French developer Lexis Numérique recently invited Electronic Theatre to the grand unveiling of their latest project, Alt-Minds. Following the misfiring of Red Johnson’s Chronicles on PlayStation Network, due to an unfortunate timing with last year’s infamous network intrusion, and the poorly received Amy, the studio’s next project is harking back to some earlier transmedia experiments, but doing so with a much keener appreciation of the fabric of modern gaming audiences.
The term ‘transmedia’ is thrown about with wild abandon these days. It’s true that releasing a comic book and animated short to coincide with your latest franchise-based videogame title could lead to you suggesting it worthy of the prescriptive term, but Alt-Minds is something different. This isn’t simply adding exposition through external media, adding to the background or expanding on the stories of secondary characters, this is an interactive experience that takes place across multiple formats simultaneously. It’s a TV show, it’s a videogame and it’s a unique story all at once, but not all of these interactions are needed to take part in Alt-Minds.
Lexis Numérique has previously dabbled with transmedia software with the likes of In Memoriam (aka Missing: Since January), which was considered a breakthrough success by all concerned. A boxed PC product which evolved with real world properties, such as phone conversations and websites, In Memoriam was something of a landmark videogame release, bringing the traditional murder mystery experience a brand new lease of life. Nearly ten years later, Lexis Numérique’s Alt-Minds is set to build on this experience using the advancement of technology as it’s basis for delivering an even more dynamic playpen.
Many of the finer elements of Alt-Minds’ setting remain under wraps at present in order to prevent keen gamers from ruining the experience for themselves, however what we do know is that the player will join the world as a detective on the trail of a group of scientists who have been kidnapped. The scientists were working for an as-yet-undisclosed corporation, working on an as-yet-undisclosed project. However, those details are not yet necessary to understand the basis of Alt-Minds; it’s a familiar science-fiction drama setting that anyone can relate to. Films, novels, television, comic books and even videogames have presented stories based on the conspiracy theories of a secret project having gone awry, and so the barrier for entry is purposefully set low: Lexis Numérique are clearly keen to appeal to the widest audience possible, but accessibility doesn’t end with the story.
As a transmedia project Alt-Minds will present a unique experience via its web shows, social network apps, mobile apps and other outlets, and different again for those who engage with a combination of the above. The developers are working on a scale of engagement which allows players to involve themselves in the experience as deep as they wish; simply watching the web shows may be enough for some, while others will certainly demand more, taking the universe onto their smartphone or tablet, or perhaps even out into the real world with the geolocalisation plans Lexis Numérique plan to put into affect (though again, no details on this part of the project have yet been revealed).
As a murder mystery style experience the ultimate goal is of course to unwind the conspiracy and name the culprit, but this isn’t as simple as guessing who hit who with the candlestick in the library. Alt-Minds will deliver a number of puzzles for players to piece together, with each new solution discovered leading to new avenues of exploration. The example given during Lexis Numérique’s revelation of Alt-Minds involved that of an incompetent driver. Players watch a video filmed from the vehicle behind, and can use the tools at their disposal to zoom in on the number plate (see right). They can then cross reference the number plate with the registrar to discover the owner of the vehicle, which might lead them to discover who was driving. Exactly how this puzzle ties into bigger picture has not yet been revealed, but it’s a good example of how players will use their real-world knowledge to solve clues in Alt-Minds. Nintendo’s Wii Remote was designed with the intention on transferring body memory into videogames – if you know how to hit a tennis ball with a tennis racquet, you know how to play Wii Sports’ tennis – but how about taking this one stage further? If you can translate your natural analytical abilities from the real-world onto a touchscreen, Alt-Minds is aimed at you.
Lexis Numérique are promising that the new content delivered on a weekly basis will be enough to satisfy even the most demanding gamer. Whether dipping your toe or spending hours perusing the clues offer to you, Lexis Numérique also suggest that there will be a pricing package suited towards your level of involvement. Electronic Theatre would argue that this optional level of input is perhaps Alt-Minds’ greatest innovation: this isn’t simply a pay-to-win Facebook app, Alt-Minds is a videogame experience wherein losing could potentially be more exciting than winning, regardless of your level of investment. The potential Alt-Minds demonstrates at even this early point is nothing less than persuasive, with a potentially fascinating new videogame experience ready to welcome anyone with even the slightest amount of imagination. At present, Electronic Theatre simply can’t wait to see more of what Lexis Numérique has set to deliver with Alt-Minds this autumn.