Archive for March, 2010

Dateline Jan. 12, 2003: BMW Films Season 2 Immersive Game Ends in Vegas

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

BMW Films gave away a 2003 BMW Z4 Roadster last night. The endgame in Las Vegas was the culmination of an extensive online scavenger hunt three years in the making.

The online game was discovered by following a [uncaptheride.com mysterious link] denoted with the symbol :k: found at an Apple website.

The goal was to follow the clues online to uncover six keys. By mailing the list of keys along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, players received an envelope containing an entry for a chance to win the BMW. Out of several thousand players who began the search, only 250 became eligible for the top prize.

At least four members of the various ARG communities were present for the endgame in Las Vegas. You can view three accounts of last nights events at Unforums. The live event brought players from around the United States to the Stratosphere and face to face with some of the actors in the short films from [BMW Films].

The lucky winners, Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Fisher, are newlyweds from Bellingham, Washington. They’ll be driving home in their new [2003 Z4 Roadster].

Unfiction has a complete write-up of the live event, including plenty of pictures, compliments of Steve Peters.

This was the second game sponsored by BMW Films. They have run one for each of the two seasons they’ve been producing films. According to Steve, who spoke with the winners, the PMs, and quite a few other folks behind the scenes, “As far as what the PMs told me about a third BMW Films game? I wouldn’t know. I’m just a pawn. ;)

Dateline Jan. 10, 2003: Uru: Online Ages Beyond Myst Promises Story and Exploration

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

The recently announced open beta for the online MMORPG sequel to Myst promises to deliver more than open ended interaction and level advancement. They also intend to offer players the opportunity to explore within the context of a complex, interactive story.

Uru: Online Ages Beyond Myst is about to begin closed beta testing.

Unlike [The Sims Online], Everquest, and other games of that genre which focus on open ended play and level advancement, the latest massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) from Ubi Soft will offer something new.

First and foremost, URU will be a game of exploration. The game will have three different environments (personal, neighborhood, and the city). By focusing on exploration rather than conflict and level advancement, the game designers are able to introduce puzzles requiring group interaction that will forward a story. This design philosophy should be an enormous draw to fans of the original Myst.

For fans of online immersive gaming, the potential for a running story, a continual stream of puzzles, and realtime interaction may prove to be an undeniable combination.

The original presss release:

San Francisco, CA - January 8, 2003 - Ubi Soft Entertainment, one of the world’s largest videogame publishers, and Cyan Worlds, Inc., developers of the legendary Myst® and Riven™, today announced their highly anticipated upcoming online adventure Uru™: Online Ages Beyond MYST. Players will have the opportunity to explore and interact with meticulously crafted environments in, around, and beyond the newly discovered underground D’ni empire that predates human civilization. Explorers wishing to help test the game during its beta phase are invited to apply today by visiting http://uru.ubi.com.

“Uru is an ancient word, the earliest word for city. It is rooted in the idea of a gathering of people, which is precisely what Uru will foster,” said Rand Miller, founder of Cyan Worlds. “We’ve been working for almost five years developing the cutting edge technology, detailed design and breathtaking graphics that allow us to build real-time online worlds that go beyond Myst. Imagine being able to explore lush landscapes, ancient deserted cities, mysterious forests, curious swamps — and that’s only the beginning. We’re trying to provide an environment that’s so engrossing, people will talk about it and share their experience. With Uru the journey is experienced together within the game, with friends, family, even strangers uncovering fantastic places together.”

Uru will take advantage of broadband to deliver a continually updated, immersive environment and storyline, with content that grows, changes and evolves constantly. It will also be the first persistent world to support real-time voice communication. Uru is designed to appeal to a broad audience and enable players of all skill levels and interests to experience expansive ages of the Myst universe in a uniquely social environment. Playing their own avatars, hundreds of thousands of players will meet new people, all realistic impersonations of themselves, play games, solve mysteries and embark on a voyage of discovery with friends. Players will be able to customize their level of interaction with other players, choosing to play alone, with small groups of friends or in areas where they can meet new people.

With 12 million units sold worldwide, Myst is one of the most widely recognized and critically acclaimed game brands in history. “Uru represents an incredible evolution in the Myst product line and in online entertainment,” said Jason Rubinstein, General Manager of ubi.com. “Fans of the Myst series, online socializers, mystery buffs, Internet chatters, multiplayer online gamers and non-gamers alike will be amazed by Uru. It will definitely raise the bar for an immersive online experience, and we expect it to attract new customers to online gaming and perhaps change the face of mainstream entertainment.”

PC users will be able to enjoy Uru, which will be made available through ubi.com, one of the top ten gaming portals. The final version of the game is scheduled to launch in late 2003 with a closed beta test commencing in January 2003. For more information about Uru: Online Ages Beyond MYST, or to apply to be a beta tester, visit http://uru.ubi.com.

Dateline Jan. 9, 2003: JMX Stage 2 Solved. Players Anxious For Stage 3

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Players completed Stage 2 of the JadedMedia Experience today. Of the seventeen puzzles in the series, three qualified as absolutely brutal. The level of creativity in the puzzles increased dramatically with more puzzles requiring lateral thinking and knowledge of binary, rot encryption, trivia, enigma cyphers and more.

Players needed almost a month to complete Stage 1. Stage 2, which launched on New Year’s Day, was solved in just under nine days elapsed time.

The players on the #JMX chat, accessible through irc.chat-solutions.org, had mixed feelings about the end of stage 2. With the thrill of conquest, the prevailing question was, “What do we do now?” The Stage 3 launch date hasn’t been confirmed, but it is widely expected to be on or around Feb. 1.

“[jadedmedia.net JadedMedia] is an online project put together by a team of collaborators. the intention is to keep you guessing by helping you see what you already know. the project has been put together by friends, colleagues, and allies. it is an alternative to what you would normally do in a place that is not even there.”

Dateline Jan. 8, 2003: L3: Now Hiring

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

It seems the people behind the new L3 website are looking for talent. The site, tied to a recent set of puzzles, may be either a lead-in for the actual game or a recruiting tool for PMs. Clicking on the [www.landau-luckman-lake.com/pmsurvey.htm Client Referrals] link brings you to a web form that states, “We are searching for several Puppet Masters to assist with the creation of an extensive ARG (Immersive Campaign). If you are interested, please submit your information below. We will contact you at a later time to follow up.”

Judging by the survey, any prospective PMs will be making a fairly substantial commitment to the game. One of the question asks, “Are you prepared to spend between 12 and 20 hours per week for at least six months?” Nothing like telling the truth up front!

The survey also asks for writing, website development and other skills along with a few oddball questions.

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.

[aspencologne.com 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 [www.aspencologne.com/goldrushrules.html 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 Jan. 4, 2003: Cybertrek Winners Announced. Dave Barnett Claims $500 prize

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

SIMPLE CodeWorks announced the grand prize winner and a number of finalists in their online mini-adventure, Cybertrek. Dave Barnett took the $500 prize with his entry.

Cybertrek, a seven chapter mini-adventure played solely on the web, presents players with a number of cryptographical puzzles and increasingly difficult mathematical challenges wrapped around an adventure story.

Of the winner and current list of six finalists, members of [collectivedetective.org the Collective] swept at least six of the top seven spots. Dave Barnett, a member of cd.org, took top honors and the $500 cash prize for submitting the first email to SCW. The consolation winners will each receive a free copy of The Pro-SIMPLE Combo.

Although the prize has been announced, anyone can still play. The rabbit hole can be found at www.simplecodeworks.com/cybertrek/go.html. The game is still very playable and doesn’t have any time sensitive elements that detract from the playing experience.

According to their website, “Will you be able to rescue the old professor from his secret underground laboratory? Will you be able to find the stolen jewels that have been hidden in the Murdock Mansion? Will you be able to escape from the castle of the evil Baron Von Laden? If so, then you might even be able to complete all seven episodes of Cybertrek and discover the true identity of the mysterious “Woman in Black!”

There is plenty there to keep you busy for a couple of days and the game is completely free to play. Playing the game is easier if you download the free version of SIMPLE, but the download is optional until you get to the last chapter.

SCW also plans further installments in the game with Chapter 8 planned for release at some future date. There is no word yet as to whether there will be prizes for the additional segments.

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. 31, 2002: JadedMedia Experience Stage 1 Wraps. Stage 2 Staged

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Players completed the first full stage of the JadedMedia Experience yesterday. With over 150 players, JMX is one of the successful online puzzles currently active. Stage 2 begins tomorrow and promises to be equally challenging.

The first stage, composed of 19 puzzles, took players just under one month to complete. At times, the puzzles fell like lushes at happy hour. For other parts, the players needed a bit of prodding in the way of additional hints to recognize the blindingly obvious.

Kenny Perry, aka Compguy509, got top honors for the first stage. According to Kenny, Gridlock (1.5) was the hardest puzzle just because the players way overthunk it. Encrypt (1.11) was another that stood out for him.

JMX Stage 1 will remain online for anyone that missed out and is still interested in playing through the challenge.

For the duration of the first stage, The JMX server logged over 16,000 page views and transferred almost one gigabyte of data.

Stage 2 launches on New Years Day. You can jump in at [www.jadedmedia.net] and register to play. Game play is free.

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.