Conflict: Global Terror – Multiplayer diary

The console versions of the Conflict series of games have always supported multiplayer game play in the form of Split-Screen. Many Conflict players are great fans of this game mode; it’s always been great fun to play with your mates at your side, yelling commands at each other and covering their backs when under fire. When it came to Conflict: Global Terror we had planned from the start that this time we would extend the multiplayer mode to be fully playable co-operatively on LAN or across the internet. It’s now possible to enjoy the same great gameplay but this time around you can play with anyone, no matter where they are. Additionally, you also have a full screen on which to view the action!

Headaches? Well, there were many of them but hopefully we have put every one of them in their place. Online games are complicated; there is a lot going on and a lot to be synchronised. As Conflict is not a first person shooter, we couldn’t get away with some of the tricks used in many other networked games. We have cooperative play and complicated games scripts to keep in sync on everyone’s machine. Not only that, but because your own character is rendered most of the time in 3rd person you tend to notice more when things go wrong, so extra effort was needed to address this additional concern. One of the most important things for us was that we wanted, where possible, to maintain the same gameplay mechanisms for all the different game modes; Single player, Split Screen or Networked. You actually play the same missions only this time it’s online with your mates.

Getting up to four machines connected together and all synced up was a challenge to say the least! The new animation system and new physics system went a long way towards helping with these issues as both were redesigned with online game play in mind and the result offers a great improvement to the Conflict series.

Getting all this to happen smoothly enough to play co-operatively across the internet was tough. Many long hours went into the design and implementation to make this work. For example, not only do your four main player characters have to be synced, sorting out who’s doing what, when, where and how but also there are many AI-controlled enemy characters all set on doing the best they can to stop you reaching your objectives.

All five characters from the single player game are available to play in the online co-operative missions, within the context of the story, of course. One of the really big challenges was to make the game playable with any combination of characters. If there are only two players available in the game session then you will only be able to take two characters into the mission so it’s up to the gamer to make a choice; when faced with a new mission and not enough men, who will you choose to take into the field? Although it’s possible to complete the missions with any combination of characters, some are better suited to particular tasks than others. For example if you need to plant a lot of C4 fast then Jones is your man! Likewise, the sniper characters are far better suited to healing fallen team-mates quickly.

One of the really cool things you can now do, if you think you’re tough enough, is to play the missions solo with your favourite character. This mode came out of the need to be able to test network code changes quickly, we did contemplate taking it out but some of the more hardcore gamers among our team really loved it and I’m sure our fans will too. The scoring is affected by the number of players in the mission and while naturally it’s going to be harder to play a mission with two players instead of four, you’ll be rewarded for it with a higher score!

Trying to keep the offline look and feel in an online game where nothing is predictable is a challenge. But we are very happy with the way things turned out and it can only keep getting better.

Shaun Hewitt
Senior Programmer