June 7, 2009

Yesterday I got to play in the Xbox Live 1 vs. 100 beta, the first live game show playable on a game console.

The game worked incredibly smoothly considering I was playing with as many as 95,000 other people in the US and Canada simultaneously. The basic gameplay is much like the now-cancelled TV show: one player ("The One") must answer trivia questions correctly. A mob of 100 opponents answers the same questions. Miss one question and you're out. The One must eliminate all 100 of his opponents to win the top prize, which in the Xbox Live version is 10,000 Microsoft Points (or $125 worth of credit on the Xbox Live Marketplace).

I've played several other on-line trivia games that put you against every other player, such as ABC's short-lived "Enhanced TV" concept for Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? almost 10 years ago. What I really like about 1 vs. 100 is that the same model from the TV series works very well for on-line play. Those not in the main game get to play along in the audience, answering questions to try and replace those eliminated from the mob and to eventually become The One. Besides the live game, which lasts for 2 hours, there is also an "extended play" option which just involves answering questions for 30 minutes at a time. Playing extended play matches is said to improve players' chances of making it into the live game.

The live shows are hosted by Chris Cashman, who does a very good job of keeping the show lively, although his participation is limited to short bits between games and during "stat breaks." I feel like the experience would be better if Chris actually hosted the main game, talking to The One over Xbox Live voice chat just like Bob Saget advised the One on the televised show. Game shows are easily adapted to video game consoles but in so doing they usually lose the human factor that makes the TV versions so compelling. Chris reads off shout-outs and questions from the Xbox Live on-line comunity but he doesn't interact with any of the live players in the context of the game.

I'm hoping that 1 vs. 100 draws other game titles to Xbox Live for live, prime-time play. The beta has been a great experience so far and I'm looking forward to playing it again soon.