As part of the documentation of Project Loyola, our team has setup a blog where we will be discussing things behind the curtain. It should be considered a kl00-free zone, but for people that aren’t on the cutting edge of the ARG there may be some spoiler information. We promise not to talk about anything that hasn’t already been discovered by other players and is part of the ARG past not ARG future.
I’m a big time nerd. Big time. Anyone that knows me will agree. I have a fascination with math, science and computers that goes to a level beyond the general populace. It’s one of the reasons I love game design so much, since it involves so many different aspects of so many different areas of study (psychology, art, etc).
Right now I’m enrolled in the end all, be all class of nerdiness in game design: Abstract Systems Simulation. The class is basically “How to make a gaming using Microsoft Excel”. And no, not like this. It’s about using Excel to balance and create a desktop RPG system. Basically, number crunching at an extreme rate. Most of the art kids in our major shudder at the idea of the class, but a select few of us uber nerds have been drooling over the possibility of it.
One of the interesting topics that was brought up on the first day of class was simulation versus abstraction. Why are we abstracting these systems? If I wanted to create a life like RTS that calculates all manner of things from troop skill, troop morale, weather conditions, vehicles maintenance, ammunition types, new weapons bilt by government contracters, etc., there are system designers out there that can do it. Why don’t they then?
Because it isn’t fun for the player.
Well, for people like me it is. But, I know I’m not normal. The people that take the class, if they had a chance to, would make a game with systems so complex that it would take a calculator, slide rule and abacus COMBINED to play a single turn. Most people, however, want board games and desktop games that don’t involve lots of mathematical computations in order to do a simple action. That’s why game designers have to abstract the systems in order to get them to be less complex.
But wait. There are many who believe that “learning is fun”. So, wouldn’t more complex systems create a higher level of learning and create more fun games?
No. The problem is the curve involved in the learning process. Imagine if Chutes and Ladders involved complex equations to determine sliding speed based off of wind resistance and the coefficient of friction. Most 6 year olds wouldn’t want to play the game. But since the “slide” is mearly an abstraction of a normal slide, indicating “go here from here”, the system is understandable.
That’s what it boils down to. Most people want to get at least some sort of comprehension of what is going on in the world. Even if there is a small nugget of information for them to grasp onto and use. As long as you can start off the game with some level of information that is understandable, you can always add larger amounts of information for them to keep track of.
Of course, you don’t want to go overboard.
Since my last post, I’ve been getting lots of questions from people regarding what the project is. I thought I should put up a post answering some of the more common questions
What is Project Loyola?
Project Loyola is an ARG created by me and fellow students to document the ARG development process. We originally decided to create an ARG because of an interest in massive multi-player cooperative game mechanics (that’s a mouthful).
We knew we were never going to create an ARG on the scale of the commercial ARGs, like the Dark Knight or Cloverfield. We decided to create a grassroots ARG and document the hell out of it! That way, future students or grassroot developers interested in ARG development could have at least a smidgen of information to build off of.
That’s nice. What’s an ARG?
An ARG is an Alternate Reality Game. It’s a game which takes place in the real world and in the virtual world. Non-Player Characters interact with Players via the internet, phone calls and text messages.
So, how do I play an ARG?
It’s actually fairly simple. All you have to do is find clues that lead you to the next part of the game. Clues can be hidden in many different places; from websites, to emails, to phone calls you may receive from characters in the game.
Wait, I’m confused. How do I play?
If you want some good sources of information for playing an ARG, I’d suggest heading over to the following websites and do some reading.
Doing research on the net about how to play will help you with the mentality of, well, how to play.
The official press release:
SCAD Students Announce the Launch of Project Loyola ARG
Savannah, Georgia, March 1, 2008 — A group of senior students from the Savannah College of Art and Design announced the release of Project Loyola, a student-developed alternate reality game (ARG) that allows its players to unravel the mysteries behind the disappearance of its main character, Alex Loyola.
Like all games in the ARG genre, Project Loyola invites players to go on an adventure that takes place in both real and virtual space. However, the Project Loyola ARG is also one of the first student-developed projects in the field of alternate reality gaming. The initial launch of this project, along with a promotional campaign spanning multiple sites such as Facebook, craigslist.org and many other sites, will take place on March 5th, 2008.
“We initially decided to develop an ARG because of the uniqueness of the project,” said Jeff McNab, project lead for the Project Loyola.
“We quickly found out that there is little information regarding ARG development and turned our project into a sort of test-bed for future students interested in ARG work. We wanted to find out what works, what doesn’t and most importantly, document every step of the way.” The Project Loyola team plans on releasing this documentation once the project goes through an initial testing phase to document player interaction.
For more information on the Project Loyola ARG, visit redloyola.com.
About PROJECT LOYOLA:
The Project Loyola Team is composed of five main members: Jeff McNab, Ashley Waldbaum, Francisco Rodriguez, Stephen Lawrence and Greg Morgan. They, along with a variety of volunteers, faculty members, and students on multiple fields of study, are responsible for the both the development and maintenance of the first student-developed alternate reality game in the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Everyone has probably heard about this already, but Gary Gygax, one of the creators of Dungeons and Dragons, passed away today at the age of 69. I’ve been playing D&D off and on for the better part of sixteen years. I owe a lot of my interest in games and game design to my fascination with that game. Words can’t even do the man justice for what he did. RIP Gary.
Well, it seems that flying in an encapsulated, recycled air cabin does wonders for my immune system. Promptly after returning from GDC I came down with the flu, which I am trying to get over right now. Sorry for the delay in posts, but I have to go battle this plague before I think I’ll be up for some sort of update.
One bit of information I wanted to share was Brenda getting onto the IGDA Board. Congrats Brenda! What a week you’ve had, first with the Game Design Challenge and now this.
- Showed up at the conference this morning at 7:30, like usual. No one was here. It was seriously me, the security guards and some pink shirts (Conference Assistants). Guess there was some crazy partying going on last night.
- A session about brainstorming! What more could I ask for. This was a great session for designers about being able to force out ideas instead of waiting for the moment of “Eureka”.
- The game designers rant was just spectacular. It was one of those events that gets my blood going. Clint Hocking, Daniel James, Jane McGonigal, Jenova Chen and Jonathan Mak all did a fantastic job. Kudos to them all!
- Tim Longo did a great job on his presentation about Developing for IPs. I think this is probably extremely difficult (I can only speculate) and he had a really great concept for how to think about development.
- Metaplace. Raph Koster. Epic. That’s really the best way to put it. The presentation was more about the development and I think the audience was expecting a demo more so, but I was freaking blown away by it. The best way I can describe it without getting insanely technical is that Metaplace is to MMOs what HTML is to webpages. It’s a scripting language that allows decentralized MMO architectures. Okay, so that was semi-technical.
- Went out to dinner with Tim and some other people from Crystal Dynamics and we got into some pretty philosophical conversations. Basically, cats are sentient. Don’t ask. I don’t feel like explaining.
Overall, I can’t even begin to tell everyone how just absolutely spectacular this whole experience was.