By John Walker on April 26th, 2012 at 9:00 pm.
I am at once intrigued and concerned by the announcement of a new project from Lexis Numérique. Alt Mind’s plans to be a “transmedia” game, launching this Autumn, that will take place on websites, smart phones, and presumably in the real world too. The concerns? Well, first, it’s created by Orange, and although some of the best ARGs have been sponsored, that’s not normally something you learn up front. And second, it thinks it’s doing something wholly original. Which is rarely a good sign.
Calling it “an exciting new approach to interactive fiction,” worries me, because it suggests a lack of awareness of the field it’s entering into, and a suggestion that the wealth of lessons to be learned by the mistakes of those who have gone before aren’t being acknowledged. However, they rather splendidly confuse me by then pointing out that Orange has been getting involved with transmedia projects since 2009, and in fact have an entire division devoted to it.
Of course, being 2012 this one is focusing heavily on apps and casual gaming, where players will need to work together online to unravel the detective fiction mystery. And rather importantly, it’s going to be episodic, which will hopefully prevent it from becoming unwieldy, as the genre is prone to do. Generally when a game is played collaboratively, it pretty quickly becomes exclusionary. Hopefully an episodic model, and an emphasis on the casual market, means they’re working hard to prevent this.
And teaming up with Lexis is great too. These are the people who now mostly publish games, but originally created the absolutely revelatory In Memoriam – a stunning (until the terrible last third) puzzle game that, for the first time in at least my experience (with some possible exceptions such as Spycraft) had you task-switch out of the game and involve the real world to solve it. It meant visiting websites both genuine and those faked by the developers (and never being quite sure which were which) to uncover clues from a serial killer to rescue some hostages, and its mixture of media was absolutely compelling. It then, for inexplicable reasons, descended into a bunch of crappy board puzzles, but forget that. These guys really knew what they were doing. While the games they’ve made since have been interesting, none has matched In Memoriam for its genre-rattling outstanding nature. I’d love to see them doing something like that again. However, with Orange heavily involved, I doubt it will be this, which I can’t imagine won’t be trying to sell those portable telephones, and “web TV”, whatever that is.
I realise I’ve not explained the game itself, and that’s because I don’t have a clue. This trailer will ensure you don’t have one either: