like drugs, violence, and the like. My husband and I plan on playing together during the next beta episode, which is this coming Saturday. (Check your Xbox Dashboard for local listings and details, though, as the times vary by region.)