[In this technical piece, Introversion's Knottenbelt discusses the 'discrete event simulation' approach to multiplayer in the upcoming Darwinia+ for Xbox Live Arcade, in which player movements and button presses are sent over the network, instead of actual positions of the thousands of in-game objects ]
Not many people know this but Introversion's IGF
award-winning title Darwinia was released incomplete: Darwinia was originally
conceived as a multiplayer game.
Initially codenamed "Future War",
the main game design centered around players who could take control of a
massive sprite army, that could then be pitched against another players armies
in massive battle-epic style. The trouble is, we ran out of money
As the finances at Introversion dwindled the original
multiplayer component for Darwinia was hastily dropped. It wasn't until some
months later, reveling in the unexpected kudos of winning those IGF awards that
the opportunity for us to revisit the earlier multiplayer idea was revived.
Microsoft wanted to bring Darwinia to XBLA, and with that came the need for a
multiplayer component - this would in time develop into an entirely new game
called Multiwinia, which IV launched on PC at the end of 2008. Multiwinia,
along with Darwinia will be released on Live Arcade as Darwinia+ this summer, a
momentous occasion for us as Introversion's first release onto a console.
By the time we started work on Darwinia+, multiplayer networking was not
entirely new to us - as mentioned we had dipped our toes into the water when
first developing Darwinia, and although unsuccessful we had learnt an important
lesson; it was better to integrate multiplayer functionality into the core of
the game early on.
networking we had started with Darwinia proved useful in our later multiplayer
titles, such as Defcon released in 2006, and Multiwinia released last year.
approach to multiplayer networking has had its advantages and drawbacks, some
of which I will explore in further detail here, along with a greater insight
into how we approached this key-programming problem.