Worthing & Moncrieff's first publication was a rogue-like puzzle game called “A Matter of Murder.” MoM is a game which doesn’t really lend itself to a multi-player experience — though some YouTube live streamers have made unexpected and excellent use of the suspect naming feature to populate their single-player streams with all the folks watching online. Melissa at Cocktails & Consoles does this particularly well.
So we were excited, when we started prototyping “Austen Translation,” to find we had an opportunity to create a robust multi-player mode with up to five humans in the mix. Not only was plotting and scheming against your friends in real time great fun, but it gave players the chance to do the same things their character were doing in the game — which fosters immersion and connection with a game world. And, and, if we want to get all meta about it, by having players compete ruthlessly against their friends, we were getting them to engage in the very social norms and behaviors we were satirizing. Plus it was fun. Did I mention how fun it was to slip bacon into your best friend’s skirt so the hunting dogs won’t leave her alone?
Planning for a multi-player mode posed some interesting design challenges. For example, “Austen” boasts a pretty robust heroine customization system, but who wants to wait while someone searches for just the right hairstyle or the oh-so-perfect character name? We think we solved that by moving the customization/character selection options to the beginning, before players enter the multi-player lobby. And speaking of waiting, what about pausing play to consider options or re-read text? The current prototype disables pausing in multi-player in the interest of keeping the story-telling pace moving. And then, of course, there were all the considerations of how the player lobby is graphically displayed and how those features re-purpose the UI vocabulary from the single-player version of the game.
We haven’t even touched on the technical challenges with getting multi-player games to run. Eric tells me that’s an entirely separate blog post. When I tried to draw him out on the subject, he started talking about things like “high level API" and "remote procedural calls” — to which I had no follow-up. So that’s a topic for another post.
It’s been tremendous fun sharing the development process with you over this last year. Thanks for coming along for the ride. We’re not done yet, but we are gearing up to a projected release date of November 2017 for “Austen Translation.” We’ll keep you posted as the big launch date approaches. We’re also excited to announce that AT will be featured in the digital showcase at the Boston Festival of Independent Games on September 23, 2017 in Cambridge, MA. We hope you’ll come out to say hello, play the game and compliment us on our swanky new Worthing & Moncrieff polo shirts.