April 17, 2014 12:15 AM | Staff
I find the Twitch game streaming service fascinating because it allows me to welcome the internet at large into what has -- for me, at least -- historically been a private experience. But until recently, the rabble had to take a passive role -- watching and commenting from the comfort of a chat room, never able to take an active role in the game.
Now Twitch is taking steps to change that, most recently announcing plans to help support Michael Molinari's Kickstarter campaign for Choice Chamber, a game that taps the Twitch API to allow viewers to influence the distribution of things like items, enemies and terrain within the game.
The concept isn't unique -- millions of people tuned in to watch and participate in a communal playthrough of Pokemon Red on the TwitchPlaysPokemon Twitch.tv channel earlier this year, and now similar experiences happen regularly through Twitch.
However, Molinari is quick to point out that he was streaming himself playing early builds of Choice Chamber before "Twitch Plays Pokemon" blew up earlier this year.
"The idea came to me in December of 2013 when I wanted to find a way to connect the chat with the 'caster," Molinari tells Gamasutra. "It's always frustrating to want to play with them, but only being able to watch. I figured a polling system would allow any number of people to interact, and even work with varying delays from viewer to viewer."
The remarkable popularity of "Twitch plays Pokemon" reinforced his belief that players would be excited about playing a crowd-sourced game like this in real time. "The best thing about 'Twitch plays Pokemon' is that it's scalable to any magnitude," said Molinari, who is still scoping out the extent to which stream viewers can participate in his game. "I like to keep [that] in mind when designing new things in Choice Chamber."
Molinari built Choice Chamber in Flash using Adobe AIR, because it's a medium he's comfortable working in -- he's been making Flash games for more than a decade, and he finds it a useful tool for quickly prototyping new ideas. Many of his early games are still playable via his old website, though it bears little resemblance to his more contemporary work like Soundodger.
Since Molinari may be the first of many developers to accept development funding from Twitch, Gamasutra caught up with him via email to learn more about how the burgeoning notoriety of Choice Chamber has affected its development.
What's been the response so far, especially to your livestreams? Have you run into any odd situations, or perhaps goofy/malicious griefing?
Molinari: The response has been really great so far. People enjoy not only watching but of course interacting with the game, influencing various outcomes from room to room.
The most interesting thing to me is player psychology, how players will ebb and flow between support and griefing. They simply want entertainment, so their meta goal is to keep you alive as long as possible while giving you the greatest challenge. It's fun and usually unpredictable.
How did Twitch get involved with helping to fund development?
Basically, Twitch has been supporting the game since before the Kickstarter, as they were excited to do a press blast and dedicated blog post for launch. A couple weeks in, I got a message from them saying "Congrats on $10K, but we think we can help you do better." They had a pow-wow and let me know they'd like to help fund the campaign, which is of course super exciting for everyone.
Did you have to make any changes to your original vision in order to accept support from Twitch?
I wouldn't say any plans have changed because of this announcement. I'll still be pushing hard in the final four days, as their matching the remaining funds means I'll still need to raise a few thousand on my own.
I used to say that this game literally wouldn't exist without the help of Twitch, but I guess now that has multiple meanings!
[Alex Wawro wrote this article for sister site Gamasutra]