Co-op multiplayer offers a fascinating reimagining with Grounded’s shared worlds system

Playing games online with friends can be a frustrating experience. If the game is hosted on a server, you should count on that the server is running and stable. If the game is hosted peer-to-peer, the host may have to actively play the game, or have a device in their home that they can use to host a server. However, Obsidian’s Grounded has found a genius way to get around all of this – something other developers should look to emulate wherever possible.

warning: There is a close-up of one of the insects from the ground, but we left out any pictures of spiders.

It recently hit 1.0 after spending a significant amount of time in Early Access, and what Obsidian gave us is one of his most polished games of all time. The basic idea is simple: take the movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids and make it a survival game. You fall as one of four children in a world where grass is as big as trees, and trees are as big as skyscrapers. This game can be played with up to four players and is meant to be an immutable world that anyone can log into at any time. Grounded is working on Game Pass, so there’s no additional subscription to get started, and no developer or publisher servers to eventually shut down since it’s peer-to-peer.

When you start a new save, you have the option to save a single player map or a multiplayer map; You can change this later. Once someone you’ve invited joins the server, they can either join when hosting or host for themselves.

Instead of being hosted on a server, Grounded is hosted by the first player running the world as a peer-to-peer connection. Once these players have access to the world, they and anyone else who has played in that world will have access to a synchronized save that any of them can use and sync to and from. Every time you log in, you get a fixed world with your progress and build as you did, and you can play regardless of whether the game creator is available or not. You can host on PC or Xbox, or join another friend who is hosting, and everything is there.

In other words, it is the complete convenience of a game hosted on the server, at no cost.

Compare this to Satisfactory, an excellent game about building conveyor belts on alien planets for the benefit of all capitalism. Patients, like Grounded, are hosted peer-to-peer. However, it still requires someone hosting an active server to play, and the saves aren’t synced that way – in other words, when your friend goes on vacation for a week, you won’t be so lucky to come back. The other option is to build or rent a dedicated server, which can be very expensive, with many options costing $12 or $15 a month. If you decide to host the server on your own, you have to learn all the commands to handle it and make sure to keep it active all the time.

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This method will not work for every common multiplayer world – despite its simple appearance, a game like Minecraft can quickly swell to take up several gigabytes of space. On a populated server, this means that your connection will always be in use by one user or another, and it will transfer a lot of data – not ideal in the age of maximum bandwidth. Hosting on shared keeping is meaningless. But for many other multiplayer games like this one, it’s a great option. It takes advantage of the cloud saving that most major gaming platforms now offer, saves energy by not playing a game that no one is playing, and equalizes access by ensuring that no one owns the game more than anyone else. And since users must be specifically invited, only your friends can sabotage your save. So you just have to make sure that you have trustworthy friends.

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While the multiplayer games themselves and their servers come and go, more public servers like those hosted by Microsoft, Valve, and the like aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. With no servers to survive, Grounded doesn’t rely on Obsidian or Microsoft needing to maintain game-specific servers, and you don’t have to worry about some hosting companies offering an option for a specific game. And in a world where electricity is getting more and more expensive in terms of both financial and environmental costs, not having to run a server all the time will be increasingly important in the coming years. With the popularity of multiplayer games in the shared world, Obsidian is showing some major forward thinking on the future fortification of its new game to make sure people can access it for years to come.

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