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Battling the "Curse of the Indie Multiplayer Game"

Size Five Games has come up with a unique solution to counter Gun Monkeys' flagging multiplayer population.

If you haven't played the excellent Gun Monkeys, you're missing out on an easy to pick up but immensely fun multiplayer experience. And it seems like quite a few of you are missing out.

Although the game has been very positively received by critics and the public alike, the game has struggled to keep a solid community of players going. Whether this is due to people being wary of taking a risk on an independently developed multiplayer game or something else remains to be seen, but developer Size Five Games certainly isn't sitting back and relaxing -- it's doing its best to try and fix the problem.

The first step in the process was to replace the original sales model with a new one: now, instead of purchasing either a single copy or a double pack, a $5.99 purchase -- just over half of the game's original price -- will net you two copies of the game automatically, with the second copy immediately available to gift to a friend.

It seems that wasn't enough, though, as Size Five Games has had to take more drastic measures to counter the barren multiplayer servers: specifically, generating free Steam keys and providing them to players who consistently find it difficult to get a game. The theory runs that if someone has difficulty finding a multiplayer game against a stranger, they can receive a new Steam key, gift it to one of their friends who is online and jump into a game with them almost immediately.

"It's a unique solution to a frustrating situation," said Dan Marshall of Size Five Games. "Despite universally positive reviews, Gun Monkeys just hasn't sold enough to keep servers perpetually buzzing with players. It's infuriating, but the important thing to do now is to make sure the people who have bought the game can enjoy it as intended."

The game won't generate free copies forever and there's a limit to how many Steam keys an individual player can acquire through this promotion, but hopefully it will at least get the server populations up a bit in the short term. Marshall worked hard on Gun Monkeys and clearly believes in his game -- as well he should; it's great fun! -- so it's a little sad to see it struggling so much. This is clearly a last-ditch effort to get the game community up and running to a sustainable level, and fellow indie developers are rallying to Marshall's support on Twitter in an attempt to make his game a somewhat belated success. It speaks volumes about Marshall's player-focused attitude that he is willing to sacrifice potential sales just to provide a good experience for people who have already bought the game, but it's highly likely he'll be thinking very carefully before deciding to develop another multiplayer-centric title.

Perhaps it's time for a new and pointedly single-player Dan & Ben adventure, Mr Marshall...?