Five brilliant young scientists collectively known as “MHD-6” disappear from Belgrade University. Shortly after, a video of the kidnapping makes its way to the foundation that sponsored them. A mysterious person known only as “The Donetsk Voice” feeds bits and pieces of information relating to the disappearance of the MHD-6. As the investigation progresses, the Alvinson Foundation puts out a global call for help solving the mystery. Players who respond to the call are thrown headfirst into the European-based transmedia experience Alt-Minds, an eight week long paranormal mystery that incorporates puzzles, websites, geo-locative content, and a Facebook game.
French telecommunications corporation Orange joined the French game development studio Lexis Numérique to create the Alt-Minds experience, which launched on November 12th, in four languages: French, German, Spanish, and English. According to a press release by Orange, “Alt-Minds is a cohesive set of films, games, monitoring tools and web documentaries.” The story unfolds live over the game’s eight week span, using the web series format as the framework for players stepping into the role of investigator.
Lexis Numérique is no stranger to this kind of transmedia product. In 2004, the studio launched the game In Memoriam, published by Ubisoft. In Memoriam incorporated a network of websites, film footage, and real-time emails into its game play, where the player matched wits and interacted with a serial killer in order to achieve the game’s objectives. Those familiar with In Memoriam will easily spot its influence on the Alt-Minds game structure.
Alt-Minds allows players to choose whether to interface with the game through the main website or via their mobile devices, and those who are located in Europe can enter their mobile number for additional layers of interactivity. An Alt-Minds app for Android and Apple devices, available to European users, allows players to follow the story in real-time. Non-European users may also follow along, although their experience is limited to the website’s content.
Logging on to the main website, players access their dashboard, which shows their progress through the experience. Documents and videos are provided to the players to help them solve the puzzles and advance the content. The interfaces provide tools that players can use to analyze videos and documents, such as sliders that alter brightness, contrast, and saturation, and a zoom tool. Players may send puzzle solutions through the in-game messaging system, earning experience points in the game, or they may skip ahead to the next part of the narrative. As the game progresses, more content becomes available, such as the geo-locative content or the related Facebook game. Alt-Minds is also releasing a series of mini documentaries that explore some of the themes and questions raised by the narrative.
The creators of Alt-Minds have experimented with the “pay-to-play” model by offering the first week of story, puzzles, and clues for free, then charging a fee for each week following, much like buying episodes of a television series from week to week. The full series can be purchased for EUR 14.99 or per episode at EUR 2.59. After the live stream ends, the Alt-Minds experience will still be accessible by those who purchase episodes or the whole game, through the system’s “catch-up” mode that allows players to replay past episodes and events. According to the Alt-Minds FAQ, game play can exceed 50 hours if players opt to take on the secondary missions.
While all of the location-based content in Alt-Minds is currently centered in Europe, the website notes that a version of the experience is being developed for the United States and South America for release in 2013.