Arg Hub Discussion

Discussion in 'General' started by Anashel, Aug 9, 2014.

  1. Anashel

    Anashel Puppet Master Staff Member

    Bats, thank you for this awesome report! A lot for us to learn, especially the quality of video production (and actor, and video producer behind it, etc....)

    Quick question, you say you find the interface much better then the Situation Room, do you have any picture that could help us better understand this? The only thing I found is stuff like that:
    [​IMG]

    And it's look like a really poor indie project with no UI budget. Even if you could move in 3D, missing basic shading and environment mapping.

    [​IMG]
    Hard time to compare that to our gate 33, Qadhos Scarab, Situation Room, etc... I'm clearly not finding the right screenshot from CC or maybe we are wrong in the way we design our gate room and this style is 'the new black'! =)
     
  2. TheChosenOne

    TheChosenOne Active Agent

    I know I have said this before, but personally I am not a fan of hub based ARGs at all. To me it always feels a bit artificial. The thing is that the missions themselves are always a lot of fun, but what I have been asking myself is "do we need a hub like this to deliver a mission to the player?" Some of Funcom's early ARGs also used a hub (such as the Sanctuary of Secrets), but personally I am a much bigger fan of the ones that didn't (such as The Photo and They are Coming Back).

    Hubs over-all just feel less organic and make you more aware that this is a game, which takes away from the over-all ARG experience and give a feeling that is closer to playing a game rather than experiencing something that is "real". A lot of it though comes down to the use of said hub. What is often done is having the hub being acknowledge in the lore by having it being created for the player by "Organisation X", but that doesn't really help. Over-all I am still a fan of the more free ARG experience with alternating websites and social media platforms.

    But keeping that in mind, I actually like what I am seeing from the new hub. It seems to have a lot of useful tools and information that the community could really benefit from. With rooms, classes and missions and everything this is bound to become a very indepth game. I just hope that you guys don't become fully dependant on the hub and to be honest I am a bit scared that this is what will happen. ;)

    I did really like having a Division66 Twitter account and all the countless websites you created in previous ARGs though, you guys did a great job with that and I hope we see a lot more of that in the future!
     
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  3. Anashel

    Anashel Puppet Master Staff Member

    We have experiment a lot with ARG having hub or not having hub. I can say with a lot of confidence that raid of 2000 peoples would never have been possible without the hub. For solo mission, the hub is good only for new players who are learning the rope. It become usefull only for group mission, especially when the hub start to behave differently for one players to another. It's also the way to have and official line of communication that can give much more informations then Twitter.

    Also keep in mind the hub is a major tracking tools for us; to know where people are, how many people are at what stage and where the game is heading since we have to shoot realtime the next stage. Without it, i'm unsure we could ever be able to make a custom storyline like we do.

    That said, if you feel the hub is removing experience from the ARG, then there is something we don't do correctly with the hub, since it should be the opposite!

    //edit
    I think we should start a separate thread for the hub topic, it is extremely interesting for a brainstorm and I don't want to 'derail' the Cloud Chamber thread.
     
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  4. TheChosenOne

    TheChosenOne Active Agent

    That is a very good point. It is also one of the reasons why this particular ARG might be more beneficial of a hub than others. Normally speaking a raid wouldn't be anything that is even closely related to an ARG, but it would be a "Game" mechanic and not so much an Alternate Reality. Here it has a lot of potential to be really great though.

    This I can relate to after making a few smaller ARG. It's hard to keep track of things and having all the information in one place is great for the devs. However like I said before I feel for the players it is more exciting to spread things out.

    My biggest problem with hub design feeling a bit more artifical (other than not spreading out information and not really having to search for the "game" itself - which I personally feel is a huge part of an ARG) boils down to this:

    With Divsion 66 we would go to this website every x hours where there is a timer and a set of mission (6 in this case). This shows several things: the amount of missions has been planned and they have been timed beforehand. If this would've been handled for example via the Twitter account: "A concoy is going from A to B in approx 10 hours from now" and then a call to go to the website at the aproriate time for the mission briefing that would feel a lot more natural.

    It does however make it easier for people to catch up after the mission is completed which is advantage because I am often very busy IRL.

    Sounds like a plan. :)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 9, 2014
  5. Daedalus

    Daedalus Division-79

    Pulled from the other thread for here:

    I love the "hub" but I really hate cloud chamber's "virtual 3d database". Immersion is a big thing in games, and nothing screams that you're playing a videogame louder then weird visuals for the sake of weird visuals. The situation room wasn't perfect in that regard, but it was worlds better then those second life screenshots I see in this thread.

    In my perfect world, the hub would be the screens in the situation room, without the room itself. I'd plug a few screens into my computer and build a batcave in my basement to play from.

    My opinion anyway.
     
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  6. Anashel

    Anashel Puppet Master Staff Member

    For Division 66 I totally agree. It was a ARG preview and never meant to be the real thing. We throw this as a 'gift' in 2 days, it has nothing to do with Gate 33. Gate 33 was an ARG with some preparation, cut-scene with actor, a storyline, a sub-hidden storyline and many decision / consequence situation. (Saving the 3rd victim from the warehouse, deciding to betray your secret society, collective vote on betrayal fate, the raid and the final mission in Montreal with the vote to open or close the gate forever) ->> this can't really be compare to Div 66 'game preview'. There was no concept, it was just a mission dashboard.

    The Gate itself also had a system, with each seal powering up the artifact. For the situation room, it was the early group who found it that had to repair and power-up the room so the community can access it. Then we went with the mission dashboard (that I disliked, but it's too long to explain why we had to put it) and each TV stream had reacted both to your solo mission and to collective mission. As with the terminal.

    I always wanted the terminal to be the interface for a Netrunner playstyle, enabling net mission, corp infiltration and contract with Fixer like in Cyberpunk 2020.
     
  7. nikel

    nikel Lab 1852 - Neurals

    There are certainly pros and cons to the hubs. I understand the necessity for hubs when managing a few thousand players, but they certainly don't provide the same experience as ARGs without hubs. Off the top of my head:

    Pros
    • Management and coordination
    • Tracking
    • "One stop" for players to manage progress and changes.
    • Simple interface.
    Cons
    • Less ARG-y experience, more like an internet game.

    I agree with those above who stated that they'd like mission information and times coming through twitter for example. I might like to see built in levels within 1 site as missions, like Ugly's flathelix.com (though we lost focus on that,) or The Gate, rather than the situation room. It would allow you to track where we are in the ARG and increase (I hate this word) immersion.

    Random thoughts.
     
  8. Vicarne

    Vicarne Senior Agent

    If I had the chance to design the hub for TWB, I would set it up almost like a virtual classroom. Each room has a live feed to a main presenter, or commander if you will. Every visitor can see their screen and message/talk to the presenter to offer suggestions. A training room would be available with an automated mission for newcomers so they aren't completely lost their first day. A briefing room for new/upcoming missions including, but not limited to, a virtual whiteboard with target and background information, links to past missions for reference purposes (I know I've seen that guy before...), etc.

    I would NOT have stickied mission forums, where nothing is really gained by going through every note everyone has posted. The hub should look and feel alive when you connect to it. There should be activity constantly with field report updates, alerts about enemy activity, etc.

    Edit: If this is a true ARG, then no one should have to "Catch-up." They simply have to "join-in." I can't think of a good example (feel free to post one) where a new hire is forced to go through the organizations history in its entirety before they start work. It's almost always a trial by fire.

    I don't usually post much so this is just me throwing my 2cp into this important discussion.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2014
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  9. Sonne

    Sonne Division-79



    I agree, this is a real-time persistent environment. The "replayability" measure that is used to grade most other games should be nil. Once it happened => water under the bridge.

    That said, I think there should be a way for everybody (especially new agents) to review the backstory so they don't have to enter the current live op sounding like total noobers (or be afraid that they sound like one). I think a way this can be accomplished "in character" is to publish previous operations as a set of training modules and after action reports. For new agents coming in after it started - it will provide them the "tribal knowledge" backstory that old-timer agents learned the hard way; and it will provide a view at the way previous problems were approached and solved (would be good to include things tried that produced no results, too).


    I think the writeup for Division 66 at http://wiki.crygaia.com/view/Division-66 comes close to representing this concept as an example of content (with use of the spoiler curtain). If it were made to look like and be used as official Black Watchmen training material, that would be much better. I expect this material should be created/maintained by agents rather than head office staff due to the differences in perspective and information available. (a dedicated official wiki on the TBW website?)
     
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  10. Ugly

    Ugly Senior Agent

    Only have access to phone internet at the moment, so couldn't write anything too extensive. Thankfully, Deepthroat pretty much mirrored my thoughts so I don't have to!

    And it would make perfect in game sense to have desktop and mobile apps to securely access the intranet as well.

    Another aspect of this is that some agents could have access to parts of the intranet others don't. Like soldiers can launch drones remotely and cybertechs can monitor firewall activity, etc.
     
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  11. Santiak

    Santiak MIA

    I believe what you're describing MoPono is either already on the to-do list, or it will invariably come on the to-do list, because it's an exceedingly good idea! ;)

    In regards to the whole Hub discussion, I actually consider the Hub - such as the one we had in The End of Days, quite fitting.
    While I concur that it's not the most pure incarnation of what one might argue an ARG interface should be - in terms of the whole notion that there should be no clearly defined "game interface", in so much as that the interface should be our individual lives; "random" happen-upon websites with hidden secrets and messages that we might feasible stumble upon in our natural thirst for knowledge.

    However, marry this with the notion that we're not a group of random strangers - not entirely, anyway - but individuals who, in one way or another, have had some connection with TBW, somehow, and it begins to make sense for me personally, that we'd have a centralized spot to manage our dealings and doings as an organisation - however vague the terms of our connecting factors as "members" of that organisation may be.

    In other terms, the way I understand it, TBW isn't so much a clearly defined organisation such as any government run organisation might be, but neither is it a loosely woven group of people united by a common goal, such as various cyber activist groups, but something that falls in the gray-zone inbetween.
    It would make sense, then, that we as a group would:

    1. Like Deepthroat points out, have an outward and inward face. Something where people are introduced to the mask before they get to see the face, so to speak - not something where they get the mask pulled down over their face, and asked to play charades.

    2. That we would have some sort of organised setting to work in, but with venues to stray "off course".

    Us having a Hub wouldn't necessarily mean that we'd be glued to that Hub alone, only that we'd have a place to "organise our organisation". We might, for example, still come across the "true incarnation" of an ARG interface - happen-upon websites that have seemingly no connection to the rest of the established "lore", a perfect venue to find new Ruptures, if you ask me.
    These websites and their secrets would then need to be fed in to the Hub, by the Agents (and approved by HQ, to some extent), and these new discoveries would then become something highlighted as a Point-of-Interest to all Agents, instead of a blip somehow magically appearing out of thin air - except the times they're discovered by HQ, of course.

    Which brings me back to the slight but excellent side-topic brought up by MoPono; story and backstory.
    The above would mean that while no single "thread" is a must, a centralized location for all information would be beneficial, and might at some point come in handy.
    By no means should new Agents need to know what Website X led to, and what happened, but reading the files and journals left behind regarding Website X, might both lead new agents to new, undiscovered venues, and best of all, allow them to involve themselves in the story, without feeling they were "left out" by not having participated.

    Summa summarum:
    I do not believe a "traditional ARG" non-interface interface, and a Hub-centralized interface, are mutually exclusive. They can interact to a high degree, and interaction is, in my opinion, a bigger player in ARGs, than that buzziest of buzz words "immersion" is, which would denote an escape from reality, not an augmentation of it.

    Likewise, evolution of story is preferable to replayability, as the sense of permanency is paramount to the actions we take in life, and thus to what degree we might consider an action and its result a part of a game (open to manipulation and alteration), or reality (closed to same).

    *forcefully removes his ranting-hands from the keyboard*
     
  12. Bats

    Bats Division 93: Covert Grammatical Ops Battalion

    TCO makes a couple good points that largely sum up my overall problem with hubs, but I want to look at them each a little more closely, because I think it's important to look at the underlying reasons. I'm going to tackle this in two parts, leaving a nice break in between for coffee, a few smokes, and maybe a pint or so of good hard liquor before you have to face the second one.

    I agree completely... It's not something I tend to bring up often, because HE has decided very firmly that hubs are what works for them, and I'm not the sort of asshole who walks into the room and says "Hey, you're really great at that thing you do, but now I want you to do it entirely differently to make me happy!" Since we're having the discussion, though, I'll see if I can put words to my feelings on the matter. Maybe it'll lead to something useful... or help someone figure out just which type of asshole I really am.

    This is actually a pretty good summary of my feelings on ARG hubs in general - but it's not universal, and I think it could benefit from a little more attention on just why they make things so inorganic and game-y - and why it matters.

    In the CC thread (or some draft of it) I think I may have referred to gate in Gate 33 as being a really great looking picture of a gate, sitting on a web page, hidden implausibly (for something of earth-shaking import) behind a conveniently familiar game company's home page. Whether or not I said it (or decided it wasn't entirely accurate), it's a convenient starting point. If we were all standing around this huge creepy stone gate that HE had set up in front of us and trying to figure out what to do with it, that would feel real (hell, it would be real... it would also be utterly impractical, ridiculously expensive, a logistical nightmare, and would never actually happen... but it would feel real). Of course, games aren't actually about making things real (the whole idea is being able to do things that aren't real), and even the most convincing ARG ever would cease to be entertaining if it ceased to diverge from the real...

    With any fiction, there's something of a contract between the players and authors/devs/GMs/organizers/etc (Anashels, your term "puppetmaster" is by far the most eloquent I've ever seen for the role in an ARG, so I'll stick with that) - on the player's side, a commitment to a fair bit of Ye Olde Suspension O' Disbelief (or a whole lotta gullibility, like the kid in high school who was convinced that Illuminatus! was literal truth - especially the parts about the pirate-crewed mile-long golden submarine), and, on the puppetmaster's side, a commitment to avoid straining that fragile faith any more than absolutely necessary. What makes that contract different for us here is that ARGs have the ability to do something no other form of gaming really can, which is to thoroughly blur that barrier, and to bring things close enough to the line that players stop and wonder - even if only for a moment - "am I sure this is a game?" Hitting that point is probably the single most incredible and electric feeling I've experienced in gaming, and the first time it happens is when you truly realize just how different ARGs are from anything you've played before. It's the closest gaming will ever get to that elusive 'immersion' without wiring straight in and overriding the brain. It doesn't require the puppermaster to make everything real, either - or even particularly realistic - but it does require verisimilitude.

    verisimilitude, the semblance of reality in ... fiction. The concept implies that either the action represented must be acceptable or convincing according to the audience’s own experience or knowledge or, as in the presentation of science fiction or tales of the supernatural, the audience must be enticed into ... accepting improbable actions as true within the framework of the narrative
    - Britannica

    [thus ends the first part of our epic tale.... stay tuned for part two, when we hear bats say "What? I thought I was getting paid by the word for this shit!"]

    -Bats
     
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  13. Bats

    Bats Division 93: Covert Grammatical Ops Battalion

    Hubs 'n' Stuff Part II: Less Hubs, More Stuff!

    This is really the key, with regards to verisimilitude (the magic word of part 1). On the other hand, I don't see hubs as being inherently antithetical to ARGs or to suspension of disbelief... but the nature of the hub and how it's introduced makes all the difference.

    When an ARG is composed of decentralized elements - email/phone calls/pastebin/web sites - then, as long as the individual elements are reasonably believable, there's nothing to say (or remind you) that you're playing a game, rather than having stumbled across pieces of some strange conspiracy. Verisimilitude and immersion are both in easy reach. But, as Anashel pointed out, when the game scales up it's hard for the puppetmasters to keep track of players, and there has to be something/somewhere to bring & bind the community together (literary references aside, one ring probably won't do it. nor will buying rings in bulk, unless it's a Mormon ARG)

    Being led to a forum is often an early stage of an ARG, and one of the first hub-ish points for players - it's hard to avoid, unless you've already got an ARG community with a established base - but there are different ways it can be done. You can have a forum publicly advertised as the base for a game, with game logos and the puppetmaster(s)' email addresses on the contact page - this makes it easier to bring people in, and is sometimes the only practical option, but it becomes a place to talk about the game, rather than a place to talk within the game - a subtle or even subconscious difference, but important. On the other end of the spectrum, you can have a trail of breadcrumbs leading players to hack into HubCorp Inc's intranet in search of... something unrelated, where they incidentally discovered a disused forum system (maybe set up for a cancelled research project?). Towards the one end of the spectrum you can have known puppetmasters as active users and moderators, or, on the other, they can be completely invisible and the players can run the forums themselves (or at least they can be allowed to think the admins are just players). Any of these decisions will have a bearing on how much the forum feels like it's part of the story vs how much it feels like an interface to a game.

    Of course, with forums there isn't always a lot of choice - a lot comes down to the reason for the ARG, the business & advertising models involved, and the plot. TBW basically has to use the current arrangement because of the crowdfunding model, and because, story-wise, it wouldn't make sense for thousands of new TBW agents to be stuck going and hacking a forum in the depths of the FSB's computers or Rosenberg Clinic's (likely tiny) intranet.

    To look at something more flexible, take the Situation Room from End of Days, as it's easy to redesign as an example. (NOTE: this only a thought experiment, not a demand for a redesigned sit room. the box is not real, the cat is safe)
    [​IMG]
    As a game interface, I thought it looked great (I still really like the look)... but no amount of liquor, powders, and pills would let me believe it was a place I was actually present in, or anything that - as an agent within the narrative - I'd ever end up interacting with through a web browser. Mind you, I'd love to hang a wall full of monitors on a grid of old water pipes (because valves are cool) in the basement and put a scrolling marquee of the top reading "THE END OF DAYS IS COMING". I think it'd look fantastic. In fact, I'd probably even aim a webcam at it and put it online (and feed it back to one of the screens, because video feedback is nifty).... But that's me as a geek with a bent notion of "fun" and "aesthetics". Some intelligence agency, megacorp, or deranged cult is going to have these monitors set up for a reason, and will want a practical way to actually view them. If they're accessible online at all, it's not going to be through one camera pointed at the wall.

    To try creating the same hub with more verisimilitude, we can start by looking at real surveillance cam web interfaces...

    On the left is, of course, perfectly believable... but it's also boring as shit, and doesn't leave the option for the other interface toys that're needed for the game.
    [​IMG]
    Start flipping through some of the other products designed to cope with similar situations (minus the world ending.... probably) and we find, like on the right, more viable starting points for a design.

    Not as cool looking as monitors on pipes (and still in need of some art direction), but, more importantly, it becomes easy to sell it to players as "you're actually inside HubCorp's security control system!" because it's an interface that actually could be used for the purpose, and might, with sufficiently sloppy security, even be accessible on the web. An option to pop up a command-line debugging term for ghosthackyness wouldn't be out of place at all, nor would any number of other interface options (even a chat room - meant for the staff in especially large installations, of course - wouldn't be entirely implausible). A similar setup could even be extended to a lot of the D66 missions, as HQ could remotely override a cluster of screens to communicate, send maps, etc.

    Something like Gate 33, on the other hand is considerably trickier because, let's face it, while this big creepy stone gate may well seal away something awesome/terrible, a Flash representation of it on a web page doesn't. There's no conceivable reason that who/whatever built the gate would've included a convenient little browser app, or that researchers working on it would build a little web model that somehow controlled the real one. So, every time you go to use it, you're forcibly reminded that, no matter how engaging and exciting it is, you're playing a game, and nothing more. It may be good, or even a great game, but it'll never hit that transcendent point where you just aren't sure if it's a game at all.

    The infamous wall-of-not-actually-A4-paper is a little different. While it may not entirely make sense to be seeing this wall of paper in a browser, I've run across (and maybe even set up) some strange, awkward, and stupid collaborative office environments set up before -spread across computers, phones, cameras, fax machines, and a printer or three. Most such rube goldbergs are obsolete now with tools like Skype & Google Docs available, but it'd hardly be surprising to find some in use (especially with Skype and Google's NSA ties). If we stumbled across just one channel of such an awkward arrangement, there's no reason it couldn't have a camera pointed at exactly such an inexplicable wall of paper. If you're careful that anything done on camera makes sense in that environment and don't throw in anything to contradict it, there's no reason it can't work. Judging by how fondly people still remember that particular hub, clearly it did.

    In any of these instances, I think the way to maintain verisimilitude in a hub would be basically the same.
    1) Give the hub a form that would be practical for the purposes of whoever the narrative says it belongs to. Research real-world solutions as a design reference. Also, don't make it look like a video game. Eschew game logos in favor of corporate or software developer logos, and don't get carried away making things that're supposed to be corporate/governmental/military look too "cool" or flashy.
    2) Make sure that it's something that would be online, and that players might (allowing for our uber-L337 hacking skills & a helpful NPC) have access to.
    3) Keep these real-world usage models in mind throughout the game, and make sure anything you do with the system makes sense in that context.
    4) Don't add interfaces that wouldn't likely - probably, not just possibly - exist in the system from 1/2 (if the game can't do without them, provide them elsewhere). Similarly, use of said elements by several thousand agents has to be something the controlling org wouldn't notice.
    5) Introduce it in a way that makes sense in terms of both the narrative, and the system design from 1/2, and is believable - not just not-impossible. Having it handed down by HQ as something "made for you", like TCO said, is weak (but better than finding a hub elsewhere, coincidentally branded with your group logo or agent info). As in 3, keep this introduction in mind throughout the game - if HQ tells a bunch of agents "We haven't been able to access this hub, and need you to break in so we can discover what's happening in HubCorp", you can't later turn around and have HQ using that system to give out orders, evaluations and agent promotions.

    See? Like I said, easy!

    *cough*

    Ok, no, not easy... And, given some of the more RPGish features that TBW is meant to contain, there's a chance that full immersion and verisimilitude really aren't realistic goals. A system that could plausibly know anything at all about agent (player) stats & skill levels would already fall into the category of employer-created hubs, and finding any way to display that sort of info without very gamey terminology would take some truly heroic juggling of metaphors... but this applies to more than just hubs (and, I suppose, to more than just the core TBW ARG too).

    -Bats
     
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  14. Bats

    Bats Division 93: Covert Grammatical Ops Battalion

    Hrm... Two days, you say?

    Sooo... We get to start D67 on Wednesday, right?


    -Bats
    *ducks to Anashel's overwork-powered deathray eyebeams*
     
  15. Santiak

    Santiak MIA

    Very well written, Bats - and excellent points, most of which I do agree on.

    As you point out, verisimilitude is indeed hard to maintain as soon as any type of Interface comes into play. But I believe the problem is not only the interface, it is also the permanency - as you hint at in regards to HQ suddenly using a previously discovered and unlocked forum/terminal/surveillance, for example.

    Removing superfluous effects and art does wonders in regards to prolonging the time players might suspend that wonderous disbelief, as per the good old saying of "less is more", but the factor is not only presentation, but also time, I feel.
    If I'm greeted with a flashy intro, I know this is a game.
    If I'm greeted with a menu, I suspect this might be a game, or at the least a program with a specific purpose.
    If I'm greeted with a prompt, I suspect I'm somewhere I probably shouldn't be, or somewhere I can use a cyber-shovel.

    If either the menu options or prompts start to respond reactively to my presence and input - introducing new options or new commands - the gauge moves from being verisimilar, towards ludisimilar (just to be an arse and make up a word meaning "similar to a game" - dissimilar felt out of place). Granted, the operator(s) could be reacting to my presence, but me staying there and them offering me new toys is not the response I'd imagine getting from someone who didn't want me there - and as a result, the notion of it being a place not meant for me fades rapidly.
    I'd cease to be investigating and uncovering what others wouldn't want me to find, and would instead be playing with them, via the whole "act and react" pattern.

    In other words, however real the surveillance software I found might appear, if I'm not brought somewhere else at some point and never look back, verisimilitude decreases.

    As you mention, it's a problem that could only feasibly be solved using some clever metaphorical juggling; a narrative (strike one against verisimilitude) that explains why it's there, and why it's there for the entirety of the ARG, in this case, persistent ARG (strike two).


    This means we can try and dismantle the issue from 3 seperate angles:
    1. Interface (presentation, location, accessibility)
    2. Narrative (what binds our lives to this place)
    3. Permanence (new locations, new narratives)

    As already mentioned, the problem with attacking the issue from point 1 and 3, is that they're first and foremost interconnected. The game is permanent, and therefore it, if not requires, then benefits very much from having an interface of some measure.

    However, there's also an issue with attacking the issue from point 2, as creating a narrative to explain the reasoning, subtracts from the verisimilitude in and of itself.


    Perhaps the likely candidate isn't so much a question of how we should interpret a potential hub, but in what manner we should approach the reality we're presented with.

    First notion to spring to mind stems from the little lore we've been given by way of the Comic book character introductions: The organisation and how it fits into our reality - be it implanted or temporaly displaced.
    Either path could fit quite well, I feel, with the notion that whatever hub we happen upon, is part of something that doesn't quite fit into our lives; a shared illusion or a temporal echo made manifest.
    The permanency of the hub, as well as the fluctuations within the interface and narration, is not so much a result of "great work uncovering Secret A, now find B", but a result of the uncovering of a new shared memory, or realignment of a temporal displacement, resulting in new feedback.

    For all we know, or don't know, the Hub could be something that exists entirely in our heads, or in the space between timelines (shuts the door before the whirring noises outside gets too loud).

    As such, if the Hub is a result of memory manipulation on a massive scale, the reason it seems so "ludisimilar", is because it's the single manifestation that lacks verisimilitude in our reality - it's the very thing that drives us to investigate and question the veracity of the rest of the world around us.
    The same applies if it's the other hinted narrative; a network that was created for the specific purpose of remedying the ruptures that the plethora of temporal displacements are creating, an artificial environment created by some entity outside the issue, standing out like a sore thumb amidst our reality, by seeming artificial.

    Imagine if you will, that you're walking in a park at night. In the distance, you see a bright light. You accidentally kick a can, and the light shines a beam at you - and it notices you've seen it.
    The light then moves the beam to somewhere else, and, intrigued, you follow it. You might accidentally kick another can along the way, which in turn causes the light to flicker to a slightly different spot.
    When you manage to arrive at the illuminated area, you find a bin, and rummaging through it, you find a piece of paper.

    The trash in the park is very much an undeniable part of our reality, but the light is the ever-present unexplained factor; the one thing that reacts to our (verisimilar) discoveries, but in doing so, is the one thing in the park that lacks veracity - it's playing.
    We would all be running around said park, uncovering things hidden in the dark, but the biggest and hardest to answer question, would be what is this light that's toying with us - why is it toying with us, and why is it always there?

    Or to explain that very strained metaphore, the lights in that park are not just the street-lamps, which we wouldn't question, but that single light guiding us, which we very much question.

    I personally feel that a narrative such as that, could leave room for something as ludisimilar as a centralized, permanent Hub, but also plenty of room for verisimilar "gameplay".

    To try and sum it all up (way too late for that, but), we're not only investigating the things in the dark, we're also part of it, if not the biggest part of it, although we don't know why.

    I hope I'm making some modicum of sense, and I apologize for playing devils advocate.

    (And of course that Light shouldn't be a Disco-ball)
     
    3 people like this.
  16. Bats

    Bats Division 93: Covert Grammatical Ops Battalion

    Assuming we're talking skilled labor, while a new employee may not be taught the full corporate history, they generally are expected to have a solid background in the type of work they're being hired to do and, by extension, the history of the field. Also, when starting, there's generally a fair bit of effort spent getting them up to speed on the specific work that's being done & has been done by the department or team before they become productive.

    Analogy aside, (and true ARG or otherwise) ARG puzzles rarely exist in isolation - later puzzles in are very often dependent on facts from/solutions to/aspects of/techniques used in earlier events and puzzles. Even for an experienced player familiar with how ARGs work, trying to just "join-in" without finding out the background is going to result in a lot of questions that've been answered & guesses that've been ruled out a hundred times before. This frustrates the new player, annoys the old, clutters the forums, and slows down the progress of the community as a whole, so it's always important that new players can be brought up to speed as quickly, and with as little extra effort as possible - for their sake, and that of the community. They don't need to read every post, irc log, google doc, and wiki ever created, but they need a way to quickly pick up the relevant background and find where to look for the more obscure details in case they're needed.

    Luckily a lot of this is a fairly organic process - as current players tend to need a lot of the same sorts of resources to refer back to - but it's something that's always worth keeping in mind. It's a task for the player community, though, not something that should have any real bearing on the ARG design.


    -Bats
    Also, in context, the talk of 'catching up' was from my discussion of Cloud Chamber in another thread, and the fact that it very much isn't an ARG (and that, in CC's case, any sort of accelerated 'catching up' would, in fact, ruin the game). It wasn't in any way intended to relate to the ARG design considerations that this thread has focused on.
     
  17. Sonne

    Sonne Division-79

    I like this discussion, very good points all around.

    It seems to me that there needs to be some sort of central reference for agents, for administrative purposes at the very least and also as a starting place for agents to not be totally on their own. We are, after all, agents of an organization and the organization can have a presence of its own for administration, training & archives. There needs to be a way for agents to know where the current op is being run from, whether it be an: IRC Channel, clicky activity on a screen to maintain denial of service, a YouTube video series, a co-opted corporate network, or whatever. This presence could be as persistent as a physical headquarters and to the extent that orders get handed down, this could be one way to do it - and it could be a springboard access point for the apps. It doesn't necessarily need to be integral to playing the game every time you put your agent hat on.

    On the other hand, Bats' description of co-opting somebody else's network sounds very fun and I can see that (lets mitigate one of Santiak's points) it could be very good for running one or two ops, especially if the unsuspecting host is to be held accountable for questionable actions (we get to manufacture the damning evidence). Then, we go find another home for the next op or hang around headquarters as circumstance dictates.
     
  18. Bats

    Bats Division 93: Covert Grammatical Ops Battalion

    I'm inclined to agree. In some cases it's possible to re-run a hub mission but, there's rarely much to be gained by doing so, even for new players arriving late. I seem to have fuzzy memories of Anashel once discussing a rather interesting replay mechanism that acted as a kind of VCR or time machine - allowing an event to be replayed in realtime, including community interaction - but I was never quite able to picture it working well enough to be enjoyable while still maintaining a sane enough level of complexity to actually develop.

    I touched on this a bit in my reply to Vicarne, and I agree, I think it's absolutely essential to have some way for new recruits to be brought up to date - and doing so in as interesting and engaging a way as possible (rather than being pointed at some incomprehensible wall of vague notes and speculations in a google doc) would do a lot to make the game more approachable once it starts.

    I like the idea - and it would definitely be less painful than confronting the Wall-O-Notes (not A4), but - as it requires people to do the actual writing and I rarely do anything in-character (or perhaps never do anything out of character) - I'm reluctant to weigh in too strongly on just how it should be done.

    The crygaia summaries are a great example, and probably the minimum we should aim for.

    I'm inclined to say both agent maintained and independently hosted if possible. As for hosting, the TBW site is very much a portal for the "Black Watchmen" game - not for the organization "The Black Watchmen." After all the talk in this thread about immersion, and verisimilitude (yes, I like my word, dammit!), I think this is a relevant distinction. For better or worse, with the crowdfunding campaign and these open forums here, the site has to act in that role. Hanging the wiki off a site like that adds to, rather than reduces, the gamey feel of it - which is especially counterproductive if it's all being done IC. From a narrative angle, why would the organization have a massive and public wiki devoted in depth to the (probably quite secret) missions of a group of new agents while otherwise revealing next to nothing about themselves or their history?

    Secondly, I've been (frequently) called paranoid, but the fact is we've been given no reason to trust TBW HQ, they've done a fair bit (and had us do a fair bit) that could be considered pretty damn sketchy, and, quite frankly, I don't have a whole hell of a lot of confidence in their planning and decision making abilities. All of five minutes in deciding to launch a frontal assault on fucking FSB headquarters? That's the sort of planning that leads to body bags and job openings. So, yeah. I definitely don't trust them with handling such an important resource.

    All that aside, as I'd said in my reply to Vicarne, I'm firmly of the opinion that that sort of record keeping in an ARG should be a community responsibility. There's history that we don't know that we have to rely on the puppetmasters to give us, but it's up to us to look at the history we do know, and decide what is and isn't important. Similarly, like when facing the puzzles themselves, it's up to us to find the tools that're best suited to the problem.

    In any case, it hadn't actually occurred to me before, that, being outside TSW now, we probably shouldn't rely on CG anymore. It would definitely make sense to start putting together a new, independent infrastructure now, rather than in the chaos once the game starts. It also gives a larger window for things like planning, design, and finding a host with a bit more gravitas (and less ads) than @#$%$ wikia.

    This is probably something worth spinning off yet another new thread (sorry Santiak. honest! :p), but I'll make the offer here anyhow. I'm already paying for a (sadly neglected) webhost that I could hang another domain (and/or subdomains) off of, with zero-effort install options for docuwiki & mediawiki (and a million forums, shopping carts, blogs, and other useless crap)... but I'm a coder/admin type - strictly back-end work. I don't do wikis. If other people are willing to do the wiki-work, I'd be willing to get it running & spring for a domain (tbw.solutions? tbw.report? tbw.agency? tbw.cat? I'm open to suggestions).


    -Bats
     
    4 people like this.
  19. Vismal

    Vismal Gold Member

    A lot has been typed on this already (gosh you guys can type), am I'm pretty sure it's been mentioned, but I'll add this in: aren't we agents that do not congregate though? Since our predecessors got done in, aren't we more cautious and as such aren't all congregating in 1 spot all the time? Isn't this why we have a Hub? To protect our agents? Vismal is all for additional protection, from unknowns and other agents too (Looking at you Daedalus!).

    I'm thinking in degrees of removal from the substance of TBW, the Hub is the closest we can get to involve all agents.
    Zero Degree - You are there giving the mission out yourself, IRL, to other agents directly or feeding it in video/email/whatever. This isn't so much what a lot of casual agents will want. This is mostly toe-dipping involvement and the work done by A&S.
    1st Degree - You select and pick up orders through direct medias (internet, mail, IRL showing up at a café or lamp-post for a weird ad...etc) and work in this medium. This is the 4th wall breaking aspect of the ARG. More people will want this, but very few will endure the pressure of RP'ing directly 24/7 in this medium.
    2nd Degree - You get the information through a centralized Hub, where you have your own login (and in game terms, the Hub is hidden in the net, and constantly changes location, a superb piece of programming if I may say so, as it wouldn't be an easy feat since it needs to allow agent logins access to it). This is where pretty much all agents can agree to show up "directly" and take up missions, solve crucial social-engineered riddles and best of all; decide how much they want to involve themselves (OOC and IC!). That's why I find it a crucial medium to grab the most interested parties, but the other degrees are there too.
    3rd Degree - Getting Weird here. Have an interface that simulates someone logging in to the Hub from their office location. You aren't the one using the Hub, you're observing someone using the interface. This is more for those that like a story unfolding rather than being the story. Some people like this a lot. Also more secure
    4th Degree - You have someone play the game for you and tell you about it. This is for those that like story telling, not reading a story, but hearing a story told to them. It's like a piece of wonder that unfolds and you aren't in control of anything, except interrupting the story being told by the "storyteller".

    So yeah, the Hub is the closest we can get to getting the most agents involved and feeling secure, while at the same time, having the other options.
     
    8 people like this.
  20. Richtor

    Richtor Active Agent

    First, just for invoking Netrunner and Cyberpunk you have my undying adoration.

    I love the commentary in this thread. Really good stuff here.

    That being said, I can understand the concern with the "Hub" or anything like it. In TSW I could totally see the Illuminati and Templars having an actual website that the players could access. Each one flashy in its own way. Each one making me wonder how the hell they stay hidden.

    For this, I would almost expect it to be less UI and more prompt based. If you find the entrance (which changes daily/weekly/monthly and if you aren't in the right conversations, good look finding that node) you can enter and get information/missions/payouts/etc.

    I think it should be very low tech out of necessity. Today's society is so used to the flashy pages of sites like Yahoo, IGN, MMORPG, etc. That the average joe would run from a command prompt on a website. Especially if the page was just black with a prompt. Nothing telling you what to do. No 'Username' 'Password' bs. Just a flashing _ .

    As for 'catching up' vs. 'join in'. The closest I've seen was the Flynn Lives ARG for Tron Legacy. There were puzzles you could do after the fact, but a number of them were 'do them now, or you miss out' affairs. Or 'do them now if you want the prize, or you miss out.' I don't think that it's a bad model to use.

    Frankly, if the purpose is to simulate an actual organization then it should be 'join in' mode all the time. If you join up a year from now, the missions we have done are done. You get to participate in the current mission(s). Catch up would be reading the reports of the previous missions in your downtime so you can understand just how far down the rabbit hole you fell, or if you are still falling (more the latter, less the former heh).

    Additionally, keeping the access page to the hub simple and not using a ton of SHINY would make it easier for phones as well. Yeah I know you can do virtually everything on them anymore, but as much fun as Ingress is, it has a real simple interface. Nothing remarkably fancy. However, that kind of setup seems like a lot more work. I would enjoy a Netrunner interface style setup, but if I was playing a character in Cyberpunk who wasn't a netrunner, I wouldn't be jacking in and surfing to a node. I'd hit up my phone, let my fingers do the walking to my local fixer. Any information would either be dumped to my phone directly, via sd/usbstick, or dropbox. From there it's up to me and the team to figure shit out.

    Oh, and teams...that's a whole other topic heh. I just wanted to chip in and spout off my opinions.

    Cheers.
     
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