Patient Multiplayer Engine (PME)
Updated: Oct 7, 2018
Have you ever wondered who Reggie's cousin is? Yes, the one in the title. Probably the surprise won't be huge if we tell you Reggie's cousin is meant to be player two in out local multiplayer mode. His name? Who cares!
We were not too impressed with the gameplay of other two players systems out there, so we designed our own. It still needs lots of trial and error of course, but the basics are there. We named out system Patient Multiplayer Engine (PME) and in this article we will expand on its behaviour. It's on you to decide if this is a good solution or not to the multiplayer problem!
The game starts with both players on the same screen. They can start playing. In the (improbable) case they follow the same pace, nothing happens. Nothing at all.
But two player games are never like that, are they? At least my own experience is quite frustrating in that respect. I usually played 2D games with a more skilled hardcore gaming counterpart, so I was always left behind. Always. I could not even play! Half of the game I spent harassing player one from my boring automatic flying bubble. How can player two, who is usually a friend who doesn't own the game or a non-gamer relative, become acceptably good at the game if they cannot even play?
Two player experience should be fun for the two players, and this is our proposal: As soon as one of the involved players dramatically overtakes his partner and is about to leave the scenario, the screen tears apart as a piece of paper, being right side assigned to the fast player and left side to the slow one. Each camera moves then to readjust to its player's current position.
But what's the point of playing together if you stay in separate independent screens? What PME does is launch a timer (about 15 seconds at the moment, but open to changes). Both players still have time to pick that shiny coin, dodge that enemy or find safe ground. But they must have in mind that when the countdown ends, if they are still separated, they will both die.
So they should take active action to reunite as soon as possible. The slow one should hurry, and the impatient leader has no other choice than chill out and just wait some seconds (or walk backwards if things got too dangerous).
When they get close enough, the split screens come back together with a seamless transition, so we have our shared screen back. And no player lost control in any moment of the process.
We show the countdown clearly in the middle of the split screens, and show two blinking arrows to indicate the direction each player must follow. Some increasing beeping sound helps to emphasise the danger. We are also thinking of simple ways to display the distance separating the two players in every moment, so they know how much they should rush in order to meet up.
We first showed PME to the public in some private meetings at Gamescom 2016 (Cologne) and since then we have been working with it, because we believe in the potential of this system.