Archive for the ‘Meta’ Category

Dateline Feb. 11, 2003: The BBC Takes Notice

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Despite numerous factual errors, the ARG community got a huge shout out from the column of the BBC News Online.

Mark Ward, columnist for the online edition of the BBC News, was very complimentary to the genre and Collective Detective specifically. Factual errors notwithstanding, the article is quite positive and complimentary.

Ward writes, “One of the most prominent is the Collective Detective, whose members share an interest in online immersive games such as The Sims, and have a liking for intellectual puzzles. The group has racked up considerable success in solving online and offline scavenger and treasure hunts, as well as more general puzzles with prizes on offer. ”

The article provided sidebar links to both CD and [Chasing The Wish].

Dateline Jan. 8, 2003: Aspen Treasure Hunt Site Collapses During $10k Final Episode

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Even as I write, the Aspen Cologne website remains unavailable. This morning, at 10:00 A.M. ET, Aspen released the final episode of their treasure hunt where one lucky winner will receive a grand prize valued at $16,000.

[ Aspen Cologne], sponsor of the Aspen Treasure Hunt (see previous article) was unable to prevent the crippling collapse of their website (including the game console) during the final episode of the Aspen Treasure Hunt.

At stake are prizes totaling over $43,000. A representative from Madden Media acknowledged that several people have called in to report technical problems and referred me to the technical staff who have not yet returned my call.

The representative had no information about whether the outage would affect the award of prizes. According to the [ official rules], “If, for any reason, the Contest is not capable of running as planned by reason, for example but not limited to, of infection by computer virus, bugs, worms, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of this Contest, Sponsor reserves the right at its sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Contest and select the winners from entries received prior to the action taken, or as otherwise deemed fair and appropriate by Sponsor.”

According to Carol Ann K., one of the players present for the final episode debacle, “This was a great game that would have been greater if the server could handle the load each week. Many found it frustrating that they could not even enter the game, or when they did many elements were missing. Bottom line: I think you are on to something here. Few will forget about Aspen Cologne.”

The symptoms of the failure were identical to a DDOS attack. Most pages on the website were unavailable for extended periods and the game console behaved erratically by locking up, losing player points and inventory, and presenting blank screens instead of the normal views. The entire website went completely offline at least once.

Dateline Dec. 31, 2002: What would you like to see most in the next ARG?

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Speak up and tell deaddrop (and lurking PMs) what you want to see in future games. I know it’s tough to choose just one, so jump in and comment with your wish list, priority list, or thoughts.

Dateline Dec. 30, 2002: Two Perspectives on Why MMORPGs Suck

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Two recent online articles highlight the darker side of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG). Remarkably, neither focused on the soul-sucking addiction associated with such games. One discussed how the games are designed from the outset to be frustrating and aggravating, yet compellingly addictive. The other enumerates some of the shortcomings of MMORPGs.

The first, posted to slashdot, talks specifically about Everquest. According to Sanftenberg, ‘Everquest is a game full of people who want to “win” and “be the best” at any cost. This includes griefing you and your guild, making your gameplay miserable. Why not simply quit then, you ask? If the game isn’t fun and sucks this badly, why would anyone play it? Well, because they are addicted. They are addicted to the mobs, to the loot, and to the social atmosphere with other people in their guilds.’

With many of the advancements requiring highly repetitive actions, prolonged waiting, or other time-wasting elements, the time commitment and drudgery seem to actually enhance the addictiveness as it robs the fun of the game. Mr. Sanftenberg lists a number of other serious grievances that certainly sound legitimate.

A couple of commenters noted that Star Wars Galaxies is being created by the same developers that made Everquest.

The second article, was posted as a comment to the original article. It goes on to say, “… it’s very difficult to do a reasonably good plot-based multiplayer game. I can’t think of any multiplayer games that use plot to much advantage.”

This most telling comment in the article really defines one enormous difference between MMORPGs and Alternate Reality Games such as The Beast.

Both games have some elements of story, but the focus on plot in ARGs rather than attaining levels (or status) lets players compete or cooperate more evenly, regardless of their experience level. Also, the cooperative elements in ARGs foster progress for everyone rather than the potential detriment of one party. By ensuring the mutual success of all players, ARGs will tend to have less player-induced sabotage than occurs in Everquest and it’s ilk.

With that said, I’m on the fence about the impact of prizes on player groups and how it affects immersive gameplay. It seems that the majority of players tend to view the prizes, regardless of value, as a bonus and remain focused on the game and community. Time will tell if this remains true.

Even though both types of games reward players for time commitment and involvement, a well designed Immersive Campaign (aka ARG) should let players jump in at any point without significant penalty.

As more and more traditional computer games and console games make their way online, the choices for online gaming will be staggering. The Beast, as grand and critically acclaimed as it was, has not resulted in any commercial successes in the Immersive Gaming genre.

Ok, I’ve rambled way off topic with no summary in sight. So, in conclusion, what do YOU think?

Dateline Dec. 26, 2002: GameSpot Releases Picks for Games of the Year

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

GameSpot presents their picks for 2002 games of the year in various genres. GameSpot had an unsurprising set of choices for their games of the year. You can read the entire feature or go straight to their “best of” adventure game, Role-playing game, and worst game of the year (all genres).

Here is the short list:

Best Adventure Game: Syberia
Best RPG: Morrowmind: Neverwinter Nights
Worst Game: Demonworld: Dark Armies
Game of the Year: Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos

The list closely mirrors the choices made by GameSpy.

Dateline Dec. 4, 2002: Search4e. Some good news

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Necessitas from Collective Detective managed another scoop in the world of Search4e. This time, she bears some good news.

CD Exclusive #2:

The situation is as we expected, the Search4E project is in financial crisis. I have been assured that Search4E is not over, and they are as interested as ever in continuing the story they set out to tell. Updates will continue as they are able.
However, for the time being, Search4Ed has turned into Search4Money. They have learned that their present revenue model is not working, and they are trying to plan new revenue streams, and find new financing.Going forward:

They will be refunding subscription fees. This is not because the game is over, they insist that it is not. This is simply a good faith gesture. They will continue as a free game until they are able to realize a more stable revenue model. They are still working out the logistics of the refund.

They would like to organize an open chat with the players, and explain the situation. Collective Detective is helping to arrange this for them. Watch this space for updates.

The developers of Search4E are still as interested as ever in continuing the project. It is my opinion that, as they have been in the midst of this financial crisis, they lost sight of the eroding player support. In any case, they are still enthusiastic about the search, and hope the players will remain so, as well.

We are working hard to liaise with Second State on the player’s behalf, and will keep you all posted as updates come in.

(Quoted with permission)

The good news, refunds for all. Plus the PMs are trying to regroup and move forward. I’m sure the experience will be different than what the players have come to expect, but a changed game is better than no game.The players have already voiced their [ opinions] about where the focus should be. When asked, “What’s most important to you in a good immersive/arg type game?”:

  • 50% voted for the story
  • 32% requested character interaction
  • 17% valued the puzzles

The poll didn’t allow ranked votes, so everyone picked their top priority. Although prizes was listed as a choice, no one felt the prizes were the first priority.

What remains a mystery (other than Ed’s whereabouts) is what the PMs plan to do and when things are expected to turn around. Hopefully, the planned chat at will let the players air their issues and the PMs will respond appropriately in a timely fashion.

Dateline Dec. 3, 2002: Search4e Death Spiral

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Necessitas at Collective Detective got the inside scoop on Search4e. The bad news - their major funding source has pulled out. The good news - um, we’re still trying to find it.

Collective Detective Exclusive: (Republished with permission)

[Holly] spoke to Steve Masarsky today, he is no longer involved with search4e. In fact, he indicates that his role was just to loan money to the project. According to the Second State website, he is listed as a PM, so obviously this is not the case. Also, from all of our dealings with them, and from his introduction, we were led to believe that he was the lead man on the project. Something is quite amiss there. That notwithstanding, congrats to Steve. He will be pursuing personal interests including going back to school to study something in the Humanities field. Go Steve.Steve advised that he could provide me no information regarding the future of the project, as he has been somewhat out of the loop for some time now. He referred me to Waldemar “Korzen” Korzeniowsky, who according to Steve “still keeps an office” at Steve’s NY location. Korzen was unavailable for comment.

Next stop, the PR firm who was handling s4e. Seems that they are no longer handling the account, and have not been for over a month.

So in answer to the question of why you all are being contacted by the CTO on dotconnectors instead of a manager? We do not know. I will continue my fact finding mission tomorrow, and I promise you all that CD will get to the bottom of this.

Where does this leave the players? A late post by someone claiming to be the CTO for Second State was posted on the [ s4e message board] stating that there is information that needs to be communicated. His status is unconfirmed.Players who are also active on that board are up in arms about the lack of progress and attention given to the game in the last few weeks. Most of the in-game characters are AWOL and the most recent scheduled event seems to have been a no-show.Some of the more vocal players have called the question with the PuppetMasters resulting in an update of sorts. Jeremy, lead investigator for the game, send a message to all players that the player base needs to quadruple by Christmas. The message, however veiled, was clear. Not enough people have registered and the game is teetering on the edge. Given the recent withdrawal of Steve Massarsky, a partner in the venture, and his financial backing, the players have been asked to actively recruit new members to help fund the game. Needless to say, the reaction was not positive.

A number of the players posted their thoughts at Dashcat, one of the paying members posts, “I have to agree with Beth. I wouldn’t recommend this ’search’, in it’s present form, to anyone. Even if I were inclined to become a salesperson for your game I would need something to work with, such as a game.

Hmm, there’s a thought!

Dateline Dec. 2, 2002: This Weekend in ARG: Past, Present and Future

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

I guess someone forgot to tell the PM’s we are having a big holiday with nonstop football in the U.S. Our buddies at Noah Boddy took the time off, just about everyone else has been going gangbusters!

Past: Remember Push, Nevada? Doug TenNapel joins the fans online at #unfiction. He was one of the main puzzle developers for Push and tells all in this moderated Q&A.

Present: the jadedmedia experience launched today as well. Free registration required to play.

Future: Chasing the Wish launched their pre-launch Mini-Quest yesterday. You can get the full details at [].

MIA: Search4e disappointed yesterday when the anticipated gate opening failed to materialize at [ Banco Isla Helleborus]. Players are befuddled and bemused.

Dateline Nov. 23, 2002: Changes Afoot at Collective Detective

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

It’s been said that the only constant in life is change. This week, Collective Detective added MMORPG campaigns to their growing repertoire of cases. Less than three months old, started with a handful of cases covering Alternate Reality Gaming (Immersive Campaigning in their vocabulary) and treasure hunting. Along came Push, Nevada, which swelled the ranks of players to over 1,000. With Push in an untimely grave and no clear successor, Collective Detective took an unprecedented move and has begun to promote cases for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) with one case already open for the beta test of The Sims Online and plans for Star Wars Galaxies not far behind.

MMORPG games have a number of similarities to traditional ARG projects, so I cornered a few people at to find out what they thought about the new case. Frankenpaula, a beta tester for the Sims Online and one of the most prominent players in the Search4e, was quite excited about the new case. For her, it is all about the community. She felt she has found a great group of people to interact with online and is happy to be able to expand that interaction into other games.

I caught up with Josh Babetski, founder of Collective Detective and we chatted about the direction he’s taking CD.ORG.

WB The sims online case was a surprise for me, was that part of your original plan or a recent development?
taxicafe Well, there were always plans to sub-divide the cases into categories, when CD was being designed though what they were was still an unknown. It’s foolish to try and predict where the genre will take itself or to try and shoehorn it, but things like MMORPGS and the like were in the back of our head.WB MMORPGs are a vastly larger market. Both FP and Cort are really looking forward to how cd can enhance the community aspects of playing those games. Do you see other benefits CD offers to that player base?
taxicafe Mostly that you can log onto CD from work, you can’t log into Sims, EQ, etc. :-)
But there’s already a long tradition of community outside of these fictional worlds. They have guilds, clans, groups, drinking buddies, what have you. We enjoy what we call Immersive because it puts the world of the story into our world, this is just a slight change of actually diving INTO theirs.

WB What other genres do you see as a good fit for CD?
taxicafe I think time will dictate that. This genre’s a pup. I think a year from now we’ll perceive it in a whole new way that we do now. Just like it’s evolved dramatically in the Year from the Beast. So you have to blend pro-active growth but don’t fight the tide.
WB You already have a strong group of treasure hunters. I see RPG and other games that are going online fitting in as well.
taxicafe Like if there’s ever a point of enough people interested in a Case for Xbox/PS2 online gaming, we’d set one up.

taxicafe Not only that, but beefing up more social resources are important as well.
WB What do you mean by social resources?
taxicafe Inter-CD tournaments, things like that. Not to mention the development of the detective section so you can find CD members in your area. I think the first step will be getting the Detective resources finished so you can find all the detectives in say the Tampa area.
WB Sort of like sanctioned events?
taxicafe More informal, but if there was a demand for a Halo club or something, we might have a competition. As for real-world we definitely will organize a Collective Detective Cookout or something at some point.

WB It seems though that you’ve expanded past the genre. ARG or immersive campaigning (call it what you will) is really only one part of CD.
taxicafe That’s only if you have a tunnel vision of what the genre is or should be. Time Hunt is a fundamanetally different campaign than Push. Push was really not the same kind of campaign as the Beast.
WB so you see the genre as something that encompasses treasure hunting, MMORPG, and whatever Push was?
taxicafe I see the genre as a collective experience, wherever that may take the participants. I know you guys are hung up on this “ARG” term and that there’s anothter camp the has a mantra of “it is NOT a game,” but it boils down like this: Immersive is an umbrella for a very weird mix and match underneath. If I’m part of a murder mystery train troupe and we have part of our story on a web site. If I’m part of the Sims world, but introduce events and stories from real life.
Defining a genre by whether or not the Beast did it (phone, fax, email, websites) limits your ability to grow it. Besides its the community that really matters. The success of the genre hinges on the fact that people interact and collaborate and hang out in some capacity long after one story ends. “Join for the case, stay for the community” I think Headmocker said it.
WB That’s a pretty good motto there.
taxicafe (credit where due.)

Dateline Nov. 22, 2002: Deaddrop Announces Week In Review Newsletter

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

We just issued our second weekly newsletter today. You can find it here: Vol. 1, Issue 2.

Our free newsletter, entitled the deaddrop Week In Review, covers the happenings for all ongoing games, updates for games in the pipe, genre news, and offers a schedule of upcoming events.’, ‘You can find our inaugural newsletter, Vol. 1, Issue 1, online as well.

We will always have the latest edition in the links block on our homepage. If you want an email notification when the newsletter is available, you can sign up for it as part of your free registration to The email notice is only sent if you opt in for newsletter messages.