In most video games, death is a minor annoyance. But in "Upsilon Circuit," an upcoming game from developers Robot Loves Kitty, one life means one life. Once a player dies, they can never play the game again.
“What I’m hoping happens is that the experience evolves and that the people who live longest will respect their one life, be more cautious and careful,” codeveloper Calvin Goble tells Chris Baker for Wired.
Goble and his wife, Alix Stolzer, are the brains behind "Upsilon Circuit," which their website describes as “part gameshow, part action [role-playing game], perma-permadeath.” In the game, two teams of four will compete against each other while exploring a dangerous world filled with monsters and traps. When one person dies, they die forever. Instead of reviving, they will simply be replaced by another player, Nathan Grayson writes for Kotaku.
There’s another twist to the traditional formula: Goble and Stolzer designed "Upsilon Circuit" for streaming services like Twitch, where people stream live videos of others playing video games. Twitch is massively popular, reporting that it draws more than 45 million viewers every month. In most role-playing games, players gain experience and money from defeating enemies, which allows them to make their characters more powerful. But in "Upsilon Circuit," it’s the audience that wins the spoils of battle – and they can use it to help or hurt any character they like, as Brian Crecente reports for Polygon:
"The audience can purchase monsters to go after players," [Goble] says. "They can purchase potions or buffs to send into the game to help as well as to hinder. No one has done this particular game before, so we have a lot of theories of what might happen. Our next phase is to run some tests to see what a large group of people do. Once we know, we can scale the price so there are not too many things being dropped. All of this will be coming from in-game currency you can buy with real money.
If that sounds like it might incentivize meanness, that's the point. "The concept is that we're monetizing trolling," Goble told Crecente.
Much like the audience at ancient Roman gladiator fights, Goble and Stolzer imagine their audience helping determine which players should live and which should die; whether they will be armed with stronger powers, or have to face yet another horde of monsters. And when a player inevitably dies, they will be replaced by a random player drawn from the audience.
"We're hoping for real, real people interactions,” Goble tells Crecente. “Real meaning in a game, real permanence in a game."
Unfortunately, "Upsilon Circuit" won’t be around for long: according to Crecente, the game will only be online for a year or so before its creators will shut it down. However, Goble and Stolzer will offer the game as free-to-play, although it will only be active for a few hours a day, like a television game show.
"With a normal game you are trying to make it fun for the player," Goble tells Crecente. "We just want to make it fun to watch."