Read on after the break to hear about our experience and to find out what to expect from the first "season" of the game that may very well eat your social life.
The One and The MOB compete for a share of 10,000 Microsoft Points ($125) per episode.
One player is chosen at random to be "The One," while 100 more are selected for The MOB ("Mass of Bodies"). Everyone else is in the virtual audience, but can still play along. Microsoft reckons that during the several rounds that comprise each two-hour-plus live game, every player will likely get a chance to be in The MOB.
The questions are presented in rapid-fire fashion, with mere seconds to choose from three possible answers. (Don't even think about Googling -- there's not enough time. Plus, you'd be a cheater!) Microsoft has a team of writers producing original questions for every show in the 14-week season, eliminating the possibility of repeat questions. If The One answers correctly, that player stays on for the next question. Otherwise, another One is chosen. Members of The MOB drop out as they miss answers and don't return. Eventually the stakes get very high.
It's possible to play locally with up to three other people on a single 360, or join up with friends (or strangers) online to form four-person teams. These four can converse via voice chat, although the game also supports standard Live party chat.
The live shows (there are also nightly Extended Play games which are entirely automated) are hosted by Chris Cashman, a comedian and actor who observes the game from a production studio at Microsoft HQ. He was heading up our session and is a large part of what makes the live show so compelling. Apart from commenting on the game in progress, he'll call players and chat with them "on air" (players will be able to opt out of this when signing up), read players' emails, chat with "special guests" in the studio and generally be very funny. (He certainly was when we played.)
Microsoft has a team of writers producing original questions for every show in the 14-week season.
Microsoft will also hold a once-per-season giveaway of Zunes and other electronics, which players can enter by taking part in the nightly Extended Play sessions. Placing among the top contestants will reward players with virtual raffle tickets for the drawing.
1 vs. 100 is free to play, but, as we learned (and saw,) it will be advertising supported. The arena is sponsored, the "show" is sponsored, and there will be commercial breaks during each session. But, hey, it's free -- and, as we found, the breaks are a very good thing; the game gets intense.
We asked Microsoft if there are any plans for cross-overs between the 360 game and the actual network show, such as the potential for top online players to appear in a televised broadcast, and were told "no" -- although the idea seemed to go over very well with the game's producers.
As we said at the outset, 1 vs. 100 doesn't revolutionize games, but it was incredibly engaging in our experience, thanks to the live presentation and chance to win real prizes. Plus, the questions were very good, not to mention especially current. We anticipate the live games being fairly massive weekly events that will ultimately make this a bona fide hit. We'll be playing -- will you?