1 Vs. 100 // Xbox Live

January 17, 2010

At the end of the week my attentions usually turn to downloading and playing a classic title for the Retro Sunday feature, but after a heavy day of celebration yesterday for your author’s birthday, I find myself having a lazier Sunday than usual. Listlessly cycling through the options available on the Xbox Dashboard, I came across the chip for 1 Vs. 100, a massively-multiplayer online quiz show. Not wanting my fuzzy head to be taxed too hard, I thought I’d have a little dabble with it. Three hours and 6 quizzes later, I was hooked.

The premise is simple. Every half an hour (or at least, that’s the frequency I’ve seen tonight) a new quiz starts, with themes ranging from General Knowledge, through History & Geography, to Back To School. These Extended Play sessions are chances for players to increase their Season score in order to be picked for the Live session, where there are chances to win up to 10,000 MS points, which isn’t a prize to be sniffed at. The rules are easy to follow – each question has a choice of 3 answers, each of which is mapped to the X, A and B buttons. Simply make your choice to answer the question and find out whether you are right, and how many of the particpants for that quiz have got it right with you. I didn’t count specifically, but there were around 35 questions in each round, with 3 different bonus questions where double or triple points were up for grabs.

The addictiveness of the gameplay comes when you factor is certain score multipliers and bonuses. Answer quickly and your score is increased, particularly if you manage an Instant Answer, which is achieved by answering within around 0.8 seconds. Get several questions in a row, and you earn a Streak, with extra points doled out according to how long your Streak is. Answer 3 questions in a row correctly, and you earn a Safety card. Deploy the Safety on any question you are unsure on, and you answer correctly automatically, although you do forego any time bonus using this method.

1 Vs. 100 is also the only use of the Xbox Live Avatars so far that has actually been interesting, in my opinion. Your Avatar represents your player, obviously, and sits in its own cubicle, next to any players that have been randomly assigned to your 4-person team. Mashing the Y button between questions lights up the LEDs behind you, the maxing out of which causes your Avatar to dance. Answering questions correctly makes your Avatar punch the air in delight, whilst wrong answers make it shake its head dejectedly. Seeing other players’ Avatars alongside you is interesting, alerting you to particular costumes that you may not have known were available in the Avatar Marketplace.

1 Vs. 100 is in its 2nd season, and judging from screenshots found online has undergone an evolution in its play mechanics and UI since the first, but it still doesn’t do everything perfectly. The ‘levelling-up’ of your character is a nice touch, and ties in with Microsoft’s assertion that this is an MMO experience (which, in fairness, cannot be disputed considering the highest number of participants in the quizzes I took part in was well over 7000 people). But the rewards are mediocre to say the least. I’ve reached level 10, and the only things I’ve unlocked are new dances for my Avatar to break out during the quiz. Hardly riveting stuff. Perhaps new accessories or costumes for my Avatar would be a better carrot to dangle to entice repeat visits, and would undoubtedly bring in more players. Another gripe would be the baffling disappearance of your own score during the short breaks – essentially advertising opportunites for Microsoft – but still offering the player a chance to check out the score of the top 10 contestants. Why your own score disappears during this break is beyond me; surely you would want the player to ascertain how well he is doing compared to the leaders?

The main bugbear though, and the biggest factor affecting the core gameplay of 1 Vs. 100, is in the manner in which the answers are displayed. Whilst in a team, players are able to see when their team competitors have ‘locked in’ an answer, and the options are displayed one at a time, with a short pause between them. When the first answer appears, and 3 out of 4 players have answered instantly before the second answer has even appeared on screen, then chances are that you are going to go for that one if you had no idea of the answer yourself. In this respect, the collective knowledge of the crowd has a lot of allure, but enables a player to have a greater possibility of getting an answer right that should be pure guesswork if he has no idea. If all three answers appeared at the same time, then this problem disappears at a stroke. Surely this needs to be looked at by the designers for the third season.

But, overall, colour me impressed. Microsoft have crafted a casual, addictive experience that finally justifies the creation of their Avatar community; a family-driven experience that attempts the depth of other MMOs in the form of a levelling-up system and ongoing season scores. Given greater incentives for continued play, and a few gameplay tweaks, 1 Vs. 100 could be a smash hit, and a way of engaging those who sit in front of gameshows on their TVs a chance to get involved for themselves.

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