Last Call Poker PM Chat Transcript

November 30, 2005 · By Krystyn Wells in Update 

Last night, players and Puppetmasters got together in an entertaining chat over at #lastcall. Put together by ARGN and UnFiction, the creative team at 42 Entertainment were invited to the IRC chat room where much of the hot gameplay action took place during the eight week run of the popular ARG. Many people showed up and a lot of interesting questions and answers flew about — and if you weren’t in attendance, we have the transcript of the chat available. (We have cleaned up and organized the transcript to make it easier to read and follow).

To read the log, click on the “Continue Reading” link below.

<imbri> Welcome to the Last Call Poker Puppetmaster Chat!!! Before we begin, I just want to remind you all that if you have a question you need to get yourself in the queue. To do this, send a private message to one of the people with an @ by their name (not ARGbot). You can send a private message by typing /msg imbri QUESTION or by double clicking on my (or any of the other @s) names.

Now, for the good stuff. I am most pleased and completely honored to be able to introduce you all to part of the team behind Last Call Poker. In no particular order, we have:
* Elan Lee (Elan), the Lead Designer
* Sean Stewart (Sean_S), the Lead Writer
* Maureen McHugh (MaureenMcQ), Writer
* Steve Peters (vpisteve), Design
* Patricia Pizer (DamselInThisDress), Design
* jane McGonigal (janemcg), Live Events Lead
and last, but certainly not least,
* Jim Stewartson (Jim_42), Technical Lead

Elan or any of you, would you like to start with a few words?

<Elan> um………..
<Sean_S> Thank you.
<DamselInThisDress> (eloquent, ain’t he?)
<Sean_S> Those are usually appropriate for all the incredible work and passion you guys put in
<Elan> Sean’s the “words” guy. I think we should all gang up on him to speak.
<MaureenMcQ> But Sean likes to talk.
<Sean_S> Sean is <Sean above all this> Let’s maybe start with questions? That’s a nice icebreaker….

<jamesi> Alright. Our first question tonight comes from Thunderclap8
<thunderclap8> hi! If you could have held graveyard games in any one additional place, where would it have been?
<Elan> hello
<MaureenMcQ> hi!
<vpisteve> hi!
<DamselInThisDress> HI!
<Jim_42> hi all
<janemcg> Hi Thunderclap! I have two answers to that question–
<MaureenMcQ> Cleveland
<Sean_S> Not hawaii–it just looks that way
<janemcg> the first that everyone should know is that we tried like crazy to get a game in Chicago, and anywhere in Texas. Fought like crazy, but didn’t work out. Second, did you guys hear about the tombstone hold em game in World of Warcraft? Would love to have had graveyard games in lots of virtual worlds as well… love that idea.
<Elan> Yes, that was a day we got A LOT of very flattering phone calls from Activision

<jamesi> Thanks thunderclap8… next up is ahecht
<ahecht> You guys did an awsome job, so I hate to ask about the things that went wrong. However, someone has to. What do you think was your biggest slip-up?
<Sean_S> Simon’s ring.
<vpisteve> heh
<Sean_S> Er, or did you mean a serious answer?
<MaureenMcQ> <laughing>
<Sean_S> That Lucy, man, she is SHARP. Like, 7 people proofread that paragraph.
<janemcg> You don’t seriously think we ever screw up do you? jeez :)
<Sean_S> There were reasons that we made it *this* big: but it was too big. The pressure it put on us to provide the content was killing and reduced some of the things we wanted to do otherwise. I’m sure you all have your own lists. :)
<ahecht> As a followup to that, what were some of the things that you had to leave out?
<MaureenMcQ> Oh God, lots. the original 1914 scenario was one and one-half times as long as the final and we had to cut out the entire battle of Little Bighorn. Sorry, 1914 was 3 times as long. Did you know that Frank Grouard was directly responsible for Custer’s last stand?

<jamesi> Thanks ahecht. Next is ThaJinx.
<ThaJinx> Last Call Poker seemed to differentiate a lot from The Beast and ilovebees in its immersive model, and was very clear about what it was marketing very early in the game. Were there any particular reasons for this move, and how successful do you think it was in immersing players when compared with previous games?
<MaureenMcQ> Good question!
<Sean_S> but two different questions
<Elan> (collective “good question!” on the PM channel)
<vpisteve> now we’re all pointing at each other to answer
<DamselInThisDress> Elan wants to answer… I can tell :)
<Sean_S> Well… the beast and H2 started with THE TRAILERS so LCP was actually much LATER to make a linkage, for better or worse.
<janemcg> Well, one thing we tried was to come up with immersive design that wasn’t limited to the “this is not a game experience”– So, for instance, interacting more live with characters during gameplay as a kind of immersion, going out to real-world, story-charged spaces as a kind of physical immersion, e.g. Immersion doesn’t begin and end with belief/suspending disbelief, and so we were excited to explore different kinds this go-round.
<Elan> Also, because a goal for this game was to create a comfortable experience for poker players, we wanted to try some new things as far as what you “believe” as you play. We wanted to be a bit more clear that this was a game to see how it played out. (we’re all still very much in experiment mode in the genre) Ultimately, I think the “stickyness” of the site was quite good for new players, and I think that the non “TINAG” experience had a little to do with that
<vpisteve> from a design standpoint, we were really trying to play around with the line between giving folks all the classic fun things that they usually get in an ARG, while at the same time making it all a lot more accessible to the new/casual player than ever before. This accounted for some things being done a little “differently”
<Sean_S> Formally, one of the things that was interesting about this one was the use of Lucky as a narrator, per se. Which meant taking the suspension of disbelief hit–”Why does a ghost put a soundtrack on a video of a scene” — in exchange for…claiming artistic territory, if you will? Nobody sits up in the middle of GLADIATOR and says, “WAIT A MINUTE! There weren’t movie cameras in Ancient Rome!” and walks out of the theater. Soonewr or later, we wanted to be able to take that kind of freedom. It’s an experiment not without cost, and we worried about it, but also felt that we had a ..responsibility to the form? … to break the TINAG rule and see what happened in a clear and explicit way. We are all still exploring, here.
<MaureenMcQ> The story line was more closely linked to GUN than some of the earlier stories–we actually had GUN characters in the story. We were not just in the same universe as GUN, we were in the same landscape in 1876. We were in the Game, so to speak.

<jamesi> Thanks a lot. Next up is AmberJoy – go ahead.
<AmberJoy> Hello! This was my first ARG and I am afraid I may be forever spoiled by the quality of Last Call Poker. I am asking a question on behalf of Ranger D, who couldn’t be here: While I know you try to not get too much done ahead of time (so as to leave room to tweak things when the unexpected happens), was there anything new you tried with LCP in your development process to make things easier and run smoother for you all?
<MaureenMcQ> Yes, and none of it worked.
<Elan> lol
* vpisteve faints
<Sean_S> oy
* DamselInThisDress swoons
<janemcg> Well, graveyard scouting started at least a few weeks earlier than payphone scouting. ^_^
<Elan> yay Kiyash!!!
<MaureenMcQ> Well, it’s hard when Steve creates a GREAT PUZZLE and then Ebay takes it down right in the middle.
<DamselInThisDress> lol
* vpisteve shakes his fist at eBay
<AmberJoy> :(
<vpisteve> ok, we’re working on serious answers…:)
<DamselInThisDress> We decided to prototype 1914 up front
* AmberJoy still got the documents, though.
<DamselInThisDress> Yeah, we threw most of it out eventually…. BUT we learned a LOT of lessons about the process
<Sean_S> Yeah, one thing we did is add some terrific new people :) Take a bow Steve and Maureen and Patricia and heather and…
* DamselInThisDress curtsies
<vpisteve> :)
<Sean_S> Mainly we managed to just spread the sleep deprivation around further.
<DamselInThisDress> Never have so many slept so little…

<jamesi> Thanks Amber. We have a quick question from the UnFiction forums… Dascrow wants to know: About 4 weeks before the end of LCP, during a Saturday reset, I noticed that the hands being dealt at the tables became less random, e.g. more pairs or runs, being dealt in the flop. Was this my imagination or was the card algorithm changed? If so, why was this?
<Elan> JIM!!!!!
<vpisteve> um, algorithm??
<Jim_42> <evil cackle>
<Sean_S> Man, did you have that guy sweating, pulling individual hands for hundreds of thousands of card games.
<MaureenMcQ> (oh dear God. I don’t even understand the question)
* vpisteve thought it was all real cards
<janemcg> (Imagining a pattern in randomness? How totally unlike an ARGer!)
<Jim_42> the algorithm didn’t change… you watch enough hands and all sorts of patterns emerge :) (we didn’t cheat either) :D
<Sean_S> Have to step in here and say, WE NEVER CHEATED OR NOTHING ON ANY HAND.
<vpisteve> well, unless you consider using JIM as your ace poker player cheating
<Sean_S> Jim is just one hellacious poker player
<Jim_42> <blush>
<Sean_S> So he was the guy playing the cards for every character that was supposed to be good at it.
<vpisteve> and for me, my poker playing improved a lot after watching him
<Sean_S> <And did not Lucy’s last run rock?>
<vpisteve> omg

<jamesi> I still think some of you cheated, but that’s only my humble opinion. Cortana is up next with a question.
<Cortana> Hi Everyone, thanks for coming tonight :) Just a quick one: With all the poker games out there, why Hold’Em? Ease of adaptation for software? Current popularity?
<Jim_42> Definitely popularity. Half the world watches it on TV now. There is very little 7 card Stud on ESPN :)
<Cortana> This is very true. I know that the poker angle did hook several of my friends, so thanks for creating a game that let my friends understand how it was I met my fiancée ;)
<Jim_42> It’s also more of a social game, because of the shared community cards.
<janemcg> (aww, Cortana. nice.)
<vpisteve> oh, and btw did anyone see the Simpsons on Sunday? The were advertising Celebrity Has-Been Poker!

<jamesi> Thanks Cortana. We have a question from misuba next.
<misuba> hi. first, many thinks to all of you for doing what you do and doing it so well. or thanks. either one.
<Sean_S> both, and back to you. :)
<misuba> i am wondering if y’all could talk just generally about the early conceptualization process for the game and how you worked with activision on it.
<Elan> This was the next step. It answered the next question. The Beast was all about WHAT you knew. Bees was all about WHERE you were. Lastcall was an attempt to build the “Who are you?” game. The original idea was just to build a game involving profiles that players could use as masks. It evolved into its final version from there.
<Sean_S> And, storywise, it started at “Every Story is a Western” Lucky, AMAZINGLY, at the end of week 6 happened to restate nearly the exact same things we were talking to Activision about!
<MaureenMcQ> (Lucky is soooo smart)
<misuba> flup: does the “who are you” question fit in any way with the players’ ability to have multiple accounts on the site?
<Elan> not really. That was just a side effect of the mechanism we had to build to fascilitate poker.
<misuba> the postmodernist in me just died a little. ah well
<DamselInThisDress> Um, it’s been my experience in online games that even where people have multiple accounts, one emerges as their online Persona
<misuba> thanks again!
<Elan> (I’ll keep that in mind for the next design :) )
<DamselInThisDress> It’s the equivalent of muling in an MMO
<janemcg> (misuba, I love the f’lup q, very cool.)
<misuba> :-) ouroboros had something to do with it.

<jamesi> Great questions, misuba. Konamouse has the next one.
<konamouse> 1 – THANKS to all of you for so much fun!! 2 – I’m a little bummed about all the story that we missed (how about posting that stuff you wrote rather than wasting it?) but 3 – my actual question: “We’ve seen the IMDB List, but it’s incomplete and probably wrong in some ways. When will a real cast list/credit list be posted?”
<MaureenMcQ> Um, it’s in post-production or something.
<Elan> We’re on it.
<Sean_S> Uh, we’re getting there. <sheepishly>
<vpisteve> actually, if you’ll all look under your chair, you’ll find a piece of paper with three letters of it. you know what to do :P
<SpaceBass> mine says WTF
<MaureenMcQ> LOL!
<Sean_S> mine says BBQ
<vpisteve> space, that one wasn’t meant for you, sorry
* vpisteve curses yet another broken puzzle
<krystyn> Mine says A_PAWN
<Sean_S> as a flup, was there something in particular you wanted to know about?
<janemcg> sweet
<konamouse> i know it’s not related, but will some of the swag be made available in the future (I saw some tshirts i find attractive. just wanted to give credit where credit is due (to the cast & crew).
<janemcg> I want to know when I can order my cafepress tshirts from YOU guys! I am still wearing my enhottenation tanks
<MaureenMcQ> What Jane said!
<janemcg> We usually get our sway from you guys!
<Elan> I want swag!
<Sean_S> There will be a comprehensive cast list of everyone except the guy who played johnny deuces, whose name will never be mentioned
<vpisteve> i got my sway from mambo lessons
<konamouse> why not johnny????
* janemcg smacks vpisteve
<janemcg> (and he sways gently)
<Sean_S> ;) someone will explain.
<vpisteve> someone? i think it should be sean
<Sean_S> <leaked resume> one of the typical crisis-of-the-day. Speaking of PM mistakes….
<Elan> Steve has a fun story!
<vpisteve> the actor who played Johnny was originally ALSO cast as Corazon…
<Sean_S> pictures you DON’T want to see…
<DamselInThisDress> Uh, I’ll never forget the first time I saw the photo….
<vpisteve> and i’ll…..leave it at that
<MaureenMcQ> Oh, my, yes.
<DamselInThisDress> And said, Uh, have you SEEN this???
<vpisteve> scariest. thumbnail. evar.
<MaureenMcQ> My such big hands you have, Corazon, dear.
<DamselInThisDress> And what a large Adam’s apple…
<vpisteve> the final corazon was indeed a woman, btw
<DamselInThisDress> pre-op
<MaureenMcQ> Steve! You told! :)
<vpisteve> at least that’s what SHE told me

<jamesi> Thanks konamouse. Dorkmaster is up next.
<Dorkmaster> Hi 42-type peeps! My question is this: Do you guys get feedback from the people that hired you after the fact, and are they indeed happy with the results?
<MaureenMcQ> Hey Dorkmaster!
<Dorkmaster> In this case, Activision, of course. For example, I know many people that went and bought GUN that may not have before LCP
<Elan> We got lots of feedback from Activistion both in the early phases of design and as the game went on. They were quite pleased at the game’s ability to reach an audience traditional marketing would not be able to. They also were very happy that we were able to remove the “Western Cooties” from a genre that’s had trouble attracting an audience in the past few years. Overall, they were as happy with the story, the characters, and the effect on the community as we were.
<janemcg> (A couple Activision folks even came and played along at the cemeteries and we can happily report they are big fans of Tombstone Hold Em. but we’ll never tell you which ones they were! muu haha)
<Dorkmaster> as a followup, more of a question for Jim… did you guys wholly create the poker system, or was that something you bought and tweaked? the actual flash program, that is…
<Jim_42> We licensed the core poker engine from a company called Arkadium. And we worked with them to build the many, many enhancements that ended up on the site. BTW, huge props to them. They were amazing.
<MaureenMcQ> (So was Jim, btw)
<Dorkmaster> Thanks for the game and for taking the time for my questions. You all rock! ;-)

<jamesi> Daveman424 on the UF forums wants to know: How many users did you have registered throughout all of LCP?
<MaureenMcQ> lots?
<Elan> (PMs having a mini meeting)
<janemcg> (lots++)
<Elan> (you’re going to hate our conclusion)
<Jim_42> So many that we can’t even tell you.
<Sean_S> info covered under NDA, alas.
<Elan> it’s really up to our client to release numbers like that. Sorry.
<jamesi> Fair enough. We wouldn’t want any NDS breakage on our behalf.

<jamesi> kyle is back with his question.
<kyle> I’m sorry about that folks, my client locked up there… LCP seemed to be a much more competitive game than some of your previous games, ILB, in particular… Some people said that this was due to the competitive nature of poker. How much of this was intentional and how did you feel its effect was?
<vpisteve> well, we looked at poker as a way for social interaction, as well as “competition.”……
<DamselInThisDress> So, not all aspects were competetive. The idea for multiple axes of accomplishment allowed many different people to excel…
<vpisteve> and the giving people cards thing was done more to just automate the documentation process that usually happens on the boards anyway, not to foster competition, really. granted, we did shuffle things up a bit (har har)
<DamselInThisDress> OUCH
<Jim_42> <groan>
<Elan> ugh
* DamselInThisDress smacks steve AGAIN
<vpisteve> and i just lost what little respect the team had for me with that :P
* Elan waits in line behind Patricia
<janemcg> (is that a mambo I hear? la la la)
<MaureenMcQ> respect?
* vpisteve juggles and mambos into the corner
<Elan> oh, by the way, I was “inthecorner” on the site. Thanks to everyone who played with me!
<kyle> thanks for the great work!
<Sean_S> What did YOU think, kyle?
<kyle> Oh
<Sean_S> <honestly interested; we only get to see it from this side>
<kyle> I guess I felt somewhat alienated in parts of it… there was such a rush to be the first one to unlock it, and it didn’t seem like as many people were interested in posting their little hints, as then they might not receive the card…
<Sean_S> Yep.
<kyle> I don’t know, there didn’t seem to be as much cooperation in the puzzles… but it could have been just me
<Sean_S> I think it’s a really interesting question, and I wondered about that, but can’t say I would have predicted the effect.
<Elan> I think that’s an excellent point. I noticed that too.
<Sean_S> Falls under the heading of, “Another experiment” Startling the effect of even so ephemeral a form of reward as an icon, isn’t it?
<kyle> Still, I really enjoyed the game… (And my friends and I took home two nifty pieces of the gun and those lucky decks, so no complaints here…)
<janemcg> You’re the hat guys! :)
<krystyn> Hey! the Hat Boy!
<Sean_S> The competitive model is really really an interesting thing. On the one hand, there was something to *do*, right in the middle of the game.
<kyle> Heh, sorry about that… almost felt guilty…
<Sean_S> At the same time, poker, with its stickiness, also bears with it that competitive edge.
<janemcg> (congrats on your kickass tombstone hold em playing!)
<Sean_S> Welcome to one of the big white spaces on the arg map…
<kyle> Yah, definitely made up for the blank Gun preorder deck. thank ye

<jamesi> Thanks a lot for the question and the answers, kyle. CL_Brennan is up next.
<CL_Brennan> Hi 4orty 2wo!! *waves* Insanely cool job on LCP! You finally gave me a place to vent my addiction to poker in a nice community setting. :D
<Sean_S> You and Jim, man.
<Jim_42> :P
<Elan> Ya, but Jim can stop any time he wants
<Jim_42> I DO NOT have a problem.
<CL_Brennan> My question: How long did it take you guys, from start to finish, to envision/develop/make all of Last Call Poker?
<Sean_S> Initial concepting in April, serious writing underway by June, movies shot in August. The other 94% of the work after Sept 24. sorry, of course that can’t be true. Just felt like it.
<CL_Brennan> That was alot of characters. Seemed really hard to not only write but control. How did it work out with writing all of the characters, and then having to control/deal with all of them?
<Sean_S> <If you know anything about video game production schedules, you will work out how accomodating Neversoft was in getting code into the game for us> Maureen was the Big Dog here. Take it away, McQ
<MaureenMcQ> Well, I kept this huge map on my wall, one of those erasable ones? And then, of course, if they got prpblematic, we just killed htem. We had probably fifty more characters in the past, but then decided that we couldn’t handle that and eliminated cards for all but the eight archtypes. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I stretched the definition of ‘preacher’ or ‘drunk’ a bit. The other thing was that in the present day, after we cast for photos and did videos, the characters started to feel, almost, real… Especially once we’d played the characters at the poker tables. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by control?
<CL_Brennan> You pretty much answered that. The poker tables and such.
<MaureenMcQ> Oh man, the poker tables. Typing and trying to play poker at the same time…
<Sean_S> Maureen was channeling her Inner Elmore Leonard very beautifully at the end, wasn’t she? Lovely plotting.
<MaureenMcQ> My poker mostly sucked. Lucky required two people to play him. Jim for killer cards and Sean for witty repartee.
<DamselInThisDress> <plus me for gruff emails>
<MaureenMcQ> So three people, really.
<vpisteve> well, and a couple to watch the chat window
<Sean_S> Maureen was Victor & Paco, I was Lucky, etc. We had our roles… :)
<MaureenMcQ> And Sean and I swapped characters once in awhile, but mostly we stuck to certain characters as ‘ours.’ Weird moment? Playing poker as Paco and flirting with Hits Her Mark…

<jamesi> Thanks CL_Brennan and thanks Puppetmasters. Shad0w has the next question.
<Shad0w> Hi, everyone! Let me get this out of the way first: grovelgrovelworshipworshiploveyouloveyouwerenotworthywerenotworthy
<MaureenMcQ> <blush>
<Shad0w> Thank you. Moving right along…
<vpisteve> i had fun flirting with spacebass randomly
<ThaJinx> Thanks, Garth
<Shad0w> Ahecht and ThaJinx managed to ask my original question between them, and then Sean answered my next question before I even had to ask it. (And then Konamouse asked the question I was thinking about asking but hadn’t actually decided to ask yet.) That’s what happens when you don’t queue up early enough. So now that everyone else has managed to ask most everything I was thinking of asking… Why mortographies? Why interaction only with dead people and long-dead-but-recently-awakened people? Why a ghost for our narrator? (Nice open-ended question there. I hope.)
<Sean_S> great question, of course. So here’s the thing: We bitched and whined on H2 when they said we HAD to have a time travel component. This time, FOR ONCE, we weren’t going to do that. We were so happy! And then… We woke up to a very bitter reality.
<Shad0w> Time-traveling Nazis sell?
<Elan> LOL
* krystyn coughs.
<MaureenMcQ> worse
<Sean_S> “Why can’t players just say, “Yo! Lucy! Go look on and find out what the bad guys are thinking!” Whoops. And we realized the beauty of time travel is that it makes a semi-permeable fictive membrane that is in fact crucial to making an ARG work.
* DamselInThisDress STILL has a headache from those calls
<Sean_S> We need them to touch *you*; but we need to control your access to THEM. so… Dead guys. Does that make sense?
<Shad0w> Yes.
<Elan> also, it’s good to note that Phaedra called that one early (
<Shad0w> No surprise there. :D
<Elan> :)
<Shad0w> Fup: On the mortographies specifically: Just an outlet for player creativity, or was there another reason?
<Sean_S> Do you care if the post modernist in you dies?
<Shad0w> Nah, never liked him much anyway.
<Sean_S> Because if you do, we can make up a complex meta-critical theory about it. otherwise we just thought you guys would have fun with it.
<Shad0w> Works for me.
<Sean_S> <CHESSE-GRATER accident? <shudder>>
<MaureenMcQ> bee sting
<janemcg> Catherwood compiled a list of them and brought them to the SF event; reading them all together was like reading an amazing collaborative Gorey-esque poem.
<DamselInThisDress> Also, we knew there was a limited channel for player creativity in general…few ways to personalize your avatar…
<vpisteve> they were VERY fun to read
<DamselInThisDress> This was one. :)

<jamesi> And with that we move from Shad0w to EGo. Go ahead EGo.
<EGo> Hi.
<Sean_S> how jungian!
<EGo> How did the Vic’s hat favor come about, and where can I get me a Vic hat?
<vpisteve> ah, vic’s hat…. we wanted to have things cached for folks to find at various places throughout the game, and while watching the first movie, i maureen and i noticed vic’s hat and noticed it “survived” or could have. so, we made it our first ‘ghost mission’
<EGo> Ah.
<vpisteve> someone finds the hat, brings that info to vic’s ghost, and gets an unlock or update. the world tour was your guys’ idea :)
<Sean_S> BTW, vis a vis the hat, that really started with the actor playing Kerry, who created the business of placing the hat over the dead man’s face on his own, both for Vic and Don, as well as the CLASSIC “Don’s last cigarette” moment.
<vpisteve> and it was the actor’s own personal hat that we had to abscond with
<Sean_S> Also, Victor was played by the fourth cameraman, after the original actor suffered basically a psychotic break and ran off the set. Not a bad performance, eh?
<EGo> Indeed. He was an excellent actor.
<vpisteve> he did great. i felt very fond of vic
<MaureenMcQ> (When I wrote the story of how Vic’s hat got to Las Vegas, I included the name of the dog in the junkyard. Sean said we really should have made a card for the dog, but it was too late. The dog’s name, for anyone who cares, was Sarge.)
<vpisteve> and for the record, the junkyard guy spent the $20 in Vegas. or was the me? i don’t remember
<MaureenMcQ> Vic was our everyman, except for the part about where he made softcore porn and his girlfriend was really a guy.
<vpisteve> and he got me hooked on Morris’ films :D

<jamesi> Thanks EGo. Folks, as we are closing in on 9:00 PST, and the end of the chat, we will not be asking for follow up questions from here on in (sorry!). Krystyn is up next.
<krystyn> First of all, I truly enjoyed playing this game. I felt like I was really PLAYING LCP, on so many levels. This one’s for the puzzle peeps: Could you talk a little more about the eBay puzzle, and how that shook out? Perhaps you could also expound a little on the execution of a couple other puzzles as well, and how you dealt with the actual results — like the DC Favor Death Dates, and the Flickr alternate solve. :)
<vpisteve> flickr alternate solve rocked :D we were very impressed, to say the least
<krystyn> (in case people didn’t know, tclap’s solve was *not* the intended solve)
<vpisteve> yes, it was originally supposed to be a profile search for various interests that would lead to vic’s profile, but tclap reverse engineered the obfuscatied url.
<DamselInThisDress> Let me say, as a designer, I think alternate solves ROCK. Even if I throw out weeks of work
<vpisteve> um, eBay was a nice puzzle – before someone at eBay read the part where Nita’s husband was a FEDERAL MARSHALL. originally, one document would give a clue to another, that would lead to the next, and so on…. it was a nice eBay search that would’ve ultimately led to John CH Smith
<janemcg> For the DC one– everyone was having such an amazing time at the meetup bar afterwards, that there wasn’t a lot of puzzle-solving going on… so we wanted the folks online waiting for their first card to have a chance to get digging. The DC crew surely would have solved it, but we didn’t want the online crew to have to wait while we partied with our beer and apple pie, yum!

<jamesi> Great question, krystyn. Another quick one from the UnFiction forums before we get back to the live Q’s. RPGgame asks: Was there anything that we did that caused the game to be changed or caused re-writes to take place while the game was still going on?
<Sean_S> Well, the most obvious thing you did was save matt. We recorded both endings and were perfectly prepared to kill him (You don’t doubt THAT, I’m sure). Aside from poker for human lives, we tried to build in a permanent connection to the players by making lots of stuff dependent on poker room interactions. Who knew Vic would be a star? Not us. You made his role enormously bigger than envisioned. And of course, by saving matt, you killed Ben Rojas!
<MaureenMcQ> (So true)
<Sean_S> LOTS of influence! ahem
<vpisteve> and svetlana’s poker game was my favorite

<jamesi> Excellent answers! Rowan has a question.
<Rowan> strifey wants to know if he can get Lucy’s phone number. And us girls want to know if we can expect any Bartenders in the Buff in the next ARG.
<jamesi> lmao
<MaureenMcQ> Yes to bartenders
* krystyn cheers.
<MaureenMcQ> Many,
<vpisteve> that’s so the name of my next band
<MaureenMcQ> in bathtubs and everything,
<Phaedra> ’bout time.
<Sean_S> Lucy will actually be on your TV next week making out with Doogie Howser. Life’s funny that way./
<vpisteve> LOL
<MaureenMcQ> This is Lucy’s year with aging child stars.
<Sean_S> Ask the women on the team about James the Stunt Director some time… ;)
<DamselInThisDress> YUMMY!
<MaureenMcQ> To be fair, Todd Bridges was professional and wonderful.
<Gupfee> oooh maybe she’ll show up on Breaking Bonaduce next
<janemcg> oooh love that show gupfee ;)

<jamesi> Thanks Rowan for…. that. ;) Let’s turn to yanka next.
<yanka> Hi (again), thanks (again) for a great game, and *thanks* for turning my household into a family of poker addicts :P
<Sean_S> Jim says, “Got any money?”
<yanka> My question is: the Beast seemed to inspire a lot of the later games, and a lot of them followed, quite closely, something that is even being called a “Beast model” now. What made you decide to implement very different design frameworks for ILB and LastCallPoker; what, in your opinions, is a more… uh… “marketable” model; and do you see yourselves making a Beast-type-game again? Also, sorry for the lame formulation – it’s a little d
<yanka> I do, actually :D
<yanka> over $300K in fake poker money – more than I had the whole time the game was live
<MaureenMcQ> What made 42 decide to implement a different framework? Elan.
<janemcg> I think the best moment in any ARG– is when players confront something they don’t immediately grok and have to work together to figure out “What the hell do we do with this?” That’st he biggest collaborative puzzle there is– figuring out how to play the game. From the Beast forward, that has always been the biggest puzzle. So, making it different is key to keeping that big collective problem-solving at the heart of these games. My two cents.
<Sean_S> If you just discovered the new world, would you say “Wow! Cleveland!” and go home? …or would you want to explore a little…?
<vpisteve> The different profiles actually filled the role of multiple websites, when you think about it. In earlier games, puzzle solves were often new websites, this time around, new cards to unlock. Slightly different mechanic, but same functionality
<MaureenMcQ> Seriously, I think one of the things that is great about Elan as a game designer is his relentless exploration of the new. That and Sean’s narratives are what make a 42 ARG.
<yanka> *nods* well-answered :-)
<Elan> There’s just so many places to poke at the patient lying on the table. With each game we make, each poke, we get a different reflex. As a company we keep trying new things to see what kind of reflexes we’ll trigger. I know that eventually we’ll go back to the things we’ve tried that were successful, but for now it’s much more fun to play.
<MaureenMcQ> (Okay, mostly it was because we were sick to death of payphones.)
<janemcg> HitsherMark was also sick of payphones, apparently :)
<Sean_S> Yes, wry comment around the office: “Graveyards are the new payphones, you know!”
<vpisteve> graveyards are the new payphones
<vpisteve> :o

<jamesi> Thanks yanka. weephun has the next Q.
<MaureenMcQ> weephun!
<weephun> Statement: Thanks again for another amazing experience. I’m VERY sorry that life and work web-filtering contraints kept me from being as active in this game as I was in ilovebees, but I’m really glad that Team Boise was still very well represented by our newest member: ThaJinx
<janemcg> hear hear!
<MaureenMcQ> (Someone design a t-shirt, graveyards are the new payphones’
<weephun> P.S. Thanks AGAIN for the help with the Bungie Charity Auction. I’m writing the address on the package now.
<Sean_S> Loving the statement, wondering if there’s a question…?
<weephun> Question: With both “The Beast” and “ilovebees” 42 was employed/hired by Microsoft, while Activision was the client for “lastcallpoker”. It seems Microsoft tried to go it themselves with “ourcolony” and “origen” but then came back to 42 (with their tail between their legs I hope) for “hex168″. I know you probably can’t give names, but how is 42′s client list looking now? Can we expect more wonderfully funded games? Is 42 ever going to go an ARG alone and aquire funding in-game or some other way? And what happens when the demand and # of companies coming to 42 to create ARGs for them exceeds your capacity?
<Sean_S> uh…lots of work coming
<janemcg> 43 is what happens. Clearly.
<Sean_S> Lots and Lots and Lots. absolutely all under NDA, but lots and lots
<Elan> wow, we’re sooooooo not allowed to talk about clients.
<Sean_S> We have turned down MANY things in the last 3 months, to answer another part of your Q
<Elan> how about this. The people we work for really like our work and tell all thier friends.
<krystyn> OoOoo, your next ARG is for shampoo?
<Elan> yes
<Sean_S> It’s a nice problem to have at the moment: we have the luxury of choosing the coolest projects.
<Gupfee> I won’t play unless the conditioner gets equal time
<Sean_S> And shampoo ROCKS
* ThaJinx abstains from Billy Madison references
<MaureenMcQ> The conditioner is actually also shampoo, it’s a big reveal.
<krystyn> lol
<Gupfee> which you just SPOILED
<vpisteve> daaaaaamn
<Sean_S> Scene One–Corazon in Bathtub…

<jamesi> Now that we’ve lathered, rinsed and repeated, we have Addlepated on deck with a question.
<Addlepated> Real quick q: What was up with “LoOT” drawn onto the login/logout button in the second week or so?
<DamselInThisDress> Um, that was an extremely unfortunate graphic error. Never occurred to me to read it as LoOT”. It’s LogOut and LogIn and layers of stuff MUCH less interesting than LOOT

<Incit[LOST]> Great work on the game guys – really enjoyed the Austin meetup too ;) now for the Q… Regarding Lucky’s Tombstone Hold’em, I was skeptical at first with the variables and non-secretive nature included in the rules at first, but actually playing it in Austin, I have to admit the ease of play, and ingenuity of the game (Even though my partner and I lost, Terribly). How was the idea for this game designed? And who designed it?
<janemcg> Well, you know, Lucky used to play it in WWII and all… okay, so there was a very cool playtesting session in Colma, at a different cemetery than the one where we had our live event, where lots of us — Elan, Sean, Steve, Patricia, Heather and Kiyash– playtested all kinds of ideas… Kiyash, our graveyard scouting hero, and I had originally come up with the tombstones-as-cards concept. But we needed the whole group to work out the mechanics, scoring, etc. Then Kiyash and I playtested a few more times to work out the kinks, always keeping in mind, you know, what would feel GOOD to do in a cemetery? Something that was really important to us was to have a game that encouraged you to make real connections with actual stones– to look at who was buried there, who they chose to be buried with, what decorations were chosen to represent them– that was the most satisfying element of being at the live events, watching everyone actually look and make personal connections with invidual stones. I still rememember some of the stones I played when Phaedra and a few of us played stealthily in Oakland. hee :)
<Phaedra> OMG I remember the people looking for their grandma’s grave…. In the same area where I’d lost that chip….
<janemcg> Anyway, lots of great feedback from folks we met at cemeteries for another day– Lots of people pleased to see laughter and fun brought to the cemeteries where their loved ones were.
<MaureenMcQ> I just want to say that the graveyards–both Tombstone Hold’em and the Small Favors, were some of the most emotional parts of the game for me.
<vpisteve> yep. very satisfying
<MaureenMcQ> And I know for Patricia, who read the Small Favors, as well.
<janemcg> Yes, a big big thanks to everyone who went out to do the favors.
<DamselInThisDress> VERY emotional
<janemcg> That’s something I’d personally like to see more of in ARGs–
<DamselInThisDress> Crying designers?
<janemcg> the kind of modular, real-world element, where anyone anywhere can have a real-world experience anytime.
<janemcg> Thanks very much to everyone who went out to make cemeteries a more social, place to be.

<jamesi> Thanks Incitatus and thanks PMs. Gupfee has the last question of the evening, because we’ve held these wonderful people hostage long enough. :D
<Gupfee> Well I was going to ask what would have happened if Matt hadn’t been saved in time, but I think an overeager PM already blurted out the answer ;)
<MaureenMcQ> He’d have been toast. :)
<jamesi> Mmmm, toast.
<Gupfee> so unless there is more detail there, I guess my question is, who would win at Tombstone Hold’em, a caveman or an astronaut?
<vpisteve> are we voting?
<janemcg> an astronaut, because the cards and chips would float away in zero-gravity. oops I meant that, but a caveman
<Sean_S> Both. You need a partner.
<vpisteve> caveman, because he could chisel his own cards quickly and cheat, as all cavemen do
* Dorkmaster is offended and stomps off the set at the caveman comment
<MaureenMcQ> I love those commercials, Dorkmaster!
* vpisteve ‘s plan worked perfectly

<imbri> Well, that’s all the time we have for moderated questions. On behalf of ARGN, UnFiction, and all of the players, I would really like to thank all of you guys for taken the time to answer some of our questions, but more to thank you for a most amazing game. Is there anything that you guys would like to add before we open the flood gates?
<Sean_S> Thanks.
<Elan> Thanks to all you guys for playing!
<vpisteve> yes, thanks, everyone!
<Jim_42> Thanks!
<Sean_S> For the cards played and the puzzles solved and the jokes shared and all the favors, large and small.
<MaureenMcQ> You guys took the game and made it moving and funny and so much more than we had planned.
<DamselInThisDress> And thank you all for the notes with your small favors.
<MaureenMcQ> Thanks.
<janemcg> Many, many thanks.
<vpisteve> and thanks for all the chocolate. er, um
<DamselInThisDress> Choclate??
<jamesi> Thanks PMs.
<janemcg> And the cookies you are sending to 42 offices this week. Um.

(Thanks to all of the moderators who made the evening go smooth as silk)


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