Missing: Since January © The Adventure Company
Develop Diary by Eric Viennot
MISSING: Since January - Partnerships, etc...what lengths did you go to in order to make it realistic?
The idea with MISSING: Since January was to make it as realistic as possible. To do so, we focused on creating a credible background for most of the characters of the story. This took two solid years of work before launching the game in order, not only to publish fictional websites, but also to let the main characters have a history of their own that could be found on the Internet.
In the game, you will find critical and necessary information in about 30 websites. But if you want to go further and find new challenges, you can find information related to the game in more than 300 sites all other the world, some that we created for the game, some that are 100% real.
Many things in the game can be considered details but really increase the level of credibility.
For instance, you can get into Jack Lorski’s mail box on the SKL website simply by using your logic and observation skills. This is really not necessary but can provide helpful hints for your adventure.
Moreover, Jack and Karen’s abduction has been “covered” in several newspapers. One of which is Liberation (www.liberation.fr), one France’s most important daily newspapers (on the main page, type “jack lorsky” in the search engine “recherche” on top of the screen and you will find real articles about the case). Other sites exist and may be found. Articles related to their disappearance lead to new clues. Yet other official newspapers, in France, in the UK an the US, are currently being added to the plot ;-)
In addition, Jack, Karen, Kirstin, Julie and other secondary characters have made many posts on official websites (forums, online shops such Amazon, etc...). Several of them have also been participating in existing online communities for more than two years now.
Many “real” people actually believe that these characters do in fact exist, because they have been chatting with them live (MSN) for several months. Some even wished them a happy birthday on the exact day!
We also created fictitious sites that look totally real and contain information that is totally useless to the game: companies or people that briefly refer to the characters of the game.
Last but not least, the Phoenix himself placed several clues on the Internet that lead to another sub-quest with new games and challenges.
Obstacles, what was particularly challenging? What did you take from it? And where will you go next?
Because MISSING is so different from all other existing games, many, many, many things were challenging for us.
The first challenge was certainly to write the scenario. Every detail of the historical and esoteric facts had to be accurate, and this meant a heavy amount of documentation work. We had to travel to more than five different countries to find rare books (mostly about alchemy), some of which only two copies of existed in the world.
Then, we had to convince partners to work with us and publish false information on their websites. This was definitely hard, and many US newspapers were hestiant because the Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass scandals (real reporters who were accused of having written totally bogus stories).
The solution we found is that all the fake articles related to the game can only be found by the newspapers’ own search engine with specific key words. In addition, if you try to send the link of the article to your friends, they may access the article, but a warning will appear (“Warning – this article is part of Missing: since January, a multimedia fiction. More information here”).
All in all, it took us almost two years to make it, and we’re still adding new stuff every day: new sites, new partnerships etc...
Another big challenge was to actually make the videos. We wanted to have very good actors (but we couldn’t pay as much as one might for a feature film), and we wanted to shoot every sequence at the time of the year appropriate to the scenario (i.e. Shooting winter scenes during winter etc...).
But we were very lucky: after several weeks of casting, we found the two actors that fit perfectly for the game. Although we couldn’t pay the standard fee, they accepted to go into the adventure with us because they believed in the whole project.
We were also VERY lucky with the weather: we always had the perfect weather at the exact time. For instance, we had to shoot a scene in Prague in the snow. The thing is that the day we arrived, we had a magnificent sun with a blue sky and not even a snow flake. We really didn’t know what to do... We decided to wait for the day after, and when we woke up, the whole land where covered with snow... And for two years, it happened every time. We were blessed.
Explaining the game
Last but not least, once everything was done and we almost had a solid demo of the game, the major challenge was to explain what MISSING is all about...
Hopefully, after people play for 10 minutes, they’ll want to go on and stop trying to put a specific label on it. They consider it an “adventure Game” or an “Investigation Game”, and we’re happy about it...