Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no lies
Today I presented what our group has worked on so far for the ARG project. Actually, I presented the method we are using to do our work. I didn’t show anything that we have actually created. This seemed to upset some of the people in the class, since I wouldn’t answer certain questions. One person even made the comment that I should go into politics.
The truth is that I wish I could tell everyone what we are working on so that we could get feedback on whether or not it plays well. But there are some problems with this.
ARGs have a linear narrative that is non-repeatable. Once one aspect of the ARG has been discovered there is no way to hide that information again. The only option is to change the important piece of information. This may sound simple, but all of the information surrounding it will have to change in a cascade of content revamp. If even a small granule of important information is leaked before it is intended to be released, then our team will have to go through a mad scramble to try and fix the problem.
Our team has decided to develop while the ARG is being played. Unlike a more traditional video game model, in which the game is released “completed”, ARGs have the ability to have content change or added before the end of the ARG is reached. The information I tell you about today may have little-to-no relevance on what the ARG will become in the future.
The needle in the haystack seems to be the best way of thinking about ARG creation. You make a single piece of information that is important and hide in a vast amount of information that isn’t. In fact, it’s one factor our team hadn’t counted on and has pushed development time much longer. We are stuck making hay right now. If we showed you what we had at this moment, it wouldn’t make much sense unless we pointed out the needle to you directly. This kills the “discovery” aspect of playing the ARG.
One issue our team is going to have to face in the upcoming weeks as we approach one of our major milestones is how to get people to play test the game. I have three thoughts on this.
- NDA Testers – By making our testers sign NDAs, it will hopefully protect content from being leaked. The problem is that even a simple slip of the tongue could divulge too much information to future players and throw off our whole design path.
- Don’t Test It – This goes against everything I’ve ever been taught or learned about games. Games are interactive, and the only way to test them is to interact with them.
- Just Release – If we just release what we have as the beginning of the ARG, then we can do “on-the-fly” testing. Of course, we couldn’t fix any issues inherent to what we have, but we could make sure we don’t do the same mistakes when we actually release the next phase.
No matter what, I know that we will be scrambling after release to see how this thing all plays out. I know that we are going to have to change how we are doing things to compensate.