Teardown, the highly-destructible puzzle game that we declared the "Best Sandbox" of 2022, will one day get multiplayer. In an interview with PC Gamer at GDC 2023, Teardown creator Dennis Gustafsson and Tuxedo Labs CEO Marcus Dawson confirmed that multiplayer is one of several features on the horizon for the ever-evolving demolition toybox.
"It's still too early to say when or how [multiplayer] is going to come about, but it's definitely something we're actively working on," said Gustafsson.
The planned feature is just one part of a larger commitment to expand and improve upon Teardown for years to come. It sounds like last year's 1.0 release was just the beginning for the indie gem, which as of 2022 had sold over 1.1 million copies and recently raised its price from $20 to $30. Like every other post-release Teardown update, multiplayer will be a free addition, and Tuxedo Labs has no plans for paid DLC.
Multiplayer has been among the most-requested features for Teardown throughout its early access period beginning in 2020 and into its 1.0 release in 2022. It has always felt like a game that's begging to let you spectacularly demolish stuff with a friend, but for years I've assumed it's impractical for Teardown's scope. Tuxedo Labs previously said it was "looking into" the possibility of multiplayer, but the game's granular destruction introduces a major roadblock.
"With a fully destructible world, it's a lot of data syncing between [players]," said Dawson. "So it's a hard problem."
Online play and freeform destruction are two things that rarely mix. Fortnite and Minecraft get away with it by dividing the world into blocks or pre-fab chunks. Even multiplayer games known for their more granular destruction, like Rainbow Six Siege and Battlefield, have to offload some of the burden from the servers to each player's client, meaning not everything is synced between players.
Modders eager to create the multiplayer Teardown of their dreams decided to sidestep this problem with TDMP, an unofficial multiplayer mod that gets part of the way there. It technically works—you can see, touch, and even throw stuff at each other, but the destruction itself is client-sided, leading to moments where a floor or wall destroyed or leaning a certain way on your client looks totally different to your friend. Gustafsson made it clear that he only wants to do Teardown multiplayer if it can be done the right way.
"When we do it, it'll be perfectly synchronized."
That would be quite the feat, but multiplayer destruction on a grand scale isn't the white whale of game design that it used to be. Embark Studios' The Finals, which just wrapped up its multiplayer beta last week, is an FPS that lets you blow up, level, knock down, or swiss-cheese its urban maps to your heart's content—all synchronized server-side for up to 12 players. Every chunk of concrete and lopsided street lamp falls and deforms the same way for every player.
The future of Teardown
The Finals shows that the technology exists to make it happen, though Teardown is a different beast. At just nine employees, Tuxedo Labs is a comfortably small studio (though Dawson says that number will slightly grow in the future). Gustafsson and Dawson also don't have the might of Nexon backing up a potentially costly server infrastructure, but it does have a new owner to help things along.
In August 2022, Tuxedo Labs was acquired by Embracer Group during a spending spree that also included the purchases of Tripwire Interactive, Limited Run Games, and The Lord of the Rings intellectual rights.
"For me personally, it is such a relief because I can go back to doing actual work, or what I consider actual work," Gustafsson said. "Like I don't have to worry about management or stuff like that. That's great."
Gustafsson and Dawson had nothing but nice things to say about their new Embracer family, noting that the acquisition has allowed them some breathing room to focus on future Teardown updates.
Multiplayer will be a boon for Teardown's longevity and, along with a thriving modding scene and campaign building tools, will bring the puzzle game a step closer to becoming a Garry's Mod-like platform for entirely new games—though it's only recently that Gustafsson and Dawson have started to look at their game in this way.
"It's becoming [a platform] whether you want it or not. It's already being seen that way," Gustafsson said. "I think we will take steps in that direction. I don't really know when or how."
While mod support was planned for Teardown from the start, Gustafsson didn't expect the modding scene to take off so quickly. He had originally planned not to add modding tools until after the 1.0 release, but after players quickly figured out the game's file format and began releasing mods during the first early access versions, Gustafsson fast-tracked official support.
Since then, over 5,000 mods have been uploaded to Teardown's Steam Workshop page. Players are regularly adding to an impressive catalog of maps, tools, and custom utilities. Last year, Tuxedo expanded the toolset to allow the spawning of objects in the world, which opened the floodgates for some of my favorite maps and tools to date, like the conductor baton that drops pianos from the sky.
Modding took another major step forward late last year with Art Vandals, a Tuxedo-developed campaign expansion released as a mod to show what's possible with the game's tools. With full support for things like level-linking and even saves, it's no wonder people have started to make their own games inside Teardown.
As for what's coming soon, Gustafsson and his team have been fiddling around with an in-game creative mode that'll let players add new geometry to any level they're currently playing in on-the-fly:
"Think of it as the 3D version of the spraypaint can," he said. "It's more for fun than actually building something, but it gives you tools to build things in an existing world. It's not really intended for precision."
You might've already seen a sneak peek at creative mode if you follow Gustafsson on Twitter, where he's been drawing happy faces on buildings and creating trees that didn't exist before.
Added foliage mode to spray leaves and bushes. pic.twitter.com/hgWb96aKDEJanuary 24, 2023
Dawson described creative mode as a stepping stone for someone who might be curious about modding Teardown, but feels intimidated by the advanced editor.
As a fan, it's encouraging to hear Tuxedo is far from done with Teardown. It's a game with so much malleability and community support that, as a platform, it has essentially unlimited potential, so much so that Gustafsson and Dawson have decided to put their next game on hold to continue Teardown development.
"We had a discussion after Art Vandals. We just sat down like, 'What's next, we should make a new game,'" Dawson said. "But it would take a couple of years before it's out, and Teardown is so popular, so we can't abandon it. So we said no, we'll put this off.
"We have a lot of interesting things on the horizon, not a lot that we can talk about, but there's a lot of cool things."