From the Stars - An ARG experiment

During the last two months I have been working on a project with two others, plotting out and testing the feasibility of an event to pull attention to the release trailer of a new game. This was partially inspired by the fact that I had been listening to a lot of Rabbits (if you have not listened to rabbits and are interested in a new podcast check it out), and partially from the history of ARGs as an interaction with potential users post launch.

Our intention here was to create an ARG experience that would drive more traditional gamers to investigate it, as a lot of the large scale ARGs based off big gaming titles had a lot of experiences that were completely missed by users who did not directly take part in the activity. We wanted to make something that has spectacle. However, this experiment was not on what we could make, or how to make it, but more would this idea be feasible and embraced by both the gamers and the ARG players.

The way we focussed on this was through an iterative feedback loop with our target demographic. We made a prototype, did some testing on it, made changes to our product and repeated the process. In fact we posted three different surveys in multiple locations.

So, what did we make?


The teaser trailer (sizzle reel) - Jessica Threvithick

This was a rough sizzle reel (a trailer built with existing footage in order to give the feel of what the final piece would be like) so that we could do some testing on the overall feel of the event.

The ARG - Myself (programming and art), Joshua Scott (documentation)

The ARG was where we had the most questions about what may and may not work, in particular, the idea of using new ideas that may drag the player out of the immersion of the ARG, and so there is the brunt of our concept creation sat.

The hub (Renegade's console)

This is the hub to the ARG. As the ARG is mainly about interacting with and return data to a central AI who is a primary character in the final game. After initial tests we discovered that both the ARG enthusiasts and the gamers were responded very well to the nostalgia feel of the console design, so this was pushed harder in the final concept. If you want to check it out yourself, you can find the console here.

Loading screen
A fake loading screen to enhance the nostalgia
Booting up the AI
Communicating with the AI

Codes would be given out or found as solutions for puzzles that could be given to the AI to unlock new parts of the ARG and progress the story. This would be a permanent unlock that recorded the name of the user who found it first as well as now be able to provide this information to later users.

The result when typing the code 'armory' into the console

The AI also had control of repair drones all over the fictional ship which it granted to the player after a certain stage of the story. This drone had limited battery power and could not spare the capacity to boot up its visuals, meaning that the player had to interact with the drone only via text commands. We played off the nostalgia and created a traditional text based adventure style interaction.

Drone example
Controlling the drone

Gyroscopic "window" pages

As the player controlled the drone and led it around the ship they would occasionally encounter access points for security cameras. If the player interacted with them they would be treated with a link to a page that simulated this view, with controls tied to the gyroscope of the phone or the mouse pointer (depending on the device). This system could be interacted with to get extra details or to solve puzzles that the AI would then accept.

AR rewards

Part of the original design for this ARG involved solving puzzles that gave you an image in response, which if combined with a mobile application that was part of a previous puzzle would give you a model viewer. The original intention for this was to use these models to create more interesting puzzles, but during the surveys we discovered that while the ARG players loved this idea the more traditional gamer crowd was reluctant to download an application. So instead, this was moved back to purely a reward for solving puzzles, allowing it to keep the spectacle effect but not be a requirement for playing the game

The event - Myself (planning)

The event was the cumulation of the ARG, and for testing we needed nothing more than a plan of the event, which went as follows:

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