with Fireteam was to create a complete online game experience.
The Internet gives game designers the ability to take multiplayer gaming
one step further by creating a community, something that wasn’t possible
before online games came about. Multitude wanted to take the next step
in gaming evolution by making the community a significant part of our
product. In other games, such as Diablo or Quake, the
players were creating communities themselves, mostly through their own
web sites. Multitude, on the other hand, devoted significant development
time to creating tools that would help the community. We spent as much
time on Fireteam’s lobby and community web pages as on the game
engine itself. Our goal was to create a game that would make people
say, "Wow, this is what I’ve wanted from an Internet game."
is an online-only gaming experience. The actual game play is a squad-based
tactical combat. Players can communicate with other members of their
team using Multitude’s voice technology. Each player controls one character
in the battlefield. The game uses an isometric, three-quarter view 2D
graphics engine. There are four different Fireteam scenarios,
and each game session is ten minutes long. The scenarios are very sports-like
in their design to help promote team play. Equally important to the
Fireteam experience is the lobby, where players can view other
players’ statistics, chat between games, and find squad mates and enemies
for their games. The last component of Fireteam is the community
web pages, which display players’ complete statistics and provide support
for Fireteam Companies (which are similar to Quake Clans).
On the community web pages, players can create companies, add/kick members,
and access private Company bulletin boards.
evolved dramatically over its first year of development. Multitude was
originally founded to create the "ultimate online game," which
was to be a large persistent science fiction world. We knew that there
would be some competition because Ultima Online had already been
announced, although Origin hadn’t yet performed any alpha or beta testing.
We spent months writing and planning for a massively multiplayer online
game set in a futuristic world. The project was to have a server team
of around 10 people and a game team approximately double that size.
As we were designing around our original concept for the game, our desire
to make a persistent-world game work as well as a single-player game
presented us with many hard technical and design problems. On the good
side, it was during this process that we finalized the design spec for
our combat engine. The combat engine was inspired by X-Com: UFO Defense,
emphasizing squad combat with features such as line-of-sight.
realized that our new company’s financing was coming along very slowly
and that we needed a much more easily attainable goal (due to lack of
resources, both financial and human) that would still showcase the unique
voice technology that we’d developed. We looked at the combat engine
specification, our voice technology, and the Internet technology that
we were designing and realized that we could make a great tactical team
game. So at that point, we decided to abandon the large persistent world
and make team play the essence of the game.
designed to emphasize community and teamwork
a multiplayer game is very different from designing a single-player
game. I’ve heard that in many games, the multiplayer component was added
on only because marketing had requested the feature; this approach can
make the multiplayer experience less than ideal. In a single-player
game, the player is the hero and the focus of the game experience. The
player should be able to win 100 percent of the time (with some effort).
In a multiplayer game, a player should win 50 percent of his or her
games against an equivalently skilled player. The thrill of a multiplayer
game shouldn’t be in the winning, but more in the process and the actual
competition. Team play gives players a deep gaming experience, even
if they lose. Our efforts to create engaging multiplayer game play were
made even more effective by our voice technology, which allowed players
to hear the emotions of their fellow players.
network architecture is client/server-based. We chose a client/server
architecture because of the benefits that it offered us in the areas
of performance (especially with the voice technology), cheat prevention,
and centrally located statistics. The clients all run on Windows 95/98
and the servers run on Windows NT boxes, where we use Microsoft Chat
services to do the intercommunication between our server processes.
We also have a Microsoft web server running the community web pages,
with a Microsoft SQL server maintaining the database. Our servers are
at one location, our ISP Globalcenter, in Sunnyvale, California.
uses the Elemedia SX2.0 Voice Codec to do its voice compression and
decompression. Multitude’s proprietary software wraps around this voice
codec and interfaces with the Windows sound system for both input and
output. The game mixes multiple voices on the client side rather than
the server side. Clients simply send voice packets to the server, the
server then routes them on to the appropriate teammates. In the future,
spectators or enemies will be able to listen in on the voice chatter.
Our voice software handles both DirectSound and non-DirectSound drivers
because some sound cards work with DirectSound in full duplex. Full
duplex means recording from microphone and playing sound at the same
Worked on Fireteam
and I started Multitude and began working on the original project in
April 1996. The development team grew gradually over the course of the
project. Jim Morris was brought on during the summer of 1996 to be the
chief technical officer, and his first project was to develop the voice
technology. Alan Murphy was brought on to provide art for the prototype
and eventually was named art director. Conroy Lee, Harvey Smith, and
Harry Schaffer were brought on in early 1997 to help take Fireteam
from a prototype to the real game that we showed off at E3 1996. Bill
Money, James Poelke, and David Reese came on in late 1997. The team
has a very diverse group of products to its collective credit. Lerner
and Morris were two of the first people to work on 3D in the game industry.
Murphy’s art credits include Galaxian, Pac-Man, Defender, Taz,
and X-Men. The others have worked on games such as System
Shock, Terra Nova, Magic School Bus, Ultima VIII, and Front Page