Lazy 8 Studios has a new sci-fi themed interactive narrative experience in the works called Extrasolar. Lazy 8 Studios is the company behind Cogs, one of the thirteen indie games involved in the Portal 2 Potato Sack ARG earlier this year.
Extrasolar’s story involves the eXoplanetary Research Institute (XRI), a private agency that sent an exploratory spacecraft beyond our solar system a decade ago. They will soon land the craft on Epsilon Eridani b, where the spacecraft will drop a fleet of rovers designed to explore the alien landscape. XRI is seeking volunteers to control the many rovers as they scour the planet’s surface. This fictional extraterrestrial game is partially inspired by actual astronomical crowdsourcing efforts like MoonZoo, designed to classify the lunar surface, and SetiQuest Explorer, an interface for categorizing patterns in radio telescopic data.
Rob Jagnow, one of the creators behind the game, explained some of the game mechanics in an interview with Gamasutra earlier this month. According to Jagnow, players will drive their rovers around the planet, exploring and taking pictures of the landscape. Once the photos have been beamed back to Earth, players can analyze them for artifacts or creatures living on the planet. The story of Extrasolar will unfold over emails, videos and voicemails as players explore more of the planet.
The spacecraft isn’t scheduled to land for a few more months, but rover volunteers can sign up for more information on the XRI website. Extrasolar will be free to play with the option to pay for rover upgrades and other game extras.
For more information, follow the discussion at UnFiction.
Six to Start have recently introduced their latest independent game, Zombies, Run!, and it has taken only days to reach the desired amount of pledges on Kickstarter to develop it by the first quarter of 2012. It is easy to see what has gotten gamers, runners and zombie aficionados so excited.
Zombies, Run! is a running game and interactive audio adventure which takes place during a zombie apocalypse. The game mechanics are fairly simple. The player assumes the role of the zombie survivalist known as “Runner 5” by going for a run with their smartphone and a pair of headphones. As players run, they collect items that are vital for the survival of their community. Their base grows thanks to the player allocating resources where they are needed most. And as it grows, more content will be unlocked. The running missions are an integral part of a transmedia storyline which unfolds through the orders and voice recordings heard while running, and also through puzzles, websites and documents that players can uncover online once they have safely returned home. As an exercise aid, the game also keeps track of more traditional running metrics such as distance covered and calories burned.
Prepare to work your socks off at Socks Inc., the factory that makes Believe. Socks Inc. is the largest employer of sock puppets in the world and if you play your cards right, you too could be hired, starting today. To complete your employment application, create a sock puppet, go the Socks Inc. website, and register to join the fun. Socks Inc. is the second alternate reality game to come from Awkward Hug, following up on their romantic comedy Must Love Robots. Over the coming months, Socks Inc., lovingly referred to as “World of Sockcraft” by Awkward Hug’s lead game designer Jim Babb, plans on sending you and your sock puppet on countless storytelling missions that will keep you on your toes.
The main storyline of Socks Inc. is explored in Mr. Barnsworth’s office, the boss at Socks, Inc. Other themes, stories and missions are available in the company’s other departments: so far, these include Athletics, Groundskeeping, Politics, Waste Management, and Research & Development. The webpage has a few empty slots left for future departments and added content. Socks Inc. employees are sent out into a world of storytelling adventures, which are usually introduced by one of the many colourful characters running the different departments. Once you have accepted a mission, you and your sock puppet avatar need to go into the real world to complete it, and this is where the potential for creativity kicks in.
Given the task of recording your sock puppet rapping, you could just download the beat and rap a few lines. Or, you could spend days building a set and directing a full-blown music video. Whatever you come up with, the next step is to upload your picture or video onto the Socks Inc. site, where it becomes visible on your profile page and can get responses from other players. If you happen to have made a particularly embarrassing attempt, there is also an option to make your video private so only you can view it. As you complete each mission, you unlock more adventures, stories, and badges. Progress is measured on a gauge and a progress bar on your profile page. Co-developer Julie Coniglio confirmed that the game is scalable, with new online content being planned as well as future live events.
In America 2049, the former land of the free has degenerated into the Divided States of America, where sexuality, religion, speech and culture are all controlled and restricted. On the upside: the entire population is on a drug that inhibits aggressive behavior called SerennAide, administered automatically through the water supply. This has led to a decrease in crime rates, an increase in the population’s happiness, and has purportedly helped people to rise above their worst impulses.
Depending on where you stand, this is either a Utopian dream or an Orwellian nightmare. And it is up to you to decide where you stand: alongside the Council for American Heritage (CAH), or with Divided We Fall (DWF).
America 2049 is an immersive 12-week episodic experience that will play out across a new social network as well as using video, fictional websites, and real life locations across the U.S. Once this alternate reality game (ARG) officially launches on April 4th, 2011 at 12am EST, you will be able to interact with characters and other players in real time as you uncover the story and clues. The game is designed to be replayed or revisited at any time, so players who join after launch don’t have to worry about falling too far behind. However, for those interested in a sneak peek, America 2049 has seeded quite a bit of content across a number of websites.
There is a mystery afoot, and scientists at MIT and the Smithsonian are investigating. But they project that before the next full moon, they will need the help of middle-schoolers across the country to understand an impending environmental disaster, secrets that they alone can uncover.
Vanished is a science-fiction themed alternate reality game launching on April 4th, created and run by MIT’s Education Arcade and the Smithsonian Institution. Vanished invites kids and teens 11-14 to participate in the role of scientific detectives, although older participants can also follow along with special “watcher” accounts. Players will uncover clues, form and test scientific hypotheses, collaborate with their peers, engage online with scientists, and learn about a broad range of scientific fields. Over the course of eight weeks, they will encounter multiple scientific mysteries that require real scientific methods to solve.
Each of the eight weeks of Vanished comprises a chapter with its own activities, scientific content, and another layer of a larger mystery. Online, players will engage with scientists from the Smithsonian via video conferences, play games that will help to illustrate concepts, and unlock clues and hidden messages. Offline, players need to explore their own neighborhoods for scientific data. Journal entries from in-game characters will lead players to visit Smithsonian-affiliated museums for exhibits to gather clues and learn more about each scientific field.
Players will share their offline discoveries with others online to advance the story. They might document what plants are blossoming or what animals live in their area. Contributions are shared so that other kids can see the differences across the country. In forums, moderated by MIT students, players can discuss their findings and how they might apply to solving the mystery. The participating museums aren’t being used for scavenger hunts; rather, they are a way for kids to explore subjects further as the game progresses. Museum staff at the Smithsonian have been warned to expect anything from Vanished players, as participants may have questions the creators did not anticipate.
Books as a form of entertainment are facing stiff competition from an increasing array of options. Patrick Carman, author and head of PC Studio, views this as particularly true with the younger generation, where mobile devices provide constant access to alternative content. As he explains, “if you’re twelve . . . and you don’t have an iPod Touch [or mobile device], somebody standing two people to your left does.” Responding to this shift in the consumption experience, Carman has two apps in development that aim to create a reading experience with the mobile environment in mind.
Books have been migrating to mobile devices for some time now, but traditionally, the pulp edition is imagined (and released) first. Carman’s thinking, however, is that “books have so much to compete with, that trying to stand out as a book, it’s almost better to blend in. [Young readers] are already doing all of these things anyway, so let’s see if we can get a way to have them also reading as part of everything they’re doing, as opposed to just putting it all away and pulling out a book.” What follows is a preview of two projects Carman is using to explore this blended approach to reading: 3:15 Stories and Dark Eden.