Making the ARG

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Making the ARG

Postby Dana on Fri Dec 28, 2012 5:04 pm

This is a place for the Leads to basically talk publicly about the game - what worked, what didn't, etc.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Connor Fallon on Fri Dec 28, 2012 5:42 pm

I guess a good place to start is... how this all started. Originally the TVTropes ARG wasn't going to be related to Echo Chamber at all -- in fact, at one point it wasn't even related to tropes or storytelling in general. It went through several iterations to get to where it is now, and the path it took to get there is actually kind of interesting, but it all begins with Dana.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Dana on Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:29 pm

Yeah, so, woo.

The idea for a TV Tropes ARG started in summer 2011. Tom and I were wrapping up Season 1 of Echo Chamber, and we posted a few videos made by our characters in order to promote things like the EC twitter account, facebook page, blog, etc. A few people commented on the videos saying that that seemed like the start of an ARG. I didn't know what an ARG was, so I looked it up. It sounded AWESOME.

Tom and I pitched the idea to Eddie, who was totally on board. He put out a call for wannabe Puppetmasters, and we were all on a Skype chat together pitching ideas. The problem was, they weren't useable. So I met with Eddie and asked him to send me to a conference so I could learn more about ARGs before we started really planning one.

I went out to ARGFest in Bloomington, Indiana, where I met Eric Kays. He had already run an ARG at his school, a small scale one designed to get people learning about something political (I forget, sorry Eric), and was a veteran player. I learned all about ARGs that weekend, and asked Eric if he'd be interested in joining my ARG team. He was excited to do so.

I hadn't done all that much in the way of game design, so I asked my friend Connor Fallon, the best game designer I knew (I didn't know many at the time :P) and the president of our school's Game Creation Society, if he'd help. He accepted after much poking in the ribs. I also asked Tom, who gave me a space to really explore long-form storytelling and who had been doing it for far longer than I, if he would become a part of the team. He also accepted.

So I had my team, made of of people who were infinitely more knowledgeable about everything we were doing than I was. We all sat down one day, Connor and Tom in my living room and Eric on Skype, and we tossed around some ideas. We probably still have those saved somewhere, but I remember there were some pretty cool ones we wound up scrapping.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Tom on Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:35 pm

We definitely have those ideas lying around. They are all hilariously bad.

I throw nothing away ever! :D
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Connor Fallon on Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:41 pm

Dana, I'm still the best game designer you know =P

If I remember correctly, the original TVTropes ARG involved something like secret societies and historical factions that go back generations. One of the things I was pretty insistent upon after being on board, though, was that since this was a TVtropes ARG it should somehow be related to, well, stories and storytelling. I actually wanted to do something vaguely inspired by this comic by a random internet guy, which was all about characters being forced to fit story roles by a crazy dictator.

But yes, as Tom said, we had a ton of really weird ideas at that first meeting, all constrained by that SOMEHOW RELATED TO STORIES core. I forget who originally suggested the characters coming through the wall thing, but as soon as that idea was on the table it all really started to come together. It was a premise that just seemed to, well, work perfectly for an ARG.

I also thought it made sense to bring Mr. Administrator on board, as he is the fictional head of TVTropes. (Don't bring this up with him. Mr. A and Fast Eddie have gotten in fights about this.) We thought that he would be the one who caused all the chaos, as he is constantly messing with the barrier between fiction and reality. This project actually dramatically influenced the direction of Mr. Administrator as a character -- there was a time when he was going in a very different direction, which Tom has brilliantly covered up.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Dana on Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:42 pm

Connor Fallon wrote:If I remember correctly, the original TVTropes ARG involved something like secret societies and historical factions that go back generations. One of the things I was pretty insistent upon after being on board, though, was that since this was a TVtropes ARG it should somehow be related to, well, stories and storytelling.


Firstly: It was literally going to be between these two factions: The Sheep and the Goats. Yeeeah.

Second: That's kind of what we all wanted :P That's why we had that first meeting and scrapped Sheep/Goats pretty much immediately.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Connor Fallon on Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:45 pm

Dana wrote:
Connor Fallon wrote:If I remember correctly, the original TVTropes ARG involved something like secret societies and historical factions that go back generations. One of the things I was pretty insistent upon after being on board, though, was that since this was a TVtropes ARG it should somehow be related to, well, stories and storytelling.


Firstly: It was literally going to be between these two factions: The Sheep and the Goats. Yeeeah.

Second: That's kind of what we all wanted :P That's why we had that first meeting and scrapped Sheep/Goats pretty much immediately.


This is fact.

It wasn't easy to come up with something, though, which is why I think there were options that were not involving storytelling on the table. Like that Kurt comic I linked too, it's a cool premise, but figuring out how to actually make that work was tough. We can't electrocute people into following stories in real life.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Eric Kays on Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:51 pm

Back in 2009/2010 I had joined in playing the ARG Flynn Lives. This different form of entertainment intrigued me greatly and inspired me to look further into it. Go Google ARG now, you'll find hundreds of things that only muddle the idea of it. I only fell more in love as I waded through the murky mess. While continuing to play Flynn Lives, I was approached by the Vice President of an organization I've been working with for a few years now to produce a small ARG for their students. I did and pulled together 10 or 20 dedicated students and 100 who participated in a live event at the organization's national convention. It was a blast to create and was one of the most stressful events I've ever produced...

Then I met Dana.

I'd heard about ARGfest back in 2010... a month after it had ended in my own backyard... and decided to go to the 2011 event in Indiana. That's where I met... her. She was a short dame with a cute face. And she had a badge that said she was representing TV Tropes. Turns out that this girl was working on the webseries "Echo Chamber" whatever that was. In any case, we had our adventures together... mostly breaking into the brief case of one Martin Agett...

A few weeks later she contacted me and asked if I wanted to work on TV Tropes' ARG. By this time I knew how awesome she really was (okay, lets be real, Dana is awesome the moment you meet her) and accepted the invitation. Little did I know that 17 months of my life would be sucked away....
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Tom on Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:52 pm

It was Connor who fixed the concept behind Mr. Administrator, or who at least got the conversation going which led to the fixing. He was the least tolerant of the bullshit explanation we used to have.

I do remember who came up with the fictional crossing thing. It was me. I know that because I know where I stole it from. It was an homage to TV Tropes the TV Show.

Refictionalizing characters by writing stories about them was Dana's brilliant contribution.

Figuring out how on earth to actually make these things work was definitely Connor and Eric. I generally wave my arms around and say YES DO THAT while other people do things.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Dana on Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:53 pm

Aww Eric...you think I have a cute face? <3

Also yeah, Tom, the old explanation was super awful...though vaguely entertaining. And no, it will pretty much never be shared.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Eric Kays on Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:15 pm

So at about the time we really started discussing the process for refictionalization, I was getting into studying the Scream series. I was inspired by the rules of horror films that they used to make the film what it was. So I wrote out a series of rules related to refictionalization... You can tell which elements we used and didn't use.

Rules of fictoids part 1:
1: a fictoid exists only because someone wrote about them. Even if the
character exists in thought they don't become reality until their
existence is written on a page, painted on canvas or exposed on film.
2: even when the fourth wall is broken, only well written and well
known fictoids can cross over. Their existence must be solidified by a
fan base or by lasting effects in writing. Otherwise they just
disappear.
3: unless highlighted by a fan base (like derpy in mlp: fim [edit: I'm a brony. WHAT NOW?!?]), only
main characters or figures can cross over into the real world. They
have the most defining features and should be the most 3 dimensional.


Later on in the game when we decide that the players will return
fictoids to the fictional realm:

Rules of fictoids part 2:
1: to return a fictoid to their universe a series of elements must be
put together about their fictional life to draw them back to the pages
from whence they came. A three act structure, a new trope not seen in
the characters arc, and the sweat of a fan.
2: the more prominent of a figure in the real world, the more stories
must be created.
3: at least one character will refuse to be sent back.


And when we reach our finale.

Rules of fictoids part 3:
1: the fourth wall must be fixed before all universes collide together
and rip the space-time continuum apart.
2: until the fourth wall is fixed, reality must be thought of as fiction.
3: all fictoids must be returned to their respective universes,
otherwise a hole will remain in time and space.
4: the main character must sacrifice themselves to fix the fourth
wall. (this means Joe).
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Dana on Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:20 pm

We also went back and forth on what to call characters.

Fictoid, fictite, character...I'm glad we kind of mostly settled on fictionals.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Tom on Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:21 pm

The last bit blows my mind because I did not remember we'd ever discussed that idea, prior to when Alex mentioned a player sacrifice a month and a half before Cthulhu attacked.

Fictite was a reference to TV Tropes the TV Show.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Connor Fallon on Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:29 pm

Okay, time for another really long post. =) Not long by Sicon or Raikes standards, but, long still.

We really wanted players to have to use TVtropes as a tool at some point during the game -- after all, the game was being bankrolled by the website -- so we came up with the fact that tropes would have to be included in the stories. The question then became, however, where would they come from? How would they connect to the characters?

One game which served as inspiration was Silent Hill: Shattered Memories on the Wii. The game includes many clever elements, but one of my favorites here was in game implementation of echos of past events that could only be seen in your phone. When you snap a picture of these, you'd get an text or a voice mail detailing the event... sound familiar? In the game, this was more of a side thing, and pretty underutilized, and there was a lot you could do with the idea.

So we pretty much directly adapted that idea for this game -- I always felt, ever since playing it, it would be cool to try to implement it in reality, and that is how the Layar elements got involved, as our approximation of this mechanic. The echoes of past events were explained by being moments when characters had been brought closer to their fictional origins -- places where their lives had invoked tropes.

Originally the Echoes were all going to be videos, but the production requirements of that were way too high. This was a point of much concern and anguish... until Eddie told us that he'd been talking to some professional comic artists about doing art for the ARG. I actually think it was I that was like NO THIS IS PERFECT WE ARE TURNING ALL THE VIDEOS INTO COMICS.

And it was.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Tom on Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:35 pm

I believe it had something to do with how Eddie said basically, yeah I have this guy, Gabriel Guzman. He worked on stuff you might have heard of, like BATMAN.

What were we really gonna say to that?
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Connor Fallon on Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:38 pm

"What? Batman? PSSSAHHHWWW. No one cares about Batman anymore."

One thing that was interesting about that is that we had a hard cap on the number of comics they could provide us. We had to cut a few comics as a result, and get some of our awesome artist friends to cover the other.

I can't remember which ones we cut though. Which is a sure sign they didn't really matter.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Eric Kays on Sat Dec 29, 2012 1:16 am

I think what was really sad to me about the cuts that we had to make were that we had to cut down the scripting to fit within the comic format. Turns out walls of text do not a good comic make, so entire comics that were hilarious due to length were rewritten so much they barely resembled their original form. One I wrote concerned Don Juan who was addressing a group of women. This one was used, but it was heavily rewritten. I was especially proud of it due to it being a parody of a Monty Python skit, which you can see still if you really try.

It was around this point (I think) that we started gathering troops to approach this project. We knew we would need more help with this, mainly in writing the characters (I hope you've all had a good chance to see a comment or two at least from the different writers for each character), and in creating, designing and implementing the puzzles. Looking back, I'm not even sure how I personally thought that I could gauge half of that based on my experience. After all of this, I think I have a much stronger perspective on what to look for in both writers and technicians behind the scenes. The main shout outs I'd like to make personally go out to Rick Healey and Sophie Hamilton who really took up more than they were told they would do and brought life to this game that I'm not sure it would have had. I'd like to apologize to them for the crap they waded through to work on this game, and thank them for the excellent service that they've provided.

Sophie is especially our hero for learning how to work the phone systems that we created. She single-handed learned how to design and operate the systems. Rick has been our man for almost anything as well, checking on the quality of pieces and running through puzzle after puzzle to ensure that they were at least solvable.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Tom on Sat Dec 29, 2012 1:30 am

I legit did not know that Sophie didn't know how to do phone systems before this game. She just always struck me as such an expert, and her systems always imitated real ones with such verisimilitude, that I just assumed she had been making them for years.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Connor Fallon on Sat Dec 29, 2012 1:32 am

Tom wrote:I legit did not know that Sophie didn't know how to do phone systems before this game. She just always struck me as such an expert, and her systems always imitated real ones with such verisimilitude, that I just assumed she had been making them for years.


One of the things that really made this ARG come together is that literally EVERYONE stepped up to do more than they originally knew how to do, filling roles of all sorts and doing whatever needed to be done.

We will have to talk more about the way we went about recruiting people after the four of us (Tom, Dana, Eric, and Myself) later.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Rick Healey on Sat Dec 29, 2012 1:52 am

I'm kind of in a special position, because I'm one of the extremely few (probably just Dana, Fast Eddie, and myself) that had any hand in the first, abortive attempt at an ARG for TV Tropes.

I knew what ARGs were from previous experience playing Perplex City, and even organizing a local event for the game. I had seen the original ad seeking puppet masters, and I leaped at the chance, because it sounded like so much fun. I think I was picked in that batch because I was one of the few who could actually cite ARG experience, even if only as a player.

I seem to remember the "Sheep vs. Goats" thing to be more metaphorical, but I remember a bunch of spinning wheels without actually developing too much. I do recall that part of my proposed puzzle drop involved digging up an area near one of America's first subway stations. In retrospect, particularly as they were working on that subway station around that time, it was probably a very dumb move.

I wish I kept track with more of the folks involved with that. We were all extremely enthusiastic. The problem was that we were a jumbled collection of ideas. We didn't have defined roles. We didn't have a solid direction. We were cats, and Dana was looking to herd us all. I remember being disappointed that the ARG was being canceled (with no word if it would ever be picked back up again), but I wasn't surprised. I was only half-finished with the puzzles I had to create, and I was probably furthest along in the process.

Returning when they announced applications for the ARG was certainly interesting, as I wasn't sure if anyone involved would even remember me. What didn't help is that, admittedly, I probably did the worst writing of my last ten years or so in that application; when I looked back at it, I wasn't terribly hopeful about getting picked. I figured it was my experience with Perplex City, once again, that got me into the ranks of the puppet masters. That said, my role was vaguely defined when I got approval.

If anything, I'd say that both me and the ARG had to grow into each other in order to work.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Dana on Sat Dec 29, 2012 10:37 pm

So where does Joe fit in to all of this?

Well we realized that this world we were building was quickly becoming unapproachable. How do we get you, the players, inside of it when we kind of almost literally constructed a wall around it? It's not like any of the characters can reach out to tropers, and Mr. A...well, there's really only so much that he can do. And so much sympathy that he as meant to garner in the early stages of the game (none). Besides, he was part of Echo Chamber canon. We weren't sure how many people would be interested in something that only he had to say, or whether they would dismiss it as a weird advertising ploy.

So we came up with the idea for a character - given the placeholder name of Joe while we tried to think of something better - who was a normal, average guy who got sucked into all of this. He was meant to be an audience surrogate sort of character. We figured he would have a show on Youtube that started shortly before the game, which would lead into the events of the game.

This show was originally called Penny Dreadful because that's the sort of feel we wanted to evoke - something between a pulp novel and a Vincent Price film (you can kind of see that in the opening sequence and the theremin music). Unfortunately, NO ONE BUT ME liked the name. So we scrapped it maybe a month, maybe two, before the game started and tried to think of a new name, one that was less awesome. We had casted Alex by then, so we asked for his input. He said the show would probably elicit the response of WTF? So we worked backwards from there. I came up with Watch The, and Tom come up with Footage. The name was born.

Joe was supposed to be a bit more of an active character once the forum was up. We had hoped he would have updates every few days, but we never really knew what sort of things would happen in the calendar when, so we couldn't write or film them in advance. That meant that, once the game was running in full swing, writing for more Joe episodes sadly fell to the wayside as we released more characters.

Interestingly enough, Edward was a late addition. We realized Joe couldn't have made the intro sequence himself, so he thanked his friend Edward (Alex's suggestion...Alex, who actually made the intro sequence himself). Later, we realized he could be made into a bigger part (read: an actual part). And we figured out along the way what sort of role we wanted him to play.

So Joe was always designed to have you all better connect with him and therefore connect to the world that Mr. A was trying to introduce to everybody. I wish we had kept up some more momentum on his side of things as far as continuing to produce the Joe films with any sort of frequency, but...hindsight, I suppose.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Connor Fallon on Sat Dec 29, 2012 10:53 pm

Dana wrote:We weren't sure how many people would be interested in something that only he had to say, or whether they would dismiss it as a weird advertising ploy.


Which some did, anyway. We will have to cover Launch Day, later.

Dana wrote:Interestingly enough, Edward was a late addition. We realized Joe couldn't have made the intro sequence himself, so he thanked his friend Edward (Alex's suggestion...Alex, who actually made the intro sequence himself). Later, we realized he could be made into a bigger part (read: an actual part). And we figured out along the way what sort of role we wanted him to play.


I think the evolution of Edward from a throw away excuse for the intro to a full, central character was something that was really interesting to watch. It wasn't planned or done in response to the players, he just kind of... grew organically. Things kept being added to him that made sense in the universe and made him more important to the tone, like his reluctant understand of the Cabal that later grew into sympathy.

I think part of the reason Edward grew so much came from the simple choice to make him a forum Admin -- he was a main point of contact, and when that happens, a character must be fleshed out or he quickly becomes one-note. There was a bit of a trade off, here, though, in that Edward took a role on the forums that Joe might have taken otherwise, and this exacerbated the problem Dana mentioned of him falling by the wayside.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Tom on Sun Dec 30, 2012 6:38 am

I've said privately many times that, if I were to do the game again, many decisions would remain unchanged. The IP we worked in lent itself fantastically well to an ARG, especially the traits of Mr. Administrator as an employer... et cetera.

But the biggest thing I would not change are the people we brought on board to make it, or the jobs we had them do.

In the beginning, it was four of us, Dana, me, Connor, Eric, meeting on Skype. Eddie would poke us frequently for signs of progress. He was patient, supportive, and gave us the assets we needed in order to do what we needed to do. It was slow going, and it was hard to tell one week from the next. We worked in messy Google docs with me as secretary.

(Google Drive hadn't yet come around. It would come into being about a month before the ARG went live, and it was our salvation. I'm getting ahead of myself.)

This situation lasted for the first six months. The four of us were pretty good with concepts, and decent writers, designers, filmmakers, etc. But we couldn't build something as big as we wanted to build. It was just too sprawling and too technically ambitious for us.

So we opened it up. We had people send in resumes through TV Tropes. We talked to our game designer friends. We put writing samples in a big ol bucket and sifted carefully through them all (great practice for reading refic's).

Someone very smart once said that good management is hiring people smarter than you, and giving them jobs you could not possibly do.

The team we ended up with was this oddball mixture of students and teachers, professionals and amateurs, led by the second youngest member of the group, spread over five countries (our four, depending on how you count Puerto Rico--a question soon perhaps to finally be settled).

The writers all had clear strengths and weaknesses. Raikes was prolific and purple in a very Victorian way, perfect for Sherlock and Poirot, who needed to explain their inner thoughts and machinations in great detail. Ben's writing was bizarre, off-kilter, and surprising: Quixote. Val was used to collaborating on game projects, and had an eye for dramatic twists and turns, so we gave her Gulliver and Romeo. Mark's work was versatile, so we gave him a plateful of pathos with Adam and a more comedic role in Long John. Elizabeth was a tireless researcher with a rich understanding of the human condition, and we trusted her most to impersonate a therapist. Megan's strength was emotionally-expressive poetry, which is exactly how I'd describe Juliet's monologues. Bill had an overabundance of enthusiasm and energy that immediately suggested him for Pan.

We tried to give writers characters they loved. This was a big factor, though not everyone had all the source material memorized at first. In the course of research, some of us rekindled old loves, others found new ones.

We'd written up outlines for each character's arc, but the writers were now loosed on them. They proceeded to cut up the outlines and write new ones that were better.

There were two other people we added at this phase. Both were get-it-done types. Us writers could design, and occasionally build puzzles, but some people had areas of expertise that were suited to implementation. These folks, we added to what we called the "interactive team", led by Connor, Eric, and Eddie, whose job was building the things the rest of us dreamed up.

Rick had a breadth of experience that was not rivaled elsewhere. He'd played ARG's, he'd edited, he spoke French, he'd written... we wanted him to check the work everyone did, help keep it on track, and help make it work. His job was basically to be blunt to everybody, and get his hands dirty wherever he saw something wasn't happening.

Sophie got to do all the messy technical stuff with Eddie. She singlehandedly figured out how to build a phone system, built websites, edited sound, and fixed puzzles that were broken. She got these responsibilities because when we auditioned her for puzzle design, she pointed out a flaw in one of our test puzzles. We figured, if she could see something wrong in five minutes that we hadn't noticed at all, she should get a position. Outside of her job description, she was also an extremely cool head throughout crises.

Carl T. Rogers, a film director, was also added at this stage, though we didn't have anything for him to do for a few months, until Bill wrapped up the Pan scripts. We were relieved, because at the time, the only film crew we had was the Echo Chamber crew, and we could not handle the film needs of the entire ARG. Bill's ideas were best handled by putting cameras in a courtroom. Carl had both.

The last major addition to the team was Alex, in the last six months. He was brought on, originally, just to play Joe. But when Dana and I were departing Pittsburgh, and the Joe/Mr. A film work turned out not-completely-done, he volunteered to take it on. He did the directing, editing, casting, compositing, animating... all by himself. By the end, this meant singlehandedly creating Cthulhu.

There were many other people who contributed in large ways to the ARG. Actors, comic artists, film people... watch the credits again if you like. Typically, these people came and went as their job was assigned, and dutifully completed. The core of the game--its final year of development and operation--was built by the people on this list. And I am going to feel like an absolute ass if I've forgotten someone crucial. The group was always juuuust too big to remember everyone.

We had a couple people join who sadly didn't stick around. One was a guy who worked in a BDSM dungeon or something. His application was unlike anything I'd ever seen. None of us really knew what to make of the application, but his writing was great. We had our Dracula! We were all thrilled, and became really bummed out when he stopped returning emails after writing a few posts. Out of respect for what we presume were his wishes, we did not use them.

One last person should probably be mentioned. David Varela, who worked on (among other things) Perplex City, came in to voice Sherlock Holmes. I won't call it a "cameo" because he recorded a lot of material for us. It was like getting Joss Whedon to agree to hold a boom mic on a student film.

That's the team, pretty much. Lots of other great people worked on it whom I'd be happy to talk about, but I'm sure I'm boring you by now.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Connor Fallon on Sun Dec 30, 2012 4:43 pm

So lets talk organization, as that was probably the next major thing, and directly follows up what Tom just posted about. Our team had rapidly expanded, and we needed to find a way to make sure that everyone was on the same page at all times, and that things were getting done. This was further complicated by the fact that our team was spread out across the globe -- with team members in multiple, widely divided time zones. So, in short, we had to go from 0 to 60 in regards to organizational structure.

We tried several things. The first was having a subsection in the TVtropes forum for our work, where everyone could post and give feedback to each other, and weekly group skype chats at 1:00 in the morning EST (So Bill might be awake. Luckily Sophie never went to sleep ever.)

This sort of worked, but it was hard to enforce actual progress over such a large group of people -- so we divided into people into smaller work groups of 3 to 4 people, who were meant to work together and critique each others stuff while Tom, Dana, Eric and I swung by to look at everything once in a while. This was a good idea in concept, I suppose, but in reality, none of these smaller groups ever met -- especially the ones that involved more international connections.

So, we wound up abandoning the TVtropes forum, and trying something else. We tried creating a private social network, which was such a non-starter I don't even remember the name of it. I think it was during this period I was the most worried, because it seemed like no one was doing anything as a result.

But then, we created the always on Puppetmaster skype chat, and it was a godsend. Once this got running... well, let's just say it did what it needed too. There was a place now where all our communications were recorded, and where people could instantly get feedback on anything they worked on. It was, however, always somewhat shocking to get online and see you had 1000 new messages.

I'm going to be honest. There were times when I feared it would all fall apart as a result of communication -- it felt far too easy for people to fall off the map, and my fears were not helped by the fact we lost our Dracula almost immediately. In the end, however, we didn't lose anyone else, and I think that was one of the signs the ARG was going to work out. Everyone on our team was dedicated enough to stick around despite these initial struggles.
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Re: Making the ARG

Postby Tom on Sun Dec 30, 2012 4:51 pm

Early on, we tried reminding people about deadlines through email blasts and large Skype voice chats. The big voice chats were helpful at explaining to everyone what the superstructure of the game was, but once we were done explaining the big picture to the new writers, the voice chats ceased to be productive. There were too many questions, too many course changes, too many cooks in the kitchen. That's why we split the group into smaller ones. It seemed like a good idea on paper.

Also, some people just didn't check their email as frequently as others, so my email blasts sometimes would not be seen in time to act on them. I could never be sure stuff we'd assigned was getting done, in those early months. People would come to me, and probably the other Leads, all the time, asking for help getting in touch with so-and-so who hadn't replied in a week. A lot of my job during the communication dark ages was putting people in touch with each other so they could do their jobs.

I do not blame any of the writers or Leads for this... learning period. We simply had to find a communication tool we'd actually use. A perpetually-open Skype text chat ended up working, to our tremendous relief.

The other thing which saved us was Google Drive, which came out about a month before the ARG went live. Until then, our notes had been scattered across word documents uploaded to the TV Tropes forums and Google docs. Alex had his videos, we had ours. The audio was God knows where. Once we got our Drive, I put everything on it and organized it. Miraculously, the organization scheme stuck, people used it, and it continued to work through the end of the ARG. In retrospect, Google Drive should have been thanked in the credits.
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