Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Vanessa Atalanta Trilogy - Puppetmaster Interview

Transcibed below is the 2 hour discussion myself, Dagada and Jess had with Paul and Deni - the PMs for Fifteen Days of Darkness. Most of what was said is down here, although I did cut out some of the stuff about Dagada running around his garden chasing rabbits in the nuddy.
Its pretty long, so I've sliced it down and headed each section so you can keep up. There's some pretty interesting stuff about being a PM and being a player in there, as well as some big story reveals for the whole trilogy. Its probably more relavent for those who played the game, but to those who didn't - I suggest giving it a go anyway, Paul and Deni talk about some really interesting aspects of ARGs and discuss where they think the genre is going in the future and its well worth a look.

I just want to thank Paul and Deni for taking the time to meet their players, its not a curtesy that every PM extends to those who game with them and I think we all appreciated the extra bit of effort.

So, here goes:

{;PAUL}; ah - introductions - apologies - players Dagada and Distilled [mind if I use real names?] - Please meet my wonderful co-designer Deni, internet extraordinaire
{;Deni}; as I was going to say, working on this was some of my best work and was fun working with Paul :)
{;PAUL}; thanks
{;PAUL}; Deni worked really hard for me - am for me and about 8 or 9 pm start for you most nights yeh?
{;PAUL}; and this is why we worked well together - thinking along similar lines most times
{;PAUL}; Deni is based in Canada -which was VERY useful for when we did the first intro with Ben visiting the chat
{;Deni}; that was kinda fun for me being that certain someone in chat
{;PAUL}; shurrup now Deni, the grown ups are talking seriously... ;)
{;Deni}; pshhhh =P :)
{;PAUL}; yeah - Deni had never role-played or ARGed before - I told him what to type - and then we had Harold and I gave him free reign
{;Dagada}; Good work!
{;Distilled}; nice one, that’s not at all how I imagined you'd done it all
{;Deni}; In past experiences I had a habit of going to far at times so I usually try to avoid role-playing
{;PAUL}; but I was monitoring without being in the room courtesy of a great program called yuuguu which Deni put me onto..
{;PAUL}; so - sure you have many questions and such - in game stuff first?

Question 1 – Final Scenes
{;Distilled}; ok, first question - the final scenes
{;Distilled}; Did you expect us to approach the destroying of the plants in the way we did?
{;PAUL}; ok
{;PAUL}; tbh - the final scenes were partially ad hoc as plans that were arranged had to change and adapt quickly due to tech issues and access to net over Christmas
{;Deni}; fyi Paul was very good at adapting and dealing with issues that came up :)
{;PAUL}; so I moved the plants to London, used Ben as a 'vehicle' to get people to interact with them and then gave players full reign - I hoped that destruction was on the cards... but as you saw, Claire had an odd Christmas present didn't she?
{;Distilled}; indeed
{;Distilled}; Definitely dead though, she says...
{;PAUL}; life flower
{;Dagada}; Nothing is definite in this game. :D
{;Distilled}; 'spose
{;PAUL}; well one thing is definite - all has finished fully now.
{;Dagada}; Really? I was thinking it'd continue.
{;PAUL}; some of the characters might be used in other things but the full VA 'arc' has come full circle..

Question 2 – Changing Plans?
{;Dagada}; Paul, you seemed to lay a fair bit of groundwork at the start of the game - links on the postcards, etc, that didn't seem to fruit. Did plans change?
{;PAUL}; Dag - re postcards and beginning - I was extremely disappointed by initial interest and then absolute silence - someone realised UV viewing was 'essential' [it wasn't] and thus demanded that the game almost pays out for UV lights for everyone
{;PAUL}; it may do Dag - but both Deni and myself want to do something new - something fresh - and the back-story is a huge amount for new players to grapple with - it'd have to be a fresh start - despite the wonderful wikis created in last games
{;Dagada}; Yeah - there were some times when us players got a bit fixated on minor details and missed the massive trees in front of us.
{;Dagada}; some = many
{;PAUL}; I waited as a PM while players spent MONTHS putting the postcards together...
{;Deni}; I've seen it happen in many games
{;PAUL}; then Distilled came along and the game suddenly accelerated beyond compare
{;Distilled}; Wooo!
{;PAUL}; both Deni and I glanced at each other and it was solved [first part] within a few days
{;PAUL}; that was what I hoped would happen in the first month or so... but it didn't
{;Distilled}; Its a shame, I would have liked to have been there for the start - stuff was happening for me about that time and I don't think ARGs were on the forefront of my mind.
{;PAUL}; you can't predict players, and I may have overcomplicated things at the start - but I wanted to challenge and bring players together at same time - instead I got fractioning and people left. You learn from experience.

Continue after the jump for the rest of the interview - including info about Paul and Deni's plans for coming games, the future of Claire and Ben and a shock revalation about Meeka >>>

Question 3 - How the games differed?
{;Dagada}; That seemed to happen more in this section than MoA - Why do you think that is?
{;PAUL}; the MoA game was more internalised - you had clear cut characters and a simple plot
{;PAUL}; this one was less linear and many options
{;PAUL}; I was trying to expand the world - there were options for people to contact all the characters in different ways - but less players and an impatient PM [me] meant that the game became linear once more, it with less two-way work
{;Dagada}; Yes - And it was much easier to relate / trust / emotionally invest in Claire and co, whereas Jayden and co were much harder to get a handle on. Quite rightly.

{;Deni}; I like to think I brought a few options to the table ^_^
{;Dagada}; It was great how quickly the group would come together once a puzzle started and people got to grips with what we needed to do - even if there'd been a slow start.

Question 4 – Technical Advances in 15DD
{;PAUL}; I agree - Deni - you mentioned bringing stuff to the table - would you like to comment more - my memory is shocking at times - nothing against anyone - just if I forget - then nudge me!
{;Deni}; I just like to stand behind the thought that it's amazing the things you can do online these days
{;Deni}; and connecting those in new ways to ARGs just makes it a wild game
{;Distilled}; I really have to congratulate on the net related things for this game Deni - they were awesome
{;Deni}; thanks Will I had a lot of input from Paul which gave me directions to take it :)
{;PAUL}; indeed Deni - In MoA and other I was limited to a ning and Facebook basically - my webskills are very low and Deni was able to expand, make it more interactive and definitely more visual - and usually at a very short notice - public thanks!!! yay!!!!
{;Deni}; and to be honest somewhere down the road I'd like to take it to the next level
{;Distilled}; How so?
{;PAUL}; what would you say that is [NOT mentioning what we've discussed, but in more conceptual stuff]!!!
{;PAUL}; hehehhe
{;PAUL}; I think personally, with things like kinect and V.R. developing quickly, we're not far from immersion on a deeper level for ARGs...
{;Deni}; well I'd like to round out characters, make them more accessible more real in the since of a face and a voice connected to them. You can basically completely construct someone online out of nothing

Question 5 – Were the Characters believable?
{;PAUL}; as players, would you say the characters were believable [supernatural stuff aside]
{;Distilled}; yes they were believable - sometimes you didn't get to know them until it was too late
{;Distilled}; I mean, you didn't see the human side of J until he was dead
{;PAUL}; now that’s something I want to ask players - why did you leave it till later on to interact with characters - was there too much going on elsewhere [IG and OOG] or something else?
{;Dagada}; I agree. I think the "difficult" parts of their character were handled very well.
{;PAUL}; Distilled - that was definitely intentional
{;PAUL}; when you say "difficult" Dagada - could you expand a bit please?

{;Distilled}; PM - I'd figured as much.
{;Dagada}; Partly that, but also I found it hard to approach some characters from a "light" point of view - especially as Jayden knew I'd sided with light, etc.
{;Distilled}; Btw - it’s Will :P
{;PAUL}; I know - just checking ok to call you will
{;Distilled}; That’s a good point Dag, a lot of the characters (particularly from the latest game and MoA) were stern ministry types

Question 6 – Missed Threads
{;Distilled}; So can you tell us about any BIG threads that we just totally missed or didn't get?
{;PAUL}; ok - so threads from all games - a lot of Vladimir conversation was in reference to the bible - each time he posted and referred to the time, it was ALSO a clue in reference to the bible
{;Dagada}; I got some of that - especially in the later section
{;PAUL}; Deni - which bits did we discuss that they missed..?
{;PAUL}; Probably best to work backwards - but no comment on the yet to be decoded messages on FB and the OoO page...
{;Deni}; well you mentioned something about the OoO page and C?
{;PAUL}; [cough]
{;Deni}; goober
{;Deni}; You're more of the storyline guy I can't keep it straight in my brain ^_^
{;PAUL}; ah yes - the missing third option on the OoO page
{;PAUL}; players - you've both seen the page yeah?
{;Dagada}; Yup.
{;Distilled}; yep
{;Deni}; Yup :)
{;PAUL}; ok - well that page in itself is a summation of the whole arc
{;Distilled}; right, ok. heavy
{;PAUL}; so I'll not spoiler it...
{;Distilled}; see that you don't!
{;PAUL}; BUT - enjoy...
{;PAUL}; heheh - I will comment though on the missing 'c' bottom right though as this is what is being referred to and what I've tried to hint at throughout all the games
{;PAUL}; in life we usually have choices, and people only se the two ways ahead, and rarely look for the third option
{;PAUL}; in all the games, we had two forces, one good and one bad but, as seen in a lot of the imagery throughout, there is the grey area, the option 'c'
{;Dagada}; We sort of chose the forth option in MoA, though, didn't we?
{;PAUL}; indeed - going beyond the given options
{;PAUL}; So that is why the 'pictures' have a and b but the 'c' is not visible
{;PAUL}; what the pictures are though - well...
{;PAUL}; you can find them with metallic oracular instruments...
{;Distilled}; I began to get that at the end of the game, the third option - I think that’s why we took so long to decide what to do with Vlad/Jayden
{;PAUL}; what I had envisioned for all of them, and what happened at the end of each game eventually, was a discussion of philosophy - the rights and wrongs..
{;Deni}; FYI putting up a green screen is not an easy thing :)
{;PAUL}; Deni was heavily instrumental for ensuring that this idea was seen and heard as well as just thought about
{;Deni}; Thank you, I think ^_^
{;PAUL}; no very much deserved - in this final part [?] the players could see the 'two sides' fight.
{;PAUL}; No-one chose to talk to Jayden while in his mind space though
{;PAUL}; No one chose to leave
{;PAUL}; no one questioned Vladimir about his intentions until the very end
{;Dagada}; That's interesting - I never thought of that - but then I wasn't in a position to be able to.
{;Deni}; being able to backdate things came in handy
{;PAUL}; hell yeah, the chat between Jayden and MeeM was all created on the night before Jayden revealed his password
{;Deni}; this project taught me a great deal about database management
{;PAUL}; and the arduous task of backdating all the messages fell upon IT guy...
{;Deni}; It's really interesting how you can monitor a pile of email boxes and such from a single spot (cough cough) ^_^

Question 7 – The Nature of ARGs and Puzzles
{;Distilled}; This is an issue with gaming in general, often we see it as an input-output
{;Distilled}; we put in the right commands and we win.
{;PAUL}; Will - should games be like that though? I, for one, hate linear things when I'm wanting an ARG - otherwise its puzzle - solve - info given - solve - puzzle - repeat - end
{;PAUL}; sometimes its ace - for example the lost gold pirate people really have got their market well entertained - BUT - do all players need this or can ARGS be reactive more?
{;Distilled}; That was our problem in this game a lot of the time, we didn't know which questions to ask, it was easier to try to solve the puzzles and input the next seemingly "right answer"
{;Dagada}; People get very excited about dancing down the primrose path of "right answers"....
{;Distilled}; I know I did!
{;Dagada}; Me too. It makes you feel like you're progressing.
{;PAUL}; this is where *we* were wanting more involvement, right Deni? - all the input channels were created, monitored by Deni throughout all at once [what program was it?] while I wrote content - but not much came - it was a shame
{;Deni}; digsby, a very useful program, was how I monitored all email addresses involved in the game
{;PAUL}; Deni - how frustrated were we waiting for input?
{;Deni}; lol more you than I but yeah ^_^
{;PAUL}; you can best describe me as I'm too subjective!
{;Deni}; I know how scary it can seem to take that step and interact with strange characters.
{;Deni}; call that weird number, or email that strange address.
{;PAUL}; but most of players I'd invite/tried to involve at start were not novices - were people who *had* called/emailed strangers before
{;Dagada}; First ARG I ever did, I got in trouble for sending odd emails to OOG addresses by mistake. :S
{;Deni}; meh it happens Dag
{;Deni}; it's unavoidable
{;Distilled}; I just try to send a fishing email, something which a normal person would dismiss as spam
{;PAUL}; objective question now - should players approach every ARG 'anew' or should they compare and base it upon previous ARGs they've played..?
{;Dagada}; That's a toughie as I've only played a few.... Breathe, and the VA trilogy.
{;Distilled}; I think if we started anew each time, we would be novices for the rest of our lives! I think it’s inevitable to bring past experiences into it
{;Deni}; oh I myself whenever I try a new ARG a part of me is always going to compare it to previous experiences
{;Dagada}; But really.... They should be "seen" as their own entities. You can't expect every ARG to be identical to every other one, or else the whole "genre" will stagnate.
{;Deni}; exactly you've got to put fresh new ideas out there
{;Distilled}; true, sometimes you just yearn for something new
{;PAUL}; hence getting concerned with the ideas that it is 'just' puzzle - right answer - repeat...
{;Deni}; too true Paul
{;Dagada}; Especially with problem solving, etc. Folk are so savvy to "PM tricks" now....
{;Deni}; it shouldn't be about the puzzles but about a world of a story
*Jess joins*
{;PAUL}; which is why I'm really glad for Deni's input - and Claire's as well [person who played 'Claire Atalanta] - they brought new ideas and approaches to my repeated thoughts
{;Deni}; characters can make or break a story
{;Dagada}; Characters ARE story.
{;Deni}; the context in which the Characters play out are also a major part of the story
{;Distilled}; That’s true Dagada, especially in ARGs
{;Dagada}; The context can be seen as a character, in a way.
{PAUL}; we're discussing the nature of characters, story and how some ARGs are just puzzle, solve - players congratulate and look for the next puzzle...
{Deni}; as the saying goes the medium can be the message

Question 8 – A New View
{;PAUL}; Jess - what are your thoughts on the VA story arcs - you only played the last one correct [missed VA and MoA?]
{;Jess}; yes only the last one and not much of it after some things happened
{;Jess}; from what I did I was intrigued. I wasn't able to help much but that was okay. It was fun just following along as much as I could
{;PAUL}; we've all had IRL stuff in this game - and can I say thanks to all involved, player and Pm alike who made it as smooth as it was - people informed me of not being able to play - were polite when couldn't make things and were truly helpful when I asked them to be...

{;Dagada}; we had a very understanding PM, too.....
{;PAUL}; could it have been any different to be better for you Jess - or other players in fact even?
{;Jess}; no, everything was good for me. I like different styles of ARGs they all have their own personality
{;Deni}; too true
{;Jess} That’s what really got me into them. The way they were all different
{;Distilled}; well, even internally this game changed and was different each time
{;Distilled}; from what I could gather VA was a LOT about interacting with Vanessa, Vlad and Claire
{;Distilled}; and the game was played out as such, through Facebook and chats
{;Distilled}; I think we lost a few of the players who really interacted with Claire and VA early on in the game
{;Dagada}; Yup - MoA was very much direct interaction. I even got to meet V and Orpheus....
{;Dagada}; I just want to put my tuppenceworth in here for Orpheus being a brilliant character. Very hard to understand, as should be, enigmatic and fascinating. It's a shame more people didn't invest more time chatting with "him".
{;Distilled}; That was certainly something new for me, being able to interact with the characters in real time and affect the outcome. I'd only come across games either halfway through were all the puzzles were solved and interactions interacted
{;Distilled}; My problem was that I didn't know whether I could trust him with the info we had.
{;Dagada}; That was part of the fun for me - trying to work out WHY he was so keen on us joining this quest.
{;Distilled}; Still not 100% sure I understand where he stands...
{;Jess}; Distilled - same here, about the games being already in progress
{;PAUL}; For me Orpheus is the storyteller as such, omniscient to a point
{;Distilled}; that came through, he seemed to know about events and know details
{;Distilled}; "L-Mover" - nice touch
{;PAUL}; well - this is a show and tell evening so - Orpheus was married to MeeM - or Meeka M and knew about her plan.
{;Distilled}; wha wha whaaat?
{;PAUL}; They'd gone their own ways though when she sought immortality for her own self.
{;PAUL}; hence comments all through about him missing his Eurydice - no one talked or asked, sufficient in the myth alone it seemed
{;Dagada}; To be fair.... I thought he was referring to events from previous sessions.
{;PAUL}; at times he was
{;Distilled}; So many lost threads in this tapestry
{;PAUL}; aye - but gathering them now.
{;PAUL}; and the tapestry will be seen as a whole as soon as you solve last messages..

Question 9 – Future Plans?
{;Distilled}; So, stereotypical question - anything planned for the future
{;PAUL}; future project - a few ideas are knocking about - yes

Question 10 – Who Played who?
{;Distilled}; who played who then? Did you take a character or did one of you just play everyone?
{;PAUL}; Claire played Claire
{;PAUL}; Deni played Harold Moody for most part
{;PAUL}; and assisted with Ben
{;Deni}; loved pissing people off lol
{;PAUL}; Jayden
{;PAUL}; 's body was played by a friend of mine
{;PAUL}; as was Anubis - another player

Question 11 – Claire/Ben?
{;Distilled}; So - character backgrounds/futures
{;PAUL}; yes
{;Distilled}; what will happen to Claire/Ben?
{;PAUL}; without fully revealing potential ideas - they will go separate ways - Ben’s not the right guy for Claire - she needs someone more simple - and he's quite complex - also - he himself was the one keeping stuff from her, not Jayden, and she's finding all of it hard to examine
{;PAUL}; no marriage and kid or that sort of thing
{;Distilled}; no griffon?
{;Distilled}; :(
{;PAUL}; Ben may or may not have some plant
{;PAUL}; as may Claire
{;PAUL}; grin..
{;Distilled}; hmm
{;PAUL}; which of course is forbidden by the Christian deity hinted at throughout the game who was upset by the fear of man becoming immortal [genesis]
{;Distilled}; what a spoilsport he is...
{;Distilled}; So: Was it a lot of fun being able to observe us (through Facebook, unFiction, Twitter etc) wrestle with a good riddle?
{;PAUL}; yes
{;PAUL}; though on my part extremely annoying at times - I just wanted to tell you - not from an arrogant 'I know' viewpoint but in an impatient and helpful way... I wanted to play my own game?!
{;PAUL}; Deni
{;Deni}; aye? :)
{;PAUL}; your thoughts?
{;Deni}; carrots are tasty :)

{;Distilled}; Eloquent
{;PAUL}; yet succinct...
{;Deni}; thank you, sadly I didn't do any Facebook observing or twitter for that matter
{;PAUL}; that was my province - but we both watched unFiction develop
{;Distilled}; I know what you mean Paul, I could see you wanted us to succeed! This, I imagine, was particularly hard when we were working to a deadline (like with the dead drop in the park, and the solstice)
{;Distilled}; and we just weren't getting it :P
{;PAUL}; indeed - missing the meet up with Vlad was an interesting turning point in the game
{;Deni}; in any great ARG there isn't a set path it's more of an adventure in seeing where it goes :)
{;Jess}; agreed
{;PAUL}; agreed
{;Deni}; those who stick to a set path set themselves up for a fail
{;Distilled}; how different would it have been if a player went to pick up the USB and not Claire?
{;PAUL}; not that one - [that was MoA agent and in MoA] I'm talking about Vlad wanting to meet and putting SAT and NOT SAFE later on in his message
{;Distilled}; ahha
{;PAUL}; which was interpreted as FEAST ON SAT instead - which worked very well [consilience] but left Vlad not being able to directly contact players anymore
{;PAUL}; the poems being meeting and missed rendezvous [or opportunity? can’t fully recall]
{;PAUL}; it was on remembrance day at 11:11 pm
{;PAUL}; what alot of people did in MoA was 'find the poem source' congratulate themselves and move on
{;PAUL}; they failed in that one and partly in this one, to read around the text - if character quotes something -why just look for those words and source again?

Question 11 – What’s Meeka up to now?
{;Distilled}; So Meeka - what's she up to now?
{;PAUL}; Meeka - realising that Jayden is dead, that the plants are void [or so she believes at least] and having her aims quashed, is now licking her wounds and looking for immortality elsewhere
{;PAUL}; Whether she will find it - well... someone had to post on the OoO site - and there's no Jayden or It guy anymore...
{;PAUL}; solve it, read it and see...
{;Deni}; lol
{;Distilled}; will do, have to round up the gang for the final hurrah
{;PAUL}; this generally is it - unlike others, both Deni and I after this, bow out for now - leaving you with the puzzles to solve should you so wish
{;Deni}; will you be eliminating me now Paul? ^_^
{;PAUL}; not at all Deni - but Harold is dead

Final thoughts

{;Distilled}; well, I may call it a night there too then guys.
{;Distilled}; Thanks for the games, excellent job! Thoroughly enjoyed.
{;Deni}; very welcome :D
{;Jess}; yes thank you
{;Distilled}; Don't hesitate to contact me for more fun n frolics.
{;PAUL}; heheh - will - feel free to think, deliberate on anything else you want to ask for your site - will gladly answer - though you may want to work out the GTCA info stuff first.. ;)
{;Distilled}; will do, it only took us several decades to put together the human genome
{;Distilled}; for me? That’s a Wednesday afternoon...
{;PAUL}; Jess/Will - if you'd be happy to be trailheaders later on in year, please pm me any details I could contact you on again - pm me in unFiction with them ok?
{;Distilled}; will do
{;Distilled}; ta ta
{;PAUL}; ttfn Will


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