TerraQuest Game Offers Mystery, Intrigue and Big Bucks

Some ARGs have set up their own forums and chatrooms. Are you considering doing that?

We've had requests saying "Why don't you have your own bulletin board? Why don't you have your own chatroom?" And the problem is we have to maintain pretty much a hands-off from an advantage point of view to anyone, and if we have a chatroom in English, then we'd need to have a chatroom in Italian, or whatever language we have in the countries that we work in. That's not something that we can do ourselves. We can sit back passively and watch it, but we really can't initiate it on our own.

As far as collaborative play goes, is it okay for people to form teams to play, if they want to?

We actually have no opinion on that, neither legally nor operationally. People will do what they need to do and that's part of the game itself. If they want to collaborate, I expect that they will. If you're really having fun with this and you have two or three of your best friends, you may collaborate to play and how you do that is your job. So if you submit the winning answer and you've had four people playing along with you and helping you, it's up to you to divide that money up four ways or figure out how you're going to handle that. We know that there will be collaborative effort but we really have a neutral position on it. We create the game and we let our players decide to a great degree how they want to go about playing it.

Speaking for myself, that's something I really appreciate about this, the hands-off attitude about game play. To me, that's refreshing, as opposed to being spoon-fed everything and being guided down a very narrow path of how you want the players to act.

Well, we know we can't control that and we don't even want to try. I think if they start encroaching on the integrity of our game with what they do, we might have a different opinion on it, but in terms of their ability to play and collaborate and do the things that they want, this is the way life is, you know? It's interesting, one of the issues we had from players straight out of the chute was "Gee, you've got a 48-hour lag time on a clue response. I want it instantaneously!" Well, welcome to the real world! You're not going to get it instantaneously in any other situation. This is the way the game is designed. We tried to pattern as much as we can after real life, so people can actually become involved in it and have expectations that are real.

You stated that well. We don't want to spoon-feed people into how to play down a narrow path, we want to let them have numerous options upon which to act and speculate. We chuckle a little bit at the things people are thinking of and discussing when we monitor chatrooms. It's fascinating to see how some human minds go down paths we never went down.

But you won't always have to wait for instant gratification, will you?

There will be some things in month two where you will stumble upon some things which will let you take off in an immediate manner down a path, and to a certain degree, you've been able to look at some things in month one and realize what's important and then will be able to verify that it is. That's part of the gameplay.

There are also some things such as external websites that aren't part of the LARS console that seem to be important to move the game forward. How much additional content and/or interaction will there be apart from through the LARS?

Think about it this way: if the LARS console is at the center of spider's web, there are chutes and strands that lead off in different directions. It's our goal to try to make the game that rich, so that you can say "Hmm, I wonder what this particular website is all about and how does this relate? Who are these people?" Plus, next month there will be an additional functionality in the LARS for the players, so that will open up some new doors and some new alternatives and there will be a variety of things that you'll get to stumble across and work through that will provide you with information and enhance the gameplay as you work through it. I can't give you specifics, obviously, but I can tell you that it's our goal to use the spiderweb analogy, not to ensnare you if you will, but let you start at the center and branch out into multitudes of places. That's what will make the content stay rich and exciting for the players.

I think that it's a good thing to have the LARS not be the only way to access content. For example, in Majestic, everything including websites, search engines, media, etc., could only be accessed through their application. In my opinion this limited the immersion factor, as you always knew you weren't playing in the 'real world.'

You're correct. The LARS console is for management of information. You'll probably notice that if you've been to some of these websites, you'll have characters possibly appear in the LARS that you didn't have before. Well, that's what the LARS console is for, so that you can then sit back and say "Okay, I've seen this person's face before. Where have I seen them? Oh, here it is!" So it's a functional tool for you and parts of the game will take place there, no question, but we want to broaden out like that spider's web.

Well, thanks for taking the time to sit down with me, Keith. By the way, some folks on unforums have received their TQ hats, and want to say thank you. In fact, some have asked if they could get them autographed.

Autographed?? Well, who do they want to autograph them?

Um, I think Alex was the most popular request.

Yeah well, I'm not sure that's in our contract, but you know what? I'd like to have an autographed hat from Alex as well!

Keith Griffin is the CEO of MindQuest Entertainment, which he founded in 2002.

Steve Peters is a freelance writer, composer, and musician from Las Vegas, Nevada. He is the sitemaster of argn.com, and still owns an Atari ST.

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