Telltale announced a new multiplayer option for its games today: Crowd Play, an optional, in-game feature that will allow anywhere from two to 2,000 or more people participate in the action.
Crowd Play is set to make its debut with the first episode of Batman: The Telltale Series, launching Aug. 2. In a blog post, the developer explained how the feature will work. Anyone who can see a player’s screen — like friends, family or a livestream audience — can vote alongside the player using their phone or computer. This turns a Telltale game’s major choices into a team decision.
"Anyone with a cellphone or a tablet or any web browser can log online, enter their name and they’ll jump right into the game session," Telltale’s head of creative communications Job Stauffer told Polygon in an interview. "And the player, you’ll see on screen how many have joined, and players can weigh in and decide which decisions to make or which dialogue options they would like to be chosen."
There’s an option to start Crowd Play from the main menu screen, and players will be required to have a Telltale Online account to host a session. After activating the feature, others can hop in by entering a special game code into the connected website.
If the vote leads to a tie between the various options, the host will cast the final decision. There’s also a mode that lets the primary player cancel out the crowd’s choices at their discretion, while the other gives the audience full control over the proceedings.
Although Batman and other Telltale titles are available on mobile devices, Crowd Play will only work for the console versions of the studio's games, according to the announcement post.
The Telltale experience has always been a social one
Crowd Play seems like a good fit for livestreaming, and Telltale anticipates that players will want to turn their decision-heavy gameplay sessions into widely crowdsourced affairs. But current streaming platforms are not yet capable of supporting the feature at a sufficient level, the company said.
Stauffer explained that with "Twitch and Youtube gaming and certain livestreaming platforms, there’s usually about a 7-10 second delay of latency. So we have no intention of stopping the dialogue for the audience to wait and catch up, and that really breaks the tension of the Telltale experience. But we’ve also implemented a feature of a thumbs up and thumbs down, so all along the playthrough, even if it’s delayed by a couple seconds, you can see, if you’re streaming, whether your audience is really enjoying your playthrough or not."
Crowd Play — and Telltale’s games — are really meant to be experienced live and in-person. That doesn’t meant they’ll be limited to who can fit in your living room, though. Stauffer suggested that as many as 20,000 people could take part.
There’s even talk of hosting events for even bigger crowds at venues like the Alamo Drafthouse and other movie theaters, which Telltale has done for other games like Tales from the Borderlands and Minecraft: Story Mode.
"We’ll be doing special theatrical events all around the country and the world where we’ll be taking episodes out," Stauffer said, "and fans can come out and join us and log in from their phone and yell at us on the screen at the same time and really just take part in the Telltale experience."
The Telltale experience has always been a social one, even without the feature, according to Stauffer.
"It was really just a no-brainer and frankly a matter of time"
"A lot of us [at Telltale] grew up playing with friends and family or even our parents just sitting by the computer with us and deciding what to say and click on, what do do, ask him where the red key is," Stauffer said. "There was always this kind of unofficial social experience."
Crowd Play finally brings that to the studio’s games as a native experience. Batman will be the first of the company’s titles to use the feature, but Stauffer told us that the company "aims to have this in every Telltale game going forward."
"Looking back at when we grew up and always wanting to play adventure games with friends and then us just shouting at the screen in movie theaters the last couple years, and just seeing how easy it might be to connect everyone through their mobile devices, it was really just a no-brainer and frankly a matter of time," Stauffer said.
Batman: The Telltale Series will be available on iOS, Android, Mac, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows PC, with more episodes rolling out later this year.
Clarification: Although the Crowd Play feature could support upward of 20,000 people (or more) during live events, Telltale is sticking to 2,000 as a participant cap for now. That's due to the latency issues with Twitch and other streaming platforms that will likely keep individual players from hosting their playthroughs for thousands of others to watch, at least for the time being. The headline has been clarified to reflect this smaller figure.