A recently leaked article, supposedly posted to Microsoft’s internal news site, appears to verify the dreaded truth — Halo 3’s Iris “spiral marketing campaign” has come to its official end. The article, which was posted to the Unfiction forums with permission from the author, reveals the end date of August 16th, which coincides with the opening of Iris’ fifth and final server, or “episode”. It also details the campaign’s goals, achievements, challenges and failures. Undoubtedly, the primary point of dissension this article raises is the challenge undertaken to provide a “low-key, low budget campaign [which] does more with less, whetting the appetite of the blockbuster video game’s fanatical followers.”
The article reveals that Iris was developed by “more than 50 people from 20 Microsoft teams [who] contributed time, coding expertise, and industry contacts.” The attempt was ultimately to provide a grand marketing scheme incurring little cost while attaining “critical mass” — defined in the article as getting “interview requests from The Wall Street Journal”. “It’s about breaking out of the hardcore and getting into the mainstream,” said Aaron Elliott, online marketing manager for Xbox Global Marketing (also listed as one of the ‘founders’ of the Society of the Ancients, an in-game organization that appeared at the beginning, but was never heard from again).
Strictly speaking, given the resources used to produce the campaign and the costs (or lack thereof) incurred, Iris may be considered an impressive success. However, if one includes the overall sentiment of the demographic that was actually actively playing or following Iris, one might say that their reach had exceeded their grasp. They seem to have ignored (or miscalculated) an inherent factor in the kind of campaign they were hoping to produce – most players had expectations, whether misplaced or not, of another I Love Bees. That potential was lost, and while the production may have been impressive to some, it failed dramatically in achieving what could have been achieved quite easily.
The grassroots alternate reality game 13 Crystal Skulls came to a successful conclusion earlier this week thanks to the successful destruction of thirteen compressed files by players and characters alike. CDs were burnt, shredded, cut up, and even chewed by a dog to prevent their Gathering.
After the events documented in ARGNet’s previous article, the Thirteen Crystal Skulls arranged for Ted Allen’s untimely demise. Players enlisted the aid of The Four Chosen to put a stop to the ancient skulls, and thanks to Tyi Harper’s hacking skills were able to physically destroy the skulls imprisoned in compressed files. Despite a lone skull escaping the confines of its zip file, disaster was averted.
Thirteen Crystal Skull’s puppetmaster Aaron Sampson, who goes by DJSampson on the Unfiction forums, shared a few words with us regarding his project. He related that one of his goals was to aid future grassroots puppetmasters “by showing it is possible to create a good story, run it at no cost, and run it by yourself. Although I don’t recommend running an ARG alone, unless you have countless hours to invest every day and no girlfriend to piss off. But I do recommend preparing an ARG you are creating for such a thing to happen.”
The Thirteen Crystal Skulls homepage contains a game summary including an archive of the puzzles and their solutions. Aaron will also be posting alternative endings in the near future. The page should prove to be a good resource for players and PMs alike as it clearly demonstrates examples of gameplay, puzzles, and free resources frequently encountered in the genre.
The PM chat is scheduled for April 15th at 7PM EST on IRC in #13skullspm at irc.chat-solutions.org (which you can reach through our Java chat applet).
The whimsical and popular indie ARG Sammeeeees concluded Tuesday with a hostage exchange, a mysterious ritual, and touching farewells.
The story centered around Mr. Alan Johnson, leader of a group called the Spoocheeeees who secretly ruled all world governments with power from a mystical disc, and a man who called himself Peeps, leader of the Sammeeeees who were trying to break the Spoocheeeees’ nefarious hold on power.
Players obtained the five pieces of the Spoocheeeees disk and its central serpent icon and Unfiction’s Konamouse performed the ritual to reverse the Spoocheeeees’ power. (See it on YouTube here.) Meanwhile, Peeps offered himself to Mr. Alan Johnson in exchange for the five Sammeeeees held prisoner. During a struggle with double-agent named Cathy who was attempting to rescue her son Dwin — one of the five hostages — Mr. Alan Johnson fell on his own knife, freeing both Peeps (who was, ironically, his estranged brother) and the hostages.
The Ny Takma alternate reality game, which began on September 30th, has reached a successful conclusion. It was an ARG soap opera of sorts — Bryan and Chaya, aliens which have had their love for each other transcend the boundaries of time, got back together, thanks to Kendra, who opened the Ark, releasing Chaya. John, the ladies man, tackled the two lovers, which resulted in the three of them becoming trapped inside of the Ark. This left Kendra alone and full of sadness at the fact that there is no one left here on Earth to call a family. The story elements aside, what made this endgame special for the players was the fact that they had an impact on how the final events took shape. For those interested, there is a final video update at the game’s main website.
The PM’s will be having a chat in #nytakma on the Chat-Solutions IRC network tomorrow at 9pm CST (10:00 pm EST). You can access the chat room by clicking on the Chat tab at the top of the ARGNet homepage, and selecting the #nytakma room from the menu.
Waiting for AV came to a frustrating end last night, leaving players wondering just what had happened and if their efforts to complete the game’s ritual were successful. This morning, players woke to learn that while they did manage to complete the final ritual, doing so resulted in the death of Shamash, a player-turned-character.
Not without criticism after starting with graphic imagery and then struggling to adapt to the players, the game generated a small, tight-knit group of players who waited patiently through moments in a game that seemed as if it might end at any moment. While the end-game didn’t bust the climactic scale, the players report that they enjoyed the time that they spent together and are pleased to see such a small independent effort come to a successful conclusion.
John Little, puppetmaster of the effort, has updated the Altus Veritas website with a thank you to his players, and will be participating in a Puppetmaster Chat this evening at 9pm EDT/8pm CDT in #av on irc.chat-solutions.org.
Find out more information at Altus Veritas and the unforums. For those that would like to participate in the chat, you can use the ARGNet chat applet or connect through your favorite IRC client.
Wow, October already? Thankfully, not much has happened in the past couple of weeks that would be noteworthy for reporting here. I wonder what’s going on in the world of alternate reality gaming lately? Let me just check this… email inbox I have over here… and… oh. Wow. Really? All of that happened in the last 14 days? Huh. (Yes, I’m a little late on reporting a few recent developments, so let me jump right into it.)
The Lost Experience, the three (or five, depending on the source) stage ARG which began in early May with mysterious television advertisements, concluded on September 24th with a live radio transmission. In the weeks leading up to the end of the game, players were encouraged to visit real world locations for Apollo Bars, chocolate treats that held special codes on their wrappers which were supposed to lead players to the last section of the game, but instead, were simply, “attached to a time function, so the amount of codes entered were just a function of time until the end,” according to Ryan, a TLE player. Codes that did work, however, were found on various web sites, in magazines and through advertisements, and those codes led to video snippets when, reassembled in the correct order, gave players answers about the TV show’s mythology, including the importance of “the numbers” within the context of the show. Overall, the experience was appreciated by the majority of its participants, but some felt that the interactivity waned in the latter stages of the game, leading to a drop in interest. There are rumors about another TLE installment to begin later this year, when the TV show takes a short hiatus in the U.S. and Canada, so keep your eyes and ears open if you are Lost fan.