Jason Rohrer is quite the eccentric game creator. His most well known game is Passage, a free rumination on aging and death, while his The Castle Doctrine focused on the dog-eat-dog criminal underworld of theft and burglary. He even created a board game that won't be playable for approximately 2000 years because he up and buried it in a location only he knows. The kooky nut.
And for his next act, Rohrer is making an occult-themed multiplayer PC game that requires players to bet real money. It's called Cordial Minuet and it sounds wild.
The cryptic teaser site is full of laughably gibberish gobbledygook about occult rituals, but Kotaku has the full scoop on the nitty-gritty details of how it actually plays. It's likely worth a full read, but here's an overview:
Two players each have a six-by-six grid on their screen with a number on each tile. The numbers in each row and column are randomised, but they always add up to 111. One player's board is tilted 90 degrees from their opponent's. So what appears as a column in one player's board is actually a row in another's (but the numbers are still the same).
Each player must then select two columns. One for themselves, the other for their opponent. At the same time, the other player does likewise. When both players confirm that they've made their selection, you see where your pick intersects with their pick for you. The goal is to have the highest number.
It may seem like guesswork, but there's a lot of strategy to it, Rohrer assured Kotaku. It's all about statistics and risk. Do you pick the column with the highest spread in hopes that your opponent picked a fortuitous row for you (which they might do, hoping that you picked a different column)? Or do you play it safe and go for a column with a more conservative range, so you don't risk getting stuck with a measly two?
Cordial Minuet sounds like a fun way to psych out your friends, only you can't play with your friends. By design, it will assign you an opponent randomly and anonymously. And you need to play for cold, hard cash. The buy in will start at $2, while it goes up to $999 million with the maximum bet per hand being $10m. Winnings will be mailed to users via a cheque. Cashing out will cost $1.50 in the US for a third-party service to handle the logistic of cheque-routing, while Rohrer will keep 10 per cent of the earnings from the game (which won't cost anything to play beyond the $2 buy-in).
Of course, a game like this walks a legal grey area, but Rohrer explained to Kotaku that it's completely legal as it's entirely skill-based. "Recent federal internet gambling laws apply to any 'game subject to chance'. This squashes the historical 'predominance' test, throwing games like backgammon and poker under the same bus as roulette," Rohrer explained. "I needed to go further to stay away from this new federal law - my game could not be subject to chance at all. When you sit down at a round of Cordial Minuet, the game's outcome is decided 100 per cent by the choices that the two players make, and zero per cent by a random number generator, unlike poker and backgammon."
Rohrer is adamant that the risk of legal tender is "the beating heart of my game." He said the whole thing was inspired by a recent fascination with Texas Hold 'Em. "This game did something to me that no other game has done," he said of the classic poker mode. "The drama and emotional anguish is magnified tremendously when there's something real at stake. I like games that can reach into real life in a palpable way."
The man has a point. I mean, have you tried playing Texas Hold 'Em for anything other than cash? It's not the same now, innit?
Rohrer is hoping to release Cordial Minuet on PC by the end of the year, but nothing's set in stone.