Category: Announcements (page 1 of 16)

CATAN – World Explorers Takes Popular Game Off Tables, Into Streets

Following Niantic’s breakout hit Ingress in 2012, the company has gone on a world tour of adapting beloved properties for the location-based gaming landscape. 2016 saw the release of Pokémon GO, sending players on a nostalgic trek through local parks and gatherings. Enough people took to the streets catching first generation Pokemon together in those first months, it’s still nostalgically referred to as “the summer of Pokémon GO“. 2019 saw the release of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, where players catch virtual reproductions of key characters and creatures from the series to maintain the Statute of Secrecy and untangle the mystery of the Calamity that put the Wizarding World at risk in the first place.

And now? Niantic has set its sights on bringing beloved tabletop franchise CATAN off the table and out into the real world with CATAN World Explorers . Not much is known about how CATAN will be adapted for outdoor play, but the game’s website offer a handful of clues of what’s to come: like the tabletop game, collecting lumber, brick, wool, grain and ore provides the literal building blocks for gameplay. Relative scarcity of resources also means some resources might be easier to obtain through trading, as you “befriend and bargain with in-game Catanians”. All this is in pursuit of Victory Points, which are used to claim victory for your global Faction, as well as in personal Local Games through a season-based structure.

Many of Niantic’s games have relied on faction-based gameplay in the past, with Ingress fueled by a directly competitive showdown between the green Enlightened faction (the frogs) and the blue Resistance faction (the smurfs) in a strategic game of territory acquisition. With Niantic’s later games, competitive elements eased up: Pokémon GO‘s factions (Valor, Mystic, and Instinct) are used to provide in-game bonuses during raids and provides the occasional head-to-head challenge at special events, while Wizards Unite‘s Hogwarts Houses are a purely aesthetic choice, putting much more weight on players’ choice of Wizarding profession to drive gameplay. World Explorers looks to be a return to Ingress‘ more competitive structure, which makes sense for a competitive board gaming adaptation.

This isn’t Niantic’s first foray into the world of tabletop gaming, as a number of Ingress events featuring “Remote Participation Experiences”, tabletop modules that shifted Ingress gameplay from an app-based experience into a traditional tabletop role-playing game. This time, however, it’s the tabletop game that’s getting the mobile gaming makeover.

While CATAN: World Explorers‘ debut is imminent, Niantic also announced a slate of ten games in development, including a partnership on multiple projects with Punchdrunk, the immersive design company responsible for the immersive theater hit Sleep No More “that will reinvent storytelling for a 21st century audience and further expand the horizon of interactive entertainment.” Punchdrunk has already dabbled in tech-enabled partnerships to expand their immersive theater specialty, ranging from an online complement to Sleep No More in partnership with the MIT Media Lab and a partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Society and Epic Games “aimed at exploring virtual reality across entertainment industries.”

There is no set launch date for CATAN: World Explorers yet, although Niantic’s press release notes World Explorers will enter beta testing “very soon”, and pre-registration is open on the Catan: World Explorers website.

The Kickstarter to End All Maze of Games Kickstarters

In 1897, Colleen and Samuel Quaice discovered a mysterious book in the Upper Wolverhampton Bibliothèque. As soon as the two siblings opened the book, the skeletal Gatekeeper emerged and pulled the pair into The Maze of Games. In 2014, readers discovered copies of The Maze of Games, documenting the sibling’s passage through that labyrinth. Readers were tasked with squaring off against each of the puzzles the Quaices faced along the way, with every solve unlocking the next page of the story. This “interactive puzzle novel” format added a welcome twist to the gamebook genre without infringing on the litigious Choose Your Own Adventure franchise’s intellectual property.

After four long years, the first group of readers successfully completed The Maze of Games‘ puzzles, finally freeing the Quaice siblings and unlocking one final Maze of Games Kickstarter campaign, The Maze of Games Omnibus and Escape Room Experience. The campaign allows backers to obtain an in-universe answer key, as well as a chance to buy in for the full experience, with components including a soundtrack composed by Austin Wintory, an audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton, a radio show, and even a Maze of Games themed escape room in Seattle.

How Exactly Does The Maze of Games Work?

The Maze of Games prologue starts off like a traditional book, with a brief introduction to the Quaices and their plight. Once the pair encounter the Gatekeeper, they are charged with solving an initial puzzle to gain entry to the Castle Maze. The Maze of Games is themed around a deck of cards, with each suit representing a “chapter” of the story.

With standard Choose Your Own Adventure novels, players are given multiple choices. However, The Maze of Games only has one correct pathway through its pages, determined by the four mazes contained within. Figuring the optimal path through each maze will provide each chapter’s intended reading (and solving) order, with each suit getting increasingly difficult.

Even readers tackling the book alone should be able to make it through the initial Castle Maze of Diamonds…it’s the Cloud Maze of Spades and its final meta-puzzle that had readers confounded for the past four years. Lone Shark Games even released The Theseus Guide to the Final Maze, a chapbook that offered hints to see Colleen and Samuel through to the finish with yet another series of puzzles. And while audio-inclined readers couldn’t solve the Maze of Games audiobook, Wil Wheaton’s acting quickly made the audio edition my preferred way of experiencing the story, showing off an impressive range as he embodies the host of helpful (and somewhat less-than helpful) characters the siblings encounter along the way. Conveniently, the audiobook comes in “solved” and “unsolved” ordering, so listeners can appreciate the narrative in the style of their choosing.

The Maze of Games wiki has hints for every puzzle (including the final challenge) to nudge readers on to the solutions should they find themselves stuck. What Lone Shark Games’ 2019 Maze of Games Kickstarter campaign is adding to the mix is The Keymaster’s Tome, a reproduction of the journal the Quaice siblings might have used to navigate The Maze of Games, with “answers, conversations, and tidbits hand-written in the margins”. The campaign also introduces an audio recording of The Theseus Guide to the Final Maze and a radio play, The Gatekeeper’s Variety Hour, featuring both musical and puzzle guests.

The Maze of Games: Now a Physical Escape Room?
Readers of the newest edition of Puzzlecraft may already be familiar with the concept of a Maze of Games-themed escape room, as Gaby Weidling used the idea to illustrate the process of escape room development in the book. Lone Shark Games partnered with Epic Team Adventures to transform that idea into a reality, with a themed escape room in Seattle that opens up…today, March 14th. The room’s construction is a bit atypical for escape rooms, with four different rooms all making use of the same space. As with all Maze of Games productions with an audio component, Wil Wheaton is reprising his role to narrate the escape room.

All backers who contribute $15 or more will receive a $35 discount code for the room in which Selinker and Weidling find themselves trapped. Which brings us to the Kickstarter campaign.

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A Return to Puzzlecraft, Just in Time for Gen Con

Starting in 2004, puzzle designers Mike Selinker and Thomas Snyder wrote a column on puzzle design for Games Magazine called “Puzzlecraft”. In 2013, the pair condensed a decade of commentary and learnings from the column into a book, the ambitiously titled Puzzlecraft: The Ultimate Guide on How to Construct Every Kind of Puzzle. The book was intended to serve as a resource for aspiring puzzlemakers, passing down guidelines for designing elegant puzzles. As Selinker explains in the book’s introduction, “Whether you’re making puzzles to publish online or befuddle your family or educate your students, you should find what you need [in Puzzlecraft]. If you master everything we talk about, you’ll be on your way to being a puzzlemaker.” The spiral-bound book’s 192 pages lived up to that promise, detailing over 70 different puzzle variations through solvable examples of each type, guidelines to help new puzzlemakers construct those puzzles, and offering italicized hints and color commentary along the way. The only problem was, when you sell a book of puzzles to fans of the genre, they’re going to write in the books. So when Puzzlecraft‘s limited print run was exhausted, obtaining a used copy became a costly endeavor. When Puzzlecraft was initially released, it retailed for $9.99. When I finally got my hands on a copy on the used books market, I ended up spending $65.

No one has to pay that much for puzzling wisdom again, since Lone Shark Games just announced the book’s return, on the eve of Gen Con 2018. The new version of Puzzlecraft has been updated to feature a new forward by Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me‘s Peter Sagal and over 20 new puzzle types, with a focus on ARG-adjacent puzzle types like interactive fiction, escape rooms, puzzle rallies, and videogame puzzles. The alternate reality gaming section of the book has also received an update, adding a miniature alternate reality game to the book. As one of the book’s italicized flavortext hints reads,

To build our ARG, first we had to figure out how a book could become a springboard for an ARG puzzle. Once we had that, we came up with the parts necessary to make that work. I’d tell you more, but This Is Not A Game.

When reached for comment, Puzzlecraft developer Gaby Weidling cryptically responded, “all I’ll say is that it’s our smallest ARG ever!”Puzzlecraft is available for pre-order at the Lone Shark Games store for $29.95 for the book, or $15 for the PDF. And if you’re reading this article after August 15th, you should absolutely do that. Otherwise, there’s an even better option.

To celebrate the book’s release and support the Girls Make Games and Girls Who Code charities, Lone Shark Games partnered with a collection of game designer friends to release the Game Design & Puzzlecraft Humble Bundle, a series of game design books. For $8, aspiring puzzle fans can have a Humble Bundle exclusive edition of the newly expanded Puzzlecraft, along with 10 other books that provide different perspectives on game design like . For $15, newly released “DLC”editions of Puzzlecraft and The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design are unlocked. For Puzzlecraft, the DLC takes the form of a 400 page digital tome of Selinker and Snyder’s first drafts of Puzzlecraft articles for Games Magazine that served as inspiration for the reference book. For The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design, readers are treated to a sneak preview of the book’s 2019 update, featuring essays from Bruno Faidutti, Chad Brown, and Mike Selinker. The Humble Bundle also comes with a 20% off coupon for the Lone Shark Games Store, in case a print copy of the book is what you’re looking for.

If only for its skill at exposing readers to the depth and variety of puzzle types available, Puzzlecraft is an essential text for puzzle solvers and makers alike, and the book’s re-release has made that recommendation an accessible one, at a price that’s hard to beat. Now about that embedded alternate reality game…

To get started, check out the Game Design & Puzzlecraft Humble Bundle for downloadable copies of Puzzlecraft, and the Lone Shark Games store to pre-order its print release. The full list of books included in the Humble Bundle are included below.

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ARGFest 2012 Toronto Locks in Dinner and a Movie

ARGFest-o-Con, the annual conference dedicated to bringing together players and creators of alternate reality games and transmedia storytelling experiments, is heading north to Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada between July 26th and July 28th. Over the past 11 years, ARGFest has played host to city-wide puzzle trails, panels, and live events that allow attendees to roll up their sleeves and practice what they preach, playing through interactive experiences in between discussing past campaigns and best practices. Last year’s conference won Bloomington Indiana’s “Host of the Year” award. In addition to the mainstays of previous years, ARGFest 2012 is adding a little something extra: an advanced screening of The Institute, a documentary about San Francisco’s long-standing alternate reality game, The Jejune Institute.

For those unfamiliar with the project, The Jejune Institute was a highly immersive alternate reality game that took place in San Francisco over the course of three years. The narrative centered around a secretive new age cult, leading players on an exploration of the city that asked them to discover hidden secrets by following puzzle trails throughout San Francisco that showcased overlooked landmarks both real and fictional. The 90-minute documentary features interviews with the game’s developers at Nonchalance and some of the game’s players/inductees. The Nonchalance team were panelists at a previous ARGFest, providing an introduction to the experience.

Early-bird registration for ARGFest is open until May 31st, so you still have two days before the cost of admission goes up. Keep an eye on argfestocon.com in the coming weeks for updates on speakers and events.

Six to Start Gets You in Shape for Zombie Apocalypse with “Zombies, Run!”

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.

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ARGNet’s Michael Andersen to Present in StoryWorld Webcast

Digital Book World, an online community for publishing professionals and host to the StoryWorld Conference + Expo, will feature ARGNet owner and senior editor Michael Andersen in StoryWorld’s July 27th WEBcast. The webcast is titled What’s Possible with Transmedia: Case Studies in Successful Projects and will air at 1:00 p.m. EDT.

According to Digital Book World, the transmedia campaigns that Andersen will talk about during this roundtable webcast include HBO’s recent Maester’s Path experience; Chain Factor, the Numb3rs tv series’ episode tie-in experience (and addictive flash game) from 2007; and Valve’s Portal 2 ARG.

Attendees may register here for this free webcast. Registration is required to attend the free webcast and to access the audio recording.

For those interested in attending the StoryWorld Conference + Expo, ARGNet is pleased to offer our readers a promotional code. When registering for StoryWorld, use the code ARGN11 to receive $50 off the early bird price for StoryWorld’s conference registration.

Quick Facts

What: StoryWorld WEBcast featuring ARGNet’s Michael Andersen

When: Wednesday, July 27th at 1:00 p.m. EDT

Where: Register here

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