Tag: myst

Indiana University Combats the Freshman Fifteen with “Skeleton Chase”

Indiana University logoIn late May, Indiana University announced that it received a $185,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to explore how interactive digital games can be designed to improve players’ health. Sometime early in the semester, a group of 90 students in the freshman living and learning center at IU will begin to play an alternate reality game named Skeleton Chase, designed by Lee Sheldon. Jeanne Johnston from the school’s Department of Kinesiology and Anne Massey from the Kelley School of Business will be conducting the research for the project.

Sheldon was understandably reticent regarding details of the upcoming game’s plot. However, he did note that it is a “story of mystery, suspense, conspiracies, corporate greed, demented professors, unnatural creatures… You know: the usual.” The story will play out over fictional and real web pages, videos, email, phone calls, text messages, and live events involving actors and lots of physical props. Sheldon promises that by the end of the game, the students “will know just about every corner of this sprawling campus from familiar landmarks to little-known nooks and crannies.”

The research team will collect data on players using FitLinxx ActiPeds, small pedometers that automatically transmit data to a receiver located at the entrance of the students’ shared dorm. Jennifer Boen at the News-Sentinel notes in her article on the project that the high tech monitors will allow the design team to decipher which components are the most motivating and enjoyable, so the results of this study will be of particular interest to game designers looking to increase engagement among players.

Lee Sheldon is no stranger to web mysteries and alternate reality games. In 1983, Warner Books hired Sheldon to write two books in the style of Dennis Wheatley’s Crime Dossiers from the 1930s. Wheatley’s dossiers were fictional police dossiers to crimes presented in sequence, including physical evidence. The project fell through, but Sheldon bought back the rights and released The Light Files: Death in Broad Daylight as a “web mystery” in 1996. Veteran ARG players might also recognize him as the lead writer behind URU: Ages Beyond Myst, which captured the attention of many ARG enthusiasts before the multiplayer’s cancellation in 2004. He is currently a Creative Consultant for the SciFi Channel’s upcoming series Danger Game, about the secretive organization Modern Reality Adventures, which produces alternate reality experiences for the unwitting client. The students at Indiana University are undoubtedly in for a treat over the next few weeks as Sheldon works with the project team at Indiana University to deliver an unforgettable and healthy experience.

Recently, Jane McGonigal and AKQA had participants in The Lost Ring traversing major cities with the Trackstick II and competing in labyrinth runs. Hopefully, the results of Indiana University’s innovative project will help explain what makes us go out and play.

The game is set to run until November 12th.

A Blow for Myst Fans, Plus New Rumors

Uru: LiveOn February 4th, UbiSoft/Cyan announced the premature demise of the multiplayer portion of their most recent addition to the Myst franchise, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. The online version, which was in an open beta ‘prologue’ had attracted thousands of diehard Myst fans who eagerly logged on to explore the virtual 3D world of D’ni together. A thriving community was built over the holidays and into the new year, and the official launch was looked forward to with much anticipation. Unfortunately, the player base proved to be inadequate to support the ongoing development, and after what surely must have been a painful decision, the plug was pulled on February 9th at midnight PST.

Cyan had done an amazing job in creating the most realistic alternate reality yet, made up of 3D worlds, cities and neighborhoods that were beautiful to explore, and added the capability of interacting live in the same space with other players from around the world. Think of the multiplayer version of your favorite 1st-person shooter game and take away the weapons and gore, add cooperative interaction, chat and intelligent puzzles, and you’ll get an idea of what it was like.

Well, at least what the potential was. The mourning players went through at the end of Uru: Live was visceral, with many gathering in their neighborhoods to be with friends as the clock counted down to midnight. Players wanted to be together at the end of the world, so to speak, and spent their last minutes partying, taking group photos and reminiscing. All is not lost, however, as Cyan announced it will be releasing much of the content developed for Uru: Live as single-player expansion packs. To get an idea, we’ve archived some DivX videos of Uru: Live before it was killed.

In other news, a rumored rabbithole has seemingly been found for a possible upcoming ARG (geez, can we be any more non-commital?). An anonymous tipster pointed us to the Amboy Monthly, and we’re told this will become a trailhead site for an ARG in development entitled Aware. Stay tuned for this one, as it looks very promising.