Skip to main content

Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

1 vs. 100

Question time.

It is scientific fact that a videogame based on a film has only a 0.004 per cent chance of being good. (That percentage drops to 0.001 per cent if the game doesn't have the word "Riddick" in the title.) And according to research I just made up, it's equally unlikely that a videogame based on a TV gameshow will be fun for more than 118 seconds. See Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Weakest Link and Deal or No Deal if you need convincing. Not to mention Golden Balls - officially the worst game I've ever seen.

All those tie-ins appear to have been designed by someone who's only seen the TV show once, and didn't understand it. There are always too many loading screens and too many bits of business to skip before you get anywhere near the questions, and the graphics always look like they were drawn by someone with all the artistic skill of a monkey with hooks for hands.

The biggest problem is there's nothing at stake. Even if you get all the way to that million-pound question and answer correctly, glitter will not rain down from your living room ceiling. Pound coins will not pour from your console's disc tray. Noel Edmonds will not embrace you, but even that isn't enough to make it worth playing.

Now Microsoft is hoping to break with tradition and produce a gameshow tie-in you'll actually want to play. The twist is there's real incentive to do so because in 1 vs. 100, points mean prizes. And sometimes prizes mean points, as there are Microsoft Points to be won. Also on the conveyor belt are free Xbox Live Arcade games plus, in smaller quantities, laptops, HDTVs, holidays and even a car.

The rules of the game will be familiar if you've ever seen 1 vs. 100 on the telly. One player from a potential cast of thousands is chosen to be 'The One' and stand on the podium. Another 100 players are selected to form 'The Mob', and each player (or avatar, in this case) gets their own little box on stage. Everyone else becomes part of 'The Crowd'.

This is James McCourt. He's no Roy Walker.

The host asks a series of multiple-choice questions. When The One gets an answer right, every member of The Mob who gets it wrong will be instantly eliminated. If The Mob manages to outsmart The One, they'll split the accumulated points and prizes. Those in The Crowd can play along and answer questions for fun but they've no chance of winning anything.

There are various set-up options available in the 360 version. You can invite up to three friends to form an Xbox Live Party, which means you can chat via headsets during the game and track each other's progress. You can take part in the Extended Play games, which are held every night and are just for fun. Theme nights are planned so you might find yourself involved in a Battle of the Sexes or competing in a Formula One quiz. But if it's real prizes you're after, it's all about the Live Show.

This is what Microsoft has invited us to try out at on a Friday afternoon at its London offices. We're taking part in the Canadian beta, which is like the American beta only more laid back. Because this is only a practice there are no real prizes on offer, but the real 1 vs. 100 host is here - or coming to us live via the internet, anyway.

Take your passion, and make it happen.

His name is James McCourt and his bright, smooth patter suggests he is a graduate of the Steve Priestley Academy for Movies, Games and Videogames Presenters. He likes to remind us what an exciting time we're having on an almost constant basis ("The best thing is we're totally, totally interactive!") and is obsessed with chronology. "It's coming up to 5pm!" he likes to say, or, "It's a bank holiday weekend!" or simply, "It's Friday!" No need for a calendar when James is around.

While waiting for the Live Show to start you can see your avatar in the 1 vs. 100 lobby. You can chat with friends if you're in an Xbox Live party, and make your avatar dance by pressing the Y button. The faster you press, the more animated your avatar will become. Some of the dances are stupid while others are suggestive to the point of obscene. Keep hammering that Y button and your Xbox Live Party can recreate the magic of Gay Xchange (skip to 45 seconds).

With James about to explode ("This is going to be great!"), the game begins. The multiple-choice questions are mostly UK-centric, based around pop culture and pretty easy. For example: Which celebrity chef appears in Sainsbury's adverts? Who is the driver on Top Gear? Who is married to Tess Daly? In other words, you'll have better luck with a copy of Heat than a history degree.