Once upon a time, I moved to a small town where I knew no one and joined a pub quiz team in a bid to make friends. Things started well - I impressed my team-mates by being able to translate "nom de plume" and won a round of applause for knowing who wrote The Canterbury Tales. But it all ended in a terrible row over my cast-iron insistence that the Lord of the Rings was not, in fact, written by J.K. Rowling.
I have no idea what the people on that team are doing now, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn the people organising the pub quiz now have jobs composing questions for 1 vs. 100. If it's rigorous intellectual challenge you're after, Microsoft's new Xbox Live gameshow isn't the answer. Take this sample question from Friday night's debut show: what colour do you get if you mix blue and green?
In the rare instances you're not instantly sure of the answer, you'll know it the minute the daft multiple-choice options pop up. You might not know offhand which Swedish actor appeared in 1971's Get Carter, but you'd probably be willing to bet it was Britt Ekland rather than Ulrika Jonsson or Sven Goran-Eriksson. Unsure which Python did a voice-over for Shrek 2? Not when the options are John Cleese, John Breeze or John Sneeze.
Even if you know nothing about the subject at hand the options make it easy to guess correctly. I barely know what shape a football is, let alone who won the 2009 Premiership, but I guessed it was more likely to be Manchester United than Accrington Stanley or Bolton Wanderers. Occasionally, the specialist subject questions almost border on difficult - movie buffs might feel smug for knowing the answer to, "In Citizen Kane, what was Kane's last word?" But then they go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like, "In the Beatles film, what is the colour of the submarine?"
Questions don't get harder as rounds go on so there's no sense of progression. There are never any moments of tension as you try to remember an answer on the tip of your tongue, because the silly options shout it right out. On top of this, the question-writers seem to have confused the concept of including clues in the question with including unnecessary detail in the question. Take, for example, "Chris Martin, who married Gwyneth Paltrow in 2003, is the lead singer of who?" I'd have been stumped if they'd said the Chris Martin who married Gwyneth Paltrow in 1984.
But do daft questions make for a bad gameshow? After all, millions of people watch The Weakest Link. Deal or No Deal is even more popular and doesn't feature any questions at all. Those shows have got other stuff to offer though - Anne Robinson and her winky rudeness, or Noel Edmonds, a mysterious banker and contestants who think luck is more powerful than maths. So what does 1 vs. 100 have?
The clue is in the title. As you'll know if you read our preview, 1 vs. 100 is based on the TV show of the same name. A player is selected at random to be The One and take on 100 other players, who comprise The Mob. Everyone else becomes part of The Crowd. Each time The One answers a question correctly, everyone in the Mob who got it wrong is knocked out. If The One gets it wrong, he or she is out and the Mob shares the prize.
At regular intervals The One is asked to choose The Money or The Mob - to walk away with the prize money accumulated so far, or keep trying to knock out the members of The Mob. Only by defeating all 100 of them can he or she win the really big prizes. The One also has a few lifelines, such as the option to see which answer the majority of Mobsters picked or copy the answer of the top-scoring player.
While all this is going on, The Crowd gets to answer the same questions. They score points for correct answers and there are bonuses for speedy response times, but there are no prizes to be won - it's just for fun. Which is where the easiness of the questions does become a bit of an issue. 1 vs. 100 isn't really about how good your general knowledge is, it's about how fast you can press a button. It's Trivial Pursuit reduced to a series of quick-time events. And when there aren't even any real prizes at stake, it's hard to care.
Things must be different if you're chosen to be The One or to join The Mob, but I wouldn't know. Apparently your chances of being selected increase if you answer quickly and consistently while playing in The Crowd. I played for two solid hours and scored pretty well, but lots of other people must have done the same as I didn't get picked once. Nor did any of the other three Eurogamer staffers playing, who were all online for between 60 and 90 minutes.
At least we had each other. You can create an Xbox Live Party and play 1 vs. 100 together, or so the theory goes. Dan Pearson and I were able to see each other's avatars on-screen and compare scores, but we were lumped into a group with two other strangers. When Dan Whitehead and GamesIndustry.biz editor Matt Martin came online later we tried to get them into our group, but there didn't seem to be a way to do this. Still, quiz games are always more fun with friends and it's good to be able to trash talk over 360 headsets.
The problem is you end up making small talk too, as there are loads of breaks between rounds. Some of these breaks will eventually be filled with adverts for all manner of stuff, but on Friday they were all just ads for downloading movies from Xbox Live - a service which, if you've managed to download a game beta, you're probably aware of. You might as well try to sell me ovaries, Microsoft.
To be fair ad breaks are a regular feature of TV quiz shows, and they do give you a chance to make a cup of tea and have a slash. But even excluding the adverts there are too many gaps in play. At some points, entire minutes ticked by while nothing but our avatars and the words "Resuming play shortly" were displayed on the screen. Sometimes background cheering could be heard, sometimes nothing. During these gaps you can press Y to make your avatar perform silly gestures. The novelty wears off quickly. There are frequent "stat checks" where Day Today-style graphs appear, showing how many people have answered how many questions correctly. The novelty never even bothers to turn up.
Then there are the gaps where live host James McCourt spaffs on about how exciting it all is, or so it was during the preview. On Friday night, none of us from Eurogamer could hear a word he said, though we could see his avatar's mouth moving. Probably a mercy. At least we could hear pre-recorded host Olivia Lee. "Anyone can be a winner," she reminded us, forgetting to add, "Except the vast majority of people playing."
All this combines to make 1 vs. 100 feel awfully stop-and-start. But it's worth remembering this is a beta, and it's free. There are bound to be bugs which need ironing out. The development team might also want to look at reducing the frequency and length of the gaps in play, however. It's especially irritating when you start to realise all you're waiting for anyway is the chance to answer questions about whether the presenter of You've Been Framed was Jeremy Beadle or Jeremy Beetle.
There is a potential solution in the form of the Extended Play sessions. Like the live shows these take place at specific times, but there's no mucking about with The One or McCourt or ad breaks so the flow is much smoother. Some Extended Play games will focus on questions about football, film and so on, but I fancied the debut "Superhard" show on Monday night.
I wasn't able to connect for some reason, but Eurogamer cameraman James Hills did manage to take part. He described the questions as being "the kind of questions you get on a pub quiz machine when it's not going to pay out", with a strong focus on "random Eastern European gymnastic champions". Sample questions: "How many canals does Venice sit on - 177, 187 or 197?" Then there was, "How many titles did Margaret Court win at the Australian Open?" Or how about, "Who dominated ski jumping in the 1930s?" Anyone?
By the sound of it, then, you need to be a human Wikipedia or just super-lucky to do well in the Superhard games. Here's hoping a happy medium will be reached when it comes to the questions in the live shows. And that they'll iron out the bugs, tighten up the gaps and make the prize structure clearer. Microsoft has promised HDTVs, holidays and even a car will all be on offer, though most winners will walk away with free XBLA titles and Microsoft Points. Or not - there seems to be some confusion over whether Friday's winners will in fact receive anything at all. We've contacted Microsoft for clarification, but had no reply so far.
1 vs. 100 does have the potential to be highly entertaining. The One / Mob Crowd structure provides and interesting dynamic. It's great that you can play with friends and win real prizes. Plus, as it's not disc-based, you'll never have to worry about questions repeating themselves. As a free download, it's well worth giving the game a go.
But Microsoft hasn't ruled out charging people to play the game in the future, and before that happens some serious issues need to be sorted out. At present, 1 vs. 100 feels like an exercise in who can press a button fastest, punctuated minute-long episodes of nothing happening at all. And I know for a fact that isn't much fun, just as sure as I know that J.R. Hartley wrote the Lord of the Rings.