Speedrunner updates (3)

Last week, Casper asked me to explain why online multiplayer is taking us so long to get done. But before I do so, I would like to begin by mentioning that Speedrunner HD won the Dutch Game Award for Best Game Animation! The Dutch Game Awards are sort of the Oscars for the Dutch game industry so naturally we are pretty excited. Here’s a picture of all the award winners holding their giant golden cyborg owls; you can see Casper in the bottom left looking happy and a bit overwhelmed. Congratulations to Frank Post, our animator, and to the other winners as well (yes, even to Ronimo who bested us in the ‘Best PC/Console Game’ category)!

Anyway, the now (physically*) ‘award winning’ Speedrunner HD has become a bit of a victim of it’s own success. We started DoubleDutch Games back in 2010 with SpeedRunner as our first game. We never expected the flash game to do as well as it did (it has actually surpassed 10 million views by now!). And we also didn’t expect people to enjoy the local multiplayer as much as fans tell us now. The Xbox version of Speedrunner also opened the door to Steam, so all in all Speedrunner is doing much better than we had ever dared to hope it would.

From the start we excluded any form of online multiplayer from Speedrunner, because we knew online is difficult, and Speedrunner is just our first game. The dilemma with the Steam version of Speedrunner was that the multiplayer mode is definitely the strength of Speedrunner, however local multiplayer isn’t as common on PC as it is on consoles. Add to that the many mails requesting online multiplayer we received from fans and the only logical conclusion was to add online multiplayer to the Steam version of the game.

However, this hasn’t proven to be easy on us. The issue with online multiplayer for Speedrunner is twofold. First of all, Speedrunner was never built with online multiplayer in mind. Second, online multiplayer is just inherently difficult, just because sending messages back and forth over a network costs some amount of time. In-game this results in a situation where every message a player receives from other players actually contains information about stuff that happened somewhere in the past. The question is then how to cope with that time difference so that players are still able to interact with each other correctly.

All online multiplayer games use a whole mix bag of tricks to hide this time difference. One of these tricks, for instance, is one that is used by Valve in their multiplayer games, which relies on recording and playing back the last part of player movement. This was something that was especially hard to do in Speedrunner because the player movement code really wasn’t set up for this (and it would still be tedious if it were, to be honest).

In the conversation that we had a week ago with Joost and Ted from Ronimo Games, they explained how they tackled this issue. Without going into too much detail, they don’t use the movement playback technique at all, resulting in a much simpler design. It turns out that in a simple game like Speedrunner, where there are only four players in a game, this complicated technique is not really necessary (it would still be better, but not so much better that it would justify spending a lot of time on it). So, we are now planning to set up our multiplayer code similar to how Ronimo did it, so in that respect the conversation was a good thing, as this means we will need much less time to get online multiplayer done.

Unfortunately, in that same conversation we also had a reality check on how long it’s still going to take us to implement all the other multiplayer stuff (e.g. matchmaking, setting up a game, etc) which means that even if we gain a lot of time by implementing the ‘simpler’ online multiplayer, we’re still a long way away from release.

But don’t worry; time goes by quickly, which is bad for us, but arguably good for you if you want to play Speedrunner online. So all we can do now is ask for your patience while we try to make the best game out of Speedrunner we can!

-- Gert-Jan

* as you might remember, we received the IndieGameMag XBLIG game of the year award 2011, but this is our first ‘physical’ reward (i.e. one that we can hold in our hands and place on a mantel - if we had one).


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