Announcing the New Multiplayer Robot

A year and a half ago, Mel and I decided we wanted to play some Civilization V multiplayer. So, we looked at our options. Not only did we learn standard Civilization V multiplayer had some bugs and caveats, but it also meant we would have to try and figure out times in our busy schedules to coordinate playing at the same time. Then, we learned about the hot seat game mode. It sounded like exactly what we needed – its asynchronous gameplay would allow us to play Civilization V more casually. However, being programmers, we realized that we could automate passing the save file between us. Originally, our plan was to write a simple desktop program for our own personal use. But then we asked, why not make it a web service so that it’s easier for us to access anywhere? But wait, if we’re making it on the web, why not make it available for everyone?

And thus, Giant Multiplayer Robot was born.

After we launched in March 2012, I remember being excited when we hit 100 users. It was great to see that something we made was useful to others. Now, as we edge closer and closer to 10,000 users and beyond, it’s time to take Giant Multiplayer Robot to the next level. (And out of beta finally, before we approach Google levels of beta length)

So, today, we’re announcing the next generation of Giant Multiplayer Robot, which we’re simply calling Multiplayer Robot.

Multiplayer-Robot-Logo

We’ve learned a lot about how people use Giant Multiplayer Robot over the last year and a half. Now, we’re using those lessons to design Multiplayer Robot. Some of our goals include:

  • Redesigned website that’s super fast and responsive
  • Streamlined game creation: the website will define all game options, and simply give the host a game configuration file to use
  • Easier to use mod support
  • More intelligent usage of your time zone, such as automatically ordering a game’s players
  • A permissions system that will allow a game’s host to give other players permission to revert a turn, etc.
  • A voting system so that a game’s players can vote to perform tasks such as removing an unresponsive player
  • The ability for a player to play more than one civilization in a single game
  • A more fully featured community (including forums integrated with your Multiplayer Robot account)
  • More automation in the desktop app
  • Dramatically easier ways to download and upload your game saves from the website
  • A public API

Additionally, we’re looking forward to Firaxis releasing a stand-alone pitboss server (which will hopefully happen soon). As this approaches, we’re exploring the viability of hosting pitboss games in addition to hot seat games. However, unlike hot seat where we can afford to run lots of free games and offer permanent account upgrades, pitboss will likely require enough server horsepower that it’ll be on a pay-per-game basis. That being said, we do want to make our pricing as affordable as possible, and we also want it to make sense. So, we’re looking into ways we can allow all players in a game to split the cost. Furthermore, charging servers on a traditional $x/month basis doesn’t make sense, because what if your game happens to end two days into a month? To address this, we want to do more fine-grained billing, hopefully on a per-day basis at no more than a few cents a day.

As we develop Multiplayer Robot over the next few months, we’ll be providing more updates via this blog. We’ll be going over lots of new features and want feedback every step of the way, starting right now. Sound off in the comments about what you think of our goals or what you want to see in Multiplayer Robot!

Comments (17)

  1. Great stuff, cant wait to see it.

  2. Rillithain

    Sounds great!

    One thing I’d love to see, is an option to put restrictions on who can join (other than inviting everyone). Often, people with 0 points never come back to the site to play their turns, so to be able to say “you must have this many points to sign up). Or even restrict to those that have certain game limits so that we know they won’t bail after joining because they only have 2 game limit and they see a game they prefer to play.

  3. Nanoduck

    I have been using MPR for about 4 months and it has been great fun. Voting to boot an unresponsive player is great. I would like to see a one button for Vacation Mode for all games (not sure if this has been done yet). Keep up the great work.

    • Sorry about the Vacation Mode thing! The idea was to have it so that your control panel (accessible by clicking your avatar) would toggle vacation mode for all games, and then each game would have the option to opt-out of vacation mode for that particular game. As it turns out, the opt-out had a bug we didn’t catch for a while where its default was backwards in all new games, making it opt-in. That bug should be fixed now, but any games made within the time period of the bug will still have their defaults backwards.

  4. Rillithain

    I have actually another suggestion – is it possible to add somewhere in the details, the size of the save file after a turn is played and that it stays there historically on the “Recent turns” page? This might allow us to catch file save bloating early when we see a sudden spike in file size and so we know where to roll back to. If we can catch early, we may be able to save some games before it is too late.

  5. Sander

    Yo! Sounds fun! Two feature suggestions from me.

    I would enjoy having a way to delegate my turns to another player during a vacation, so I can have an ally play some turns instead of the wise and knowledgable AI.

    The post mentions more automation in the client – this is nice. I will describe my ideal behavior in this regard.

    When it is my turn, the client automatically downloads the save. I assume this is already in the plans, right? I saw a funny boolean property for this in the client app configuration that was hardcoded to return false :)

    When I select my game, I would like GMR to not only start Civ 5 but also automatically load the game. Maybe doable by replacing some startup lua script with a load command?

    Even more ideal would be if the auto-load also worked from an already running instance of Civ, but that is obviously much harder to accomplish. What I have done so far to make this easier is to add a button to the “Next player’s turn” dialog to perform the auto-load. Maybe you can make GMR also do this?

    A way to specify a custom exe path + arguments would also be nice but is probably too much of an edge case to worry about. I only feel an interest due to some fairly intense customizations on my PC. Or is this perhaps already possible via the config file or some other non exposed setting? I did not actually look beyond the UI for this.

    Oh and how about using HTTPS for API communications? HTTP is so oldschool :)

    Finally, the UX of the website and client can be improved by a lot. I am playing my current game with a team full of firt time users and most of them had trouble joining the game. Some issues were:

    1) After clicking on an invite link, they did not understand what to do next.
    2) Even if they got to the game screen, it was not obvious what they were supposed to do during race selection and whether they were required to do it.
    3) One or two people did not see the “Join game” button and were utterly confused when I said I did not see them in game.
    4) It is not obvious how to open the settings dialog (the profile icon is not an obvious click target).

    There was more about the UX but these are the points that I remember most vividly.

    All in all, I am very much enjoying using GMR and the primary functionality is quite satisfactory – I will happily stay using it even at its current feature set.

    • Thanks for the suggestions Sander! For a lot of things you mentioned, we’ll be fleshing them out in more detail soon.

      In regards to automatic downloading, we’ll have a good solution for that in the client, as well as automatic uploading. We’ve experimented in the past with how to get Civ V to load a save file on startup, but we haven’t had any success. That being said, the flow for taking your turns using the desktop app will be a lot better in the future. We’ll look into using https. We haven’t thus far simply because we transfer pretty non-sensitive data.

      In terms of the UX for the website or client, literally all user interface in Multiplayer Robot will be completely different from Giant Multiplayer Robot. We’re not basing any of our new designs on anything we currently use so that our new interface can be as easy and fast as possible.

  6. Just a shout to say I’m excited to read about the next version of GMR !

  7. rstark84

    Hello Brian and Mel,

    The fall patch has been released, and now we know how a stand-alone pitboss server was implemented. Do you intend to include a pitboss game option into New Mulpiplayer Robot?

    • Yes, we’ve been doing testing with the new standalone pitboss server, and while we’re quite disappointed in its implementation and how much resources it still demands, we’re going to try to fit it into the New Multiplayer Robot with an economical service cost.

  8. Rillithain

    I have another suggestion, but not sure if possible. In the Civ game, apparently achievements do not work if live tuner is used. It must be a flag somewhere on a game then I’m assuming? If that is the case, is it possible to determine that flag, and use it on our games to prevent it from being used?

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