Studio Cyphers returns with the release of the latest chapter of their multi-player novel (MPN), “The Cyphers”. This chapter, entitled Descry, starts with The Cyphers diving into the mystical world of rituals and spirits while following the experiments of a curious professor — experiments that might have gone a bit too far in the investigation of the paranormal.
What remains true from previous episodes is the overwhelming feeling of “spookiness” and the This-Is-Odd factor that players experience when they first encounter an in-game site or clue. Also, the puppetmasters again seem committed to realism by emailing players individually (instead of canned responses from an auto-reply program) and by conducting IRC chats where the professor and his helpers interact in real-time with the players.
In past episodes/chapters, Studio Cyphers has worked with a subscription model where ‘Wakeful Agents’ (those who pay to play) get information more rapidly, or receive additional clues for game play. For Descry, it is not yet clear what premium content the ‘Wakeful Agents’ are getting. Perhaps a more prominent or clearly defined set of benefits for the subscribing members would draw more players to participate in the paid version of the episodes.
A change of note is that this episode seems a more focused on establishing cooperative play between the players. This is evident by the number of players that currently use IRC and the Unfiction forums to discuss and solve the latest clues, which happened less frequently in previous installments.
Studio Cypher has announced the launch of their second “Multiplayer Novel,” entitled Perfect Friends Forever, set to begin this week. According to Studio Cypher, “[Perfect Friends Forever] is much improved on our first episode: it contains many more puzzles and major story updates will happen on Tuesdays and Fridays.” The plot will involve Madame Z, a psychic who uses spirits to run a matchmaking service, who is trying to find out which of her spirit helpers has turned against her. For a free preview, enter the pass code “argonaut” at the Perfect Friends Forever trailhead site.
The first Studio Cypher Case, Out in the Cold, was released last month when a Cypher field agent, Chuck Lehner, disappeared. Soon after the case launched, players started to receive postcards in the mail from Lehner which led them to his website and a blog that belongs to his friend Sue Terrini. The game, which ended yesterday, had some difficult puzzles, real world hidden caches and even an ingame band which seems to be the hip ARG thing to do these days. Players had been working to unravel the mystery of what happened to dear old Chuck and what mysterious brown pieces of clay had to do with it.
To many, the real mystery surrounding Studio Cypher is whether or not the pay-to-fully-play model is working on all levels. In order to fully participate in each case, players must become a Wakeful Agent for $9.99 ($13.99 outside the U.S.). Only Wakeful Agents will receive special content and can interact directly with the characters. Paying players also get access to game updates before the non-paying players. Those who don’t pay can still play along, but it still remains to be seen whether or not this limited access really allows players to immerse themselves in the story enough to want more and become a Wakeful Agent.
As mentioned last week, a new Alternate Reality Game of sorts is emerging from a company called Studio Cypher. Since the discovery of the game, many members on the Unfiction message boards have been keeping up with ongoing events, so when the web site changed on April 14th, it did not go unnoticed. The site now has two branches — a main section with information on the company itself, including information on previously developed ARGs Ares Station and IDEAS Fest 1906, and a second section on their new game/multi-player novel Cyphers.
The company is taking a slightly different approach with this venture, and has stated that players will be charged a “nominal fee” to become an agent in the game. While the pay-to-play gaming model is hardly a new phenomenon, it is uncommon to find the model applied to Alternate Reality Gaming. However, as the company has been successful with two previous ARG projects, perhaps this is a situation where the players can bank on a quality experience deserving of the fee. In any case, the game creators have announced a pre-game IRC chat which will address “how everything will work,” which will serve as a unique opportunity for players to address out-of-game concerns before the game goes live. The chat will take place on the Chat-solutions IRC network this Tuesday, April 18, at 8 pm Eastern (GMT-5).
Thanks to Magesteff at Unfiction for the information.
During the live event for the IDEAS Festival ARG, I came across a laminated cipher reference card made by a company calling themselves Studio Cypher. After the curtain was lifted, I got the chance to speak with the Puppetmasters behind both the IDEAS Festival ARG and Ares Station. Ian Pottmeyer, Will Emigh and Nathan Mishler have formed a company dedicated to the production of ARGs called Studio Cypher.
Their website describes Studio Cypher as a company that “creates multi-player novels: stories that place you in the middle of a mystery you can help solve.” Mishler and Emigh explained that they use the term “multi-player novel” rather than ARG to avoid alienating potential players who aren’t familiar with the term. Studio Cypher is going to use a partial pay-to-play model for their ARGs. Players will be able to play along without paying a fee, but won’t be able to access some of the premium content in the game. Although they haven’t announced an official price, I was told that the cost will be less than $10 per adventure. The first episode is due to launch sometime over the next month.