“Prepare To Drop”
Those words have been resounding through the gaming community for months, and the clashing drums of excited gamers are growing as the release date for Halo 3: ODST draws nearer. But there’s something more in this video game release that’s attracting attention.
Back in 2004, an ARG milestone was achieved with the launch of a defining marketing campaign for the genre. Before Halo 2 was released, a mysterious URL appeared momentarily in a promotional trailer, leading the way to the discovery of another world, another story within the Halo universe. The campaign became known as “I Love Bees“. That campaign is what introduced me to the world of ARGs. Already being an enormous Halo fan, the combination of the Halo science fiction universe with this method of story-telling had me immediately hooked.
With each iteration of the Halo video game franchise, there has been some form of extended experience, viral campaign, or ARG. For Halo 3 it was Iris. Bungie even produced their own relatively localized mysteries, such as the Cortana Letters leading up to Halo: Combat Evolved, and other strange A.I. users posting and interacting on the Bungie.net forums like The Smuggler and The Superintendent. Bungie had created a diverse, dynamic, and vast universe in which many stories could be told beyond the video game genre.
Sure enough, Halo 3: ODST will have a unique extended experience of its own. Or rather, an embedded tangential experience, for lack of a better term. Within the game, players will be able to uncover bits and pieces of a separate story arc throughout the campaign. This story is being called “Sadie’s Story“. Created by Fourth Wall Studios in partnership with Bungie Studios‘ Joe Staten and Ashley Wood, it’s an audio drama (not unlike the radio drama revealed in I Love Bees) that utilizes comic-book style story-telling and will reveal an exciting mystery throughout the campaign, told from the perspective of Sadie- a New Mombasa civilian, and her experience through the ordeal leading up to New Mombasa’s destruction. It’s reported to contain even more voice acting than ODST itself.
Fourth Wall Studios is a company spawned from 42 Entertainment, the creators of I Love Bees. Founded by Elan Lee, Sean Stewart, and Jim Stewartson, they’re no strangers to Halo and immersive experiences. Also under their belt are a number of interactive promotional projects, including “6 Minutes to Midnight” created for the movie Watchmen, and “Eagle Eye: Freefall” for the movie Eagle Eye. They are certainly worth checking out if you haven’t already!
Bungie and Microsoft are tying together a number of media in the telling of the ODST stories at New Mombasa. The recently released Halo comic book series Helljumper tells some backstory of the ODSTs in the video game, including Dutch, Romeo, and Mickey. The recently updated Halo website on Xbox.com also includes a multimedia experience (with some easter eggs) displaying pre-mission evaluations of these same characters, with live actors. Also tied in to their storyline, via the 105th ODST Division, is the heart pounding 2 1/2 minute live action trailer “We Are ODST” created by San Francisco’s T.A.G. agency (who also produced live action projects for Halo 3, “Believe” and “Museum”).
Unfortunately (and understandably), Fourth Wall’s lips are completely sealed regarding any details about Sadie’s Story beyond what has already been revealed, so if you want to know what it’s about, you’ll have to buy Halo 3: ODST, and play through the campaign (or wait for spoilers to be posted online).
Potential game spoiler: I did, however, notice while browsing ODST screenshots that one appeared to include a ringing payphone, a thoughtful nod to I Love Bees (confirmed in various gameplay reviews).
Bring on the axons!
Halo 3: ODST is slated for release exclusively on the Xbox 360 Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009.
UPDATE 05/07/2010: Sadie’s Story is now available for viewing online at Bungie.net.