Saturday, January 2, 2010

1 v. 100

1 v. 100 is a kind of video game/game show hybrid available free to Xbox Live members. It follows pretty closely in the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" tradition, with a selected contestant answering increasingly difficult trivia questions as they climb a prize ladder for escalating cash payouts.

The hook to this particular game is that the contestant, referred to as The One, is simultaneously competing against 100 other people, referred to as The Mob. To move up the ladder, the One must answer questions correctly as members of the Mob miss them. For every 10 people in the Mob that are eliminated, the One moves up a rung. Then they decide whether they want to keep the money they've earned or continue. If the One misses a question, then the Mob is the winner and the prize is divided amongst the remaining Mob members.

Everyone logged into the game that isn't selected to be the One or part of the Mob is in the Crowd. The Crowd plays along with the game, but doesn't affect the progress of the One or the Mob. It's like playing along at home, but you get to see how your score compares to everyone else.

Just like Millionaire, the One gets three "help" options. They can trust the Mob, the Crowd, or the top 10 scorers in the Crowd, taking the most common answer among those groups. The catch is that if they're wrong, you're out.

I played about two hours worth of 1 v. 100 last night (always as a member of the Crowd), and I made a couple observations about the game.

1. The "help" options are of dubious usefulness.

The early questions are really easy, so most players don't need help. But as the game progresses, the questions get more difficult. Eventually the One runs into a question that he or she can't answer. So the One uses a help option. Here's the problem: the question is just as tough for everyone in the Mob or the Crowd as well. I'd postulate that, given the pool of players comes entirely from people with access to Live, the majority of the people in the game represent a pretty narrow demographic. One would reasonably guess then that if the One falls within that demographic and they don't know the answer to a question, then the average responder from the Mob or Crowd won't know either.

In other words, just when you need help the most, you're least likely to get any. As far as I can tell, the best option for the One is to assess where his or her knowledge base is likely to be weak compared to the average Live user, and aggressively utilize their help options in those categories. Saving them until you get to an impossibly difficult question doesn't seem like a logical strategy to me. Of course, that seems to be what everyone does. Which brings me to...

2. The average 1 v. 100 player is pretty good at trivia and pretty AWFUL at logic

In general, I was pretty impressed with how knowledgeable my fellow players were. It seemed like people were capable of answering over 75% of the questions, which could be quite tricky at times. But everything would go out the window once someone became the One.

Being effective as the One requires both the knowledge to answer the questions and the risk-assessment acumen to understand when it's time to stop and take the money. Unfortunately, I can only conclude that the average Live user is sadly lacking in the latter skill and, even more shocking, COMPLETELY IMPERVIOUS TO TRAINING.

Time after time over the course of two hours, the same pattern would play out. The One would breeze through the first few questions without using any help. The Mob would get slowly thinned. Then the questions would get more difficult, the One would bang out a few more correct answers, and the Mob would get cut to around 30 people. At this point, I would think "Take the money and run, buddy. It's going to be tough sledding from here." But nope, the One would choose to press on, leading to an inevitable conclusion. Eventually they get a very hard question, use one of their help options, and sadly discover that their "helpers" don't know the answer any better than they do, losing everything in the process. Then the next One gets selected and I hope that he learned something from the last guy's failure, only to be disappointed again and again.

The most egregious example I saw was about midway through my play session. At this point, the Mob had won EVERY SINGLE ROUND. I thought that SURELY the next One would have taken note of this and adjusted their strategy. Little did I realize the level of retardation I was about to witness. The next contestant struggled right out of the gate. He needed to use a help option practically every other question, even on questions that I thought were pretty straight-forward. But by some small miracle his "help" was actually helpful for once and, even better, the Mob was struggling as badly as he was. After using his third and final help option, the Mob was cut to exactly 30 players, pushing him up to a high level on the cash ladder and allowing him to choose whether to stop or proceed.

Let's analyze this situation logically. This guy had got to this point by the skin of his teeth. He was out of help and past the point where it would typically be useful anyway. The remaining members of the Mob are the ones who are, on average, the most knowledgable, as evidenced by the fact that they made it to this point (without any help). On top of all that, the One is as far from the next cash level as you can be, since he needs to knock out a full 10 players to advance. If you were at 21 and only needed to knock out one person to proceed, it might be more tempting to take one more shot at it. But in this situation? This is as much a no-brainer as you could get. It's time to quit and thank your lucky stars you made it this far.

Imagine my surprise when the One ignored any pretense of logic and chose to proceed. Needless to say, he choked on the VERY NEXT QUESTION, losing everything.

Anyway, 1 v. 100 is an amusing diversion and kept me entertained for a couple hours. There are even Achievements to be earned while playing. Not bad for a free add-on to Live.


  1. You used so many pretty words and had such a unique take on 1 vs. 100 and the strategy of the game that I was completely engaged for your entire post. But now, the only thing I can remember is "risk-assessment acumen," and I'm not sorry!

    Great post!

  2. I really enjoyed your assessment of this live arcade game. I had no idea it even existed, but now I want to check it out, just to witness the decline of all logic at the expense of trying one more question. I will strive to learn from your observations and try your strategy if I ever get selected.