1 vs. 100

1 vs. 100 at Gamerswithjobs.com

The mob has many heads, but no brains
-- Thomas Fuller

My evenings usually consist of low-key, routine activities: I rush home from work to catch Jeopardy at 7:00, play a game, catch a movie or some TV with dinner, read, then turn in. Truly, my nights are filled with a kind of excitement that would cause the majority of CBS’s audience to faint. But while most of the night is hopelessly interchangeable, I absolutely must get my 30 minutes’ worth of answering random trivia questions.

When Microsoft launched the New Xbox Experience last November, I was completely on board. The new focus towards Avatars, image-laden menu screens and community-based experiences was certainly a change of pace, but it also marked a willingness to transcend the perception that a gaming console (no matter how robust its media offerings could be) was a game-box, and not an entertainment portal. Crucial to this reimagining was the inclusion of a weekly trivia show which would promote an all-new vision of gaming participation: the Primetime Game.

1 vs 100 was, unfortunately, delayed past the launch of the NXE. But having played the public Beta, I can wholeheartedly say that the affair is a faithful, fun and even nerve-wracking adaptation of a trivia-gaming experience –- one that comes right close to achieving Microsoft’s vision for the console.

Approximately five minutes before the 7:30 show went live, I was allowed to load into the game’s lobby where the host, Chris Cashman, made small-talk and quipped about current events while my avatar cycled through a number of the game’s cheering animations. While bumping my groove-thing, I was paired with 3 other players, forming an impromptu game party. This added an extra layer of competition to the game, as the party vied for the bragging rights associated with the top score. Voice-chat is enabled, so the smack-talk that can be spread amongst friends will no doubt add some comedy to the show. Since I’m a miserly, misanthropic wretch, I did not participate in any reindeer games. I don’t play Jeopardy co-op, and this wasn’t a time to start socializing.

Out of the total number of players present (some 30,000+, as per the host’s count), 100 were chosen to be part of the game’s Mob, and one lucky individual was The One. The rest of the unwashed masses played along to earn sweepstakes vouchers good for Zunes, cash, or some other sort of delayed Microsoft-branded gratifier. The One holds no power over the virtual realm, nor is he given a bitching trenchcoat or glasses. The One is, however, pitted against the Mob’s collective intelligence for a prize bag full of Microsoft moon-money. The more Mobbers eliminated, the higher the purse – up to 10,000 M-dollars, which is roughly $125. At various stages, studio breaks interrupted the flow of questions. Game stats, advertisements, and the host were on hand to give the audience a short breather. The One was eventually asked if he or she would like to stop playing and keep the current prize money. If the Mob managed to best The One, the winnings were divvied up amongst the remaining players, leaving the unfortunate star of the game with nothing to show for his efforts.

I imagine the game takes on a new life when you’re a part of the Mob. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Questions ranged from a variety of topics, from sports to game-centric trivia (Michael Phelps’ favorite NES game is Legend of Zelda, by the way), though it seemed the batch used for that night was a bit on the too-timely, too pop-culture side. Players lock in an answer using the X, A, and B buttons, with extra points awarded to particularly fast responses. The window to chime in is measured in scant seconds, so there's no room for Wikicheating. Once the answer is in, it’s immutable, so there were occasional moments of remorse or head-slapping idiocy when I failed to read the answer thoroughly.

As it turns out, the Little Green Hornet is not the same as Little Jack Horner.

For the one or two curve-balls tossed towards the players, it was surprisingly engaging to see just how much of the crowd gets eliminated. Dejected avatars are backlit by a scarlet light and the anonymous portraits used to enumerate the crowd are ticked off the screen as the tally works its way up the ranks towards the grand prize. On particularly impressive errors, the count will pause for a moment before rapidly nixing a number of players. The effect can be awe-inspiring and exciting, if a little telegraphed. Flourishes like that make it clear that the game-show psyche is being tapped into on a bestial level.

Even though I was at no point part of the lucky 101 on stage, there was still a modest amount of fun to be had seeing how far I could go without breaking an answer streak and playing against my party-mates. In later rounds, the excitement wrenched up as The One inched closer to the 10,000 prize and the Mob dwindled to the single-digits. In the hour and a half that I played, I witnessed a One-on-1 fight that ended with a double-disqualification, and one that saw The One triumphant over his hundred peers.

But this being a Beta, no actual prizes were awarded. Bummer.

Still, the essence of good entertainment –- drama, tension, tragic loss -- was there. For something that’s being sold as a perk to Gold membership, it’s not half bad. The experience is meant to draw people to the 360 in a new manner. It’s a Wii-like social lubricant meant to lighten the image of gaming, and in the process, make It so that families turn to the 360 semi-regularly as a staple of fun.

But Primetime gaming is essentially gaming-by-appointment. In an era where TV viewing habits are becoming increasingly streamed, time-shifted and DVRed, it would seem contradictory to launch a game service that requires a person to plan ahead to participate.

That it’s doing so in the guise of trivia gaming is, frankly, an enlightened move. As results flow across the screen, as the boxes housing players gradually blink out to show that they’ve selected the wrong answer, as colored lights sweep the stage, we’re reminded of the neo-trivia shows shepherded in Who Wants to be a Millionaire? These are shows that rely upon meticulously coordinated lighting and audio cues to enhance the event’s tension, shows that rely on a nameless, massive audience hanging on the results of the last question, muttering answers at the distant competitor. The line between game and show blurs with all the technical pomp and flash, and it’s captured accurately here. And if you want to be a part of it, you have to make time for it.

The game isn’t without its hitches, though. The much-touted Live Host hardly provided any color commentary during the game or the increasingly boring breaks, reducing his presence to something like an occasional improv commercial. Upon resetting every round, a voiceless avatar introduces the game mechanics for all the viewers at home. Prime opportunity from some comedic riffs from the host, no? Nope, sadly. There’s also a bit to be said about the wording of some of the items. One answer, centered around an upcoming film, noted that the protagonist was formerly employed as “a porn actress.”

Call me a prude, but that’s a bit of an oversight for something that’s supposed to usher in a primetime, family mode of gaming. I can almost hear Rabbit and Elysium being confronted with “what’s a 'porn,' daddy?”

But the flaws in execution are mercifully few so far, and there are worse ways to play with strangers online. The stories trickling out of E3 suggest that Microsoft is positioning the 360 as a kind of go-to for all kinds of techie needs. In that respect, it’s a bit of a downer that 1 vs. 100 wasn’t around with NXE last winter to cultivate the kind of public interest in these expanded social networking capabilities. Still, 1 vs. 100 seems like it has the potential to be one of the Xbox’s more entertaining features to come along, and it appears to be a lock for the kind of party-game/couch-surfer status of hits like Rock Band or Wii Sports.

I'm not sure that it'll knock Jeopardy off of my evening checklist just yet, but rooting for the 10,000 MS Points was an admirable substitute for the nightly quiz show, and a pretty effective debut for the Primetime brand.

The Mob from 1 vs 100 at Gamerswithjobs.com
The Mob at gamerswithjobs.com
The One at gamerswithjobs.com

Comments

I had a bunch of fun doing this last night. Great write-up. Catches what I was liking about this really well. I wish Chris, the live commentator, would of had more chances to jump in more and talk, but it seems like there were troubles as there were breaks when he said absolutely nothing. It is in beta after all. Here's hoping that they smooth out the experience, as I can see this being a lot of fun. Anybody know if you can create parties before hand and play with your friends?

I played last night in the beta (eventually... I was locked out with the unannounced player cap for the first hour), and was grouped with the other member of my party who got in late. Since the minigroups are up to four players, I'm not sure what the grouping algorithm would be for groups larger than 4, but it appears that other players are randomly milled into the groups. This was a heck of a lot of fun, and especially with the metacommentary between friends going on via voice chat. I would recommend that level of interaction as essential to the experience.

I played the beta a few weeks ago. Ended up coming in 4th out of something like 11 000 Canadians because it turns out my girlfriend knows some surprisingly obscure things about geography. Everyone else in my group quit, I think because I was mashing the button to cheer as much as possible (which strikes me as a kind of Halo-esque 'teabagging' move). What's that button actually supposed to be for?

Managed to get in last night for the last few rounds and made it to the mob.

This was a ton of fun, and I can see myself bumping the wife off the living room tv to play it, rather than going and hiding in my office. Here's hoping for more types of events being launched down the road.

My roommate and i were sitting in the crowd the entire time, but man, this whole experience was a blast. Still, I wish that the avatar randomization was a bit better (Like maybe actually show each unique avatar that's in the mob? I was noticing a lot of duplicates... the crowd is a bit easier to understand since you have the 1-4 avatars in your group and then a random sampling of avatars to fill it out) and that Chris' commentary would happen more often, because it seemed as though there were 2-3 breaks where he was actually talking, but then he didn't say anything for the rest of them. It did make it sort of funny when the female announcer (sounded like Jen, the gal who played Cortana in Halo and the girl in L4D) would say "Thanks Chris!" Thanks for what? He didn't say anything!

Still, that was only the beta, so they may be addressing these concerns for when the real launch happens. I definitely plan on participating in the beta again on Saturday.

One answer, centered around an upcoming film, noted that the protagonist was formerly employed as “a porn actress.”

Call me a prude, but that’s a bit of an oversight for something that’s supposed to usher in a primetime, family mode of gaming. I can almost hear Rabbit and Elysium being confronted with “what’s a 'porn,' daddy?”

Far worse has been said in primetime. Plus it's rated teen:

Game Rating: T (Teen)
Drug Reference
Language
Sexual Themes
Violent References

I missed out cause I was hanging out with some friends. Wanted to be there cause I actually liked the show when it was one tv. So how do they handle it if the 1 gets dropped in connection?

Brizahd wrote:

So how do they handle it if the 1 gets dropped in connection?

Apparently they lose automatically (that's what happened last night at least).

Sounds fun. I'll be playing this when the release version is out.

I played for an hour last night. After the host lost his voice for a few breaks I decided to turn in. 1 vs 100 seemed quite sound to me. I even forgot it was a beta some times. What I didn't forget is how Angry it made me when I read "Child" Accounts can't win prizes. Sadly I feel all that does is promote children to Lie about their age. Why not just change the rules so children can just win the Microsoft points. That's all I care about anyway.

Also I swear I saw Matt Chandronait or guy that looked just like him be the 1 once.

I can almost hear Rabbit and Elysium being confronted with “what’s a 'porn,' daddy?”

Rabbit and Elysium have a child?

(I'm sorry if that was inappropriate)

Perfectly appropriate. *golf clap*

Clemenstation wrote:

I played the beta a few weeks ago. Ended up coming in 4th out of something like 11 000 Canadians because it turns out my girlfriend knows some surprisingly obscure things about geography. Everyone else in my group quit, I think because I was mashing the button to cheer as much as possible (which strikes me as a kind of Halo-esque 'teabagging' move). What's that button actually supposed to be for?

I used to bug the hell out of friends when we played Mario Party. I was always Mario, and would always mash on the "cheer" button when it wasn't my turn. "Wah- HOO! Wah- HOO! Wah- HOO! " I think i'd be too tempted to do the same with 1 vs. 100.

Anyway, being online with literally hundreds if not thousands of other players sounds pretty cool, even if I have zero interest in the actual show. But then, I was a big fan of You Don't Know JACK! as well, so I could certainly become addicted to this trivia game too.

WipEout wrote:

I used to bug the hell out of friends when we played Mario Party. I was always Mario, and would always mash on the "cheer" button when it wasn't my turn. "Wah- HOO! Wah- HOO! Wah- HOO! " I think i'd be too tempted to do the same with 1 vs. 100.

Oh god, that sounds eight times as annoying as what I was doing in 1vs100. Note to self: purchase Mario Party, invite victi... er, friends over.

If you push the Y button fast enough in 1vs100, it sorta looks like your guy is making lewd gestures. I wish you could use the right analog stick to leer at people to your left and right while you're air-fisting... social games need more built-in griefing mechanisms.

WipEout wrote:

I was a big fan of You Don't Know JACK! as well, so I could certainly become addicted to this trivia game too.

You Don't Know Jack on xbox live would be incredible! Now I'm sad cause I haven't played that game in ages.

Brizahd wrote:
WipEout wrote:

I was a big fan of You Don't Know JACK! as well, so I could certainly become addicted to this trivia game too.

You Don't Know Jack on xbox live would be incredible! Now I'm sad cause I haven't played that game in ages.

YDKJ was the best trivia game I've ever played AND I'm pretty sure it's making a comeback, I read that somewhere

mlk wrote:
I can almost hear Rabbit and Elysium being confronted with “what’s a 'porn,' daddy?”

Rabbit and Elysium have a child?

I know I'm snooty, but the scion of Rabbit and Elysium could be the one to bring balance to the Force.

“what’s a 'porn,' daddy?”

The correct answer is: "Gee, what isn't a porn?"

Arise, thread!

They're giving out prizes, now. Microsoft points, either to be won by the 1, or split amongst the winners of the 100. Entertaining stuff. I'm hooked! Video Game trivia is on tonight at 8pm.