Games time forgot: The Ship

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The Ship was, unfortunately, destined to obscurity from the very moment it was devised. Despite being a murder-based, multiplayer Half-Life mod, The Ship took something as cliche and recognizable as the contemporary deathmatch and turned it into a slow-paced, thoughtful game of hunter/hunted.

This is, of course, why only about three people play it at any given time, and those who do remove all the game rules and play it like it’s CounterStrike.

There are, however, a few caring souls who still play The Ship the way it’s meant to be played, and they frequent this very website. Eschatos, ScottyGraySkull, and CaffeinePowered all subtly brought me back into the game via The Ship Mondays, which I guess you can contact them about.

Suffice it to say, this is the only multiplayer-only game I’ve ever highlighted for Games Time Forgot, and you can still play it as intended thanks to your fellow Dtoiders.

Hit the jump to see why it’s worth your time.

Story:

The 1920’s.

Some douchebag in a mask named Mr. X has invited a bunch of well-to-do guys and gals onto a cruise ship. Each guest has been given an envelope containing the name of another shipmate.

Should the guest find and murder that shipmate, they will get a cash reward based on the rarity of the weapon they use. While stalking their quarry, however, each guest must be careful, because another guest has a card with their name, as well.

Gameplay:

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Beyond the “each guest has to kill another guest” concept, The Ship also includes a The Sims-esque needs system for each character, designed to simultaneously force players to balance their physical needs with their murderous goals, and put players in surveillance-free areas where they can be easily stalked and killed.

You’ve gotta watch your food, drink, bathroom, conversation, entertainment, and tiredness gauges at all times: sooner or later, you will have to lie down and sleep somewhere, and you better hope you do so in a well-lit area with lots of security cameras and guards. Otherwise, you will be beaten to death with a mannequin arm.

Essentially feeling like an interactive Agatha Christie deathmatch game,  The Ship is more about the art of the hunt — of stalking your quarry throughout the ship, finding a well-paying weapon (based on frequency of use, the cash payouts for each weapon dynamically change as the game progresses), and ganking your target in a quiet spot while also making sure your hunter doesn’t gank you.

It’s not a perfect game — far too much of the game relies on memorizing the map layouts and knowing where to find the best weapons — but it’s got a style and pace all its own. Few multiplayer games can keep you in a near-constant state of suspense, but The Ship, with its hunter/hunted gameplay and ever-present needs system, manages to do so.

Why you’re probably not playing it:

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Because most gamers don’t have the patience for a multiplayer game which requires forethought and restraint, mainly.

Not realizing that slowly stalking your opponent around the ship makes the ultimate kill infinitely more rewarding, most douchebags choose to play The Ship as if it were a free-for-all deathmatch. Apart from a very minor financial penalty and potentially pissing off the people who actually want to play the game as it’s meant to be played (if you can find any, that is), there’s no real punishment for running around the ship, haphazardly chopping up everyone you meet. There’s no reward, either, but the sort of douchebags who would turn every round of The Ship into Unreal Tournament consider pointless slaughter a reward in and of itself.

The Ship is original enough to frighten most people away from playing it, yet accessible enough that game-ruining douchebags will stay with it to the point where if you randomly load up The Ship and happen to find a server with three or four people in it, at least one will be a deathmatching douchebag (and the others, feeling it fruitless to try and play the right way, will probably follow suit).

As said earlier, though, there is a beacon of hope in all the douchebaggery. Every Monday, a large group of Dtoiders get together and play the game as intended: no revenge kills, no deathmatching. The Dtoid server (run by CaffeinePowered, I believe) is, in fact, the only place you can reliably go to play the game as it should be.

The Ship costs $15 on Steam (admittedly a high asking price, considering how few people play it anymore), but if you’re at all interested in seeing a new twist on deathmatch then it’s worth the cost.

Anthony Burch