MMObility: Motion Twin's Mush conjures delightfully paranoid gameplay

Mush screenshot
If you are a regular reader of mine (thank you if you are), then you know how much I enjoy Motion Twin, the studio behind one of my favorite games, Die2Nite. I fell in love with Die2Nite over the last year or two; the game has grown into an amazing and sometimes scary experience, and it does it all with very little imagery. Motion Twin is in fact a one-stop-shop for many unique games that come from many different genres.

So when I heard about Mush, the latest multiplayer title from the same developer, I was naturally excited. For the record, Die2Nite and Mush are both pseudo-MMOs or MMO-like games; make no mistake. But as I have pointed out before, the gameplay is so intriguing and smart that MMO developers would be wise to pay attention to the designs.

Take Die2Nite and set it in space, tweak it, and make it more immediate, and you might begin to understand how Mush plays. Let's look into it -- just remember that in space, no one can hear you scheme!

Mush screenshot
In Mush, as in Die2Nite, the most fascinating gameplay arises when players start to distrust each other. I once compared Die2Nite to the Stanford Prison Experiment, in which some students were told to act like prison guards who controlled a second group of students acting as prisoners. Humans tend to fall into particular roles when prompted by a situation. Just like the guards who grew drunk with power almost immediately and the prisoners who felt victimized by the experiment, players in Die2Nite and Mush almost unknowingly give into paranoia -- and sometimes anger -- as the world they are in begins to grow more and more dangerous.

In Die2Nite, zombies attack the 40-player towns once a day at 5:00 p.m. EDT. During the rest of the day, the players venture out into the wastes to collect goods for survival or stay behind to work on community projects. As you would expect, when a lovely piece of kit or morsel of food is located, the other members of the group have opinions on what should be done with the valuable assets. Arguments can ensue, but so can agreements. I've lived in towns that were run like well-oiled machines and others that turned to anarchy within a day or two.

Mush works on the same principle but gives players even more reason to be paranoid. The Mush is a disease that infects the crew members of the spaceship that they all inhabit. As that disease spreads, the uninfected must determine who has it, all while surviving attacks from enemies and scanning for habitable planets. The members of the crew who are infected gain access to a private chat channel and are supposed to work together to conquer the rest of the ship.

Mush screenshot
So what prevents Mush-infected players from confessing their infection and ruining the game? From what I can tell in this closed beta (with limited gameplay elements), it is against the rules to confess. Sure, that's an easy enough rule to break, but as someone who has schemed and planned the demise of others in Die2Nite, I can tell you that players who gain a shadowy upper hand in the game will be so thrilled with the power that they will likely play along. An infected player does not want to confess because there's experience and other goodies to gain if he "wins."

Minus all of the intrigue and paranoia, Mush is a much more detailed and graphical world than Die2Nite. Where Die2Nite uses mostly text and a very basic map, Mush replaces the map with an isometric spaceship that players move around in by utilizing action Action and Movement Points. Die2Nite uses a similar system, but it takes an entire in-game day (12 hours) to recharge the pool, where Mush allows points to recharge a little at a time or every three hours. My character is able to literally sleep to recharge more points than usual, and I am sure drugs and food will come into play as I need more points in a speedier fashion.

There are projects to complete, jobs to be finished by particular players who are playing specific characters (I am playing the commander of the ship, so I have the right to steer it), and planets to scan for. Things on the ship will break and need to be repaired and prioritized. I am a bit amazed at just how much more Mush does with familiar gameplay. Mush is much more of a simulation game than Die2Nite, a game that plays more like a very scary board game.

Mush screenshot
Of course, while the crew is fixing repairs, fighting off attacking ships by spending action points to fire cannons, and debating where to go and what to look for, the Mush is spreading. Suspicions grow, and I'm sure tempers will eventually flare. Luckily most players are new as I am, and the game is not yet in a gold state, but if there is one thing I learned from Die2Nite, it's to pay attention to those players who have obviously obsessed over the game and learned it inside and out. Those "know-it-alls" are wonderfully useful and quick to answer newbie questions.

How do I take a shower? Should I steer the ship now or wait for the fuel? How would I know I have the Mush, and what do I do about it? I have had so many questions and the community has already been awesome answering them.

As it is right now, I am playing Commander Jin Su. I am the only character who can actually set the ship into motion. We were recently attacked by a group of "Hunters," and I jumped into a cannon and spent several action points to shoot. I killed one and returned to the bridge by spending a movement point. Another player located a planet with oxygen, low temperatures, and mountains. I had to steer the ship south, but we are still needing fuel to be placed into the chambers before travel can commence.

Meanwhile, some players appear to suspect another of being infected. Showers hurt the infected, so we're trying to keep an eye out for the infected player when he showers to see whether it hurt him. I already showered and showed no damage, so my crew should notice, but it's very possible that those who say they know who is infected are infected themselves and are trying to reroute suspicions elsewhere. Things are just getting good.

If you'd like to try out Mush, go over to the Motion Twin site and join the community. According to the news section, a new batch of beta invites will be issued soon. While you're there, check out Die2Nite and some of the other titles, and get ready to be paranoid!

UPDATE: As this article went live, I logged in to find that I had been killed by what must have been an infected crewman. He killed several of us.

Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
This article was originally published on Massively.