Last month I reported live from the Synthetic Worlds Initiative‘s Ludium II conference at Indiana University in Bloomington. The Ludium was designed by one of Indiana’s finest ARG companies, Studio Cypher.
At this point you’re probably wondering what a Ludium is exactly. Thomas Malaby, the spokesperson elected at the conference, explains it best on the Terra Nova blog, “The Ludia are conferences structured as games, and this one was modeled on a political convention, the first Synthetic Worlds Congress.” The goal of this Synthetic Worlds Congress was to develop a set of guidelines pertaining to virtual words that would be sent to all of the major 2008 presidential candidates along with members of Congress.
In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if Alternate Reality Games were at all similar to virtual worlds like World of Warcraft or Second Life. I was reporting on the event purely because it was a Studio Cypher project and I was looking for ARGish elements in the Ludium’s game design. By the end of the conference, I had become a full and willing participant in the Ludium fighting for what I thought fair and just much like the other attendees. I realized that many of the issues facing virtual world designers are the same or at least quite similar to the issues facing alternate reality game designers–issues like developer liability and freedom of expression.
In the eighteenth installment of the netcast series, we are pleased as punch to have special guests Will Emigh and Nathan Mishler from Studio Cypher joining us for a fantastic discussion. Will, Nathan and I are joined by Brooke Thompson of Giant Mice, Nicko Demeter of ARGNet and Sean C. Stacey of Unfiction.com. Subscribe to the ARG Netcast feed through this link or via iTunes. Contact us at our special netcast email address, netcas[email protected] with your tips, suggestions, concerns and submissions. Call us on the ARGNet voicemail at 630-274-5425.
After a brief break, Studio Cypher has launched Episode 4 in their “multiplayer novel.” High Stakes is described as a “comedic love story of cards, kings… and accountants,” and the players have already been introduced to a podcast producer by the name of Vox Diaboli. In his latest broadcast he explains the merits of playing (and losing) the mayorship of a city in a game of cards. And if you listen carefully some new characters are making a power play to steal City Hall.
Again, following their (now) traditional pay-to-play system, StudioCyphers have split the game into the people that pay (also called Wakeful Agents) and those that do not and presumably won’t get to experience everything this episode has to offer.
If you are interested, head over to the StudioCyphers website to sign up. It’s definitely early in the game, and the plot’s not yet to thick for you to comfortably dive in. Now, where did I put my smoking jacket?
In Game Website
So, after hours of post-recording edits for Episode 11 of the ARG Netcast series, the audio quality for one side of the conversation is terrible at best. Don’t let that dissuade you from listening though, as this week’s roundtable is as entertaining as it is informative. Regular panelists Brooke Thompson, Jackie Kerr, Sean C. Stacey and Jonathan Waite are joined this week by Jessica Price, ARGNet writer and Unfiction forums moderator. Subscribe to the ARG Netcast feed through FeedBurner or via iTunes.
- The Heroes 360 experience moves along, albeit very slowly. There is a lovely player wiki (yarr, there be spoilers) that has been created, so hopefully the game gains a bit more momentum, soon. Also, see this Blogspot page for more (spoilers ahoy!) information.
- Meigeist is getting love from afar. They also have a nifty player wiki which will get you caught up in less time than you can say “Save the cat, save the world.” Although, you’d sound silly saying that.
- Perplex City players are pretty darn close to finding that cube, we hear. Something about a rock, and a Jurassic… something. They also have some pretty cool plans for the reward money.
- Monster Hunter Club explains away some advertising, and characters show up at the Today show.
- Puzzle of the week: A grid puzzle needs reconstruction (and deconstruction) for Monster Hunter Club. See this thread at the Unfiction forums for more details.
- The VirtuQuest people send us a response to our questions about Township Heights. Jackie weighs in on the “mildly insulting” situation. Then the rest of the panel piles on.
- Check out this beautiful mock-up (totally unofficial, we understand) of the Neowin-Unfiction branded AMD chip. This will apparently be possible thanks to the winner of the meta puzzle of the Vanishing Point game. Neowin/Unfiction for the win! We also report on the now-postponed VP post-game chat with 42 Entertainment, so ignore that part when you get to it.
- Studio Cypher will be releasing the fourth chapter in their Multiplayer Novel soon, called High Stakes.
- Jessica talks about her experiences with Ravenchase, which you can also read about in her outstanding ARGNet article.
- Jane McGonical is going to be the first ever female keynote speaker at the Game Developer’s Conference in March. We couldn’t be happier for Jane and wish her the best!
- ARGFest is less than a month away.
- We let the cat out of the bag about ARGNet’s partnership with SXSW for the Screenburn festival. Details will be released in the coming weeks. Brooke will be speaking at the conference, for those who can make it.
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.
To get started, head over to the Studio Cyphers Website and the Unfiction forum section for Studio Cyphers.
It’s already Episode 3 of the ARG Netcast series. Once again, this week offers the comedy stylings of unfiction’s Sean C. Stacey, the politically-charged folk songs of Giant Mice’s Brooke Thompson, and the gospel hip hop of M.C. Jonathan Waite of ARGNet. Subscribe to the ARGNet feed through FeedBurner or via iTunes.
Game News and Topics of Discussion
- No response from Mind Candy regarding Perplex City yet, but the Sentinel is back up and us Earthlings are being looked down upon. Oh, those Perplexians.
- AV wraps up, and the Puppetmaster comes out of hiding.
- konamouse of the unfiction forums helps out the Three Blind Mice as they try to make sense of the Puzzle of the Week, Sammeeeees’s “Free the Five”.
- Ny Takma introduces a new character. Trust him at your own risk.
- Ocular Effect — is it rising from a Near Death Experience?
- Cassie is Watching, Cathy’s Book, and Edoc Laundry chug-chug-chug along.
- Hallow’s End launches just in time for Halloween, but we need more information, and you need to send it to us. Yes, you.
- Studio Cypher will release another ARG soon, see descry.us for more details.