Recently in Book 2 Category
It all started when that strange, short new staff member reported in for duty just before the holidays. It claimed it came from the "home office" and that it was paid for out of someone else's budget, but it refused to give us a picture of when it was 12 years old for our staff page (claims that was before photography was invented) and didn't want a phone extention. Mike tried to distract him with the "origami-a-day" calendar, but he was more interested in our production plans for Book Three.
I think we've managed to keep his creepy tentacles out of the storyline, but I totally blame him for falling behind on the meta materials, including the amazing stories you've been telling. I'm told they are calling it the Cthecret Cthanta Worm. We call it Worst Intern Ever, but only when we think it isn't watching us.
In Book One, we asked you to show us your creativity. For Book Two, we want to encourage something a bit more in the spirit of H.P. Lovecraft -- we want you to tap the Eldritch storyteller in you and share it with everyone else. As storytellers we believe we can use anything under the Sun to tell our story, and so we believe you can too. No messy self-addressed envelopes this time around, just a quick email to inquiry at this blog's domain with a link to where we can enjoy your EE creation and the address where we should send your participatory commemoration. Those of you who have already been telling stories can count yourself a step ahead of crowd.
We've got a mystery to share with you, too. We don't want to show you the back yet, even though there isn't anything on the back you haven't already experienced. Sometimes, though, what you choose to focus on from a Book makes a detail suddenly more significant. We owe it to you let that discovery come first from inside the narrative rather than from a commemoration of it. You'll have an opportunity early in Book 3 to clarify your understanding of something you already know, and when that happens what's on the back will seem more natural and less like a reveal.
As a producer, I tend to think of Eldritch Errors as a machine with two modes: burn and coast. When the production is in burn mode during a Book, it costs more to keep Eldritch healthy. When we come into an Interlude, that cost goes down ... but if you coast too long you'll lose too much of your momentum. When Eldritch is in burn mode, I have budget goals for what I want to keep the expenses to each month in addition to GMD Studios' standing team. Budgets can be horribly boring, the mere mechanics of implementing ideas, but they can also be where you find the best "bang for the buck" approaches that make an idea a success.
What follows is intended primarily for other interactive storytellers or those really interested in the mechanics of what makes Eldritch work behind the scenes from a budget perspective as an independent production. It isn't intended as a tutorial or a comprehensive budget model. It is just one producer's notebook about ways to think about how budgets -- of live events, especially -- can become useful tools for both qualitative goal setting and for making small budgets look bigger than they are.
In any unfolding mystery, speculation is at least as important as evidence. Now that I'm working on the new Evidence section for the Eldritch Errors main experience site, capturing that community speculation into pages about individual elements of the story is proving a challenge. After all, I don't want people to read into that speculation any "official status" but, at the same time, want to provide a springboard for new participants into the theories of their peers.
So I'm going to need your help. In the perfect world, we're writing all of each Evidence page except for the "speculation," where we're faithfully curating your various takes on the topics. This would be the place to help us do that, by posting your comments here with references on the best of that speculation. If you're feeling really froggy, start a Sentry Wiki page and submit that as your link!
We've got 28 different topics in 4 categories to take that first swipe at an Encyclopedia of Eldritch Errors, and our plan is to launch a handful of them each week. We might as well let you dump your speculation on the whole pile of them, though, so that you can imagine how they fit together as a set.
On October 3, I received an email from Brian Clark of GMD Studios entitled "A very strange introduction". In the email, Brian excitedly but tenatively pitched to me an offer to act in the tile role in the ARG he was currently writing/producing, Eldritch Errors. He mentioned that had he not read my myspace, which talks at length about what a geek I am, and my blog, which is a dream journal, he would've been more trepidatious about approaching someone in this manner. But am I ever glad that he did!
My first introduction to ARG's came in the form of research that I had done for a podcast [episode 29] that my husband, my friend, and myself put out. The concept was difficult to grasp, at first, mainly due to the fact that our gaming background has always been in roleplaying games. In RPG's, there is a clear line between "character" and "self", or at least clearer. When you are "in game" you are not you, but a character that you have created; and when the game is over, you go back to being you. ARG's are different, in this way, because while people maintain an "in game" and "out of game" understanding, their persona "in game" is really them, the actual person. Granted, in some cases it is an amplified version of themselves, but regardless, it makes the interactions complicated on a whole new level that is not touched upon often, and most times purposefully avoided, in RPG's. There is a whole set of philosophies that I won't even begin to get into that talk about the intricacies of the relationship between character and self, but they are well worth checking out for the interested reader.
Creative players keep us honest:
if we mess up, then they'll be on us!
The Dog of Dreams
wields giggling screams:
just witness their Limerick contest!
We hate to show our cowardice,
but their humor comes sans notice!
We'd join them in play
but they keep us away
with their dreaded Terms of Service.
Can we survive the horrible pun?
Is there escape from what has begun?
Or have they unleashed
some horrible beast?
Damn, you guys are fun.
It was just two weekends ago that I traveled to the second highest mountain in West Virginia. Nine friends spent the weekend on the top of the other second highest mountain in West Virginia. Yes, apparently, there are two "second highest mountains" just miles apart from each other in the Alleghenies and much of my weekend was spent looking out over my balcony on one peak across the jewel toned hills to the other and wondering just what my friends were doing.
I also spent time reflecting on Eldritch. It is very much unlike any project that I've worked on before and, to be honest, it's not a project that I ever saw myself a part of. When it comes to "transmedia entertainment", I come from a ludic background (games and play). Eldritch is much more a dramatic narrative. Interactive fiction is such a broad term and I've worked on dozens of projects that have used it but I have never felt as connected to it as I have over the past couple weeks.
Immersive experience designers make a big deal out of the fact their storylines and productions are dynamic or branching or adaptive to the audience's agency. In reality, that's frequently more lip-service than reality, with only minor details of an experience truly responsive to audience involvement. For Scream, we had a four part set of guiding principles:
- Whatever situation the protagonists find themselves in should feel like the one we intended, however complex the real planning is behind the scenes to make that happen.
- The diversion of storylines should be intense but brief, in terms of the overall length of the Book.
- Each of the potential divergent strands should feel equally exciting even if they are different.
- The Scream, a shared experience, is the climax, not the live event (which isn't a shared experience.)
You can join in the chat using the ARGNet chat, just enter your nickname and use stfeline for the channel. If you'd like more detailed instructions, check out this unfiction thread. For those already familiar with IRC just head on over to irc.chat-solutions.org and join #stfeline.
We hope to see you there, but if you can't make it or would like to revisit the evening, we'll be sure to link to a log of the chat from this post after the fact.