Archive for the ‘Meta’ Category

Dateline Nov. 20, 2002: Terraquest Announces Launch, Part 2

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

If it feels like deja vu, well, it is. The original announcement on Nov. 4 had lots of details. This one is more of a stealth launch since the counter is buried on a page with an obscure link.

You can get an exact countdown to the launch here [].

According to their current press release, “TerraQuest is the flagship game developed by MindQuest Entertainment, LLC. TerraQuest is an interactive game that will be played over a period of approximately six months, which is a cross between a mystery and a scavenger hunt. TerraQuest is a game of skill that depends on the intellect and skill of the player instead of random chance. TerraQuest is offering a minimum prize fund of $250,000 in most jurisdictions [some are inexplicably limited to half, others are ineligible for the prize], and the more people who play, the greater the prize fund becomes. It will be divided into six rounds or game periods, each of which will last for approximately 30-45 days. In order to play TerraQuest, an eligible individual must pay an entry fee.”

The game is focused on solo play and cooperation between players is being actively discouraged.

Dateline Nov. 18, 2002: ARGN Becomes a true network

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

In support of our mission and dedication to Alternate Reality Gaming, is pleased to announce it’s charter affiliation with the newly released Alternate Reality Gaming Network.

We have also started our new, weekly newsletter, ARG Week In Review with summaries of games in progress and news from the past week.

The Alternate Reality Gaming Network is becoming just that — a true network of independent sites contributing to Alternate Reality Gaming. More than just a simple webring, ARGN will always point you to quality, complementary places to go.

ARGN will become the hub for this new affiliation of sites, a place where you will always be able to find a listing of interesting places to go and an archive of ARGs gone by.

In addition, there will be access to web-based chat with a listing of cool channels to join, and we are sponsoring a mailing list whereby you can always stay informed of news and announcements of new and suspected ARGs.

Our continued mission is to promote the growth of ARG, aka immersive gaming community. By stimulating growth, everyone benefits. As with any new genre, the community is faced with a chicken and egg problem. We take a long term view and plan to provide an ongoing program of articles and features geared to both players and puppetmasters.

Our newest feature will appear weekly on Friday. Entitled ARG Week In Review, it covers the previous weeks news and updates to games in progress. You can find our first issue here.

Dateline Nov. 15, 2002: Terraquest: Gamespy interview fills in some blanks

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

The game still hasn’t launched, but the hype machine is in full swing. Among other things, see how Keith from Mind-Quest dodges the inevitable Majestic comparison. It seems that Terraquest isn’t really targeting the ARG community. To quote Keith, “We as a company will not promote or host either chat rooms or bulletin boards, and the main reason why is that we have to maintain a neutral position in this - you can’t give anyone an advantage at any point in time. We don’t recommend using them because of the simple fact that you are competing against the same people you are going to be talking to - and in that scenario who do you trust? Is the information you get going to be accurate?”

I’m thinking Keith is going to be in for a surprise.

The game will be played through the LARS interface and includes zoomable still shots from multiple angles, WAV audio files, video and webcam shots (presumably live video??) and 3D shots that can be rotated and examined in detail.

If the article or the Terraquest website [] convince you to play, you can register right away. Game play is expected to begin any time.

Get the entire interview at GameSpyDaily.

Dateline Nov. 6, 2002: Reprint: Article on Nonlinear Storytelling by Michael St. Hippolyte

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Mr. St. Hippolyte was kind enough to allow us to reprint his article entitled “A Plot Beyond A Line: New Ways to Be Nonlinear”. The piece was first published it in 1995 and remains largely relevant to this day.

Of course, Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) are inherently nonlinear and unbounded. Playability, plot development, and character interaction are all critically affected by how one structures the overall game and by the specific focus given to the various elements of the game.

This article discusses a number of approaches to nonlinear story development. I’ve added limited annotations to point out examples and details relevant to ARGs.

A Plot Beyond A Line: New Ways to Be Nonlinear (Original [])

How do you tell an interactive story?

It sounds like a simple question: “How do you tell an interactive story?” But in reality it contains a deep philosophical contradiction. If being interactive has any meaning, then it must be that the person who is experiencing (viewing, listening to, playing, reading) the interactive story affects the way the story goes, and perhaps even the way it comes out. That’s what makes a story interactive. But to tell a story implies that you have a story to begin with. How do you tell a story when you do not and cannot know exactly what the story is in advance?

The starting point of a useful answer to this question, as any interactive storyteller would attest, is that there are limitations. Either you put limits on the viewer, or your story, or both.

You can limit the viewer of your interactive story to activities such as playing with gadgets and solving puzzles, which may entertain but do not advance the story: getting the bunny to hop by clicking on it, but not in a direction of your choosing. Such a narrative would be only marginally interactive. Or you can limit your story to the idea of a story, minus the details, with the viewer himself ultimately responsible for the story. Consider, for example, the excellent simulation of a village economy, SimCity: like L.A. in Dragnet, it has a million stories; only in SimCity none of the stories exist until you run the program and start developing real estate. The story you get may be long or short, poignant or pedantic; all SimCity guarantees is that the story will fit the SimCity model of urban development. SimCity is immensely entertaining and informative, as many good simulations are; but a simulation is not by itself a narrative.

There is, finally, a middle path, which is the one followed by most writers of interactive narratives. The author limits both the viewer and the story: the viewer to a finite set of choices, and the story to a finite set of outcomes. As we shall see, there are many ways that this can be done, but in all cases the limits are stringent.

Interactive stories being written today range from hypertext novels to text adventures to interactive multimedia titles. Any and all media are up for grabs; for the computer every medium is just another bit stream anyway. But for all these stories in all these media, the range of underlying narrative structures is rather condensed. A small number of interactive models, i.e., mechanisms for limiting the viewer’s choices and the story’s outcomes, account for most of the interactive stories published to date. Many more such models are possible, however, meaning that a vast world of creative opportunities has yet to be exploited. In fact, it has yet to be even charted.

If Columbus had not been equipped with a map that underestimated the diameter of the earth by half, he may never have set sail in a westerly direction. Whether the earth would have been better or worse is a question I will leave for others, but most explorers prefer to start a journey with as good a map as possible. The following links lead to a rough map of interactive storytelling, with the boundaries demarcated and the charted territory plotted out. And for the vast spaces yet to be explored, a few possibilities penciled in.


Interactive storytellers have gotten a lot of mileage from a small set of models. But many interactive stories will remain untold until new models come into being. Perhaps some of the models described above will do the job; perhaps not. The discussion is worthwhile even if the only result is to show that new models are possible; this is all it takes to drive the process of creative exploration forward. In any event, we shall soon see for ourselves the new breed of interactive story, whatever it looks like; the explorers are already out to sea, and they will not return with empty holds.

Copyright © 1995 by Michael St. Hippolyte. All rights reserved.

Dateline Nov. 2, 2002: Real or Rant?

Friday, May 1st, 2009

The heading claims “Global Announcement” and goes on to say, “On this date an astounding discovery will be revealed to the world.”

So is it a game or just the wanton ramblings of a crackpot conspiracy theorist? It seems to me, that the story is improbable enough to be completely fictional…

and, therefore, quite possibly a game.

Two hints make me think it’s a game. First, there are oblique references to conspiracies that don’t normally go together. The statement “It has been suggested that prophecies by the ancient Seers and Soothsayers of the distant past, speak of what I have uncovered.” just doesn’t jive with someone with enough access to major search engines that they are knocking on your door moments after enter “certain combinations of search strings.”

Even if someone is that paranoid, it’s so unlikely to be true, that it must be fiction. Given that iit’s fiction, it would be done a lot more professionally if it came from a big commercial venture or movie studio.

Ergo, it’s likely a game. It’s likely to be homegrown. The PMs are giving themselves lots of time to develop it and have already garnered lots of buzz around the Internet.

I’m calling this one something to keep on the watchlist.

Dateline Nov. 1, 2002: EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Search4E PM, Alex Beck

Friday, May 1st, 2009

I had the privilege to spend some time online with Alex Beck. He is the man responsible for putting together search4e and took a little time to fill in some background and give us a peek behind the scenes.

Search4e is a non-linear, interactive story played online. It involves the search for Ed Sobian and is filled with intrigue, puzzles and potentially prizes. It started around April 2002 as a test and is officially going live this evening.

We have about 120 players following the story already and it’s already proven itself to be a compelling story.

wb: Hi Alex!
wb: Thanks for taking the time to chat. I really appreciate it, especially on such an important day.
wb: Why don’t we start with some brief background information.
Can you give me a little background on who you are and how you became involved with the search for Ed Sobian?
Alex Beck:: Sure. Hold on.
Alex Beck:: I’m a former producer with a number of small ad agencies in Boston and NYC. I spent some time in London and Berlin. I’ve done a number of meetings and events and it was through this work that I came to know Steve [Massarsky] and Waldemar [Korzeniowsky] — and it was through them that I was introduced to search4e.
wb: What was it about Search4e that caught your interest?
Alex Beck:: I have a lot of friends involved in traditional forms of entertainment and there’s an aspect of it that feels like the same thing over and over. This felt entirely different and new. I mean a whole new form of entertainment that we were inventing as we go. It’s not that often in life that you can feel like you’re actually on the cutting edge… and there I was. So here I am. With lots of big plans for the future.
wb: How would you describe this new form of entertainment?
Alex Beck:: Highly interactive. In many ways, the players actually influence the direction of the story. It’s also a combination, and in some ways a culmination, of the capabilities of multiple media. The fact that this simply couldn’t have happened or taken off even two, three years ago is something I find very exciting: that this is uniquely native to and suited to the Web.
Alex Beck:: Let me add this. When I say “highly interactive,” I mean that if players show a lot of interest in a certain character or part of the story line, theyr’e bound to get it. We’re flexible and that feels right.
wb: That cutting edge is often called the “bleeding edge.” It’s tough treading new ground. What kind of things have you run into that were unexpected?
Alex Beck:: Yes, we’re all a bit scarred and battle weary, but the wounds are already healing nicely. We’re dealing with a melding of technology and information and content and navigation and it doesn’t always blend seamlessly, especially first time around. Things take longer than we’d like or expect. But we have a great team and we’re on target for launch tonight.
wb: If I understand correctly, Second State is a joint venture between BPictures and Bizincu. How does that all fit together?
Alex Beck:: Second State is not a joint venture. It’s a standalone and it’s a partnership between Steve and Waldemar. But you’re correct that these business entities fit into their past and to some extent present existences.
wb: Who’s brainchild was Second State and the Search4e? How did you identify the opportunity and get it all started?
Alex Beck:: It wasn’t me who identified the opportunity, although I was quick to jump on it when it was offered. It was originally Waldemar’s idea, and he and Steve have been working together to modify it and shape it into what you’ll be seeing tonight.
wb: The beta period has been running since April making Search4E the longest running venture of it’s kind (even though it hasn’t officially started). Is all the information and research that’s been done still important or are we starting with a clean slate?
Alex Beck:: Definitely don’t wipe the slate. Search4e is continuing and ongoing. The launch signals a reorganization of material and information as well as the introduction of new material that we’re pretty excited about.
Alex Beck:: For example, wait until you see the opening trailer.
wb: Cool. We’re all very excited about the launch as well.
wb: The press release mentioned a lot of exciting possibilities and a tie-in with Lycos. It seems this genre is pretty boundless. What kind of things can investigators expect to see?
Alex Beck:: There are lots of plans for other deals as well. With Lycos we’re waiting for word about doing a Jeremy Denauer chat next week. I think part of the newness of this effort and this form of entertainment is that people (i.e. big companies) are open to talking and the prospect of various kinds of partnership, but the specifics are not yet set in stone. We have an educational burden to show these companies that there’s really an audience for this kind of entertainment, and that people will be attracted to it.
Alex Beck:: In fact, that’s where players come in. Because on some level we count on you guys to get out there and preach the gospel.
wb: Who is Jeremy Denauer?
Alex Beck:: Who is Jeremy… hold on.
Alex Beck:: Check Collective Detective today or this evening. Jeremy is a former cop and FBI agent who’s been engaged by TCP to serve as lead investigator and add a measure of professionalism to the archiving of material around here.
wb: Are you also responsible for
wb: Everyone is anxious to have access to the notebook and other features.
Alex Beck:: To the extent of my own capabilities. I have certain responsibilities, but there’s a team. Everyone reports to me and I report to Steve and Waldemar. But this is an open-door operation, so it’s safe to say that everyone reports to everyone.
Alex Beck:: That’s great to hear — that people are anxious to see what’s new about the launch. We worked hard on the notebook and are anxious to get feedback.
wb: Can we expect all of the features on to be live with the official launch?
Alex Beck:: Well, as you know this is a dynamic project. It will always be a work in progress. So it’s not like we launch and that’s it. So you can expect many, but certainly not all of the features that we have planned for the coming months. What fun would it be if we gave you everything at once?
wb: Which features will be available tonight?
Alex Beck:: Certainly the notebook. The trailer. A new intro page. An option in terms of ways to navigate the site and acquire information. New boards. And more.
Alex Beck:: What did you take away from beta period that you think might be helpful for us to know?
wb: Are you familiar with other similar games like The Beast?
Alex Beck:: I am familiar but it’s the creatives who have to be and are much more familiar than I am. I’m more product manager than game designer, but from a personal point of view I’ve noted a see saw effect of early games trying to establish the right balance between story, game and interactivity. So far I don’t think any have hit it and I think we’rve addressed many of the problems and are moving in the right direction.
wb: To answer your question, the more real you can make the players, websites, and events, the more immersive the entire story becomes. You guys have done a great job expanding the characters for us. The players have to have a pretty clear understanding of what we mean when we talk about the curtain or it blows the suspension of disbelief that goes along with this type of adventure.
Alex Beck:: That’s great to hear. We’re working hard to ensure that this kind of verisimiltude continues.
wb: For those that are new to the search, what do you suggest they do to get up to speed?
Alex Beck:: I think getting up to speed is going to be a lot easier with the new user interface and Jeremy. We’re also all incredibly grateful to the players for the sites they’ve put together, like and and beth’s files. We’re also launching a board exclusively for newbies, and we hope that some of you will be there to guide them.
wb: We certainly will. I’m sure you guys are considering what’s next. Do you have any plans to use the Search4e story in any other media?
Alex Beck:: Definitely. Already working on film deals, for one.
wb: Are you going to wait to see how this plays out before you start on any other projects?
Alex Beck:: We’re certainly not opposed to concurrent — in fact, ideally there would be crossover elements. Oh — Steve just walked by and said to say hi to you and that I should get back to work because we’re launching tonight and the moments are clicking. One more question, if you like?
wb: One last question I promised I would ask, Have you ever met Ed Sobian? :D
Alex Beck:: =P~ Not that I’m aware of.
wb: Alex, thanks very much for your time. If you think of anything else you would like me to include, let me know and I’ll post it as a followup. I really appreciate everything all of you have done and we all look forward to a great experience!
Alex Beck:: Thanks so much, WB.

Dateline Oct. 31, 2002: Chat Transcript with Alias Technical Consultant Rick Orci

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Rick Orci, technical consultand and writer for ABC’s hit show Alias joined about 65 or so fans to chat last night at There were some great spoilers about the show and a few hints dropped about the online game. Click the Read More link for transcripts related to the game and a link to the full transcript.

Abridged Chat Transcript: 10/30/02
Chat with Bob Orci, Alias Technical Consultant
Hosted At: The Alias Four
Note: Full transcript can be found here

[rmsilver7]: ok heres a pre-asked question:
[rmsilver7]: Do the highlighted letters (location names) have a purpose other than the visual affect?
[RickOrci]: Last year, they were an encryption key for the webpuzzle at the end of the year.
[RickOrci]: This year…
[RickOrci]: They may serve a purpose… and should PROBABLY be kept track of.
[RickOrci]: I’m sure Mandaking wrote them down already.
[RickOrci]: I recognize half the names in here.
[RickOrci]: Clearly I spend too much time online.

[Kerlo]: Hello! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us tonight! I was wondering if there will be any more plot lines with Ana Espionsa? I noticed that the actress has a lead role in another tv show. Also i just wanted to say that I really like the show and you can actually tell that alot of effort was put into the writing!
[RickOrci]: Hey Kerlo.
[RickOrci]: Thanks Kerlo!
[RickOrci]: We actually wanted to get Ana back… but sadly, she’s on firefly now. However, she may serve a role in an Alias video game we’re developing.
[RickOrci]: Hopefully we’ll get her back at some point.

[rmsilver7]: Ohh also, since Weiss is the one talking in the diolaouge does that mean he isnt killed off at all??
[rmsilver7]: this season?
[RickOrci]: I heard rumors that he’s recovering nicely and may be ready for duty soon.

[rmsilver7]: OK, heres another pre asked one: Is there a mythos behind the number 47 peculiar to alias which differs from the “star trek” lore?
[RickOrci]: The recurrance of the number 47 is purely a coincidence.
[RickOrci]: If you believe in coincidences.

[RickOrci]: Hey Manda!
[Mandaking2000]: Hi Rick My question is of course web puzzle related… Last year did the puzzle progress as you all had planned it or did we miss the boat on somethings… and also is the game this year going to be structured the whole time!!
[RickOrci]: Last year it was originally budgeted as merely a “web presence”, a few sites by Eric Scott. However,
[RickOrci]: by mid-season we’d run out of money… So Jesse Alexander and I pulled together all the free resources of the net and improvised a new chapter every few weeks.
[RickOrci]: It progressed very unexpectedly.
[RickOrci]: Especially when you guys started creating private forums

[AliasJunkie]: Now is start of new webgame?
[RickOrci]: We couldn’t track player progress… so we had to create aliases as players and ifiltrate them
[RickOrci]: I could go on forever about that… It was a blast.
[RickOrci]: conspiracychick was a way to shout out to last season’s best players.
[RickOrci]: And to notify them about their “sleeper status”…
[RickOrci]: More to come…

[Transcript by: Riika Magnus of Secret Life of Alias]
[Edited for by Bill Shaw]

© 2002 The Alias Four and their respected owners. All Rights Reserved. Absolutely no posting of this transcript without proper credit is allowed. Please email the web masters with any questions regarding this transcript. *Special Thanks to Wag of Team Alias for making this all happen, thank you Wag!!*

Dateline Oct. 23, 2002: Academic Paper on Virtual Economies and how they might affect the real world

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

How will virtual worlds affect real world economies? This question and many others are discussed in the scholarly work below. There are several million people interacting in these cybersocieties interacting and trading goods. The issues raised are fascinating from both an societal and practical perspective.


Several million people currently have accounts in massively multi-player online games, places in cyberspace that are effectively large-scale shared virtual reality environments. The population of these virtual worlds has grown rapidly since their inception in 1996; significantly, each world also seems to grow its own economy, with production, assets, and trade with Earth economies. This paper explores two questions about these developments. First, will these economies grow in importance? Second, if they do grow, how will that affect real-world economies and governments? To shed light on the first question, the paper presents a brief history of these games along with a simple choice model of the demand for game time. The history suggests that the desire to live in a game world is deep-rooted and driven by game technology. The model reveals a certain puzzle about puzzles and games: in the demand for these kinds of interactive entertainment goods, people reveal that they are willing to pay money to be constrained. Still, the nature of games as a produced good suggests that technological advances, and heavy competition, will drive the future development of virtual worlds. If virtual worlds do become a large part of the daily life of humans, their development may have an impact on the macroeconomies of Earth. It will also raise certain constitutional issues, since it is not clear, today, exactly who has jurisdiction over these new economies.

The entire article (PDF format) can be found at

Dateline Oct. 17, 2002: ABC Blows Wrap Up of Push, Nevada

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

ABC made two major changes to the rules to accommodate the shortened scheduled. First, the final six clues will be listed with the final episode. Second, ABC now allows disclosure of clues solely on the Internet if they so choose.

I, for one, think the changes really stink.

The revised rules on the ABC Push Rules Page are finally available and the way it is being handled is completely insulting to anyone who has invested time in the game.

The change allowing clues to be published on the Internet or other media is pretty big and could easily allow the game to be resolved suitably. All ABC would need to do is extend the time limit for the final solve from 7 days to a time sufficient to let players discover the six missing clues. They then use their existing web properties to wrap up the game and give everyone a bit of closure.

Instead, they’ve decided to hand the missing clues out to everyone. No mystery, no pretense, no chance for fun. If I wanted a game like this, I’d be playing Blue’s Clues along with my four year old daughter.

It’s bad enough they’ve been spoonfeeding the clues in each episode. Now, with the remaining clues being handed out, I feel the entire time I’ve spent has been wasted. Someone with 15 minutes on their hands can easily obtain the clues from the broadcasts just by perusing message boards and the winner may as well be selected by sweepstakes instead of pretending we have a game of skill.

My vote: Two thumbs down. The thrill of the chase is gone. I think Live Planet and ABC have a lot to learn before they jump into any similar ventures.

Dateline Oct. 14, 2002: Marketers grumbling over Push, Nevada

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Media buyers responsible for product placement in the soon to be defunct show Push, Nevada are now beginning to understand the risks involved with product placement contracts. With the premature cancellation of Push, advertisers feel that their products did not receive the exposure needed to show off specific features of their autos and cell phones.

In addition, due to sweepstakes laws, the show is running longer than warranted by advertisers to allow the $1 million prize to be awarded leaving the sponsors with advertising commitments and little audience to justify it.


$4 million fee
In addition to the product placement deal with LivePlanet, Toyota and Sprint each bought three 30-second spots in the show from Walt Disney Co.’s ABC. Over the course of the series, this translates into about a $4 million deal for each advertiser above the placement fee.

The series was to run a scheduled 13 episodes. But after its premier, the show moved into the prime Thursday night lineup at 9 p.m. against hits Will & Grace on General Electric Co.’s NBC and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on Viacom’s CBS. Ratings tanked. For its Oct. 3 episode, Push posted a weak 1.5 rating among adults ages 18 to 49, leading the network to cancel the series after its seventh episode.

That’s not soon enough for media buyers. “They should have canceled it now and taken it off [completely],” said Steve Sternberg, senior vice president and director of Audience Analysis of Magna Global USA, “rather than announce its cancellation now and show three additional episodes.”

Typically, networks pull shows with consistent ratings declines after three episodes.
Another veteran media executive said if the show ended sooner, advertisers could have taken back money or received make-goods sooner.

Sweepstakes rules
But ABC and LivePlanet have to keep the show going because the plot line, which follows the travails of IRS agent Jim Prufrock, ties in with a sweepstakes that awards $1 million to a viewer who solves the murder mystery in the show. Sweepstakes laws state the money must be given away.

“We want viewers of Push to see the outcome of Prufrock’s investigation, and airing it through the seventh episode will give closure to the storyline,” said Susan Lyne, president of ABC Entertainment, in a statement. Revised contests rules will be revealed soon on

Push has the distinction of the first cancellation of the fall season, and ABC is still working on its turnaround.