Reading even a few game sites is guaranteed to expose you to a certain amount of PR jizz: with machines like Microsoft, EA, Activision and others, it is inevitable you will be exposed to their products through the usual gaming channels. So it was with 1 vs 100 for me. By way of Penny Arcade, I was subjected to a face full of “OMG this game is awesome” jizz. But it was free, so I figured I’d check it out.
For those of you who have been held hostage in a shed for 18 years and were only recently freed, 1v100 is a gameshow that originated in the Netherlands and was hosted by Bob Sagat in the US. 1v100 pits the “one” against the “mob” in a series of trivia questions. The goal is for the “one” to outlast the “mob.” If a member of the mob gets a question wrong, he or she is out. As more mob members fail out, the cumulative prize pool increases. At certain intervals the “one” can puss out and take accumulated prize dollars or continue to try to strike out the mob. If the mob wins, they split up the prize pool.
On Xbox Live, the game takes two forms. Most nights, it is simply a massive trivia game pitting people against each other in thirty minute sessions, with many nights themed. However, on Fridays and Saturdays, the game follows the gameshow format and features a live host, often with guests. The live game is, of course, what makes 1v100 incredibly entertaining and not just a silly group trivia exercise.
In the live show, the “one” and mobs are picked randomly from all of those playing. The gameplay itself is still automated – pre-recorded soundbites for the hostess of the show keep the game moving along. Spicing it up at logical intervals – between questions, during breaks, between rounds – the live host adds color commentary.
The game often features a guest host – the Penny Arcade guys were on one night, and the night I played it was hosted by geek goddess Felicia Day (who is cute, but let’s face it, if she wasn’t famous and a gamer she’d really be a 7 tops). Guest hosts contribute questions – Felicia Day’s questions were fairly obscure and music based, one of which brutally destroyed the one and the mob alike. The hosts will call players who submit their phone numbers, answer mailed in questions, and engage in other game show flavoring activities.
Best of all, 1v100 is free for all gold subscribers, funded by advertising, at least for now. This means there are periodic breaks for commercials and the whole thing is in a branded Sprint arena. To be honest, I love it. The advertising is tasteful and fits the theme of a game show. Anyone who grew up thinking the Price is Right is awesome (and if you didn’t, you’re a goddamn commie bastard who hates America) has the game show experience, sponsor and all, hardwired as a pleasure center. 1v100 does a nice job of pulling it all together in a clean way.
Actual gameplay is very well done. I am the doucehbag who looks up trivia answers on his cell phone at bar trivia nights, so my fear with 1v100 was that there would be enough time to look up answers. In short: there is not. You are presented with 3 options, and you get a speed bonus for a rapid answer, and you can’t change your answer. The speed bonus is a necessary evil, because unfortunately Golden Jew’s law of the Internet Masses can make the game slightly less fun.
This law states that internet gaming sucks the fun out of most games in a large enough pool. This is because by law of averages, with enough people, (about 1,000), you’ll hit the 0.1% who are inhuman gamers. Since 1v100 averages 10,000 to 100,000+, you’ll be up against many of these people. In 1v100 this demographic manifests itself as people with fiber optic connections, an inhuman knowledge of trivia and reflexes that would make a Navy Seal sniper jealous.
Even if you have a perfect answer score, you will never have the top crowd score; these freaks of nature will defeat you with their 1 millisecond response time. To numb this painful sting, you’re put up against three random contestants from the crowd on your screen (or your Xbox Live Party if you enjoy gloating to your friends) to motivate you into a mini-competition. Since most people outside of this 0.1% are goddamn morons who should have been aborted as fetuses, you’re statistically likely to enjoy beating the snot out of them enough to counterbalance your intense anger for the robot destroyers who are the top 10 on the leaderboard.
Prizing is handled as mentioned before: as the one strikes out mob members, the prize pool goes up. The one can wuss out every other question or so and take the winnings, and if the one loses, the mob splits up the winnings. Winnings come in the form of Microsoft points and also free Xbox Live arcade games, and the top crowd scorers are also given prizes. According to the Wikipedia article, apparently the UK version gave out free Fiats in the beta finale, so I won’t be surprised if big sponsored evenings are in the cards for the future for various vendors.
In short, 1v100 is a winner. The biggest questions will be if the game can develop an audience in prime time Friday/Saturday slots. My guess is yes. Although these are the days that TV shows are sent to die, they are the days that gamer geeks stay home gaming – prime territory for consumer capture. Microsoft has stated that whether or not the show stays free will depend on performance and advertising revenue, so it will be interesting to see if this game show model is sustainable on Xbox Live. If it is – and given the vastly reduced production costs (counterbalanced by the development costs of the engine), we may see the next generation of game shows in its genesis.
Does the future hold Price is Right on Xbox Live? You heard it here first.