Gang Beasts

In the crowded field of local multiplayer games where up to four players can compete to pummel the guts out of each other through their faces, Gang Beasts stands out. Its clumsy balloon-limbed characters wear animal costumes, its levels include a ferris wheel and the tops of several moving trucks, and its physics turn everything into a stumbling shambles. Gang Beasts is still in early access but it's already hilarious. 

On Steam Gang Beasts is free to try for the weekend as a way of stress-testing its new server architecture, networking, and so on. This is a perfect opportunity to sample a game that made our list of the best local multiplayer games and our list of 12 PC games with amazing combat.

That's no joke! The way Gang Beasts lets you control your arms independently, grabbing with one while punching with the other for instance, or just clambering up a wall over a pit while somebody else clings to your foot, turns every match into a perfect slapstick movie brawl.

The free weekend has started now and will end at 9pm Pacific time on Sunday, September 24. It's 33% off for the duration as well.

Gang Beasts - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Hurling your mate through a plate glass window, into a grinder, or off a speeding van is somehow even more fun in Gang Beasts [official site] than in real life. It’s a wonderfully daft multiplayer brawler about gelatinous squishmen who have your usual punches and kicks but, crucially, have a button to grip – meaning you can grab onto anything and everyone, tossing people around or holding on for dear life after someone tries to hurl you into the sea. If you haven’t played it yet, mate, round up some chums and have a go during the free trial weekend which has now started on Steam. (more…)

Gang Beasts - Boneloaf
Update at 20:30 BST on Friday 21 September

We've been working with Coatsink and Multiplay for the last 24 hours to fix server performance and matchmaking issues identified in the first span of servers tests. There are still some minor issues and annoyances with the process for starting online game sessions but the key issues compromising the stability and performance of the matchmaking service has been addressed and patched.

The matchmaking service has been taken down in the last 30 minutes for some minor fixes but is coming back online currently and should be availanble for a second batch of stress testing in the next 10. Connecting to the current online multiplayer implementation requires updating to the 0.6.2 build.

Sorry that we were not able to provision servers in less time and the interruption in access to online games, we don't have the volume of players using the unstable builds to fully stress test the new networking scheme and needed to publish the server testing builds as default Steam builds to make testing valid but we're now close to having a stable and scalable hosting platform that supports both public and private game sessions and can support other online game modes.

Update at 3:20 BST on Thursday 21 September

Coatsink have identified the issue as a deadlock in one of the client threads when it receives a high volume of requests; the issue has been isolated to an authentication process.

The matchmaker is available currently but it will continue to ignore some request until Coatsink can finishing patching in the morning (the time in the UK is approx. 3.20am), apologies for the interruption, this is an issue we didn't identify in internal testing or testing in the "unstable" build as we could not manufacture the volume of concurrent users.

We will post an update to this post as soon as we have an estimated time for the second stress test (we currently expect the second stress test to require downloading a new client build, Steam should prompt you to download when this build is available).

Update at 23:30 BST on Thursday 21 September

Coatsink have identified a single issue to fix before we can push the matchmaking update, we will post more information soon.

Update at 20:25 BST on Thursday 21 September

Coatsink have temporarily taken the matchmaking server offline to patch some issues identified in the first batch of tests, will post an ETA for when they are back online soon.

Patch notes for the Gang Beasts 0.6.1 beta build and Steam Free Weekend

Since the Gang Beasts online beta in August 2016, Boneloaf have been working with a small team at Coatsink to finish the content and systems for the full game, a significant part of this work has been to transition to Multiplay’s dedicated game hosting solution and Hybrid Cloud Orchestration technology to give official Gang Beasts servers a scalable, low-latency, managed hosting platform maintained by a specialist team of game server experts.



We have published the Gang Beasts 0.6.1 Early Access beta to Steam in the last hour and have made the game temporarily free on Early Access as a Steam Free Weekend game from 10am PDT / 6pm BST on Thursday 21 September to 1pm PDT / 9pm BST on Sunday 24 September to stress test the new server architecture and networking scheme and support for private sessions on official servers.

Please see the post at beef.city/060 for information and a changlog listing the key modifications and fixes in the 0.6.0 unstable build. For more information on Multiplay please see the Press press release at beef.city/multiplay

For reference we expect to have some inconsistencies with server availability and stability in the next hours as we transition to Multiplay's servers and scale server capacity.
Gang Beasts - glumjamesbrown
Since the last Gang Beasts build was published in July we have been working with Coatsink to migrate the official Gang Beasts servers to a scalable low latency hosting solution, we have also made a series of significant optimisations and modifications to progress the performance and stability of the matchmaking , UI, and character systems. We have been testing potential 0.6.0 builds with Coatsink, Double Fine, and support from a QA team at Babel since the start of September, the matchmaking system, new server architecture, networking scheme, and costume fixes are at a stage where we need to test at scale to identify issues that are difficult to find when testing in the office.



Currently we are working on standardising the optimised UI, localisations for French, Italian, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese (support for other languages is planned), costume fixes, post processing, achievements, a modified implementation of the current camera system (built on Unity Cinemachine procedural camera system), and additional game modes (the 0.6.0 unstable build has the first public implementation of the local gang game mode, the gang mode is not supported online currently).

The 0.6.0 build as an unstable beta with this post for testing and patching before it can replace the current default Steam build (build 0.5.7a), to test the 0.6.0 build right-click on the game name on the Steam library page and select 'Properties' from the dialogue window that opens, from this window select the 'BETAS' tab then the "unstable" option from the dropdown menu (the menu labelled 'Select the beta you would like to opt into:’).

Please note the 0.6.0 unstable build has been explicitly made for stress testing servers and only has support for the melee (local and online) and gang game modes (local only) and has some UI settings and other content disabled.

We are testing stage wins in preference to stage rounds in the 0.6.0, the implementation is similar to the previous implementation but a new stage is loaded after each stage win (currently the win parameter is set to 2 wins for public online games and limited to 1-4 wins in local and private online games.

The key modifications and fixes made in the 0.6.0 unstable Early Access beta build are:
  • added a force that applies when releasing grabbed characters and objects (the force is applied in the same velocity vector as the released character or object (making throws more forceful)
  • added an limited input deadzone to mouse input (to ignore small mouse movements and minimise conflicts with other input sources)
  • added contextual support scripts to dynamic objects to improve stability, and character and object interactions (dragging, lifting, hanging etc.)
  • configured stages to use the modified targeting system (significantly lowering the number of hidden colliders in each scene)
  • fixed an exploit where devices with support for rapid-fire buttons gamed the concussion system
  • fixed an issue that erratically applied movement forces when jumping from climbing states
  • fixed an issue where the grab system could fail to reset temporary joints in some contexts
  • fixed an issue with character sliding movement that could lock the character in an endless sliding state in some contexts
  • fixed an issue with concussion length scaling
  • fixed an issue with force and direction calculations (to make glancing blows less frequent and increase the number of successful blows)
  • fixed an issue with the character system that gave NaN and INF errors (triggering a fatal exception)
  • modified force parameters for the character support geometry increased physics stability
  • modified inertia tensor properties for character body parts to stabilise character on character interactions (and other interactions)
  • modified physics calculations for damage to account for optimisations to the character movement system
  • modified score sequence to render on stage end with background blurring (currently implementation disables input soon after the win state is met, this will be reviewed in a coming build)
  • modified secondary character moves (diving headbutts, dropkicks, and sliding kicks) to carry more damage, failing to land a more forceful move can concuss the assailant temporarily
  • modified the character costume colour cycle sequence from yellow, green, blue, red etc. to red, blue, green, yellow etc.
  • modified the character movement system to optimise performance and standardise mass, drag, and force parameters
  • modified the character systems to remove tags use and string comparisons (to reduce the number of game object in scenes and improve scene loading times)
  • modified the characters arms configurations to minimise contexts where arms can get stuck behind characters heads
  • modified the hoisting implementation for climbing to inherit the direction of character movement
  • modified the pause menu to limit input to the device the menu is invoked from
  • modified ropes on the ring stage to stabilise interactions with characters and objects
  • modified the targeting system to remove the need for assistive geometry and set hierarchical priorities for body parts, objects and surfaces (assistive geometry is still used for specific contexts)

The key issue with the 0.6.0 unstable Early Access beta build are (this list will be updated as we collate information on issues):
  • camera rotation in game menus can over rotate in some contexts
  • message strings can clip stage and character geometry
  • parameters for rope break tolerances need modifying to make breaking
    less difficult
  • escalation patterns for some stage need modifying to improve gameplay
Gang Beasts

Gaming is always better with friends, and this week on the Humble Store, you can get up to 75 percent off select multiplayer games

Wacky physics brawler Gang Beasts is 33 percent off, or you can make things a little more serious and dangerous with 60 percent off 7 Days to Die. Ultimate Chicken Horse has you and your friends creating platforming levels while you play, and it's 40 percent off this week. If you like, you can quack your way to victory with 50 percent off Duck Game

There are plenty more games on sale too, so head over to the main deal page and see which multiplayer games tickle your fancy this week.

Some online stores give us a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Read our affiliate policy for more info. 

Gang Beasts - Boneloaf
In the hours immediately following the distribution of the 0.5.7 Gang Beasts Early Access build (publish on Thursday 29 June) we identified some performance issues on the Gang Beasts public servers, these issues escalated on over the subsequent days on populated servers triggering administration scripts to force server instances to restart and abruptly end game sessions on servers with the issue (the administration scripts are necessary to stop servers from terminally failing).

On Monday 3 July at approx 8pm BST we made the decision to take down the servers to address and patch for stability issues (and some matchmaking and connection issues) and have subsequently made multiple tests with a series of client and server builds. We have publicised the 0.5.7p1 build concurrently with this post and have provisions number of public servers at for testing.

Sorry for the protracted unavailability of public servers this week, together with Coatsink we have tried to maintain a high level of availability for public servers for the Early Access community by aggressively patching servers but were unfortunately not able to avoid taking public servers offline in this instance.

Other Information

For reference the key issue compromising the headless Linux server builds (that run on AWS architecture) was a severe memory leak that made disconnections, stage loading failures, and other stability issues more frequent until server administration scripts triggered the server to restart.

We were not able to reproduce the memory leak in testing before publishing the 0.5.7 Early Access build and the associated public server builds last Monday (the issue was only identified when public servers were populated with a high volume of concurrent players).

For reference the 0.5.7p1 builds is a separate branch to the coming 0.5.8 build and has no modifications from the 0.5.7 Early Access build (other than being built from Unity 0.5.6p1 not 5.6.2f1 and having online support for the incinerator stage temporarily disabled for this build).
Gang Beasts - Boneloaf
[UPDATE] For information on the current server unavailability see the pinned post at http://steamcommunity.com/app/285900/discussions/0/1368380934285718547/

Patch notes for the Gang Beasts 0.5.7 beta

In June we have continued working with Coatsink to address performance and stability issues and other annoyances, part of this work can be tested in the 0.5.7 Early Access build and associated server configurations (published with this post). The key patches and optimisations in the 0.5.7 build are specific fixes for the character distortion and freezing glitches introduced in the transition to Unity 5.6 (and other physics stability issues), a significant decreases in CPU use, numerous networking and matchmaking stability fixes, and reduced build sizes.



Other work included in the 0.5.7 build includes modified and optimised city geometry for the background of exterior stages (only in the blimp and girders stages currently), modified and optimised geometry for the girders, incinerator, and wheel stages, Rick and Morty character costumes and multiple new character costume parts [1], large enemy AI body types for enemy AI (in the current waves stages), an improved AI for the waves game mode (AI aggression and throwing still need additional work but can be tested in the grind and incinerator stages), and a modified colour tinting system to support more variation for costume customisations.
https://youtu.be/2T26tXGRhCY

Other work that is partially exposed in the 0.5.7 build includes the implementation of a custom atlasing system for scene optimisation (this is the last stage in the stage optimisation workflow, only the gondola and wheel stages use this system in the 0.5.7 build but the other stages are being moved to the atlas system currently), a custom buoyancy system (only exposed on the wheel stage in the 0.5.7 build for testing but will be moved to the other stages that have water or meat paste volumes when the current buoyancy parameters have been modified and standardised).

Other work not exposed in the 0.5.7 build includes modified and optimised geometry for the alley, grind, towers, and roof stages, optimisations to the character and prop physics implementations to significantly lower the frequency of physics calculations made per frame and stabilise collisions.
https://youtu.be/RuIpfufwZEM
14 of the 16 public stages support online in 0.5.7 build, the key priorities for July are to execute the current QA schedule, finish the last modifications and optimisations and add online support for the chutes and towers stages, finish the last modifications and optimisations for the alley and roof stages, make a last pass to standardise character, prop physics optimisations and climbing, fixes and improvements to matchmaking, game modes, UI, localisations, and post processing.

The list of modifications and fixes made in the 0.5.7 Early Access beta build are:
  • added modified and optimised city geometry to the blimp and girders stages
  • added 17 new costume customisation parts and cat, panda, penguin, and rhinoceros kigurumi costumes
  • added food production worker 1, food production worker 2, boiler suit, and security guard costume presets for enemy AI on the grind and incinerator stages
  • added large character body types for enemy AI in waves mode
  • added modified and optimised geometry for the girders stage (with local and online support)
  • added modified and optimised geometry for the incinerator (with local and online support)
  • added modified and optimised geometry for the wheel stage (with local and online support)
  • added multiple stage escalations to the wheel stage
  • fixed a significant physics issue that made character geometry distort and freeze
  • fixed an issue that stops clients from joining servers if they had previously disconnected from a server in the same game session
  • fixed an issue where characters could pass into the grinders on the grind stage without entering the concussive state
  • fixed an issue with trains SFX ignoring the game SFX volume settings
  • modified and optimised city geometry to blimp and girders stage
  • modified concussion SFX to only trigger if characters are subjected to a concussive blow (concussion SFX should not trigger for falling and sinking hazards)
  • modified the colour system to support tinting (to support costume customisations variations)
  • modified gondola and wheel stages to use a custom atlasing system for performance (this work is the last batch of planned optimisations for the stage geometry)
  • modified server configuration to automatically restart less frequently (restarts is necessary for clearing memory)
  • modified some trigger volume tests to optimise performance and make detect specific character interactions and events (for the achievement implementation)
  • modified the climbing implementations for online and local games to standardise
  • modified and optimised UI for the character selection and character customisations screens
  • reduced memory usage
  • reduced the game file size by approximately 40% / 1.25GB
  • removed some redundant code from the client for optimisation
  • replaced buoyancy with optimised custom implementation (objects float before sinking. characters float but lose stamina, concussed characters sink)
  • temporarily removed the game over messaging for local single melee player games
  • temporarily removed support for the waves mode for the grind stage
The list of key issues identified with the 0.5.7 Early Access beta build are:
  • issues with camera on wheel stage (we are working on implementing support for the new Unity Cinemachine 2.0 CinemachineTargetGroup to improve the tracking of multiple characters)
  • issues with colliders on the pier on the wheel stage (online only)
  • costume parts can show through other costume parts in some context with some costume configurations
  • the implementation for the bridge deformation in vents needs modifications to stabilise the bridge
  • water implementation is not standardised
  • modified and optimised Beef City geometry is not standardised for external
    stages
  • large enemy AI characters can get stuck in doors on the grind and incinerator stages
[1] the full list of costume parts FastFood_foodHygieneForageHat, FoodProduction_01_foodHygieneHat, FoodProduction_01_foodHygieneJacketWithGloves, FoodProduction_01_foodHygieneShoes, Garbage_hiVisVest
Garbage_militaryCap, GroundsKeeper_overallsBottom, GroundsKeeper_overallsTop, Paremedic_bumbag, costume_tophat, costume_fez, costume_sombrero, costume_denimVest, costume_denimjacket, IceCreamVendor_iceCreamManShorts, Construction_hardHat, and Construction_dungarees
Gang Beasts - Boneloaf
In the last month we have been finishing work on optimising the current public stages and testing fixes for issues introduced in the transition from Unity 5.4 to Unity 5.6, we have identified a potential solution for the current character distorting / freezing and other physics stability issues and have made successful tests with a patched server configuration. We plan to patch public servers over the next hour. Please post information if you still see distorting / freezing issues or missing geometry when playing online following the server update to help us identify if the patch is not working as expected. [1]

Server availability and stability will fluctuate for the next hour as servers are patched

Other than work on optimising the current local and online stages (this work is necessary for improving physics stability and standardising collision detections), we have also been working on games modes, a full replacement for the current UI implementation, physics and server stability, standardisation of costume and prop parameters (for existing and new objects), configuring the Unity post processing stack, localisations, and improvements to matchmaking and networking. We expect to publish multiple builds demonstrating this work in June and July with a series of posts giving specific information on the full release content for the game and current plans for post launch content.

[1] For reference there is no build published with this post; in tests we have recorded a small number of distorting / freezing issues in local games but instances were significantly less frequent than online games, we will monitor server stability and prioritise publishing modified client builds (with additional optimisations and fixes) when the solution for the distorting / freezing issue has been demonstrated as working.
Nidhogg

Once upon a time, playing a multiplayer game meant no other choice than gathering your friends around the living room TV and hurling fireballs and trash talk at each other in equal parts. Friendships were made over Goldeneye and destroyed in Mario Party. Experiences like these mostly lived on consoles, though, as PC multiplayer was mostly limited to LANing games like Warcraft II and Counter Strike before the internet gave way to the matchmaking and ladders of online play. 

Luckily, a bevy of indie titles have answered the call of gamers looking for a dose of that old-school same-screen nostalgia. Some focus on fierce competition, parroting the arena brawling of games like Super Smash Bros. Others can be every bit as frantic, but pit you and your friends against the game instead of each other. However it is you like to play, these are the best local multiplayer games on PC.

Cooperative games

Overcooked

If Iron Chef has taught me anything, it's that there is no truer arena than the kitchen. This is a sentiment Overcooked takes to heart, simulating the chaos and commotion of a multi-station restaurant kitchen. Two to four players zip frantically around increasingly complex kitchen arenas to prep and deliver orders as they come in. Some are simple: for tomato soup, for example, drop three chopped tomatoes in a pot, let it cook for a moment, plate the dish and send it on its way. But most are much more complex, requiring a delicate dance of chopping ingredients, cooking others, and assembling dishes according to the various incoming orders.

Success requires a combination of coordination, communication, delegation of duties, and fine-motor skills in order to meet the demands of the dinner rush. It's chaotic fun—just try not to burn the kitchen down.

Rocket League

This brilliant game of car soccer has captured us completely. At first glance this may appear to be a purely slapstick game about rocket-powered cars bumping giant floaty balls into goals, apparently at random, but go deeper and you’ll find a fiercely competitive game of carball that almost drove editor Samuel Roberts mad.

Rocket League is an excellent couch game because it suits quick pick-up-and play sessions and is easily played when fully reclined—we tested. Once you start to get a feel for the controls a world of trickshots and bold upside-down car-kicks reveals itself, and a moreish stream of cosmetic unlocks gives the game even more colourful personality. It’s worth experimenting with 1v1 and 2v2 if the default six-player matches seem too chaotic.

Death Squared

Death Squared is the type of puzzle game that can single-handedly tear friendships apart. For either two or four players, you control colorful cube robots trying to make it to specific spots on each map, but as each player moves the level shifts around them—usually with highly lethal results for your teammates. It’s a phenomenally clever and challenging puzzle game, but one of the most successful parts of it is just how much coordination it takes. It’s difficult for one player to “quarterback” the solutions to every level, which makes it more fun for everyone.

Another great two-player puzzle game to look at is Kalimba. It’s much faster-paced than Death Squared, but it similarly rewards cooperation. 

Castle Crashers

There’s a special joy in getting together with three friends and beating the crap out of everything. Castle Crashers revels in that joy—it practically bathes in it. Each player controls their own knight in a seriously warped fantasy kingdom, running to the right and slaughtering countless enemies through forests, towns, castles, dungeons, and more. Each kill gets you experience for stronger sword swings or better magical attacks. There are tons of weapons, animal companions, and secret heroes to find and fight over, too. Sure, you can play it solo (or online), but we love playing with friends right on the couch—coordinating the “cat-fish” fight is way more insane when your companions are right beside you.

Local co-op is really the bread and butter of developer The Behemoth, and they have more games worth checking out. Battleblock Theater is a great two-player platformer with full Steam Workshop support for custom levels, and the more recent Pit People is a more casual, controller-driven take on a turn-based strategy game.

Streets of Rogue

A roguelike mashed up with an immersive sim, Streets of Rogue is both procedurally generated and heavily systems-driven. You and up to three friends can take on random missions that can be solved any way you like, similar to other games like Dishonored or Deux Ex but top-down and pixelated. The game provides a shocking amount of variety and freedom for how simple it looks, making it an easy one to pass up. While it’s not strictly a co-op game, I think it’s fair to say nearly any systems-driven game can become a lot more fun (read: absolutely chaotic) when a group of people are tackling it at the same time. 

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

The brilliantly named Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes simulates that action movie scene where the plucky hero has to disarm a bomb by describing what it looks like to a bomb defusal expert over the phone. In the game, only one player can see or interact with the ticking time bomb and its myriad switches, wires, and buttons, while the rest of the players have access to a bomb defusal manual. The game was built for (and plays best in) VR, but even without an expensive headset it aptly simulates the tense conversation of trying to solve a puzzle where you can't see the pieces. Just remember: keep talking and nobody explodes.

Enter the Gungeon

Another game that’s not strictly co-op, but Enter the Gungeon is a lot more fun with a friend sitting next to you. It’s a bullet-hell roguelike where you shoot bullets at bullets who are shooting other bullets at you. Do keep in mind, Enter the Gungeon is hard, and you will likely die a lot, ally at your side or not. But its co-op is integrated extremely well, and the punishing difficulty doesn’t feel as harsh with a friend to help. It’s a great combination of genres in a lovely pixel art wrapper, and one of the few games on this list that likely won’t make you extremely angry at your ally.

Broforce

This 2D shooter is a pastiche of both ‘80s movies and side-scrolling arcade games—it’s a very fun combination. You and up to three friends play as ‘parody’ versions of characters like Rambo (here called ‘Rambro’), the Terminator (‘Brominator’) and even more contemporary choices like Will Smith from Men In Black, or Neo from The Matrix. The fun comes in how these characters’ weapons all differ, as well as Broforce’s physics-driven level design, where every single block of the environment can pretty much be destroyed. While there’s not a lot to it, the variation in enemy types and environments mean this is a perfect couch game for a 30-minute burst of fun.

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a bit like if FTL was multiplayer and everything happened in real time. You and up to three friends each control an avatar on a lovely colorful spaceship careening through space. There are various stations to man, such as weapons systems, engine, shield, and map, and players have to run their little avatar from one to another as threats present themselves. It’s a hard game because you almost always need to be in more places than you can manage, constantly running from station to station while bumping into your shipmates. But a well-oiled crew can make piloting the clumsy ship incredibly satisfying, especially during Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime’s huge boss fights.

Hive Jump

Hive Jump is a procedurally generated ode to Super Metroid for up to four players. The levels are randomized each time you play, but with hand-designed rooms and challenges scattered throughout. You get new guns and upgrade your troops as your team descends further into the alien hive, and Hive Jump features a pretty cool respawn system that’s sort of like permadeath-lite. You can respawn on death, but only if you manage to keep a transponder on your back safe from enemies, which incentivizes players sticking together and helping each other out.

If you want another retro roguelike co-op option, 20XX takes the jump-n-shooting of Mega Man and puts it into procedurally generated maps for up to two players. 

On the next page: competitive games and arena brawlers like Nidhogg, Towerfall Ascension, and Videoball.

Competitive games

Crawl

A competitive dungeon crawler with a top notch retro styling. Crawl is a four player asymmetrical hack-n-slash where one player is a hero fighting through a dungeon, while the others inhabit the monsters and traps scattered throughout. Whoever gets the last hit on the hero takes their place, and the game ends when either the hero manages to defeat the dungeon’s boss (also player controlled) or the party loses to the boss for a third time. You get new items and improve your hero while also leveling up and improving the monsters you can control, so you’re growing stronger no matter which side of the struggle you are on.

Another great (and free!) little co-op game from developer Powerhoof is Regular Human Basketball, which is exactly what the name implies. 

Worms W.M.D.

The Worms series has always been a gem of competitive local multiplayer, but I was less than thrilled with many of the recent 2.5D entries. Worms W.M.D. gets back to good ol’ fashioned 2D animation, and it’s absolutely lovely. It’s one of the best Worms games in a very long time, with all the physics-based skillshots and tricky ninja ropes you may remember alongside some cool new tricks. The series has also struck a great balance between randomization and skill, making it great to either just have some fun with or settle hard-bitten scores. 

Brawlhalla

Wish you could play Super Smash Bros. on PC? Well so do I, but I’ve learned to live with the crushing disappointment that that's literally never going to happen. Luckily, Brawlhalla is here to ease the pain a bit. It’s a fighting game that shares Smash Bros.’s percentage-damage system and screen-launching deaths, but it’s also based around picking up different weapons that each have a unique moveset. It doesn’t have the recognizable characters of Smash Bros., but it’s still got some nice character design that does a good job of letting Brawlhalla stand on its own two feet. Brawlhalla is also free-to-play, making it easy to hop into with some friends if you want to give it a shot.

Another good Super Smash Bros. stand-in is Rivals of Aether, which has been in Early Access for less time, but has more of a focus on unique characters with special abilities than weapons. 

TowerFall Ascension

A lot of single-screen deathmatch games are content to offer a single way to play, offering a lean, lightweight experience by doing one thing very well. TowerFall Ascension is a much more comprehensive offering than most. In its basic form, up to four players jump around 2D levels pinging lethal arrows at one another. A finite quantity of ammo makes it important to snatch arrows from the bodies of fallen foes—or grab them out of the air, if you're quick enough—and powerups, environmental hazards and shifting maps keep this process interesting. But there's much more to the game than that. In two-player co-op you take on a series of survival challenges against increasingly varied and interesting enemies. A page full of special rules and mutators allows you to create new game modes on the fly, from giving everybody bouncing arrows to creating a single invisible super-player who the others have to hunt.

Often mentioned in the same conversation as TowerFall is Samurai Gunn, which keeps the one-hit-kills but trades bows-and-arrows for, you guessed it, samurai swords and guns. Matches are a bit quicker and more frantic, but every bit as fun.  

Duck Game

In the future—1984, in this case—pixelated ducks compete in a violent, ever-changing bloodsport. Join your friends in team deathmatch and blast each other with shotguns, lasers, grenades, and tons of other weapons. The matches are quick, with a single shot taking you out, and the map changes after each round which never lets you get comfortable or bored. Plus, there are mini-games that serve as intermission from the carnage, and a button dedicated solely to quacking. It's a fun, silly, and frenetic game that's hard to stop playing.

Gang Beasts

It's still—still—in Early Access, but Gang Beasts is already a hoot of a party game, featuring a series of deadly arenas in which to awkwardly punch, kick, drag, pick up, and throw your friends around. Struggle to control unwieldy balloon characters as you and your friends fight to the death in levels containing meat grinders, moving trucks, Ferris wheels, and speeding subway trains. The difficulty of steering your character is part of the appeal, and making things harder is the fact that you'll be laughing uncontrollably as you fight to climb back up the side of the ledge you've been thrown off, or struggle to free yourself from the clingy grip of another player.

Nidhogg

Nidhogg is one of the best one-on-one competitive games on PC. As a fighter, it’s a Bushido Blade-like struggle for one killing blow as two pixel fencers advance, parry, lunge, dive kick, and disarm each other with staccato bursts of button presses. It’s beautiful (you really have to see the sprites in motion), weird, and takes great skill to master. It’s also a lot of fun to watch, especially thanks to the tug-of-war competition format. Rather than a best-of-three series of short bouts, the players are competing to advance across a stage. Kill your opponent, and you get the right-of-way to dash toward your side of the level. When they respawn, they have to return the favor to gain the right-of-way and take back territory. On top of the drama of each duel—which usually ends suddenly—each match is an easy-to-read struggle for progress, with lots of opportunities for comebacks and upsets. When the winning player makes it past the final room, a crowd cheers, and the titular dragon gobbles him up. Congratulations!

A sequel, featuring multiple weapons and a grotesque claymation art style, is expected later this year

Ultimate Chicken Horse

Isn’t the name clear enough? It’s a platformer combination of Horse and Chicken. You take turns placing platforms, obstacles, and traps around a Super Meat Boy style level, trying to make it too hard for your opponents to complete but not so hard that you can’t complete it either. As the map fills up with ways to die, you can eventually remove blocks or rearrange them, so it sort of balances itself through the course of a game. It’s not the easiest game to just jump into with friends as platforming skill will seriously come into play here, but it’s easy enough to pick up for people unfamiliar with the genre. And frankly, it’s an awesomely unique concept that you won’t really find anywhere else.

Invisigun Heroes

A newer take on the one-hit-kill same-screen deathmatch that was pioneered by the likes of TowerFall Ascension and Samurai Gunn, Invisigun Heroes mixes things up by making everyone invisible, appearing only when they shoot. Matches are tense, as it's as much about tracking your enemies' locations as it is keeping a bead on your own. Certain terrain types help with that, showing footprints or splashes of water when you walk, and bumping into a crate lights it up in the color of whoever made contact. There's also a variety of class types, each with it's own unique abilities—an exploding recon sensor and a complex doppelganger power are two highlights alongside more standard fare like a terrain jump, bullet-reflecting sword, and boring-but-effective dash attack. Various game modes also help keep things interesting, ranging from territory-control to a somewhat weird coin-collecting scheme—but nothing beats the standard deathmatch.

Sportsfriends

A compilation of quirky competition. Sportsfriends envisions four ridiculous new sports—although one, Johann Sebastian Joust, is only compatible with Mac and Linux. That's a shame, but not disastrous, as the remaining package is still great. The best of the bunch is Super Pole Riders, created by QWOP's own Bennett Foddy. It's entertainingly chaotic, as two teams of pole vaulters attempt to move an overhead ball towards their goal. Primary tactics include performing a proper pole vault, or using the pole to guide the ball along its rope. You can also play defence, using the pole as a barricade to smack an opponent away, or jumping on their head to force a respawn.

Also included is Hokra, a four player game about filling in blocks of colour; and BaraBariBall, a Smash Bros.-like arena game but with goals to score and almost infinite jumping. As a whole collection, Sportsfriends is intense, entertaining, and varied. 

For a bit of a lewder take on Sportsfriends' minigame collection, the more recent Genital Jousting offers similar goofy gameplay but paired with silly, floppy, cartoon penises.

Videoball

Sport distilled down into its essence: this is the pure videogame version of soccer, with a ludicrous range of options. Colors, scoring rules, arenas—there's a lot here to tweak to your own liking. The joy of Videoball comes in tuning into the timing of shooting and blocking. You are an Asteroids-like triangle, and the tap of a button (the game uses only one) fires a stream of small triangles out of your ship. These are good for dribbling the ball forward. Hold the button, and you power up the shot for a slam dunk—but if an opponent hits the ball with their own slam, it reverses direction while retaining all its momentum. And if you hold the button too long, your powered up shot converts into a defensive block. The pieces are incredibly basic, but there's insane headroom room for endless competition, as in any great sport.

Gang Beasts - Boneloaf
For the last month we have been working with Coatsink to move Gang Beasts to Unity 5.6 [1] to exploit performance improvements and make use of the expanded NavMesh, lighting, text rendering (TextMesh Pro), particle, post, camera, and debugging tools. The work to move to Unity 5.6 is done and most stability and rendering issues associated with moving to the current Unity 5.6 release have been identified and fixed.

Testing for the 0.5.6 beta build (published with this post) has ended, please flag any issues with Boneloaf support (support@boneloaf.co).

The 0.5.6 Early Access beta build has online support for the elevators stage, modified and optimised geometry for the subway and elevators stages, and a series of other optimisations, fixes, and modifications to UI, networking, and character and costume stability. The 0.5.6 beta also has a modified win state for the melee game mode and a provisional scheme for removing idle players from official servers (see the changelog section of this post for information).

In the last month we have also been working with partners to finish the optimisation of stage geometry and physics simulations, expand enemy AI abilities and pathfinding, setup game modes, debug new costume parts, fix camera issues, and rebuild and optimise menu and in-game UI (some of the optimisation work is exposed in the 0.5.6 beta but work on game modes, AI enemies, costume parts, menus and UI, and camera and post effects can’t be exposed for playtesting until a later build). [2]

The list of modifications and fixes made in this beta build are:
  • fixed an issue with character postures on the costume customisation screen
  • fixed stage specific issues with baking lights and re-baked light maps for some stages
  • implemented a scheme for removing idle players from official servers (the current server session will end and show the message “You were kicked due to inactivity” if inputs are not frequently sent to each player) [3]
  • implemented online support for elevators stage
  • modified formatting for UI text and modals for legibility
  • modified server disconnection messaging to give more information
  • modified the default win state for the melee games on official servers to two round wins per stage (to give players that lose the first round a round to fight in before the stage can cycle (spectating players can join from the next round or the next stage if the stage has ended) [4]
  • modified Steam API authentication messaging (Failed Platform Entitlement) with summary information and instructions
  • modified Steam ID names to not scale with distance in non-VR games
  • modified the stair light fixture on subway to support swinging from it
  • optimised the geometry for subway and elevators stages (made less significant optimisations to geometry for other stages)
  • renamed “survival” game mode to “melee” [5]
[1] we expect to make the full release build of Gang Beasts with Unity 5.6 later this year when the full set of launch content (game modes, stages, and costume sets) are fully tested and playable

[2] we have also been working on minimising and removing exploits and deviations in local multiplayer and online multiplayer game modes, please flag exploits and other issues in the comments

[3] this implementation will be reviewed and modified if removing idle players is exploited or otherwise compromises gameplay)

[4] similar to Street Fighter if World Warrior’s were gangs from Beef City and had mass brawls not tournaments

[5] for reference “melee”, “football”, “waves”, and “sandbox” are the four game modes planned for the full release of the game (other game modes will be added in a series of free post launch updates)
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