Casual Multiplayer Gaming

Until recently I wasn’t sure if casual multiplayer gaming was possible. In my experience, multiplayer gaming required a serious investment of time and energy. Even with the simple multiplayer flash games you have to choose a user name, set some options, read the instructions (I don’t want to look stupid in front of the other players), choose a room in the lobby and then ask to play with some one or more other people. At which point I often wonder, since I’ve not played the game before and so am probably rubbish at it, will they wish they’d said no when I asked to play with them?

But I spent most of yesterday afternoon playing Zwok, a multiplayer game that is so simple, and so much fun, I figure there may be something to learn from it. (And if I do learn from it I won’t have to write off yesterday afternoon as wasted time). So here’s a brief summary of my thoughts so far.

  • Joining the game is very simple – just click the guest button (here called “quick play”) and you’re in.
  • There is no lobby, no decisions to be made, no worrying what others think and if they’ll play with you – having clicked the guest button you are dropped straight into a game. It couldn’t be any simpler – click one button and start playing.
  • The game is played in two teams of three. As a player you’re not totally reliant on your team-mates (as I got better I won some games with little or no help from my team-mates) so it really doesn’t matter how bad you are when you start out.
  • The game play is very simple – throw stuff at the other team. We all understand that and have enough experience with gravity in the real world to figure out roughly where our chosen missile will land.
  • Games last between two and five minutes, so it’s perfect to slot a few games in at lunchtime.
  • Registered users get to design their own character, build a reputation and gain access to some additional styles of missiles, but the game-play and fun are not limited for unregistered users.

So, in a nutshell, make it as simple as possible to start playing. I know we apply that to single player casual games too but I’ve not seen it applied so effectively to a multiplayer game before. Add to that the standard “make it fun” and “make it short” and it sounds like a recipe for a successful casual multiplayer game.

Finally, one sour note in the game – who thought it would be a good idea to show the message “You have been kicked out of the game for poor performance” when your network connection is too slow or unreliable? I can’t be the only one to have thought the other players had decided I wasn’t good enough to play with them.

One thought on “Casual Multiplayer Gaming

  1. Just played that Zwok game, great fun and highly addictive. Hehe. Wasn’t sure it would still be about seeing this article is from 2007. Great find though, thanks :)

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