No networking? Shenanigans!

December 13th, 2011, Cobalt

Hello again, Cobalt fans and friends! This is Jacob Jervey (also known as JWJ and @jjervey), the latest team member of Oxeye.

We announced earlier today that Cobalt alpha preorders were right around the corner and from what we’ve seen, people are EXTREMELY excited, and because of that – so are we! However, some of you may have been slightly disappointed after reading that networking wasn’t in the team’s vision for the game right now.

It’s true; the networking functionality is very much still in the ‘figuring out’ stage, but I personally think it would be a crime to not implement it. That’s why I’ll be working on a proof of concept so you can play with your friends, whether they’re next to you or across the globe. Because this is a proof of concept, it may not be included in the game.

Le gaspe! How will it work?

As much as I want to be extremely technical right now, networking is still very much in development. You can’t even play together for that matter, just chat. So please know that anything in this post may change.

My plan is to have both a listen server (you would play and host the server at the same time from the same game) and a dedicated server (console based). The dedicated server will likely be released after the listen server. You will also be able to have more than one person on a single computer using their own controllers, much like some games on the XBox. Additionally, I’m hoping to utilize a technique known as ‘NAT punchthrough’ which will allow you to host a server even though you’re behind a firewall, without requiring any port forwarding or otherwise. This is what Portal 2 utilizes for its co-op.

Essentially, I’m going to be giving you the ability to join two or more games together so it’s almost as though those additional controllers are right next to you. You’ll be able to instantly connect to any other game, no matter what point the host is at. Getting owned by your friends in a 2v1 Capture the Plug and you want to call in some internet backup? Just press the host button and have your friend join up.

What does it take to implement networking?

An extreme understanding of most of the game’s engine and the game itself, both from a player perspective and a programmer’s perspective. It’s quite difficult to delve into a game that is so far into its development and write a networking system from scratch without first spending a lot of time figuring out how every single thing interacts. You need to know what’s important to keep track of; it’s not important if one game has a light that’s 80% bright and the other game has one that’s 20% bright.

Cobalt is a huge game, both in content and code, so I’m still learning as I work. Luckily, the game itself features hotseat multiplayer which makes adding networking (relatively) a piece of cake. The game essentially already acts as a server, letting a player join and leave at any time. For the most part, it’s simply a matter of keeping things in sync between the clients that are connected. Such things include stage changes, new players joining the game, or an AI’s velocity and position. For the dedicated server, I just have to disable input and graphics (and probably some other changes here and there).

When are we going to see networking in Cobalt?

Definitely not soon (if ever, we’re not promising a single thing). I’ll keep everyone updated occasionally on the progress so you don’t lose hope, but as I said above, I have to get to know the game a lot better than I do right now before any real development happens.

If you have any questions, you can tweet me @jjervey or talk to me on our IRC channel at irc.esper.net #cobalt. Also know that this isn’t a milestone for alpha/beta/gold, it’s simply something I’ll be working on and it may or may not be part of the game once it’s done or some rudimentary form of ‘done’ that is at least fun to play. Please don’t bug any of the others about the networking as it’s 100% my job and they will just tell you to contact me (awww yeah, put on the pressure!)

(Article was edited slightly to clarify on the fact that this is a proof of concept and not a planned, promised part of the game)

49 Responses to “No networking? Shenanigans!”

  1. lostmonster :

    dude, take your time! like i commented on your facebook post: “no multiplayer? still getting it.”

    i wouldn’t mind getting the game without networking first knowing networking will be a patch or something later down the road after release.

    but major props to the instantaneous response to the community about networking. makes us gamers that much more excited for this game.

  2. floorman :

    As a Java programmer I couldn’t even begin to comprehend the basics of networking with programming. Take your time! :D You guys are making an awesome game and there is a lot of hype behind it so you want to get it right. Don’t do what the big companies do and rush it! Make it good and take as much time as you need. :D

    But honestly, I’ll just be grateful to play the game right now.

  3. lm2s :

    I myself am now in the process of designing and implementing the network code of my game (which is a simple multiplayer puzzle game), and I know this sh*t is not easy.
    So yes, TAKE YOUR TIME! :D
    Cobalt is already a great game, you’ll make it even greater, so do it slow and well. :)

    My best wishes!

  4. sroa12345 :

    take your time we all understand that it takes a long time to do this kind of stuff
    besides it will be an alpha stage game we arnt expecting evry thing to be done

  5. Jay :

    Well, at least they’re putting effort. I can’t wait for the alpha preorder and release!

  6. alec :

    I love this! This post made my evening!

  7. wes :

    Wow, I’m really impressed with what I’ve read, and by the gameplay I’ve seen. No question about it, this is an instant buy for me. Good luck for the future guys, this game has ridiculous potential.

  8. gXxshock :

    Wow this is amazing, love that feature of essentially joining up local players in multiple places (just like in Dungeon Defenders). Keep it up, you guys rock!

  9. MrBorking :

    Aaah what up MLG cobalt!

  10. pwajnkaim :

    Im loving this so far, as soon as I see the pre release Im buying it, even if it costs £50. Can’t wait for tournaments and mlg pro’s fighting against each other like on halo and cod

  11. gXxshock :

    Oh yes please, make it extremely balanced so that it can be played competitively, would be soo amazing to see it at MLG.

  12. Trif :

    Please, take a look at games like Super Smash Bros. (from before Brawl), Zelda: Four Swords, and all the other hotseat games. They are GREAT games, but if your friends don’t live near you, you’ll never get to play multiplayer D:!

    I know it’s very difficult to add networking to a game, simple or complex, but just like these games, Cobalt would be a LOT more playable and enjoyable if we could play over the internet.

    I beg you to delay this game for up to 10 years if you can just make sure networking is enabled. I would probably only get like 5 hours gameplay without networking, but I would definitely get 100+ with it. Personally, I would rather wait for however long you need to make a polished netcode…

  13. Brettapod :

    Looking so forward to this. Haven’t really done many sidescrolling games, so I’m really looking forward and hoping that we can preorder it soon!

  14. MrBubbleSS :

    Not even Minecraft started with their multiplayer, so I think I can wait even if it’s all the way in Beta for any online mulitplayer to be in effect. Doing a great job by the way!

  15. HoneyBiscuit :

    I know that you get this question a lot, but when is the official release date for the pre-order?

  16. pwajnkaim :

    @HoneyBiscuit There is no release date. So far they can only estimate it will be before christmas

  17. Jurjen :

    like the others said, take you time

  18. Wolfboy98 :

    I hope its before Christmas, or else i’ll go mad!

  19. trieyedwolf :

    “but I personally think it would be a crime to not implement it.”

    /agree

  20. Shumbok :

    We need Online Multiplayer, not now but we just need it ! :p
    A Cobalt Release without Networking would be like a Quake release without Guns :)

  21. admin :

    Shumbok: heh.. Perhaps. But you could also say a Cobalt release without networking would be like street fighter without networking.. =) -thewreck

  22. bruce00j :

    definatly buying the game even with out networking, and a sujestion also instead of having only being able to play with your friends (server software) you should have a matchmaking system which would definatly make the game a hell of a lot better and also it is being pre-released without networking dont forget guys there are plenty of avid coders out there that can probably get something together in a few months as a quick fix

  23. Kakutasu :

    When this game comes out it will be an instant hit, maybe even like terraria with 200K buys within a week. Take your time with the multiplayer because i would really like to see it it the full release of the game. GOOD LUCK GUYS :D

  24. Obssoyo :

    I hope this works out, I am very much looking forward to cobalt, I think the multi-player on one machine is awesome enough. . . However If there was networking and a person rating (like chess rating) and you kills counted toward your rating and gained more points based on higher kill targets and less on lower kill targets etc… and had a leader-board say like Starcraft. . . then you would be on the level of having a new official sport in south Korea. . .

    I think you guys have something magic here and I have been hyping it up to all my friends so I think I have at least 10 other people willing to pre-order it now.

    Also would the networking need to happen through using Lua? I would be willing to learn to help make all of this a reality. I think this game really has the potential to be something beyond great.

  25. Riisiwaanzz :

    I think you should put effort in to making the game playable over internetz,
    it alone would raise your sales to hights you havent even imagined!

  26. Z :

    Like you said, it would be a CRIME to not have online multiplayer in a game like this where multiplayer is a big part of the fun. Especially in a PC game. It would seem you are essentially planning this game for xbox360 but there is a large market for PC too. I hope you won’t get any pre-orders so you (they) realise you NEED online multiplayer on a multiplayer PC game. Not to mention piracy. If it only has local multiplayer the pirates will have no reason to BUY it.

    Personally I would have already pre-ordered the game if online multiplayer was confirmed, but …
    I know you are (hopefully) working hard to get online in to the game but I just think it is ridiculous that it wasn’t planned from the start.

  27. Metal Assassine :

    I think you really should add an online multiplayer, most of my friends don’t want to buy cobalt because it only has a local multiplayer.
    But you should not hurry, take your time and develop a working online multiplayer, this will make the game even more awesome :D

  28. admin :

    Metal Assassine: This is exactly why we are very clear with this. People NOT buying it because it doesn’t have networked is MUCH better than people buying it because they think it has networked when it doesn’t.

    If/when we get networked, we will happily be proud of that, and hopefully make those who required it reconsider! But that is clearly uncertain, which is why we are being very careful about it!

  29. admin :

    Z: Thank you very much for your honest words =)

    We understand that too, and yes, we really would LOVE networking too. Which is the reason we are supporting jwj the best we can with this. If you require networking personally, I agree you should hold off ordering! It is a strong consumer statement and we respect you for it!

  30. Axethor :

    Am I slightly sad there is no online multiplayer, yes. Am I mad I pre-ordered it without the online multiplayer, hell no. Just doing the tutorial I can see how awesome this game is, and when I get back from college break I will be playing with my roommates. I’m more upset there isn’t even a tiny piece of the campaign in the current build, but I can easily wait for that.

  31. ManlyPower :

    Im cool with everything as long as I have my map editor functioning well! Maybe sharing maps online could be a milestone for networking? but what do I know?! Take your time and have fun!
    admin: thanks a bunch you guys for being so friendly with the whole thing and taking our suggestions seriously! if you guys weren’t the way you are I wouldn’t be a very proud 1624th owner of cobalt. I’d still be one. just not as proud.

  32. admin :

    ManlyPower: Thanks! We are really looking forward to making this even better for each update. Glad to have you on board for the journey!

  33. Digital Edge :

    I have to admit that I was considering getting the alpha pre-order, but without an online multiplayer feature, I don’t really see the need to buy it. A map editor would be fun, sure and local multiplayer is at least something, but without being able to play with friends over the internet, I really don’t see myself having much reason to play this. Minecraft was able to survive without multiplayer because it had a lot going for it and the game play simply allowed for hours upon hours of single player fun. From what I’ve seen of Cobalt, you play the campaign, make some levels in the map editor and maybe play with a friend or two if they happened to buy the game and live within a few minutes of you. That’s in a best case scenario too. I don’t expect many people I know in real life to buy this game.

    My basic end point is this: without online multiplayer, I don’t see Cobalt going extremely far. That’s an unfortunate thing to say, but I truly believe it. Everything about Cobalt screams online multiplayer to me and since the game lacks such a crucial component, I can’t honestly see this game being a huge success. It easily could be a huge success, but not if it doesn’t have online multiplayer.

  34. Joshua_NB :

    Hey thanks for all the work you’ve done so far in Alpha development. I simply love multiplayer and the times I spend with all my friends from across the states and such. I don’t mind waiting until Gold for networking, which could take a long while. I really liked that comment earlier suggesting you’d rather have people buy this game knowing what it contains. Which is exactly the kind of person I am when it comes to buying video games. I hope all the supportive funds we’ve given you drives you to work even harder, drink more, and sleep less.

    tl;dr Thanks for the great game! Take your time.

  35. Daimyo314 :

    I purchased this in Alpha simply because no networking/multiplayer was mentioned. It felt better to me to purchase it at the cheapest price, just in case the game was never released with networking/MP.

    Personally, my memories are of tweets and videos of MP Cobalt happening in the office…and I was surprised to find there isn’t any at the moment. Maybe I missed something and same-machine MP was happening at the time, I don’t know.

    I purchased MC in alpha, and will happily support Oxeye Games with a pre-purchase of Cobalt…but no MP will be a ginormous disappointment, personally. Someone before said that Cobalt, sans MP was comparable to something…which was a poor comparison. I think this will still be a great game, but Cobalt, sans MP would be comparable to Halo, CoD, or even Battlefield…without MP. Games that are great, but would definitely feel to be having something lacking. It will prevent a GOTY award, this much should be obvious.

    Cobalt + MP = numerous GOTY awards. Guaranteed from what I’ve already played.

  36. admin :

    Digital Edge:
    Thank you for your input!
    Your friends don’t have to buy the game to play same computer multiplayer! Just plug in those gamepads =).

    Huge success is subjective, but secondly a definition you apply to something after it has happened. Cobalt is still early in development, and we have just started giving access to our development build. So far, the core mechanics of the game seem to be enjoyable, which gives us hope for the continued development of the game. This also makes us realize that networking would be awesome, and I too would love to make that happen.

    Perhaps Cobalt will be a “huge success”, perhaps it will be considered a “huge flop”. I don’t know where the consensus will land at, but I do know that at the very beginning, when the game was still in alpha, one player said that: “This might be the most fun video game I’ve played, ever.” To me, that is a huge success.

  37. Red_M :

    as some what of a lua coder (with the experience i have had) i have found lua to be a better language than java but as i have played DM, CTP and survival i think that adding in multiplayer would be great but if it is too laggy for people to play on i think we shouldn’t rush the online multiplayer side of development as i think that local multiplayer still needs some work as to the camera (seeing as i have 4 360 controllers hooked up and i can still use the keyboard for a total of 5 players at once) the camera should split or something as the camera i find right now is a little annoying because if i wander away a little too far i find myself not being able to see my metal on screen! i just think that what most games on the pc need to think about is:

    What do i need to send to the other players?
    When do i need to send it?(eg dont send if object is off screen)
    What can i make the client handle?(eg not too much cpu on host comp)
    In what way can i handle mods?(eg no no-clipping around the place)
    What do i do when these two or more object interact?(eg dodge roll meets another player and a bullet)

    also i seem to have found a bug if you are under an enemy and dodge roll then the enemy goes up and if there is a platform there the game crashes because the enemy cant move and you cant is what seems to happen…anyway if some sort of texture packs could be integrated into the game i think this would be a nice little thing to have as i am a content creator for games as well.
    anyway good day to you.

    -Red_M

  38. Curly :

    Unfortunately, the lack of guaranteed online multiplayer is a huge deal breaker for me :(
    I was literally looking at the payment page to buy the game for me and my boyfriend when I realized I should doublecheck the multiplayer capabilities of the game, and I was very disappointed to read it might not ever happen.
    I guess I’ll be on the sidelines until online multiplayer is confirmed, it looked like a really fun, very promising game.
    Good luck with the future, and hoping that online multiplayer will be added one day.

  39. Krakk :

    I purchased Cobalt, two Xbox 360-controllers and a wireless receiver. Plugged my laptop into the TV and invited 3 friends, with 2 extra controllers, over one night. I have never ever had so much fun playing any other game, in this genre. This easily beats Super Smash, or any other multiplayer consolish~ game I’ve ever played. And it’s just alpha.

    More important than networking, or at least equally important to ensure endless fun, is in my opinion a much better AI, possibly one that could analyze maps itself and figure out strategies. Cobalt is at the moment the most concentrated intensely fun 4-player game I’ve played, but 2-player needs something more.

    Still the best 90 SEK I ever spent.

  40. Digital Edge :

    The fact that you’ve made a fantastic game thus far is definitely a success and should be your crowning achievement. At the end of the day however, you need money to keep doing what you’re doing. Keep it simple like Minecraft did and you have a blockbuster success on your hands. Online multiplayer needs to happen simply to give the game more reason to find its way into the social network and get spread like everyone’s favorite viral infection. You have the formula down pat, but you lack a crucial component.

    It’s just the unfortunate truth I see coming for this game. Reviews will say, “Great game, excellent and addictive game play; very easy to pick up and play, along with a nice map editor for the more creative player to involve themselves with. In a world where even single player games are being forced to have some sort of multiplayer function tacked on, the glaring drawback for Cobalt is the utter lack of online multiplayer. This has become a simple requirement for games similar to Cobalt and it is very unfortunate that a game so promising wasn’t able to stick the landing of a rather impressive display of ingenuity.”

    I’m a about a week late and a few dollars short with this reply, but I figured I’d post it anyways. I have faith that Cobalt will be an excellent game. I just don’t have faith that people will have great reason and urge to buy it beyond getting access to the map editor. As you say, all someone has to do is plug game pads into their computer after having bought one copy and the fun begins with friends right then and there. There’s no urge for people to buy the game if one of their friends went and bought it instead.

    Tapping into the online market is what will surely put Cobalt in line to be an unexpected hit, like Minecraft was. Online multiplayer has to happen, plain and simple.

  41. Johan :

    When you add online multiplayer I will buy it.

    Until then I don’t have a reason to as nobody I know likes this type of game, and I don’t enjoy singleplayer as much.

  42. Pixelchaser :

    Understandably Cobalt will be so much more with the necessary network components.

    Given what the game is it will always a better game with multiplayer. To not have multiplayer by the end of development will still mean the game is not what it should be.

    Multiplayer = a no brainer.

    Simply put, Please make it a reality. even a low cost DLC solution.
    The game let alone anything else needs that multiplayer.

  43. Dawngaward :

    I don’t think this game should have online multiplayer. This is one of those games that are so awesome to play locally with friends that they aren’t really that ment for online (it’s like putting goldeneye N64 online, way better locally)

  44. Jerry :

    Without online co-op, this game isn’t ruined. :D But with online co-op, it will blast into flavor :P

  45. ciuccio2000 :

    take your time oxy… you can do it in the year 2015 if necessary, but please, implement it!!! there are a few people who have a brother or often invite friends at home, online or LAN multiplayer is extremely needed!
    i think you can do it! c’mon! :D

  46. Ben :

    Online multiplayer should be the last thing on you guys’ minds. I’m having a blast playing the offline multiplayer with friends, and I feel this game would be more fun offline than online because of the sitting-on-the-couch-with-friends experience. Although LAN would be nice, I’m fine playing offline.

  47. Krôy :

    I am French (who cares).
    But I think make more players play on the same computer is not fun, I rather think that consoles are better especially since they already have knobs (Xbox360, PS3 etc ….).

    I have friends who live far from me I can not tell them all weekend to come home to play cobalt, no! I would rather say ‘Go if you log on cobalt and we will all explode!’

    I think (again) that if you put it online it will be a big jump! : D

  48. Krôy :

    Hello, I’m French! Haha! : D

    I have buy this game yesterday and i like it! ^ – ^
    I wanted to invite my friend to play but it is not an online game or LAN (for now I hope: P).
    If you put online mode the game will be a big jump! (and I could invite my friend: P).
    Possible to the online mode in Christmas gift? : O

    Bye.

  49. admin :

    Kroy: We agree! networking would be fantastic. It is not something which we are promising and it is not in the plan.

    We also agree cobalt would be great on consoles! That future is still uncertain though.

    Also, the update we are releasing today is a big update towards the singleplayer content of cobalt, with more to come!

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