Become predator and prey in multiplayer creep-fest, The Flock

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Peter Dijkstra (right) and Jeroen Van Hasselt, two of the devs of creepy arena game, The Flock. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
Peter Dijkstra (right) and Jeroen Van Hasselt, two of the devs of creepy arena game, The Flock. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — When I went to meet Peter Dijkstra, the business guy at Dutch game developer Vogelsap, I had to wait in line to see the small, indie team’s new horror game, The Flock. I wasn’t too upset, though, as the guy in front of my was none other than famed Doom and Quake developer, John Romero.

Dijkstra’s The Flock is an upcoming horror multiplayer game that takes place in one of three different arenas. Playing the game with three other people Monday at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco brought back memories of those long-ago sessions of Quake Arena, as well as more modern examples of asymmetric multiplayer like Left 4 Dead and Evolve.

With a couple of simple tweaks, a smaller team like this, who only have PCs to develop on, can publish their game to a variety of platforms, like the Mac.

“Unity lets us create a game on our development PCs,” said Dijkstra, “and then make it work on Mac, too.” The team has created a version of The Flock for a Mac and it “mostly worked,” he said.

I had the chance to play the still-in-development game on the show floor with Dijkstra and level designer Jeroen Van Hasselt. The adrenaline started pumping straight away as I put on a pair of headphones and dropped into the world of The Flock.

The idea here that you and up to four other players start every match as members of The Flock, a scary, demonic bunch of monsters searching for a light source to mutate into the light carrier. As a Flock member, you can run (on all fours), jump, attack, and turn to stone, which makes you invulnerable to the light. However, should you move into the light being carried, you will burn up and die. As the light carrier (the first player to grab the motion-powered light source, kind of like a huge flashlight), your job is to survive the onslaught of all the other Flock monsters that didn’t get to the light source first. You can’t jump, and when you run your light is focused on the ground, giving you zero protection against lurking horrors. If you do catch a Flock member coming at you, shine the light on it, forcing it to either burn and die or turn to stone and not move. It’s like being in “Don’t Blink,” that creepy Dr. Who episode with the weeping angels that can only move when you’re not looking.

“You can taunt other Flock members,” said Van Hasselt when I asked about player communication, “which will let your fellow Flock players see you for a moment or two, and also give you stronger abilities.”

The game is scary fun, especially with good players. The guy I played with on the show floor kept smiling evilly every time he found a way past my light source to eat my face. “That was you?” I asked, incredulous. He simply grinned at me and nodded his head, pleased with his sadism. The match ends when one player, as Flock or light carrier, gains the most points, which are earned with kills or by finding special glowing orbs scattered around each level.

Ultimately, The Flock should please those who enjoy the four-on-one scenarios of a variety of triple A games like Evolve or Left 4 Dead. That it was made by a small student team on a shoestring budget is even more exciting.

Keep up with all the news about the game as the team continues to perfect it until release, hopefully soon, at the Vogelsap website.

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