Among Us

Among Us[d] is an online multiplayer social deduction game developed and published by American game studio Innersloth. It was released on iOS and Android devices in June 2018 and on Windows in November 2018, featuring cross-platform play between these platforms.[14] Among Us' first port was macOS, releasing on the software on November 16, 2020. The game was also released on the Nintendo Switch in December 2020, and has planned releases for the Xbox One and Xbox Series X and Series S in 2021.

Among Us
Amongus wordmark.svg
Developer(s)Innersloth[1][2]
Publisher(s)Innersloth
Designer(s)Marcus Bromander[a][4][5]
Programmer(s)Forest Willard[b][4][5]
Artist(s)Marcus Bromander[a]
Amy Liu[4][5]
Composer(s)Forest Willard[b][7]
EngineUnity[8]
Platform(s)
Release
  • Android, iOS
  • June 15, 2018
  • Windows
  • November 16, 2018
  • macOS[c]
  • November 17, 2020
  • Nintendo Switch
  • December 15, 2020
  • Xbox One, Series X/S
  • 2021
Genre(s)Party, social deduction
Mode(s)Multiplayer

The game takes place in a space-themed setting, in which players each take on one of two roles, most being Crewmates, and a predetermined number being Impostors.[e] The goal of the Crewmates is to identify the Impostors, eliminate them, and complete tasks around the map; the Impostors' goal is to covertly sabotage and kill the Crewmates before they complete all of their tasks. Players suspected to be Impostors may be eliminated via a plurality vote, which any player may initiate by calling an emergency meeting (except during a crisis) or reporting a dead body. Crewmates win if all Impostors are eliminated or all tasks are completed whereas Impostors win if there is an equal number of Impostors and Crewmates, or if a critical sabotage goes unresolved.

While the game was initially released in 2018 to little mainstream attention, it received a massive influx of popularity in 2020 due to many well-known Twitch streamers and YouTubers playing it. In response to the game's popularity, Among Us 2 was announced in August 2020. However, the planned sequel was canceled a month later and the team shifted their focus to improving the original game. Among Us has also inspired internet memes and achieved a large following online.

Gameplay

 
An Impostor (white) has killed a Crewmate (blue), with another player (pink) having witnessed their death. Because of the game's vision mechanic, the pink player is partially obscured.

Among Us is a multiplayer game for four to ten players. Up to three players are randomly[16] chosen to be the impostor(s) each round. A round can take place on one of three maps: a spaceship called "The Skeld", a headquarters building called "MIRA HQ", or a planet base called "Polus".[17] A fourth map, "The Airship", was announced on December 10, 2020 and is planned for release in early 2021.[18][19]

At the start of the game, Crewmates are assigned "tasks" to complete around the map in the form of minigames, consisting of maintenance work on vital systems such as fixing wires and downloading data.[20] Impostors are given a fake list of tasks to blend in with Crewmates. However, they are unable to actually perform any task. Impostors can sabotage vital systems (such as the ship's oxygen supply), covertly travel through vents, and work with other Impostors to kill Crewmates. If a player dies, they become a ghost. Ghosts can pass through walls, spectate other players, and chat with other ghosts.[21] Living players have a limited cone of vision,[22] but ghosts do not have this limitation.[23]

Ghosts help their living teammates by completing their tasks (as a Crewmate) or performing sabotages (as an Impostor).[17] The Impostors win when they kill enough Crewmates to be equal in number, or when the Crewmates fail to resolve a major sabotage.[21] The Crewmates win by completing all tasks, or by identifying and ejecting all Impostors.[17] Games can also end by players quitting the match if doing so fulfills any win condition (if a crewmate quits the game, their tasks are automatically considered completed).[24][25]

To help the Crewmates identify Impostors, there are various surveillance systems on each map, such as security cameras system on The Skeld,[26] a doorlog in MIRA HQ,[27] and a vitals indicator in Polus.[17] Crewmates may also confirm their identity through visual tasks, which cannot be faked by Impostors.[28] Any living player may call a group meeting by reporting a dead body, or by pressing the Emergency Meeting button at any time.[21][29][30]

During a meeting, players discuss who they believe is an Impostor based on the available evidence. A plurality vote is held, and the chosen player is ejected from the map and they become a ghost.[20][21] Players can communicate in a text chat,[20] but only during meetings, and only if they are alive (though ghosts can speak with one another at any time).[17][21][22] While the game does not have a built-in voice chat system, it is common for players to use external programs such as Discord.[31][32][33]

In each game's lobby, various options can be adjusted to customize aspects of gameplay, such as player movement speed, the allowed number of emergency meetings, number of tasks, if there will be visual tasks,[34] or whether or not an impostor is revealed after being voted off.[35] There are also many cosmetic options, including spacesuit colors, skins, hats, and pets,[36][37] some of which are paid downloadable content.[f][6][11][22]

Development and release

Early development

Among Us timeline
2018IOS/Android release
Windows 10 Release
macOS release
2019"MIRA HQ" release
"Polus" release
2020Nintendo Switch release
2021"The Airship" release
Xbox Series X/S release

Among Us was inspired by the live party game Mafia,[6][39] and science fiction horror film The Thing.[40] The idea for the concept was originally gave by Marcus Bromander, co-founder of Innersloth, which played Mafia since he was a kid.[41] The game was initially intended to be a mobile-only local multiplayer game with a single map.[5] Originally, the game had no audio to avoid revealing hidden information in a local setting.,[g] and Willard mixed sounds from numerous sound packs to compose the SFX during the game's Steam release.[7] Bromander paused development on Innersloth's other game, The Henry Stickmin Collection, in order to build Among Us' first map, The Skeld.[7] In designing maps Bromander and Artist Amy Liu would use Google images to determine what kind of details a room such as an the electrical room should have.[7] Willard described playtesting as painful and frustrating, as the game would break down during sessions forcing him to send playtesters new builds off of Google Play. The team tested the game with 8 of their friends and never tested the game with 9 or the maximum 10 players.[7]

The game was released in June 2018 to Android and iOS under the AppID of "spacemafia".[6][42] Shortly after release, Among Us had an average player count of 30 to 50 concurrent players.[34] Bromander blamed the game's poor release on Innersloth being "really bad at marketing".[5] The team nearly abandoned the project multiple times, but continued work on it due to a "small but vocal player base",[43] adding in online multiplayer, new tasks, and customization options.[43] The game was released on Steam on November 16, 2018.[5][44] Cross-platform play was supported upon release of the Steam version.[45][46]

On August 8, 2019, Innersloth released a second map, MIRA HQ,[47][48] which was firstly announced to be in development after the incrementation of map filters during 2019's first update.[49] A third map, Polus, was added later that year on November 12.[47][50] The fourth map, the Airship, is set to come out in early 2021 and is based on a location in the Henry Stickmin universe. MIRA HQ and Polus were initially US$4 via in-app purchase, however their prices were reduced to $2 on January 6, 2020, then made free on June 11, 2020.[51] While the map packs are still available for purchase on all platforms, they now only provide the player the skins that were bundled with the maps.[52]

According to programmer Forest Willard, the team "stuck with [the game] a lot longer than we probably should have from a pure business standpoint", putting out regular updates to the game as often as once per week. This led to a steady increase in players, snowballing the game's player base. Bromander attributed this to the studio having enough savings to keep working on the game even while it was not selling particularly well.[5]

Popularity

Initial spike in popularity

 
Twitch streamer Sodapoppin, credited with popularizing Among Us on Twitch

While Among Us released in 2018, it was not until mid-2020 that it saw a surge of popularity, initially driven by content creators online in South Korea and Brazil. Bromander stated that the game is more popular in Mexico, Brazil, and South Korea than the United States.[5][6] According to Willard, Twitch streamer Sodapoppin first popularized the game on Twitch in July 2020.[5] Many other Twitch streamers and YouTubers followed suit, including prominent content creators xQc, Pokimane, Shroud, Ninja, and PewDiePie.[53][54][39]

The COVID-19 pandemic was frequently cited as a reason for the popularity of Among Us, as it allowed for socializing despite social distancing.[5][21][55][47] Emma Kent of Eurogamer believed that the release of Innersloth's The Henry Stickmin Collection also contributed to awareness of Among Us,[53] and PC Gamer's Wes Fenlon credited Twitch streamer SR_Kaif for "prim[ing] Among Us for its big moment." Fenlon also praised Among Us for improvements over other popular tabletop games that had been inspired by Mafia, such as Secret Hitler. He said other video game adaptation of Mafia such as Town of Salem and Werewolves Within were "just add[ing] an online interface for the basic Werewolf rules," whereas Among Us is as an entirely new take on the concept.[39] Along with Fall Guys and the Jackbox Party Packs, Among Us provided a narrative-less experience that helped to avoid the "cultural trauma" of the pandemic, according to M.J. Lewis of Wired.[56]

Continued popularity

The game's popularity continued into the following months. YouTube reported that videos about Among Us were viewed 4 billion times in September 2020,[57] and TikTok videos related to Among Us had over 13 billion views in October 2020.[1] YouTuber CG5 wrote a song based on the game in September 2020, titled "Show Yourself", and gained over 60 million views in 4 months.[58] In September 2020, the game exceeded 100 million downloads[39] and its player count rose to 1.5 million concurrent players[3][59] (nearly 400 thousand of which were on Steam),[47] then peaked at 3.8 million in late September.[60] The sudden increase in players overloaded the game's server, which according to Willard was "a totally free Amazon server, and it was terrible." This forced him to work quickly, under crunch time, to resolve these issues.[43]

In August, Innersloth opened an online store for Among Us themed merchandise.[11][34] The game's popularity inspired many original songs, fanarts and internet memes,[26][29][43][61] Willard expressed that fan-created content "really is the best part" of making Among Us, and Bromander called it "my favorite thing to see".[43] The game popularized the slang word "sus" (meaning "suspicious"),[2][62][63][64] which had been used as a slang term before the game's release.[65]

During its time of widespread popularity, Among Us was controversially played by the U.S. Navy Esports team, in which players on the stream used in-game names referencing the N-word and the bombing of Nagasaki. The stream was deemed "offensive" and "intolerable" by some viewers.[66] In October 2020, U.S. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar streamed the game alongside several other prominent streamers such as Pokimane and Hasan Piker as a way to encourage people to vote in the 2020 United States presidential election, drawing almost 700,000 concurrent viewers on Twitch.[67][68][69][70]

Amid its popularity, Innersloth considered releasing the game to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, but encountered a problem in implementing player communication as standard text-based or voice-based chat seemed unusable. They considered a system similar to the "quick comms" system from Rocket League, as well as the possibility of developing an entirely new communication system for the game.[31][32]

Canceled sequel and ongoing updates

In August 2020, the team shifted focus onto a sequel, Among Us 2.[10][11][12][13] During this time, Forest Willard and Amy Liu continued to update Among Us, increasing the maximum playerbase, adding four servers and three regions,[71] and implementing longer game codes to support more concurrent games.[72] On September 23, 2020, the team canceled the sequel, instead opting to add all content intended for the sequel to the original Among Us, due to "how many people [were] enjoying [the original game]".[73][53][74] However, Innersloth deemed the game's codebase "outdated and not built to support adding so much new content", so the team made plans to rework the game's core code to enable adding new features.[74]

The team subsequently announced their plans to fix the game's server issues and widespread cheating problem,[75][76][77] as well as add a system for banning disruptive players.[78] In October 2020, colorblind support for the "wires" task arrived to the Among Us beta on Steam, as well as some previously unannounced lobby customization options.[79][80] As-of-yet unimplemented features include improving gameplay for ghosts,[81] adding customizable controls,[82] a friends system, more player colors, and a new map based on the Airship from the Henry Stickmin series.[83][84][73][53][74][78]

On December 10, 2020 at The Game Awards 2020, the "Airship" map was announced to be released in early 2021. Set in an airship, it will feature multiple floors, contraptions, jobs, and "more." In addition, Geoff Keighley's face will be a skin in Among Us. The map itself is based upon the Henry Stickmin's Toppat Clan Airship.[85] At the same date, it was announced that Among Us will be available in Xbox Game Pass for PC at "some point in the not-too-distant future," as quoted from Shacknews.[86]

Among Us was released for the Nintendo Switch on December 15, 2020, the same day it was announced during Nintendo Direct Indie World showcase. The Switch version supports cross-platform play with the mobile and Windows versions.[87] Upon release, the Switch version had an exploit to access the unfinished map The Airship prior to its official release in early 2021.[88] The exploit was fixed two days after release in the Switch version's first update.[89][90]

The game is planned for release on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S in 2021.[91]

October 2020 and January 2021 hacks

In mid-October 2020, a hacker known as "Eris Loris" began targeting mainly North American servers. Several players on the Among Us subreddit and Twitter reported this player hacking their lobbies and spamming in-game chat with promotions for his YouTube channel, links to his Discord server, and controversial political messages.[92] Eris Loris also threatened to personally hack players that refused to subscribe to his YouTube channel. The Discord server has been found to contain large amounts of NSFW content such as racist language, gore, pornography and images depicting animal abuse.[93]

A Eurogamer report from October 23, 2020 features an interview with the person claiming to be Eris Loris, conducted via the Discord server from one of the links provided in the hacked games. In the interview, Loris claims he created the bot responsible for the hacks "in only six hours", and had enlisted up to 50 volunteers to form a botnet which boosted the strength of their attacks. Loris claimed that the hack impacted 4.9 million players in 1.5 million games. He also added that the hacks were part of a publicity stunt to influence players to vote for Donald Trump in the presidential election.[93]

Innersloth added an in-game message warning players about the hacks on October 22,[93] and released a statement on Twitter the next day. They said they were "super aware" of the hacking issue, and stated that an "emergency server update" would be pushed out to combat the hacks. They encouraged players to stick to private games and to avoid playing on public ones until the update was released.[94] The team plans to address the hacking vulnerabilities as part of the planned overhaul for the game.[75][76][77] The exploit was later fixed.

At the end of January 2021, players reported on Twitter the return of Eris Loris' hack attack, which is now distributing Among Us hacks and cheats.[95]

Reception

Craig Pearson of Rock, Paper, Shotgun found playing as an Impostor "a lot more fun" than playing as a Crewmate, which he called "exhausting".[20] In reference to the game's popularity among streamers, Evelyn Lau of The National said: "Watching the reactions of people trying to guess who the imposter is (and sometimes getting it very wrong) or lying terribly about not being the imposter is all quite entertaining."[21] Alice O'Conner of Rock, Paper, Shotgun described the game as "Mafia or Werewolf but with minigames".[102] Andrew Penney of TheGamer said the game was "worth it for the price" and that "who you play with dictates how fun the game is."[22]

Leana Hafer from IGN stated in her verdict on the game: "I don't have any sus that this will be the last game of its breed to make a splash, since we’re already seeing its influence on even mega-games like Fortnite". As a negative point, she pointed out some technical problems, such as the difficulty of finding rooms that aren't already full or are a long way from getting there. She also lamented the lack of "mechanic to punish players who rage-quit when they don't get to play as impostor, or are caught dead to rights in the middle of a murder".[100]

Among Us has been frequently compared to Fall Guys, as both became popular as party games during the COVID-19 pandemic;[5][33][82] the developers of the games have both positively acknowledged each other on Twitter.[103][104] Comparisons have also been drawn between the two games' avatars, which have been said to look like jelly beans.[105][106] Among Us has also been compared to The Thing,[29][107] Town of Salem,[39][107] Werewolves Within,[39] and Secret Hitler.[39]

Sales

As of September 2020, Steam Spy estimated that the game had more than 10 million owners on Steam.[108] The Associated Press noted the game was the most downloaded app on the iOS App Store for both iPhones and iPads in October 2020.[109] According to SuperData Research, the game had roughly 500 million players worldwide as of November 2020, with the free-to-play mobile version accounting for 97% of players and the buy-to-play PC version accounting for 3% of players, though it was the buy-to-play PC version that generated 64% of the game's gross revenue.[110] Among Us became one of the best selling games of 2020 on Steam, being listed on the platinum category on "The Year's Top 100" list.[111][112] The Nintendo Switch version's launch sold 3.2 million digital units in December 2020, making it the highest-earning version of the game for the month and one of the best-selling games on the Nintendo Switch, despite some negative reviews of the port.[113][114]

Awards

Award Date of ceremony Category Result Ref.
Golden Joystick 2020 November 24, 2020 Breakthrough Award Won [115]
The Game Awards 2020 December 10, 2020 Best Mobile Game Won [116][117]
Best Multiplayer Game Won
Steam Awards 2020 January 3, 2021 Labor of Love Award Nominated [118][119]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Better known as "Puffballs United".[3]
  2. ^ a b Better known as "ForteBass".[6]
  3. ^ a b Apple Silicon-based computers only; uses iPadOS version of the game.
  4. ^ Stylized as Among Us! on the iOS App Store.[9] When discussing its sequel, the game has been given the retronym of Among Us 1 by the game's developers as well as several news outlets.[10][11][12][13]
  5. ^ Although the term used by the game is "Impostor", "Imposter" is also a correct term.[15]
  6. ^ Both the free mobile version of Among Us and the paid PC version have paid DLC. For the PC version, however, some of the mobile version's DLC is included in the standalone game.[38][6]
  7. ^ For example, the sound of an Impostor killing a Crewmate could reveal to other Crewmates who the Impostor was.

References

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Further reading

  • Lorenz, Taylor (October 14, 2020), "With Nowhere to Go, Teens Flock to Among Us - YouTubers, influencers and streamers popularized the multiplayer game. Then their fans started playing too.", The New York Times, retrieved October 14, 2020, When an indie game company created Among Us in 2018, it was greeted with little fanfare. The multiplayer game remained under the radar as many games do — until the summer of the pandemic. Eager to keep viewers entertained during quarantine, Chance Morris, known online as Sodapoppin, began streaming the game, created by InnerSloth, to his 2.8 million followers on Twitch in July. By mid-September, Among Us caught on like wildfire. Suddenly major YouTube stars, TikTok influencers, and streamers were playing it. PewDiePie, James Charles, and Dr. Lupo have all played the game for millions.
  • Rodriguez, Salvador (October 14, 2020), "How Amazon's Twitch turned an obscure game called Among Us into a pandemic mega-hit", CNBC, retrieved October 14, 2020, Developed by InnerSloth, a small studio in Redmond, Washington, Among Us was download nearly 42 million times on Steam in the first half of September, according to Safebettingsites.com, and it was downloaded nearly 84 million times on iOS and Android that month, according to SensorTower. The game hasn't left the top five on Apple’s U.S. App Store since Sept. 1, and it has seen more than 158 million installs worldwide across the App Store and Google Play to date, SensorTower says.
  • ""Among Us" Surged in September - "Among Us" videos topped 4 billion views in September", YouTube Culture and Trends, October 14, 2020, retrieved October 14, 2020, Among Us is an online multiplayer social deduction game developed by an American indie game studio, Innersloth. Among Us is a space-themed game in which a crew of astronauts must complete tasks while trying to figure out who among them is an imposter, who is sabotaging their work and killing the other players. The game has been available for about two years, but viewership of videos related to the game soared last month. There were over 4 billion views of videos related to Among Us in September.

External links