UniBall is a free 2D online multiplayer game. Originally created by C: (Josh Langley), who was a graphics designer for ARC and now works as an artist for PopCap Games, it is now owned and maintained by NickW (Nick Weihs), who also programmed BRChat, the companion chat program to UniBall who now works as a programmer for Insomniac Games in LA. In its most popular game mode, Hockey, players are given ships that can move, boost (move faster) for short distances, and shoot and receive balls. Players on opposing teams compete to be the first to score enough points to win the game.
In UniBall, players pilot ships, which can pick up and hold a single ball at a time. Consisting of up to 40 players and up to 4 teams, the main objective in the game is to defeat the other team(s) by either being the first to reach a point limit, or by having the most points when an optional time limit expires.
There are two types of balls, neutral (white) and colored. Neutral balls can be picked up by any player, while colored balls may only be picked up by a player of the same color. Players of a different color can nudge a colored ball around the map, but this is extremely slow. If a ship has a ball in its possession, the player in control of that ship can opt to "shoot" the ball outward. This is done, for example, to pass the ball to a teammate or to score points. Ships do not have weaponry in any game type.
There are two officially supported game modes: Hockey and Dodgeball.
In Hockey, players can score points by shooting the ball into a goal or against a bumper. Goals are typically defended by automated goalies, and learning how these goalies move (and hence being able to shoot past them) is considered a basic skill of the game. Bumpers behave like bumpers in Pinball, actively pushing the ball away when the ball comes into contact with them. While a ship is carrying a ball, it can be knocked loose on contact with a player on an opposing team.
The Dodgeball game type follows the same physical rules, except that gaining points is achieved by shooting colored balls against players on an opposing team.
Beyond Hockey and Dodgeball, a number of unofficial game modes exist. Racing, Speedball, and Corner Defense are user-created, and are achieved by adding additional rules to the structure provided by the game itself. These rules are not enforced by the game's mechanics, so it is up to the players involved in the game to learn the rules and regulate themselves. Additionally, some leagues use referees to enforce game rules.
There also exists an official duel ladder, which encourages competition among individual players. The duel ladder uses the chess rating system to determine the ranks of players. Currently, there are over 1000 players ranked on the duel ladder.
The UniBall Fantasy League offers a different type of competition than that offered by traditional squad play. Instead of squads, there are several general managers that are preselected, and are given equal amounts of virtual money. The general managers can draft, steal and trade players for their team, and these teams then compete for the duration of the season. There are the usual playoffs to determine the overall champions at the end of the season.
There are several other types of individual-oriented leagues, such as Survivor and Corner Defense. These leagues typically involve the creation of new user created game modes, attracting players by providing them with a novel set of rules. Such leagues provide competition by ranking participating players for performance in league games, ending with the crowning of an overall champion at the conclusion of the league. Leagues with multiple seasons may decide to record and display past champions for posterity.
In Survivor, players are placed into a fairly small map, and the play proceeds in such a way that the ball is considered to be like a hot potato. The last player to touch or carry the ball after a fixed amount of time is eliminated. The game repeats until only one player remains.
Corner Defense is a game mode with 4 players where players try to stop the ball from going into their designated goal. If the ball happens to go into a player's goal, that player is given one point. The gameplay follows the Speedball rule set, so a player cannot hold the ball and must immediately shoot the ball the moment they receive it. This is easily done by continually holding the shoot button down. Players who fail to do this are penalized by being given a point. If a player accumulates 10 points, they are eliminated. The play continues until only one player is left, who is considered the winner.
The UniBall Hockey League takes a different approach, attempting to add an extra level of competitiveness to the standard UniBall game. Players play on the Hockey map much as they do any random, non-league game. Teams are not set ahead of time and are instead calculated through an algorithmic approach which attempts to determine the composition of the most evenly matched teams. To aid this effort, the UHL assigns each player a rating, using an expanded version of the chess rating system used in the duel ladder. The league keeps track of both seasonal accomplishments and lifetime accomplishments, with each season lasting 25 days.
The UniBall Gaming Network website, on which several major UniBall leagues are hosted