Author: Larry Eisner

Deus City Launch

deus_city_01.jpgWell, the time to wait is no longer. In fact, time as we know it may never be the same. Yes, that’s right! Deus City appears to have launched at 11:11:11am CST this past Saturday (That’s 11/11, by the way). And it appears that Brackin’s dissertation theory has proved to be quite true, with much more significance than even he thought possible.

Using some low-budget video (low quality, too, although it fits in well with the story) and some YouTube goodness, the Deus City main site updated with the final moments of the countdown, and some intriguing new developments. Team Brackin’s “communication across time using lasers and a precise location for transmission and receipt” concept appears to have worked flawlessly. However, the signal that was received was much more than anyone expected. Instead of hearing “himself from the future,” it appears that Brackin and his team were greeted by someone who claims to be the Senate Majority Leader and President of Deus City, from the year 2036. After the brief introduction, Brackin’s team received a “burst of compressed data” that is supposed to contain the information required to create a two-way, permanent communication system between Deus City of 2036, and Brackin’s team in 2006 (and thereby, you and me, dear players). However, as tends to happen with this sort of thing, there are many unanswered questions:

First of all, where has teammate “Foo” been for the last couple weeks? Can he be trusted? And why is there a blog with “direct feed” video attached, apparently from him? What kind of information will the “near half-terabyte” of information in the data burst hold? Finally, what kind of “history change” will be required of our players to assist Deus City? Only the future will tell (quite literally, apparently).

While we wait for the answers, this is an excellent time, be you a seasoned ARG veteran or a new player to the genre, to get involved at the ground floor of what looks to be a well-planned, and intriguing Alternate Reality Game. As always, we here at ARGNet will keep you updated with any major developments and breaking news!

Click Here for the Deus City Blog.
Click Here to join the discussion at the unfiction forums.

Deus City Countdown

No, it’s not another Top 40 list from some radio station in Deus City! It’s a new countdown started at the main page at Deus City! Currently the countdown is set to expire on November 11th (if my math is correct), and what will happen at that time is anyone’s guess! As reported earlier, the game isn’t scheduled to launch until 2007, so expect ARGN to be on the case, reporting anything new that happens on that date!

In the meantime, don’t forget that you can submit your own puzzles to be used in the game, by contacting Adam Brackin, and you’ll get the details, and the required API for submissions.

In other Deus News, the Deus City Blog has been updated, including some strange hybrids of science, prophecy, and homebrew time/space theory. It’s worth a read, and quite entertaining, as well as head-‘splody goodness. In a nutshell, the author of the blog proposes we can communicate with the past and the future, although the exact nature of communicating with the past (which therefore allows communication with the future, for those in the past, receiving that communication), is not yet given in detail.

Essentially, the future is now. So that makes it the present. But since that already happened, it’s the past. Whew…. Anyway, once you get your head around this stuff (at least enough to not re-read everything four times like this writer) you get a feel for where this game is headed. The concepts are fun and well thought-out, and the story for the game, while obviously not entirely in plain sight yet, are prime for game-time.

I personally look forward to playing this game, and always enjoy good immersive pre-game, even if that game’s launch is quite some time in the future. As always, continue to look to ARGN for news on this and other Alternate Reality Games in the future. The Future. Yeah, I’ll just keep on saying that…in the future.

Portals For Fun And Profit

A viral promotion for the upcoming game Portal, released by Half-Life creators VALVE Software, Aperture Science is a short, but witty promotional site, with a full psychological test for those “employees” wishing to participate in the Aperture Science program.

The site remains little more than a diversion currently, but it’s definitely worth a look-see, if not just for the excellent sense of humor. However, interlaced with the simple comedy of the thing, are some basic code-cracking elements. And while not really a game, there is definitely a tongue-in-cheek Alternate Reality aspect to the site. Check it out! And as always, should something develop into an ARG or become more immersive than currently offered, we here at ARGN will keep you up to date as the news happens!

Deus City: Perplex Deux?

arg_alert.jpgDeus City, a new, promising ARG is scheduled to hit the internets in the spring of 2007, and ARGN has been fortunate enough to have learned a couple of things about the project.

Deus City is a student-run project from the guys and gals at University of Texas – Dallas, in cooperation with Fundi Technologies of Dallas. The plot will revolve around communication with a community, Deus City, located in the future. The gameplay is currently framed around puzzles and that unlike the current hit, Perplex City, the puzzles will primarily reside online. On the more ambitious side of the project, the game is planned to have features such as dynamic point structures based upon the players’ ability to solve the puzzles correctly with the fewest number of guesses. There are also hints to a “virtual future economy” structure that could also lead to some interesting gameplay. Also intriguing is the idea that the game will attempt to integrate morality into the gameplay structure, as to give at least two different paths a player can run through the game, with moral and ethical implications as a result of the decisions made in the game. Hand in hand with this idea, is a karmic statistic system that, while not fully disclosed at this time, is intriguing to say the least, and could be just one more element in the building of a groundbreaking Alternate Reality Game. To quote the head developer of the team working on Deus City, “We feel that contact with our future selves is imminent and that the world that awaits us will be much more than it seems at first contact.”

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The Devil Wears MySpace

devil-AB.jpgContinuing my streak of pre/reviewing games that seem to stall (Seriously, ARGods! What’s up?), I bring you “Angelo Beckett”, the game about a man who knows too little.

It started out as many grassroots games (sadly) tend to do, with a cryptic AIM conversation. A member of the Unfiction forums got a message, asking for help, from a man known only by his AIM handle, “Angelo Beckett”. However, in this case, the person in need of help was not being cryptic for drama’s sake as much as a total case of amnesia. The person woke up, in London, with a bag containing £20,000 and a note with: the email address from which the person was messaging, as well as the initials B.A.B., a phone number (currently determined to be a mobile phone number in the United Kingdom somewhere), and the ominous message, “Do anything. Get any help. You’ll need it.”

And with that, players were sucked into another GAIM… or was it?

One player called the phone number, and got the address for the MySpace page of Lucien, a nefarious puppetmaster with a love of things evil. (I mean, Bedazzled? OMGZORZ!!! Pure. Evil.) Anyway, Lucien was obviously the mastermind behind the sad state of Angelo Beckett’s condition, as he promised to give one piece of this amnesiac’s life back for every puzzle solved. Some puzzles were straightforward code, and others were riddles such as one requiring pictures taken of London landmarks with a teddy bear in the shot.

Also continuing the grand tradition of all too many grassroots efforts, the game hasn’t been updated in over two weeks, after having had generally daily updates, making most players (especially the one who had to lug a teddy bear to a famous London theatre-front, one would assume) quite irate and feeling certain that the game is crashing.

The premise, while not entirely original, was interesting, and had managed to gather a sizable following of players in its initial days. Here’s to hoping that this one continues, and comes up with a rather good (in-game) explanation of the disappearance.

Perplex City Video Contest Announced

pxc_video.jpgAs announced last Thursday at PerplexCity.com, Mind Candy and You Tube of, well, you know, Earth, as well as the Perplex City Academy and the Open Design Agency of Perplex City, are beginning a video contest to promote Perplex City, as well as the game with its namesake. This marks the first time an Alternate Reality Game will incorporate user-generated video into the realm of the game, and has inspired many of the PXC player base to pick up their cameras and start shooting.

According to the Perplex City official contest page, videos will be accepted for a four week period which started April 27th. The video submissions should illustrate “the Joys of Perplex City” — whether that means the city itself, or the game, is likely intentionally unclear. As well, videos must be 30-90 seconds long and family-friendly, and everything contained in the video must be either entirely original, or free from copyright restriction (read: Creative Commons). Beyond that, apparently, the sky is the limit.

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Building Fences: Your Response

armies.gifIt’s been a long time since ARGN.com posted my article entitled Building Fences: An Editorial, the subject of which was the topic of adversarial play within Alternate Reality Games, in theory and in history. We invited you, the reader, to tell us what you thought about the subject, and we were nearly immediately inundated with responses, spanning the entire gamut of opinion. We read every letter, rant, and lesson. Here are some highlights from the responses we received:

“…The problem with past approaches to the player v. player tactic in ARGing is that it almost always has come across as either a minor, player induced (i.e. not meant by the PM to happen) event, or has been quickly toned down by PMs who did mean to do it in the first place. The outcry from the community is always rather dramatic when a PM attempts to purposely divide players.

What I think needs to happen is for a PM team to make a quality ARG that incorporates this tactic, and run with it – to not give in to the community’s cries, and to just go with what they planned. Nothing against the community – I count myself as a member of it in most aspects – but sometimes everyone gets worked up about small things, while forgetting the bigger picture.” – Dave


“Eisner comes down in favor of splitting the player base, arguing that this makes for a more powerful approach to mysteries (think open source), and richer plot developments (think restaurant menu). I would add that increasing the number of player parties, from one to many, could increase the amount of player creativity (i.e., more wikis, more fiction, etc).

As Web 2.0 storytelling emerges, this is precisely the sort of thing we’ll see.” – Infocult


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Building Fences – An Editorial

armies.gifThe age-old argument is coming up again, in the form of the recently launched (and, perhaps, recently concluded) grassroots game, Project Ashcroft 3.

We all know that one of Alternate Reality Gaming’s main selling points and the reason that many of us are around to this day (especially anyone who can remember “where.gif” and “FOUNDER”), is the strong community environment that evolves during a game. Every once in a while though, a new game (or sometimes rogue players) will buck the trend by playing the “adversary” card, pitting player against player. In recent history, the ARG community has not addressed this issue in depth, preferring to assume that this action is the exception, and not the rule.

So which is it? Is it a good practice and a natural evolution in the gaming realm? Is this a bad idea contrary to the ideals upon which Alternate Reality Games were founded? Let’s talk, shall we?

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I am the Possum, Goo Goo G’Joob

iamthepossum.jpgWe’ve been seeing an amazing surge in grassroots projects lately, and “iamthepossum” seems to be yet another with potential. While the game seems to be in initial phases currently, this is the breakdown:

Alan Reeve, an owner of a LiveJournal, has been having strange dreams, ever since January 13th, when he hung up a dream-catcher that he got as a gift from his grandfather in Atlanta.

Just when Alan’s (Tiffletaff7) dreams started recurring, a player at UnFiction got an instant message from “iamthepossum” asking about Alan. When the player contacted Alan via IM to check out the facts, he responded quite realistically, by being more than a little creeped out, and shooing the players away.

The LiveJournal was last updated on the 20th, with Alan getting a dead possum in his mailbox. He’s taken down the dream-catcher, and apparently the next step is for us to take, as nothing new has been updated at all since that time.

Is the game still active? Is the game only beginning? What is the relationship of “iamthepossum” and Alan? Only time will tell. Be sure to check ARGN for future updates, should new information come out in regards to this game!

Methargo

methargo.jpgJust before 2005 died and rose phoenix-like into 2006, a little trailhead appeared on a blog, and Methargo was born. Apparently a grassroots effort, players have been trying to unravel the mysteries at play: What’s up with O. Parliament? Can we trust “mi55548″? What happened to Tom? Where and what is the prism, and what can finding it (again) lead to?

At the center of the story is Methargo Limited, which specializes in :new marketing”. It becomes very clear from the start that the company has some nefarious plans in the works. James Whitmore, an employee of Methargo Ltd., is becoming more and more disillusioned with the work he’s made to do, and according to his journal, he’s quitting after a very short time with the company. Separately involved, are Tabitha and Amanda Keeling, a mother and daughter, and the apparently deceased Tom (who is/was currently employed by Methargo Ltd. in a similar role to James?). Things aren’t as they seem in this world, and the plot is still evolving. However, while play hasn’t been fast-paced, there’s enough to keep a player interested, and the pacing seems to work well for casual onlookers.

So far, the game play has involved a garden variety of puzzles, including Morse code, vigenere ciphers, cryptic AIM conversations and some references to Greek literature for good measure. The game seems to just be getting off the ground, so it should be a good time for new ARGonauts to get themselves involved. Keep your eyes glued to ARGN for further information for this interesting game.

EDOC Laundry Exclusive Interview

edocsecrets.jpgARGN had the opportunity to get in touch with Dawne Weisman, Founder and President of EDOC Laundry, to discuss the upcoming venture, and get some questions answered in regards to the exciting idea.

ARGN: So what was the inspiration for EDOC Laundry? Is there some backstory into the development that would be interesting to fans?

DW: I was very inspired by the work my husband (Jordan Weisman) did in creating a new form of story telling (dubbed ARG by you guys) and saw a way of integrating that into my passion for graphic design and fashion. I founded edoc laundry around the talents of my graphic/fashion design team headed by Shane Small, and consisting of; Daniel Dejos, Justin Koh, and Cathy Brigg, and brought them together with some of the team that Jordan had assembled for 42 Entertainment, namely Elan Lee and Sean Stewart. I then brought in a great writer by the name of Christopher Kubasik who is writing all our scripts.

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Soak, Wash, Spin. Solve?

edoc.jpgPlaying ARGs using online clues and interpersonal meetups is cool. But wearing an ARG is even cooler. At least that’s the premise behind EDOC, a new clothing company that promises the shirt will not only say something about your style, but also tells you a story.

“How do they do it?” You say? Then you realize you’re talking to your computer again. But, for the ease of understanding, I’ll explain:

You go to the store and buy an EDOC article of clothing (or “Laundry” as the hip kids call it), and embedded into the shirt’s skater designs are clues and puzzles that when solved and entered into a secret area of the EDOC website, will reveal further information related to the game’s story.

While not much is known about the project, Wired Magazine has mentioned in it’s article (in the upcoming December issue) that Elan Lee was behind the design. So is this a 4orty-2wo Entertainment gig? Is this an Elan Lee solo project? Will people buy clothes with a secret? Will we see a “Help Find Tommy Hilfiger and win $50,000” contest in the future? (We hope not.) Only time will tell. The project looks interesting, though, and what better gear to save AIs from the future in, than a shirt that is, in itself, an ARG?

Rookery Two-er?

Sometimes Alternate Reality Games will fall into a rut in terms of plot line… “Someone or something has been taken, and you’re my only hope“… “You need to find evidence to clear my name”“Hi, HKDL!” and so on.

One game that seemed to step out from the rest earlier in the year was Rookery Tower. It involved conjoined twins, a demonic Tall Man, and a spooked out heroine named Layla, all involved in a haunting tale with ancient occult reverberations… Anyone who played the game will tell you that it was original, creative, and entertaining.

Early last week, a player got an email from Layla stating that she was now working with Morgan Paranormal (the group of “ghostbusters” that assisted her with that pesky evil arcane craziness the first time around). Her blog has also been updated as well, and wouldn’t you know it? There’s apparently a little strangeness happening there as well. Entries written by someone other than herself, UFO sightings (and please don’t make me mention the “chalice” posting… Eww…)

Which brings up the question going on for over 7 pages of postings at UNFiction.com: Is it starting up again?

No one but Layla knows for sure, but if there is a sequel and it is anywhere near the quality of the first, you can expect some solid puzzling, as well as a great ghost story filled with creepiness and twists. ARGN will be following this one closely and let you know if anything substantial arises.

Many thanks to Obes for giving ARGN the details of what’s new at the Tower…

Just In Time for “Falling In Time”

ARGN recently recently broke a story regarding the emergence of the trailhead for Falling In Time. Apparently, this was not only a new game, but the second coming of one of the first group of widely played g-roots games, entitled Project Gateway. While allusions to the past game and its characters have already been made through various sites hidden within the trailhead, it remains to be seen whether or not the game will pick up where the first game left off, or whether the game will only use the first game as a remnant spark to an entirely new fire. While the trail is just heating up, there is an expected real-life encounter to take place at Providence College, in Rhode Island, this Saturday (September 24). Regardless of what turns up, this game looks promising, and you can count on ARGN to keep you up to date as the game unfolds.

Blitz League Expands, Adds Depth

Blitz_TheLeague_PageBox.PNGBlitzleague.com has recently updated, with the first new content since July 26th. While still not showing signs of being an actual “game”, sites have been added to give more of a backdrop to the setting of Midway’s upcoming console game entitled “Blitz: The League”. Sites like “Tear it Rare“, “Most Valuable Playa“, and “PedisNV” have given a little more depth to the previously under-developed web presence, and expanded the world of the video game. Of course, should anything develop in terms of a true Alternate Reality Game, ARGN will keep you informed!

ARGN would like to thank Sam C. for the tip on the updates.

d1g1t4l t0m Pwnz you, n00b!!!

cel1.pngGreg Mentis’ life has been turned upside down. The private school he attends in England has been rocked by the revelation that the headmaster has gone missing. The new headmaster is strange and mysterious, and there are suspicions that there is a sinister plot afoot amongst some of the teachers to cause trouble to ends unknown.

This is the basic premise of “Greg’s Life” a new g-roots ARG that popped up on the ARG radar on August 22nd. So far, there hasn’t been too much to stump a veteran ARGonaut, but the trailhead has led to at least an interesting couple of days in terms of sites, characters, and plot developments.

Greg has alerted us that “Celsus School” (warning: benign pop-up-heavy site!) has had some strange happenings lately, and that he and his friend Tom (4 l33t H4X0R!!1!one!) are some of the few students who think there is a vast conspiracy behind the situation. As usual, it’s up to us to dig in and see what we can find. Greg and Tom both have blogs to keep us updated, not to mention periodical IRC chat sessions taking place helping things along as well.

While the premise is fairly “traditional” for the genre, there is some potential to this game. Rest assured that ARGN will be following up with this game, and keep you updated if it appears to be making waves.

Discussion at UnFiction.

Blitz League: Is it ARG, or just G?

ithurts.jpgTwo weeks ago we reported on the possiblity of an ARG centered around an upcoming football console game entitled “Blitz: The League“. Sadly, after watching the site since then, I just don’t think there is an ARG there. In fact, I don’t even know if there is any real marketing here. It’s like they couldn’t settle on a concept, and that bothers me. Whether this was to be an ARG, or simply an alternate reality without any intent of a game at all, it doesn’t live up to the vaulted standards that modern marketers must abide by, if not exceed, these days. It’s kind of sad, because this looks like it could be something fun, if done properly.

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Attack of the Clones, Island Style

Merrick.jpgThere’s been a lot of ARGishness in Hollywood these days, and the new release of “The Island” by director Michael Bay is no exception. While it is still uncertain whether the alternate reality will actually turn into a game after the opening this weekend, there is definitely at least a good creative try going on.

So far, there are only a couple sites available. There’s the official movie site, with wholesome promotional goodness (and some creepy video from the film to boot!), the (in-game?) area of Merrick Biotech, and the meta-fence straddling You Have Been Chosen site. Most of these sites have logins, so who knows what may or may not happen there in the near future.

While those areas are definitely plugs for the film (almost every site contains either desktop images or AIM icons), the most promising area for future gaming is at the “anti-cloing” site CloneWatch, where there are forums set up, and some cryptic postings as well as a couple genuinely creepy pictures, if you dig (semi) deeply.

While nothing is “launched” as of yet, rest assured that ARGN will fill you in if events develop!

Perplex City Explodes into Play: Introduces New Concept, Controversy

cubelost.jpgIf you’ve been living in a cave for the last year, and don’t know about Perplex City, now is the time to get up to speed. Sente Kiteway, the headmaster of the Perplex City Academy, has informed us of a missing priceless cultural artifact: The Cube. It’s here on Earth, and up to us to find, for a large monetary reward. Until recently, things have been slow in the coming:

First, just over a year ago, was Project Syzygy, apparently a site designed to gather players and build hype for the game’s start, which ended up soft-launching nearly a year later. The next site to show up was PerplexCity.com, which contained some cryptic pictures and an email sign-up, allowing those who wanted to play an avenue to register. Quite some time later, a video that started yet more pre-game, albeit with more hunting around for newspapers around the world, and ended with a real-life interaction at Abbey Road in London, UK.

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