Ghost Riders in the Sky (and at the Races)

Ghost Mech

Ever find yourself looking through a giant, transparent robot, towering high above you? Don’t be alarmed: You’ve just spotted a ghost, a sort of “instant replay” showing how you or other players have performed in game. We recently expanded how, when, and where ghosts appear in VirZOOM Arcade, so we wanted to give a heads up before you start wondering who you’re gonna call.

We first introduced ghosts as part of friend challenges, where you’d only see the after-images of players in private matches. The purposes of ghosts are to give you a sense of how your closest competitors perform, to give you a hint about what to do if you ever feel stuck, and to help our larger virtual spaces feel populated even when other players aren’t yet in your neck of the woods. The feature was well received enough that we’ve now expanded them to appear in Quickplay multiplayer as well.

You can recognize ghosts up close by their translucent appearance (you know, just like real ghosts, probably). You can also recognize ghosts at a distance from the name over the avatar: If a name is accompanied by a wee little ghost icon, you know it’s a ghost! This makes sure that you don’t cross a large expanse in a game like Winterstan looking to demolish a fellow player, only to discover the echo of a past game.

We don’t want to overwhelm players (or your processors!) with too many ghosts, so we’re careful about how many ghosts you see in any given game. Typically, you’ll see a ghost for the player just above your current top score on the weekly leaderboard, the player just below your top score, and your own ghost from your last top score this week. This means that ghosts won’t always appear: If you’re the top player in a given week, there’s nobody above you on the leaderboard, so you won’t see a ghost for that. Or, if you’re the first player to try a game online after the weekly leaderboard reset between Saturday and Sunday, you won’t see any ghosts at all, even your own. Fortunately, if you Sunday morning early risers get lonely without any spectral pals, the solution is pretty straightforward: Play again!

In addition to the ghosts representing replays of top scores, there’s a very special ghost in Racecar. You’ll recognize it as different from normal ghosts because, unlike ghosts with a name and a score above them, this one’s name is replaced with instructions: Beat this for another lap. As we described in our recent rundown on Racecar updates, that ghost appears after you complete two laps, and represents how fast you went in your previous lap. And unlike other ghosts, this one actually has a direct impact on how you score: Cross the finish line before it, and you get to keep racing, but let it beat you, and your race is over.

And finally, don’t be too startled if you shout at a ghost and they shout right back. Ghosts are notoriously loud.

Got any feedback on the broader ghost roll out? Let us know on our blog or at the forums!

Ghost Riders in the Sky (and at the Races)