Permalink to The Story Juice Facebook Blog

The Story Juice Facebook Blog

Story Juice has a Facebook blog to share ideas and knowledge about storytelling and how it’s evolving in interactive media across multiple platforms. It also features info and experience on our latest projects. You can read it via the widget here or ‘like’ the page and get updates in your Facebook news feed.

Story Juice specialises in creating factual and fictional stories that are told across multiple platforms – print, digital, mobile, TV & film, radio, performance, games. By definition, Story Juice is the potent stuff that makes a story wild, gripping, entertaining, fresh, moving and exciting. Let’s get juicy..


Permalink to TEDxTransmedia 2013 – Dangerously Ethical

TEDxTransmedia 2013 – Dangerously Ethical

I’m the Online Communications Manager for TEDxTransmedia and we’ve just launched our teaser website for the 2013 event where you can go to register for updates.

tedxtransmedia teaser site

This year’s theme is ‘Dangerously Ethical’ and two great speakers have already been confirmed, including four-time Emmy award winner, interactive TV pioneer and designer of the Minority Report UI, Dale Herigstad.

The event is happening on Friday, September 27, in Rome and we have loads of exciting plans up our sleeves. Come join us!

 


Permalink to Create & Innovate Event in Wales

Create & Innovate Event in Wales

Really looking forward to getting back to Wales as a speaker at this brilliant Create & Innovate event designed to get people excited about a new world of storytelling possibilities as a result of digital and technological advances.

I’ll be there as Story Juice talking about our new projects that mix digital storytelling, immersive theatre, technology and gaming into one big cauldron of magic story juice.

You should come to, and then have a nice weekend break in beautiful north Wales!


Permalink to One Billion Rising Roller Girls Flashmob

One Billion Rising Roller Girls Flashmob

OBR I’m a skater and coach for Plymouth City Roller Girls and when we first came across the global One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women and girls we knew we had to be a part of it.

The fact that one in three women in the world will be raped or beaten in her life is completely shocking. Rape, genital mutilation, domestic violence, none of this should be happening and it must be stopped. The Plymouth City Roller Girls ethos is all about empowering women and girls, our refs and volunteers, so they can thrive in roller derby and life so this cause fitted exactly with what we stand for.

As a team we decided to join with activists around the world on Valentine’s Day and set up our own One Billion Rising flashmob in Plymouth city centre.

Story Juice was involved in the production and publicity of the event and we’re proud to say that in the week of the flashmob the Plymouth City Roller Girls Facebook page reached nearly 43,000 people on Facebook alone, 4000 per cent higher that we’ve ever reached before. Here’s the promo I directed for the event to encourage people to take part and starring the inspirational PCRG players:

We partnered with eco-friendly junk band Weapons of Sound for the flashmob and their wicked beats and our dancing attracted hundreds of people to join us on the streets of Plymouth in the call for a revolution in the treatment of women around the world.

One Billion Rising shouldn’t just be one day of action though, it should be a continual fight to stop all forms of abuse of women and girls around the world.

PCRG doing the official OBR dance

PCRG doing the official OBR dance

 


Permalink to Talk on Immersive, Interactive and Transmedia Storytelling

Talk on Immersive, Interactive and Transmedia Storytelling

I-DAT at Plymouth University has invited me to give a talk on Immersive, Interactive and Transmedia storytelling as part of its Digital Art and Technology Visiting Speaker Series 2012-2013.

I’ll be talking about some general concepts and examples and also giving a sneak preview of a project I’m working on that’s set to be launched soon.

The details are:

January 17, 2013
6 – 7.30pm
Roland Levinsky Lecture Theatre 2

Click the picture to get to the Facebook event listing. The talks are all free and open to the public.

speaker series


Permalink to Zoetrap ARG – Part 5: Puppetmaster’s Experience

Zoetrap ARG – Part 5: Puppetmaster’s Experience

Hannah Wood Zoetrap

Me at the Zoetrap crime scene with blood on my hands

Final part of the Zoetrap ARG blog series. This is written up from notes I made while I was in San Francisco and will give you a sense of what it was like to be a puppetmaster. Zoetrap was an indie production made by  Spirit Level Productions that debuted at the StoryWorld Conference + Expo 2011. The other blogs deal with the story and gameplay walkthrough, player reaction, top 10 lessons learnt and game metrics and there’s also a video of a talk I gave alongside app partner Jo Reid about the production, so this blog will just deal with what it was like in San Francisco. It’s intended to lift the curtain on the gory details of what it was like behind-the-scenes, from my point-of-view as creative director, lead writer, narrative designer and project manager. 

The curtain is a good place to start since puppetmasters are usually hidden behind one and we weren’t by virtue of the fact we had to crowdfund at the same time as begin the story experience. It was a bit like that shower scene in M*A*S*H when Hot Lips is lathering up and the tent is lifted to reveal her in the buff. Except this was a three-day long one of those naked dreams with all the private parts of the project on display. Despite that we managed to pull of an effective international ARG on less than a puppet string of a budget.

Before heading out I’d drawn up an epic production spreadsheet to guide us through like a trusty spaceship. It designated roles and timings for every member of the team, leaving room for freedom to improvise and to respond to things we couldn’t predict. It took account of the time difference for those in the team working from the UK and also the fact that the clocks went back mid-game.

production_zoetrap

Screenshot of part of the Zoetrap production schedule

We were a rookie ARG team who made Zoetrap as part of Digital Delta, an industry-led training scheme run by Cyfle in Cardiff, Wales. It was devised, produced and executed in four months with a crowdfunded budget, whilst working full-time in our real jobs and with other creative projects running parallel.

The story, told across online, app, print and real world platforms, was of Occult Transmedia Producer, Oliver Drew, who gets sucked into a cursed zoetrope by the evil spirit of 19th century occultist Arthur Warburton Lytton (Alcatraz Prisoner L). Prisoner L is on a quest for immortality by capturing the 22 souls of the major arcana of the Tarot. Oliver comes into possession of the battered old zoetrope and awakens the evil spirit. He becomes Prisoner L’s Hanged Man card and gets sucked into the zoetrope leaving a murder scene in his hotel room. Players are recruited as Paranormal Investigators to solve the mystery of his disappearance, uncovering this story and more in the process.

zoetrap poster final

Zoetrap poster designed by Robbie Brewster

A lot of frantic preparation and a lot less sleep got me to Gatwick Airport in October 2011 and the point of explaining to security staff why I had a weaponable zoetrope, stuffed with socks, Tarot cards and an emerald green onesie (Halloween costume), in my hand luggage.

read more »


Permalink to Zoetrap ARG – Part 4: Game metrics

Zoetrap ARG – Part 4: Game metrics

Logo design by Robbie Brewster

A quick overview of some of the stats for indie Alternate Reality Game Zoetrap which played out at the Storyworld Conference + Expo 2011 in San Francisco.

This is part 4 of a 5-part series including the story and gameplay walkthrough, player reaction, top 10 lessons learnt and puppetmaster experience.

Here are the headline figures:

65 pre-conference downloads of the Zoetrap app.

400 delegates at the conference who came into contact with some part of the game. 50 who visited the game crime scene – an immersive theatre experience in a hotel room.

870 Tweets related to Zoetrap from September 5 to December 5 and 58 regular Twitterers.

159 downloads of the app before Dec 2011.

10 – 15 conference delegates attended the final event, along with about 10 other people who were already in The Cellar Bar and joined in to make a decision on Oliver’s fate.

25,000 engaged with zoetrap.com over the duration of the game.

My crudely worked out estimate is that we had about 100 engaged players. It’s clear that it wouldn’t have been a success if we hadn’t had our superplayer, Rowan Lambelle, who was completely independent of us and fully immersed in the experience. Rowan was playing from New York and interacted with all our characters online, tracked down all of the game content, solved all of the clues and also gave the game more publicity by writing a walkthrough on her ARG-focused blog, Tree of Providence, and advertising the finale on ARG Deaddrop.


Permalink to Zoetrap ARG – Part 3: Top 10 lessons learnt

Zoetrap ARG – Part 3: Top 10 lessons learnt

Zoetrap was the first Alternate Reality Game I’ve been involved in making. Its creation and production was quick and fierce and I learnt lots in the process. It was a supernatural indie ARG made by the Spirit Level Productions collective that debuted at the StoryWorld Conference + Expo 2011 in San Francisco at Halloween. I was the creative director, lead writer and narrative designer and project managed it from devising the concept to delivering it live in San Francisco. This post shares my top 10 lessons as a result of the experience and is part 3 of a 5-part series looking closely at different aspects of Zoetrap, including the game metrics, player reactionpuppetmaster experience and story and gameplay walkthrough.

LESSON ONE: USE IMMERSIVE THEATRE

Creepy message left on the bathroom mirror

The live paranormal crime scene was the most effective part of the ARG and the most powerful hook into the experience. It enabled players to have a visceral interaction with the storyworld and get a clear picture of the central character – Oliver Drew – through the artefacts in his hotel room. Once inside and riffling through evidence they were more likely to download the app which ‘ghosted’ Oliver’s haunted mobile phone and led them further down the rabbit hole into the story.

The crime scene was in room 2413 at the Park Plaza Hotel in San Francisco, where the conference was being held. Players could visit it from 9am-6pm on the first day (October 31st). We splattered blood over the bathroom and scrawled TRAPPED in dripping blood in reflection on the mirror, left slime and ectoplasm in the bathtub and over the taps, took the phones off the hook, closed the curtains, put a spinning zoetrope on the table, scattered Tarot cards from the major arcana over the floor and inside the zoetrope, left Oliver’s business cards (with links to his webpages) on a sideboard, unmade the beds, left books (including the Bible) open on suggestive pages, left a Tarot book on the bedside table and a bespoke Hanged Man Tarot card, with QR code on the reverse, on a pillow, then sealed the entrance with crime scene tape players had to clamber through.

This was all done guerrilla. We didn’t let the hotel staff know and hung a ‘do not disturb’ on the doorknob so the cleaner didn’t report us for room trashing. About 50 of 400 conference delegates visited the crime scene and still more wanted access after it closed. One player arrived with a pocket torch and explored the scene like a real CSI, searching the bins and looking under the mattresses. Serendipitous things happened we couldn’t have planned but heightened the experience. For instance, if you leant against a certain part of the bed the lights flickered, and every so often the phones let out an eerie squeal.

Lots of information was flowing through Twitter via characters and in the Storyworld hashtag but it was less likely to generate conversation than the exclusivity of the experience inside the room. Also, online players who weren’t on the ground in San Francisco relied on other players to share photos of the scene, which generated suspense and discussion.

It would have been effective to design a self-contained part of the story at the crime scene which could be explored and solved there, leaving those who didn’t have the time to complete other parts of the story satisfied. I still wish we’d hidden someone behind the shower curtain to jump out Psycho-style, or at least a skeleton in the tub. There was a lot more that could have been exploited and if I did this again I’d play-test the experience to generate more ideas.

We had big plans for a fright night style immersive theatre experience at the final ‘Night of the Dead’ event but didn’t have the budget for that, unfortunately.

LESSON TWO: ARTEFACTS OF PROFESSIONAL QUALITY

Players love collecting objects from the game and storyworld and having things to take home that remind them of the experience. The things they go home with, that end up as part of your legacy and extend your storyworld into the real world, should be of professional quality. On a tight budget and with limited resource its best to create less with high value production design.

zoetrap artefacts

Zoetrap artefacts

Many of the conference delegates were too busy pitching, networking and attending seminars to play the game so the artefacts were how they came into contact with the storyworld. The bespoke tarot card (designed by Dylan Wyn Owen) was realistically sized, beautifully illustrated and weighted like a real card, the in-app design (by Paula Major) was slick and evocative and like a real phone, the newspaper front page (designed and written by me) emulated a real newspaper, and all the other illustration work – for stickers and websites (by Robbie Brewster) – had a consistent aesthetic and was professionally wrought. Those things gave players confidence in the experience they were embarking on and made those who couldn’t play more likely to check out the game when they had time.

Continuing the story experience past the live event by sending postcards from our lead characters to the most immersed players, and those who contributed funds, was an extra way to keep the experience talked about. And fun for the players and fans who got a creepy surprise in the mail.

read more »


Permalink to Zoetrap ARG – Part 2: Player reaction Q&A with Rowan Lambelle

Zoetrap ARG – Part 2: Player reaction Q&A with Rowan Lambelle

Zoetrap app avatar and Rowan Lambelle’s Twitter avatar

Indie Alternate Reality Game Zoetrap, which debuted at the Storyworld Conference + Expo 2011 and was made by Spirit Level Productions, had one super player who was the first to solve all the clues, tie all the pieces of the story together and complete the game.

Known online as Rowan Lambelle (or @rowan72 on Twitter) she was playing from her home in upstate New York. Rowan downloaded the haunted phone app, worked collaboratively with other players in San Francisco and interacted live with the game characters via Twitter to get all the information she needed to solve the puzzle and experience the entire storyworld – which was spread across online, mobile, real world and print platforms.

Rowan’s an active member of the Unfiction community and an experienced ARGer. She runs the blogs ARG Deaddrop and Tree of Providence.

Curious about how the experience was from her perspective, I chatted to Rowan as the game’s creative director to get a sense of what worked for her.

[This is Part 2 of a 5-part series on the Zoetrap ARG including a story and gameplay walkthrough, top 10 lessons learnt, game metrics and puppetmaster experience]

Hey Rowan, thanks for chatting to me. Can you introduce yourself briefly?

Hi Hannah. So my name is Carie Ward also known amongst the ARG community and online as Rowan Lambelle. I’m 36 (or 83 depending on who you ask) and I live in upstate New York. Only my family, co-workers and restaurant greeters call me Carie, otherwise I’m known as Rowan.

When did you start playing ARGs, what’s your experience playing and writing about them?

I’ve been playing ARGs for more than seven years now ever since I joined the Unfiction community right before I Love Bees launched. That was the first big ARG I played and I ended up writing the guide for it as well. I had stumbled across the concept of ARGs a few months previous and had a disastrous experience with a grassroots game but still hung around the community in case something else started up. Since then I’ve played way too many to count, written numerous guides and travelled around the country in order to participate in live events. I also run a blog to alert other players about possible live events in their area.

How did you first hear about Zoetrap, what did you think? 

The first I heard about the Zoetrap ARG was when someone from Twitter linked to the indiegogo site. The trailer didn’t really sell me on the idea because it seemed like an ‘Ooo look! A mysterious video you need to search for clues in’-style ARG but I’m a sucker for getting postcards in the mail so I bookmarked it for later. I ended up following Oliver (@_zoetrap) on Twitter just to see if anything would happen there and I eventually got sucked into watching one of the seances he did right before StoryWorld. Although parts of it were cheesy I ended up playing along even though I was laughing at having to close my eyes and read the Tweets at the same time.

What do you think worked most and why?

For me, the thing that worked most were the Twitter interactions, it allowed me to connect with the characters and find out what I was missing even though I wasn’t in San Francisco. Interacting with Oliver before he disappeared was a lot of fun. I personally loved the Twitter experience. I tweet a lot and it’s far more natural for me to talk to the characters over Twitter than it is over email or the phone. I feel I can get a more genuine back and forth over Twitter than email which makes it easier to treat the characters, like Oliver’s girlfriend Eva (@Eva_Lake) or the Tarot reader (@LEldritch) as real instead of someone to just milk for information to get to the next step of the game.

I liked the app because it added a nice piece of immersion to the game. I was a bit wary of it at first because it seemed like it could possibly alienate a lot of people who didn’t have an iOS device. I have to admit opening up the app and getting a phone call was really kind of spooky and made me wonder if I should answer the phone call or not. I also thought that scanning in the QR codes to the app was a really cool way to unlock things. The only thing I really didn’t like was that all the assets weren’t available to people who didn’t have an iPhone or iPod touch. I know the videos and calls became available on zoetrap.com but the non app people would have missed out on all the emails which really ended up helping piece all the things together. I probably would have gotten frustrated if I hadn’t had the app since I wouldn’t know for certain what I was missing or not.

What did you think about the artwork?

The artwork was definitely cool. I liked all the various physical assets that the players got in SF (and that were eventually sent to me). The tarot card in particular I thought was a very cool souvenir. [Dylan Wyn Owen  designed the tarot card and Robbie Brewster did all the other illustration work]

What did you think about the story and quality of the ARG? Did you care about what happened to Oliver?

I thought the story and quality were really good, especially for it being such a short game. There was enough of a backstory to suck you in and get you interested in what happened. And the time constraint of needing to find Oliver gave it a sense of urgency that made you want to keep looking for clues. I did care about what happened to Oliver. After going through all of his emails and seeing his pleas for help, I really did want to save him.

What was it like playing whilst not being in San Francisco for the live events?

That was the worst part about the experience. I knew there were clues being released but I was completely reliant on twitter feeds using the #zoetrap hashtag. If people weren’t tweeting about #zoetrap, I was in the dark. There ended up being a lot of downtime when I was wondering what was going on because people weren’t always tweeting about the game because they were in a conference. It especially sucked when the StoryWorld people got to visit Oliver’s hotel room, the few pictures I saw only made we want to see more and hear more about what the room was really like. At the same time, having been a part of so many live events myself, I know that it’s impossible to cover every minute so I just had to be patient and wait for reports to come in. I really would have liked to have seen the hotel room and to have been at the final event where I could have argued to save Oliver.

How did you feel about the ending, especially since you made a decision to save Oliver when others condemned him?

I felt sad and surprised that Oliver was condemned even after finding out that he did kill Marianne. I didn’t (and still don’t) think it was a good idea to condemn his immortal soul since it was impossible to know all the facts about what happened. Releasing Oliver from the Zoetrap wouldn’t have released him from all responsibility for Marianne’s death (he could have still been arrested by police) but it would have stopped Prisoner L from gathering his 22nd soul.

I could understand why people would want to condemn Oliver after finding out he killed Marianne but I still thought there would’ve been more compassion or at least doubts as to why he did it? And I was really surprised to find out that Oliver had no regrets about killing her but then I have to wonder if that was just a calculated plot point to make players not feel guilty about giving him such an awful fate and wonder if the same revelation would’ve been made if the players had freed him and maybe I’m a sucker but if I had to do it all over again, I’d still vote to free him. He scares me far less than Prisoner L. [Rowan's right - there was an alternative ending if you chose to save him. Both endings have been uploaded to the story and gameplay experience blog]

What didn’t you like about Zoetrap?

My biggest problem that I recall was that I thought that the tarot card puzzle had an error in it. Or maybe that’s because I don’t like anagrams especially when there are multiple solutions and the correct answer is an obscure word. I would have been much happier if the card positions had spelled out ANIMAS directly. It wasn’t too difficult to overcome, but it did mean a bit of extra guessing for the final solution. [Rowan's right, this was an error on our part. We intended it to be the way Rowan would've expected. If this makes no sense to you, there's further explanation on the story and gameplay experience blog]

How hard did you find it to solve clues?

The funny thing about solving the clues to unlock the phone is that I actually felt dumb for taking so long to figure it out since I had had everything the night before but just didn’t sit down and work it all out. I participate in a lot of puzzle contests and this really shouldn’t have been that difficult but it wasn’t until the next morning when I was writing a tweet to someone explaining my theory about what the password answer should be that I realised I had enough to figure it out. Then it was just a matter of trying out all the variations I had until I came across the correct one but then when I found out the correct answer I became rather disappointed in the tarot reading clue because I felt like the tower card and the missing hangman card should’ve been switched, maybe that’s just because I hate anagrams. [Nope, you were right - that’s how it should’ve been. Sorry, our mistake!].

The puzzles here weren’t really anything I hadn’t seen before so I actually should have solved the final puzzle several hours before I did, since I had all the pieces but just didn’t sit down and try to figure out what I was missing. Once I realized that I wasn’t missing anything, it was just a matter of trying the various combinations of words until I got the correct combination.

How would you compare Zoetrap to other ARGs?

Compared to other ARGs, I would say it was short but well done. Most of the ARGs I’ve played have been several months long, but more than a handful of those felt like you were just being put through the motions in order to move onto whatever the next planned act was. In those games, it felt like the more energy a player put into the game, the less satisfaction they received. Whereas with Zoetrap, the more you put into the game, the more you (or at least I) got out of it. And that is quite rare in the ARG world.

Comparing Zoetrap as an ARG to others that run for months is a bit like comparing a kitten to a lion but as a short duration game it worked great. I haven’t played too many other short duration games or if I have I don’t remember them so that doesn’t say much about them but Zoetrap does remind me a bit of the Stop TARP ARG that ran a few years ago during SXSW, it was short and sweet and pretty much completely Twitter based, although you did receive a few phone calls at the climax of the game from a questionable individual. Like Zoetrap it was a ton of fun.

How did you feel about receiving a post-game postcard from Prisoner L?

I was actually surprised because I had forgotten about it. I had signed up on Indiegogo to receive a postcard but afterwards got a package with all the game assets (which I was not expecting) as my reward for the project. Getting the postcard a bit later was a pleasant (or maybe not so pleasant considering the subject matter) surprise. Personally, I’m not all that worried about Prisoner L coming to collect my soul. I’ve had a bounty on my head from an insane Eldtrich cult for years now and I’m still around.

What would have made the experience even better for you? 

I wish I could have been in San Francisco to experience the game first hand. Following along online is a lot of fun, but I know from experience that nothing compares to seeing things for yourself.


Permalink to Zoetrap ARG – Part 1: Story and Gameplay Walkthrough

Zoetrap ARG – Part 1: Story and Gameplay Walkthrough

Zoetrap was an indie ARG that played out at Storyworld Conference + Expo 2011 in San Francisco. This blog gives you a complete walkthrough of the story and gameplay experience bringing the artefacts and assets together like a jigsaw puzzle.

I was the creative director, lead writer and narrative designer and project managed it from devising the concept to delivering it in San Francisco. This is part 1 of a 5-part series looking closely at different aspects of Zoetrap, including player reaction, game metrics, top 10 lessons learnt and puppermaster experience.

There is also an excellent walkthrough of Zoetrap by player @rowan72.

SOCIAL MEDIA BUILD UP

The game began in social media with Oliver Drew, an eccentric producer in his 20s, emerging on Twitter @_Zoetrap to talk about a project he was set to launch at the Storyworld Conference + Expo 2011.

@_zoetrap_twitter_launch

@_zoetrap Twitter Launch

He claimed to have invented Occult Transmedia and be in possession of a piece of technology – an old Zoetrope – that would open up the spirit world as a new transmedia platform. He had a track record of creative productions that dabbled in the ‘dark arts’ and could be learnt about on his own website zoetrap.com. They included Ectogoogle, a search-engine for ghosts, a Zombie ARG he’d been arrested for after mistakenly putting it on during the London Riots and augmented reality goggles that played out a hide and seek game with Jack the Ripper.

read more »


Permalink to Video of Zoetrap ARG talk at Pervasive Media Studio

Video of Zoetrap ARG talk at Pervasive Media Studio

This time last year I was in San Francisco on the final day of the Zoetrap Alternate Reality Game which I co-created as part of Spirit Level Productions. I was the game’s creative director, lead writer and project manager. I gave a talk, alongside our app partner Jo Reid from App Furnace, about the experience and lessons learnt, at the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol last year. This is it in video form.

It’s pretty geeky and detailed and focuses on what did and didn’t work. I’ve embedded the Prezi below the video so you can get a closer look at that whilst watching. There’s lots of info and appraisal in the talk that should be useful to other multiplatform fiction creators.

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hello@hannah-wood.com

I run a storytelling and narrative design company called Story Juice and am a writer, journalist, producer and researcher interested in experimenting with the way people experience stories. Story Juice has worked across multiple platforms including print, online, mobile, visual, audio, game and performance. Contact me to discuss ideas or commission work.

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