Number Four Multiplayer
This is one game that most of you have assuredly never played, though undoubtedly heard of as I constantly harp on its many, many virtues. This is the only real-time strategy, massively multiplayer, team-based tactical space combat game ever. What the hell does all that mean?
Allegiance threw up to one hundred players together on one of two teams, with a huge chunk of space between them to explore, exploit and defend from the enemy. Resources must be gathered to research new weapons and ship designs. These ships and weapons will protect your own AI miners, while striking at the enemy's operations. The race is on to see who can build a cruiser first, to take the enemy star base out.
With a cruiser built, you need crew to man the turrets and cockpit, and it helps to have an escort to protect it from those pesky bombers. That's the job of the commander - he has to organize his team, focus them on the necessary tasks, decide on the research path and keep an eye out for sneak attacks by the enemy.
As a typical pilot or gunner, you'd only have access to the information immediately available to you. Scanners had limited range, and even if you could see across an entire sector, there were many sectors interconnected by the various alephs (wormholes.) If your commander gave you an order, you had to have faith in his abilities and he had to know you could do the task at hand.
That remarkably human quality about the difficulty of command and the limited information offered to any individual player is what made Allegiance special and unique. Sadly, it is this same uniqueness that led to the premature end of the game. Most gamers didn't know how to approach it, the concepts were so foreign and seemed hopelessly mixed up. Could such a weird combination of ideas work, we thought? The answer was a decisive yes
for those who tried it, but too few people tried the idea. Besides, who ever heard of a game without singleplayer? Discounting the subscription MMOs (subscription was only optional for Allegiance), no game until Quake III Arena came around with nothing but multiplayer, and succeeded.
Many games get accused of being ahead of their time, but never was this label so apt as with Allegiance. If someone announced Allegiance today, especially with an established license name like Wing Commander or FreeSpace attached to it, we're sure it would get a warmer reception than it did back in the day. For these reasons, Allegiance is FiringSquad's Number 4 Multiplayer Game of All Time.