donderdag 26 maart 2009

Designing a new kind of ARG

Area/Code is a company that has been around for some time. They have always built games that took place in real life an online. They themselves have called them “Big Games”, now term “Reality Game” is probably more known and covers more or less the same genre. They have built an ARG for the CBS series NUMB3RS. Frank Lantz, one of the co-founders elaborates on their design-goals and the choices they made.
He feels lucky that most clients who ask for an ARG do not have a clue of what an ARG really is or can be. This gave them in this case the freedom to redefine the genre to their own standards. Usually an ARG is a very mysterious and confusing world that can only be understood by expert players. Area/Code wanted to make an ARG that was also accessible for casual, or fist time players.
Though traditionally ARGs are story-based and rely heavily on the puppetmaster who develops the game and the story real-time, Area/Code developed an ARG that was preprogrammed in a system that could also handle the unexpected player-actions.
Their ARG had to meet the following demands:
- procedural
- a dynamic system
- rulebased (focus on gameplay, not content)
and at the same time be:
- storybased
- dramatic
- mysterious
- casual!
Key factor in this was that they did not want to make a puzzle AND a story, but make a puzzle AS a story.
The result was “Chainfactor”. In the ARG, one of the characters out of a NUMB3RS episode has created an online puzzle game. The deeper meaning of the game and the mysteries that surround it ca only be played out by the more hardcore ARG players, but the game itself is very well played by casual gamers. The whole ARG is balanced in such a way that hardcore and casual players need each other to finish the game. This makes this game appealing to a far larger group, though in my opinion they did not succeed in designing a new kind of ARG. The core of the ARG was still only for the experts. Noobs where useful to them as casual puzzle players.

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