Currently I’m working on creating an ARG for my senior studio class. You can read about why I wanted to do an ARG in my post here. (Be sure to check out my major faux pas in the comments section.) One of the issues that our team had to resolve in creating an ARG was how to use an agile methodology. We decided to divide the ARG into “phases”, which are analogous to levels in more traditional game genres.
Each phase of the ARG consists of four parts
- Introduction of new characters and/or organizations
- What information needs to be given to the players
- The puzzle
- What the resulting updates are
The update is the determining factor of what constitutes a phase in our ARG. Each phase can have multiple character introductions and numerous amounts of information distributed, but their will only be one puzzle and one update. This helped us to divide up the ARG into understandable sub-sections for agile development. With each sprint, we are focusing on a specific phase in chronological order: phase 1, phase 2, etc.
This has a couple of advantages. We can develop the ARG in episodes, allowing our team to release phase 1 while we are working on phase 3. We are also able to focus on narrative development instead of puzzle development, since each phase only has a single puzzle. We felt that narrative was the stronger aspect of the two. A phase ends when one of three events occur: a percentage of the player base completes the puzzle, a single player completes the puzzle or a date occurs.
The phase model also helps us to create guidelines for content creation. Content needed before an update can be focused on instead of content that may or may not be needed for some time. A website, for instance, should have all content for phase 1 before content we start work on phase 2.
As we continue through the sprints, the material developed in phase 1 can be used in future phases with each of the end-of-phase updates. This also allows for simplistic modeling of information distribution and plot summary as we progress through the project. Thank god for linear story telling models.
I suggest this model for any student or grass-roots ARG development teams. It seems to make content creation more logical and ordered. Of course, you need to do some preproduction and figure out your ARG plot line in rough form before you begin. The phase model, however, allows for a lot of changes to occur during development, as we have changed many narrative elements with little effect on content created. It’s one of the strengths of the agile method.
On a side note, I’ve been wondering how to pronounce ARG. Does one say it as a single word, such as Charlie Brown’s infamous “ARRGG”, or does it take on the standard game acronym convention, such as RPG. I prefer the first.