Now would be an excellent time for me to talk about the speedrunning marathon Games Done Quick 2020, which just wrapped up last night. However, I managed to miss most of the show this year. I’ll talk more about that on the podcast tomorrow, but in the meantime let me tell you about this other video game thing I’ve been spectating.
Survive The Hunt
Survive the hunt is a community-created game that takes place within Grand Theft Auto V. It’s an asymmetrical PvP game mode where a dozen or so hunters must track down and kill a single player. The trick is that the map is hidden and players don’t have names over their heads. This means that you can’t automatically tell the difference between a player and an NPC. A player can blend into the crowd by simply dressing and behaving like an AI.
The prey has the goal of driving around the city and destroying one of the hot pink Premier model carsI’m not 100% sure this is the model of car in question. The guy making the videos calls them “pree”, which might be a Primo or a Premier. I don’t know the game well enough to tell the difference at a glance. that have been parked around the map. However, doing so will advertise their position to the hunters.
Above I’ve embedded one particular episode if you’re in the mood to see the game for yourself. Here is the whole playlist, if you want more. Note that the rules didn’t totally come together until episode 12, so you might want to start there.
Speaking of the rules, there are a lot:
- Before the round, the hunters get a look at you. You’re free to change outfits once the game is on, but you can’t change your face / skin color / gender.
- The prey gets a 2-minute head start to race into the city, swap outfits, and find a car to use. (In the most recent episode, the prey parachutes into the city rather than driving.)
- The game runs for one full day in GTA V, which works out to 48 minutes realtime. The game ends when the prey dies (the hunters win) or when time runs out (the prey wins).
- The hunters are allowed (and are strongly encouraged) to communicate with each other to track down the prey.
- To keep the game interesting, players aren’t allowed to shoot at each other from inside cars. Otherwise, the prey would be at too much of a disadvantage. It would be trivial for the hunters to disable their car with gunfire during a chase. There are also some limits on what weapons everyone has access to. I’m pretty sure the big stuff like rocket launchers and miniguns are off-limits.
- GTA V allows you to plant remote explosives somewhere, drive to the other side of the city, and set them off. However, this would make the game way too easy for the prey, since it would allow them to destroy the pink Premiers without giving away their position. The rules are a little mushy, but the general guideline is that you should trigger the explosives before you get more than a block away.
- The prey isn’t allowed to drive out into the desert or flee to the mountains. The game takes place only within the city.
- The prey must actively try to destroy the pink cars. The game would be far too easy and boring if the prey was allowed to find some obscure hidey-hole and run out the clock.
- The hunters aren’t allowed to use the top tier supercars, and there’s a limit of 2 flying hunters at a time. Usually this means 1 blimp and 1 helicopter. The flying hunters can’t legally attack the prey, but it’s very hard for the prey to hide from them once the chase is on.
- The hunters can respawn and continue the hunt if they get killed by a random mishap, but if the prey kills them then they’re out of the game.
The prey tries to cruise around town and blend in with the standard NPC traffic as much as possible. This means driving slowOr rather, rather, drive at realistic speeds. Normal driving speeds are incredibly low compared to how most players drive in these games., stopping for traffic lights, not running into people, and making sure their car doesn’t get banged upDriving with a light out, a flat tire, or dents in the hood is a sure giveaway, since NPC cars always spawn in pristine condition.. They need to find one of the pink Premiers, blow it up, and then fade back into the crowd before the hunters arrive.
The hunters have a lot of ways to detect prey:
- A car making an illegal turn MUST be the prey, since NPCs never do this.
- If you fail to execute a plausibly smooth turn with your thumbstick steering wheel, then that might give you away to eagle-eyed hunters. Clipping a curb is a huge blunder.
- Driving too fast is obviously foolish.
- Because of the way the controls work, if you keep holding the brake when you’re already stopped, then your car will go into reverse. So holding down the brake too long will cause your reverse lights to come on for a moment. NPCs never do this.
- While NPC cars do sometimes pull into parking lots or garages, these moments are incredibly rare. So leaving the road for any reason is likely to raise suspicion. Same goes for entering a parked car and joining traffic.
- On foot, running, holding a weapon, or using your phone are all instant giveaways.
The most nail-biting moments of the game are right after you’ve blown up a car and you’re trying to resist the urge to flee. Instead you’re just sitting at a red light as hunter cars come flying in from every direction. Maybe one stops on the sidewalk beside you and the other stops in the opposing lane on the other side of you. Maybe they’ve figured out you’re the prey and they’re just boxing you in while they wait for the rest of the hunters to arrive, or maybe they have no idea if you’re in the area and they’re just trying to spook you into giving yourself away. I absolutely love these razor-edge moments where you can’t tell if you should play it cool or break cover and flee.
This Should be a Standalone Game
Sadly, GTA V doesn’t have a system to enforce the ten rules I listed above. There’s nothing to stop you from enabling player names and the minimap to trivialize the entire hunt. Everyone is on the honor system. Without formally enforced rules, this game can’t really expand to the player base at large. Sure, you and your 15 buddies can play this, but any pickup game with randos will instantly collapse due to rampant cheating.
Worse, the game doesn’t even recognize that your informal game is taking place. You still get spammed with messages about public events going on in the world, death messages involving people who aren’t playing your game, and you don’t even have a proper end-of-match notification. Not that I’d expect Rockstar to add support for player-created game modes. I’m not suggesting the game is missing features or anything. I’m just saying it would be nice if the rules of the game could be formalized somehow.
I think this entire game more is ideally suited to some sort of standalone game. It’s appealing on many levels. I admit that maybe it doesn’t look all that special in the YouTube videos, and to a certain extent I’m more excited about what this could be than what it is. If you’re just not seeing the potential, let me try to make the case:
- Like Dead by Daylight, this seems like one of those rare formulas where asymmetrical PvP works for everyone. It’s not one of those situations where everyone has to wait for their turn sitting in the Fun Chair. I’d happily play this as either the hunter or the prey.
- In Dead by Daylight, you have 1 killer vs. 4 (hopeful) survivors. Players seem to prefer aggression over powerlessness, which means you need to wait around in the queue for a long time if you want to inhabit the unique role. However, here things are reversed so the attackers outnumber the runners. That might make matchmaking easier all around.
- Like PUBG, the game can accommodate lots of players, and is fairly flexible with player counts. 1v15 isn’t drastically harder than 1v12. There’s a bit of self-balancing going on because high hunter counts mean that the hunters tend to crash into each other during big chases. As long as there’s a cap on the number of air units in play, the hunters can greatly outnumber the prey without the game falling apart.
- It’s fun to play on either side, and also really fun to spectate. Again, this seems like another PUBG / Fortnite type formula where the right idea at the right time can launch a craze via Twitch streams.
- While watching the stream, I see lots of opportunities to try different / surprising things. The rounds on YouTube all look similar because it’s the same guy being the prey again and again, and that guy is very cautiousI spend a lot of time yelling at my screen, “THIS IS AS SAFE AS ITS GOING TO GET. JUST GO ALREADY. PEOPLE ARE WATCHING. KEEP IT INTERESTING.. If this game were unleashed on a large playerbase, I imagine there would be a rich evolving meta. Someone would master a stealth techniqueI’ve NEVER seen someone use a crappy car. Consequently, I’ve never seen the hunters look twice at a crappy car., then the hunters would adapt and shut that strategy down. The next week, madcap non-stealth car bombings would be the winning flavor. So then the hunters would develop quick ways to organize and cover lots of map area rather than bunching up behind the prey. Then the next week, players would start exploiting the spread-out hunters with hit-and-run tactics that focus on killing the first hunter that shows up and taking their car. And so on. A game with a deep meta is a game with potential for longevity.
I really do think this idea is worth a fortune. I suppose it’s possible that Rockstar might add this as a supported game mode, but I kinda doubt they care. They seem to be making piles of money with their annoying pay-to-win Shark Cards, and I don’t think they’d be particularly motivated to embark on the hassle of developing, testing, and balancing a whole new system when they’re making so much money doing nothing.
Sadly, this isn’t an idea that indies can pounce on. Unlike PUBG, this isn’t the kind of thing you can throw together with a few friends on a shoestring budget. Open-word cities are the HARD MODE of game development. It requires a huge draw distanceYou can’t hide half the city behind a fog wall. At least, not all the time., low tolerance for pop-inYou can see a LONG WAY down this highway, and players do NOT want to see cars appear out of thin air. Which means the whole road needs to be populated., extreme detailYou can populate a video game forest with 3 trees and 6 bushes, but in cities almost every building needs to be unique , high network demandsSO MANY cars and physics objects need to be kept in sync for dozens of players. It’s a nightmare., and extremely optimized rendering code. And that’s just the workload for your programmers. You’ll also need a team of experienced artists to make dozens of cars with working suspension systems, doors, damage zones, breakable windows, distinct performance characteristics, and appropriate sounds. And then your team needs to fill a city with NPCs without creating a “clone army” effect. And then you need street clutter… hundreds and hundreds of pieces of street clutterPark benches, telephone poles, street lamps, trash cans, dozens of different road signs, street lights, dumpsters, guard rails, hedges, storefronts, mailboxes, etc etc etc..
I won’t say it’s impossible for an indie team to do this, but you’re going to need either a very large team or a very experienced team. This isn’t a job for six friends fresh out of gamedev school.
Anyway. It’s fun to dream about. In the meantime, we just have these half dozen or so games to watch on YouTube. I do think they’re worth a watch if you enjoy asymmetrical PvP.
 I’m not 100% sure this is the model of car in question. The guy making the videos calls them “pree”, which might be a Primo or a Premier. I don’t know the game well enough to tell the difference at a glance.
 Or rather, rather, drive at realistic speeds. Normal driving speeds are incredibly low compared to how most players drive in these games.
 Driving with a light out, a flat tire, or dents in the hood is a sure giveaway, since NPC cars always spawn in pristine condition.
 I spend a lot of time yelling at my screen, “THIS IS AS SAFE AS ITS GOING TO GET. JUST GO ALREADY. PEOPLE ARE WATCHING. KEEP IT INTERESTING.
 I’ve NEVER seen someone use a crappy car. Consequently, I’ve never seen the hunters look twice at a crappy car.
 You can’t hide half the city behind a fog wall. At least, not all the time.
 You can see a LONG WAY down this highway, and players do NOT want to see cars appear out of thin air. Which means the whole road needs to be populated.
 You can populate a video game forest with 3 trees and 6 bushes, but in cities almost every building needs to be unique
 SO MANY cars and physics objects need to be kept in sync for dozens of players. It’s a nightmare.
 Park benches, telephone poles, street lamps, trash cans, dozens of different road signs, street lights, dumpsters, guard rails, hedges, storefronts, mailboxes, etc etc etc.
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