Sunday, March 4, 2012

The best laid plans (Part I)

I had originally intended to examine the biggest challenge that the team faced when designing the ARG. Unfortunately, there wasn't just ONE; the challenges faced were quite related to one another and almost inseparable. Not only did the team have to design the puzzles, we had to balance the difficulty, generate interest, as well as managing the created personas and interactions with participants and characters. As a matter of fact, that sounded like one too many! For today, I'll focus on one of the challenges; puzzle creation and balance.

Puzzle creation and balancing difficulty
One of the many challenges in designing the ARG was puzzle creation. It was relatively difficult trying to gauge the level of difficulty of these puzzles. It was important to draw players in, which meant that puzzles could not start off insanely hard. At the same time, we had to provide SOME sort of a challenge so as to keep our audience intrigued. In short, we had to make sure to ensure flow for our players. We tested out the puzzles on each other; some were fun and some were just mind-boggling. This mix seemed sufficient and the team started off with puzzles that could be feasibly solved within 1-2 days. In the course of the ARG, there were moments when players' ingenuity worried us, but the beauty of working in a team is that there were always other puzzles that were trickier.

In terms of Irene Peabody's clues, I struggled and worried my nails about whether the second clue could be potentially annoying. The initial idea was to use the first edition of the book and to use the copy available in the IU Lilly library. This would be a great way to get students and faculty to use the library and be more aware of the resources we have on campus. However, this meant that non-IU players might not have access, which reduces our pool of players. Then, there came the issue of specificity. How could I ensure that it was the correct book? I will forever be indebted to Gordon Foster. Using the ISBN number, this became less of an issue. You would have thought that this was an easy solution; but in reality, the obvious answer came very much later. Sometimes, the obvious solution is not as apparent!

What are the kinds of challenges do you think ARG developers run into? What are the ways that we can preemptively handle them or this is just a fantasy?

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