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  • Five Design Trends In Asymmetrical Games

    [08.26.21]
    - Margaret Wong
  • Asymmetric multiplayer games, a genre of games where there are two or more groups of players with different objectives and gameplay mechanics, has recently gained popularity among gamers. The nature of this type of game generates specific design challenges that seek a balance between the two entirely different styles of gameplay and player identity. I was curious about how studios create engaging asymmetric multiplayer games and thus studied about ten games of this type to summarise five possible design patterns. (Among us, Identity V and Dead by Daylight are three major subjects being studied, some other games are given as examples.)

    Asymmetry in Number of Players
    Not only the gameplay mechanic and victory conditions are asymmetric, but also the number of players is asymmetric. In Among Us, there are more initial number of crewmates than imposters for any total number of players. In both Dead by Daylight (DBD) and Identity V (IDV), there are initially four survivors playing against one killer in the game. A similar trend is observed in some other examples of asymmetric multiplayer games as well, for instance, Crawl which is a 1 vs 3 game, Friday the 13th: The game which is a 1 vs 7 game, Nemesis Realms which is a 1 vs 4 game and Secret Neighbor which is a 1 vs 5 game etc. Furthermore, the number of players in the majority group tends to decrease over the playtime. In quite a lot of the games, the value of each survivor's life becomes more crucial to their victory as the number of their teammates decrease. This asymmetry contributes to the unique experiences in gameplay for both groups of players. The majority group enjoys social interaction and collaboration which was found to be a huge contribution to the enjoyment of the players. On the other hand, the minority group enjoys the satisfaction of eliminating the players in the opposite group and or hiding their identity from others.


    Crawl as a 1 vs 3 asymmetric multiplayer game

    Asymmetry in Power
    The second pattern is that the power of the players is asymmetric as well. For example, when comparing a crewmate with an imposter in Among Us, only the crewmates can be killed by the imposters. Also, only imposters can shut the doors while the mobility of crewmates are passively limited by this and have nothing to do with the mobility of any other players. It is also the same in DBDIDV and many other games that the killer player is the only player able to attack and eliminate the other players while the survivor players can only stun the killer or try to escape from the killer. This kind of ‘over-power' helps to balance the difference in the number of players among the two groups. A similar pattern is observed in other examples of asymmetric multiplayer games, such as Deceit where only the infected group of players can transform into beasts, see in the dark and kill the innocent group of players, Secret Neighbor where only the secret neighbour can disguise as a member of the intruder group and eliminate the intruders, and Daemonical where the demon player cannot be killed unless the human players completed the ritual and send it back to hell while the human players can be slaughtered by the agile and brutal demon. This asymmetry makes the games engaging to both groups of players by creating challenges, something that the players are always looking for in their gameplay experiences, to the majority group and brings benefits to the minority group when the two groups of players are in a 1 on 1 situation. This would also allow space for the evolution of strategies and techniques which was suggested as a factor for good multiplayer game experiences.

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