Evan Burkey

The Ship: The Best Multiplayer Game No One Plays

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What, you’ve never heard of The Ship? I’m not surprised. The Ship is a little known game that was put out on Steam in 2006. I had never heard of this game until some friends of mine introduced me to it, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

The Ship is a multiplayer game built off of Valve’s Source engine that received little attention when it came out. It differed so much from all the other multiplayer games of the day. The Ship is a slow, methodical, thinking man’s game, much unlike most PC shooters. You could almost say it was doomed to fail, being that it came out during the height of such fast paced shooters as Counter-Strike: Source.

The Ship, as a friend of mine describes it, is Clue meets The Sims. The game is set in a 1920’s style cruise ship, with all the characters dressed as such. Every player is given a quarry that they must hunt down and kill in order to earn money. Kill any “innocents” and you receive a hefty fine. Kill too many innocents and you will actually be kicked from the game. However, as you are hunting your quarry,  you are also being hunted by another player. The trick is to first find, then stalk and kill your quarry without arousing suspicion. You are also allowed to kill your hunter, so you need to be on the lookout for you as well.

This dichotomy of hunting someone while always watching your back is what makes The Ship so thrilling. Always having to turn around and make sure that Winthrop Featherbottom (the game gives everyone randomized names so that you don’t know which player is which character) isn’t your hunter while trying to chase down your quarry at the same time is what the game is all about.

A lack of discretion, however, is not without consequence. If you are seen with an exposed weapon by the numerous NPCs (called “shipmates”, they don’t participate in the hunt, but are there to make the game more interesting), a security camera, or even a guard, you will be fined and sent to jail. One example of excellent trickery on my part was that I cornered my quarry and whipped out the lead pipe I was carrying. He in turn brandished his pistol. Since we were under the watchful eye of a security camera, both of us were sent to the brig. I had the luck of digging under my prision mattress and finding a shank, which I used to sneak up and kill him while he was using the prision showers.

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The Sims part of the above description comes from the fact that you must take care of your character’s basic needs. These needs include hygiene, hunger, thirst, and sleep, among a few others. The best time for someone to attack you is when you’re in the middle of a shower, or a nap, or during a meal. These needs stop players from camping or turtling, and they add another gameplay element that really makes The Ship stand out.

Another great element of The Ship is the weapon and inventory system. You start the game with no means to attack or defend. To find weapons, you need to explore the ship and look through dressers, cabinets, pantries, and other locations. You can pull an emergency fire ax off the wall, or get lucky and find a gun in one of the cabins. Items are found the same way. There are no health items, or a health meter. The game strives for realistic damage, in that if someone hits you over the head with an ax, you’re probably not going to survive the encounter. However, you can pick up food and drink items to squash those hunger pains, or a book to satisfy your recreation needs. You can also find clothes to disguise yourself, so that you might get a one or two second advantage on your hunter, which is all you need to get ahead.

If you’re the kind of person that enjoys a “thinking man’s game”, then The Ship is where it is at. The game is very reasonably priced at 14.99. That price is a complete steal. Some friends of mine and I from another web community play the game often, and have our own server. Thursday nights we always try to get together and play for a few hours in the evening. If you feel so inclined to join us, and everyone is welcome, you can find the server information here.

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