Image courtesy of the BBC
On September 10, 2011, Pete Ryland cracked The Code and took home the coveted prize, a unique bronze and silver mathematical sculpture by Bathsheba Grossman. The lead-up to the tense finale was a collaborative transmedia treasure hunt centred around the three-part BBC2 show The Code, presented by Marcus du Sautoy. The game was designed by Six to Start, working with the BBC from the beginning to integrate clues and puzzles seamlessly within the broadcasts.
Before the first airing of The Code on July 27, about 700 postcards were sent out with an image and a code. Collaborating on Facebook, participants in this first stage soon discovered that each postcard image was a thin horizontal slice of a three-dimensional Platonic solid. Several of these “perfect” shapes then had to be combined and arranged into three concentric spherical shells – revealing the complicated nested sculpture that would be the grand prize.
Now the hunt could begin in earnest. The main stage of the game was intricately connected with the three episodes of the show: Numbers, Shapes, and Prediction. For each episode, participants discovered three clues: one by watching the program, one clue by playing related Flash games on the website, and one clue by solving a puzzle described on the blog. They also had to complete the Prime Number Challenge as a group, which involved uploading photos of all 305 prime numbers from 2 to 2011 to collectively receive the sixth clue for each episode. The six clues were then entered into a codebreaker to reveal three passwords, which granted access to the next stage of the game: The Ultimate Challenge.
Six to Start and the BBC have teamed up to create a transmedia experience tied in with BBC Two documentary The Code, expected to air at the end of July. The Code is presented by Professor of Mathematics Marcus du Sautoy (Horizon on BBC2, The Beauty of Diagrams on BBC4) and explores how the world around us conforms to and can be explained by mathematical codes. Six to Start are next-generation storytellers with plenty of experience creating storytelling projects for different clients, often in the form of alternate reality games or treasure hunts. They’ve worked with the BBC before on projects like Spooks: Code 9 and Seven Ages Quest. As a first for the BBC and possibly a world first, an interactive experience called The Code Challenge has been seamlessly integrated in the writing and filming of The Code since inception. Viewers can participate in an engaging treasure hunt which will take place before, during, and after the series that will extend their understanding of basic mathematical principles.
The Code Challenge begins well before the airing of the actual show. Soon, 1000 people in the UK will receive a secret message with one of the first puzzles of the challenge. For a chance to be one of those 1000, keep an eye on Twitter @bbccode and apply via Twitter or e-mail. A few weeks before the show airs, several Flash games containing clues, puzzles, and more information about the Code will also appear online. The series itself is expected to air at the end of July and will be split into three 60-minute episodes: Magic Numbers, Nature’s Building Blocks and Predicting the Future. Six clues are connected to each episode. Three will be hidden in the programme itself, which can be watched live on BBC Two or on BBC iPlayer. One community clue can only be solved by working together with a group of players. Two further clues will be revealed on the blog and through a Flash game. Players can then enter the six answers they found for each episode into the ‘codebreaker’ to receive three passwords with which they can unlock the ultimate challenge.
Going to the Thames Festival in London this week? Got a bored teen or two on your hands? Bring them to the BBC’s Blast tour stop where they can register for a variety of workshops, including one on creating their own alternate reality game. The BBC tells us that “[t]he workshop is suitable for young people aged 16-19, and provides hands on guidance and tips for designing your own Alternate Reality Game. For more information and to book a place visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/blast/208402.” The ARG workshop is on Friday, September 10 and runs from 1:45pm – 3:45pm.
From the BBC comes word of an online game that will run concurrently with the new season of its sci-fi drama, Torchwood. If the name Torchwood doesn’t mean anything to you, you might have heard of the series it was spun off of, a little show called Doctor Who.
In the guise of being recruited as Freelance Operatives working for the mysterious Torchwood Institute, players will be given weekly “missions” which they must complete to prove they are worthy to join the Torchwood team. A genetics professor who claimed to be hunted by aliens has gone missing. The Torchwood team passes this minor case on to its new recruits. Do they have what it takes to figure out what’s going on?
The game story was especially written by show writer Phil Ford, and will be revealed slowly, with new details weekly leading up to a final climax. Game content includes video “minisodes” featuring cast members Eve Myles, Gareth David Lloyd and Naoko Mori. Appearances by other cast members and special guests have been hinted at. The game story is separate from the series, but will intertwine with what is happening on screen. “The game is what happens in Torchwood between each episode. You’ll see and hear characters referring to events that have just happened in the show,” says Senior Producer Mat Fidell. “The only difference from the TV show is that it’s up to you to move the story forward. You must solve the clues, find out what’s going on and report back to the team. You’ll need to use all the skills and talents you have – and Torchwood will provide you with some tools to help you along the way.” The Torchwood website has been redesigned for season two, and incorporates the online game component with an interface very similar to the computer set-up the characters use in the show.
Although registration is not required to play, players who sign up to take part at the show’s website will be emailed as each mission is launched (one per week) and will be able to track their progress from week to week. Recruitment starts January 16th, along with the U.K. premiere of Torchwood Season Two.
Tell Captain Jack we’re on our way!
Update: As noted in the comments, the game (and, sadly, much of the website) is restricted to U.K. use only. Our contact at the Beeb apologizes, but this is due to the public funding of the BBC. We hope our U.K. readers will report in and let us know what they think of the game!
Three weeks ago, we reported on the Frozen Indigo Angel game promoting BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend music festival. On the same day, we also found out about a season two preview for Perplex City. As it turns out, the two were fated to be reported together, as they were officially connected on May 12th in a blog post on Violet Underground, with a puzzle found in one of Paul Denchfield’s videos leading to a new PXC game web site.
Within a day of finding the puzzle, players of the Frozen Indigo Angel (FIA) game had solved it (see this thread at unofficialmills.co.uk) and discovered the tie-in with Perplex City. On the 14th, Denchfield posted on his blog about the recent activity and the new PXC web site, and Violet blogged about receiving emails which put her in touch with Denchfield himself. At this point, the story revolved around Cyrus Quinton, a member of the myserious Third Power who had set up a secret web page at the newly discoverd Silburn-Griggs Mining web site. Cyrus, according to Violet, is a “sound-engineer-slash-mass-murdering-psychopath,” and Denchfield warns about a “subliminal messaging scheme” Cyrus has planned for the Big Weekend concert — just as Cyrus warns his agents about Denchfield.
From the 15th to the 18th, Cyrus created “ticket challenges” for people to take part in during real world events. These challenges were noted by both Violet and Denchfield in separate blog entries, and players quick to solve the puzzles were awarded with tickets for the concert event. However, not everything is as it seemed, as a timetable was discovered at the same time, revealing that Cyrus was planning on using Perplex City technology during the weekend to send subliminal commands to listeners of Radio 1 who attended the Big Weekend concert. Alas, even as players, led by Denchfield, were told to do whatever they could to stop Cyrus from broadcasting a “primer” over the airwaves, the signal ended up going out on the 17th, “drowning out Beyonce and Shakira.”
Dan Hon was kind enough to send us an email letting us know that the transcript from the 2007 SWSX panel discussion “ARG! The Attack of the Alternate Reality Games” is pubished on his blog, Extenuating Circumstances. Alice Taylor, the Vice President of Digital Content at the BBC, was the moderator for the panel which included Hon (also the COO of Mind Candy), Brian Clark (Founder/CEO, GMD Studios/IndieWire), Evan Jones (Creative Director/Producer at Stitch Media) and Brooke Thompson (Giant Mice and ARGNet).
There is a lot of information to sift through, as the panel talks about everything from how ARG is still “emerging” to how budgets are created. Thanks, Dan.