MultiPlayer...

2012-10-17 22:01:51 by Squize

So many people ask about a multiplayer version of Outpost that I thought I should write up some thoughts about it.

Firstly, we'd love to do it. It'd rock.

Why don't we just do it then, so many people want it and we want it ourselves ?

Firstly it'd mean a total rewrite of the engine. We use the Nape physics engine for so much in the game, not just the obvious stuff like the crates, but all the walls, baddies, bullets etc. It handles all the collisions, so nearly all the code base we've got would need to be thrown away and we'd have to start from scratch.
Ok, that's not the end of the world, reusing an engine from game to game is quite a luxury anyway.

Next up, and this is the big one, the cost. To do it right I think it would take 4/6 months. That's a long time in development and I'd have to do client work during that to pay the bills, delaying it even more.
Lets pretend that's not an issue, say I win the lottery and still want to make it instead of killing myself with drugs and hookers, we still have to pay for the servers for it to run on.

That means at least one server running in the US, one in Europe and possibly one to cover Asia. That's every month, and good servers don't come cheap, it's not like hosting a website.
That monthly cost means one thing, in-app purchases. If we went the usual sponsor route we'd get a one off lump sum payment ( Hurray ) but that would slowly be eaten away as we pay the server costs. We'd actually lose money every month.

Ok, so we're now looking at making it f2p to fund it. That means we want your lovely money, and lots of it please. What's that ? You've spent money on it and you expect to connect to the server first time, every time ? You expect your details to be secure ? You don't want other players cheating 'cause you've spent your hard earned money and what a turd it would be if you're losing to some one who hasn't invested a penny but instead is just cheating ?
That all means we have to use an authoritative server approach, basically all the game logic runs on the server, the client ( ie the swf of the game you've just loaded on NG ) just passes keyboard / mouse clicks to it. More expense, and a longer development time.
Also a lot of portals really live by the "Free" games boast they put on their layout, which means they don't want in-app purchases in games, which means the game won't spread as much as a normal Flash game would. Poo.

Where are we ? A lot of cost, a long development time and we don't earn a penny until its launched, and depending on how we handle the transactions it could be up to a month after launch before all the lovely cash comes in. Now there's no way on earth that a multiplayer game is going to come out bug free and without balancing issues. It's quite possible that during that month after launch when we're still waiting to earn a single penny from it we'll be working on it just as hard as ever. Working for free isn't the greatest motivator in the world.

What are the alternatives to get it done ? Ad revenue isn't really an option, whilst NG and Kong give devs a share, other sites don't, so we just get the pre-roll ad. The value of that fluctuates, before Christmas ad rev is fantastic, in January it's barely worth bothering with, and yet the server costs are still there.
Maybe we could pitch the idea to a large portal who can handle the server costs, and maybe we could get some money on launch, but it would still need micro transactions as the portal needs to pay for the servers plus claw back any money they may have paid us. We may get a percentage of those, but it really wouldn't be the lions share, and we'd still need to provide support and fresh content.

To finish off ( Finally ), yes we'd love to do it, but it's scary as fuck. It's a huge risk and we don't have the safety net of that lottery win to fall back on. If we can come up with a way to do it ( And not Kickstarter, I'd rather bank on the lottery ) then we will.


Comments

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EnjoiLoveEnjoiLove

2012-10-18 01:17:10

Very interesting read on your thoughts of multiplayer. To be honest, multiplayer on flash games even aren't worth the money to be spent on, it is after all just a flash game. Though this game would be great to buy on the go with phones and etc. One cool thing is if only people can maybe join your lan or just be near and you can really do that wingman idea. It'll only be available if anyone you know has it, but at least it'll offer some sort of multiplayer.

Squize responds:

See that's the prevailing attitude, that Flash games just aren't worth spending money on. And it's kinda right to some degree, the vast majority of them aren't.
The whole F2P thing is a minefield. Lets say for example we make enough doing it not just to pay the monthly server cost, but for two people working on a game full time for 6 months, we then start making a profit. But say after 3 months the traffic dies right down, what do we do then ? There would come a point when you'd have to close the game down because it's no longer profitable, what about all the players who have bought stuff ? You're basically fucking them in the eye.
Now more realistically, about 3 months after launch you're going to know where you're at in terms of income, and it's possibly paying for the servers, maybe a little bit more on top, do you say "I'm going to throw more content at the game, as the die hard fans really love it and it should increase the number of players" as that's another risk. Good quality content costs, we couldn't just give players hats to buy forever more. The alternatives are to either just let the game rot, or close down, neither of which is fair on the people who have bought things ( I know I should take the attitude of "No one is forcing anyone to buy anything" and "No game lasts forever", but when you're asking people for money it's not easy to be that complacent about it ).

Anyway, going back to your actual point :) We're busy on O2 right now, and after that we're going to review exactly where we're at. It may be Outpost:Multi-player, Outpost:Mobile or Outpost:3D, but right now I think it's going to be anything but another Outpost game. I really don't want us to be the "Outpost guys", I dislike devs who just keep churning out sequels to their own franchises, and I don't want us to slip into that because it's easy.
The only thing I'm really certain of is that O2 will be the last game we do which follows the sponsorship model, we need to find a way to break out of that.


Emkid64Emkid64

2012-10-19 16:50:52

Hey, i have to agree to EnjiLove. Making a game as an app for the iphone or other portable device does not seem that bad, it really doesn't have to be a multiplayer game if you feel troubled about it. I think that people would actually buy the game even for just one player, after all, most games for the iphone are single player games. Just in case that you dislike this idea and would prefer to make another game kind of like "Outpost", I suggest making one where the player can use two weapons simultaneously or add some other thing to it like abilities or at the least different monsters (if possible different skins?) but well, it's up to you.

Squize responds:

Hey mate.
Yeah doing a mobile version isn't that scary, it's a different world entirely to making a multiplayer version.
I would like to do a mobile version if we could really nail the controls, that's the key. I wouldn't want to shoe horn basically a twin stick shooter like Outpost onto a touch device if we couldn't do something which really played to its strengths.
At present we'd need "dual sticks", reload, weapon select, action and pause buttons. That would need stripping right down somehow as its just unacceptable to have that many buttons on screen.

So yep, mobile is something we're interested in ( I've been panting to port Outpost to my iPad since I got it ), but only if we can do it right.

PS. Dual wielding is a cool idea. We're going to have perks in Outpost 2, and there are already more baddie types coded and working in the current build.


Juice-TinJuice-Tin

2012-10-27 03:18:50

A lot of people have been asking for multiplayer versions of my games as well, and I have to say, you've illustrated the complexities of multiplayer perfectly. I'll be sure to link people here when needed, as your post beautifully demonstrates the risks involved when bringing Flash to online multiplayer. Great post, very well written. :)

Squize responds:

Thanks mate.
It's such a minefield, unfortunately.


HelgastsHelgasts

2012-12-07 08:32:11

*Cough* god i love the camping in outpost:Swarm, wait wrong place.
oh well i am here anyway, Multiplayer would rock thing up . but then the risk are there , I mean up there . Don't force yourself to make it multiplayer even if you won a lottery or something. my opinion you should just make O2 , Outpost:Mobile , or anything you might have come up with. rather than making multiplayer. i am already see the danger by looking at those scary needle of multiplayer problem. and let me not forget to switch to pistol , because this Sub-Machinegun is epic.
*Cough* now if you excuse me , i have some Outpost2 Waiting to do


blanchonblanchon

2012-12-14 10:15:07

well, maybe not an online multiplayer, but maybe starting with a local (LAN) cooperation mode would be quite good. :D

looking forward your other and flash to come in the future.


radicalace88radicalace88

2013-01-26 02:50:48

This is a single player game. I don't think turning into Alien Swarm: The Flash Game would be very good. I just recently decided to revisit the original and was pleasantly surprised to see a second one was in the works, looking forward to it!