Presentation on theme: "Jeep Barnett Adam Foster Kyle Davis Valve Portal 2 and Tf2 Alternate Reality Games Q&A Hi, I’m Jeep. This is Adam and Kyle, and we worked on some."— Presentation transcript:
1Jeep Barnett Adam Foster Kyle Davis Valve Portal 2 and Tf2 Alternate Reality Games Q&A Hi, I’m Jeep. This is Adam and Kyle, and we worked on some of Valve’s various Alternate Reality Games.If you don’t know what an ARG is, don’t worry because I don’t either. But for the purposes of this talk let’s say that an ARG is a meta game that involves community investigation across many forms of media.
2Why ARG? Fictional Grounding Retrospect Historical Research New ContentCall to ActionRewardsBefore we get into specifics, let’s talk about why we thought it was valuable to spend time running these ARGs and some reasons you should consider it.First they help us solidify our fictional universes by cross-reference things that appear in the games. They also allow us to expand the fiction in ways that aren’t always possible within the constraints of the game.Inevitably, fans will latch on to crazy theories about our games. So ARGs have given us a way to use retrospect to vindicate their observations, tie up loose ends, and double down on the things that are resonating.For Portal, it’s given us a chance to get hands on with antique computer technology. This research has been a useful point of reference for our time capsule settings and dialog. For a fantasy game it might be interesting to spin the ARG around historic spellbooks or witchcraft, and introduce fans to those real world paralells.We love shipping incremental new content and this has been a great way to create events that get players excited.Doing a blog post or a trailer a great expository way to communicate with fans, but we work in an interactive medium. So ARGs are communication channel that calls for players to interact and take ownership over information.Finally, it’s given us a way to reward our most loyal fans with cool backstory, concept art, and temporary insanity... which is sometimes fun.
3Some ARGs ApertureScience.com Portal 2 ARG Potato Sack Pyromania ARG Mann vs Machine ARGHere’s the ARGs I’m going to talk about today. The mechanics and technical details involved are kind of insane, so I’m only going to do a very high level overview. That way we can leave you guys plenty of time to drill us on the specific details that you’re most interested in.So, let’s jump right into it!
4ApertureScience.com Flash Website Hacking Terminal Questionnaire “The Cake is a Lie”Rattman PasswordCompanion Cube’s Holiday VaultCave JohnsonAfter The Orange Box and Portal were announce, there was actually some confusion around if GLaDOS and Aperture Labs would be in Portal or if it was just a joke for the trailer. So Chet and Erik decided to build ApertureScience.com to cement the fiction with early fans, and test some comedy narrative ideas.The website starts out with an terminal prompt and after some investigation opens to a ludicrous questionnaire. Some of the questions were about cake and hidden in the text was the message, “The Cake is a Lie.”All this happened while Portal was still in development, and back then the game actually didn’t have any mention of cake… it was just something we had talked about. But the cake was such a big hit on the website that we had to find a way to work it back into the game. This of course lead to the ending that we came up with late in development.The site also had the first appearance of Cave Johnson, who became a more important figure in Portal 2.
5Portal 2 ARG Radio Signal Minigame SSTV Images Hashed BBS Number ASCII ScreenshotsModified EndingWe decided to announce Portal 2 by having fans uncover it inside of Portal itself!We added a minigame where players could carry radios to hidden areas of reception and hear strange signals. These sounds were encoded images that lead players to call a Bulletin Board System at Adam’s house.And the BBS streamed ASCII images; the first screenshots of Portal 2 ever released. Over the next few days Adam swapped in more screenshots for it to stream.After players uncovered this we updated the ending of Portal to show Chell being dragged back in the laboratory by the Party Escort Bot.
6Potato Sack Potato Fools’ Day Glyphs Aperture Logins Concept Art Seattle Map LocationsNew Content for 13 Games“Nelipot” & DinosaurThe Announcement ARG was extremely well received and so we decided to ramp up to something crazy for Portal 2’s release. Some would say “too” crazy.We gathered a bunch of indie guys that we were big fans of to ask them if they’d be interested in doing a massive cross collaboration kicking off on April Fools’ Day.Each game added several hours of new gameplay content and embedded puzzles of all kinds, some spilling out into the web and real world spaces. All of this information lead to the final countdown atOne of our goals for this event was to create as much noise as possible. Since there was no consistent source of information no one knew what was designed, speculation, forged, or bizarre coincidence.All this beautiful chaos took on a life of it’s own and still years later people speculate that anything we say or even “this presentation” might be part of the ARG.
7Pyromania ARG Mystery Items Eliminating the Impossible Banana Crafting GoldfishBanana PeelDamaged CapacitorEtc.Eliminating the ImpossibleBanana CraftingPoopy JoeAsh PilesThat was a big success for us and are partners. But for TF2 we wanted to see if we could get these same viral effects, while scaling back the scope to a much smaller team.So in celebration of the final Meet the Team video, “Meet the Pyro”, we wanted to get players excited without spoiling what exactly the update would be about.In TF2 players earn persistent items over time and can craft them together into other things.So we started dropping mysterious junk items like banana peels and pocket lint to misdirect what we were actually planning. Each player could produce a single part of a large code by crafting 2 bananas together.This caused thousands of players to form roving packs that hopped from server to server, giving bananas to everyone and collecting codes.At the same time a smaller group of technically-minded players developed tools to stitch the codes together and make sense of the whole thing.Within a few hours over 100,000 players had participated and revealed the riveting backstory of monkeynaught, Poopy Joe. All of this tied into the new map that came with the update, but was ultimately a bunch of red herrings when we unleashed the surprise, Meet the Pyro.In the end we burned all the mystery items into piles of ash which collectors could craft into valuable items.
8Mann vs Machine ARG Carrier Tanks Gray Mann in Will Melted Capacitor EquippingHigh Fives“Walked into a bar,” JokePGP WordlistFinal RecipeBlood Brothers AlertFor Mann vs Machine wanted to scale things up a tiny bit while targeting the 2 groups of players that we stumbled onto in Pyromania.So we turned the grunt work of collecting codes into the fun activity of high-fiving as many people as possible and collect their “Jokes.”For the technical players we wrapped in the puzzles in more layers of encryption and spanned new interesting mediums such as QR codes, printer spools, and MIDI files. This kept things going a little longer so that anyone who wanted to participate had the chance.All of this unlocked a final recipe that required the community to bring together an assortment of unusual materials. The result fired off a global alert in the game with a link to the big new TF2 comic as a reward.
9Some Takeaways Different Scopes Callbacks Verifiable Redundancy Levels of ParticipationSo what can we take away from all this?- We think it’s possible to run these types of events at almost any scale.Calling back to old mysteries not only taps into the communities creative musing, but it also makes our accidents look like clues we’ve been planting all along.Giving players ways to repeat and verify data is a great way to combat the trolls who can inject chaos into your systems.Plan for players who are going to have different levels of investment and skill. Leave fun collection activites to large groups, tougher puzzles to small groups, and let them form symbiotic jobs for each other.
10Jeep & adamf & kyled @valvesoftware.com And that’s the overview. We have about X minutes to answer anything you want to know or you can always us.
11Ascii cakeApertureScience.comPicture with caption
12Rattman passwordApertureScience.comPicture with caption
13Holiday vaultApertureScience.comPicture with caption