This is a Monday August 8th 2011 update on the continuing adventures of my experimental narrative game called “The Viral Sockpuppets“. This post documents the events that transpired in and around the game after the May 4th 2011 release of the “What Is The Viral Sockpuppets?” thesis presentation video.
After my adventures in grad-school-land at Parsons School of Design, where the “Viral Sockpuppets” began as my Spring 2011 final thesis project. I needed to take some time off to rethink some of the design elements of the game. During the first round of game play, I ran into a few snags.
The first element I needed to redesign was the voting system. Originally I had designed the system so that video makers would only need to get their audience to click the “like” button on their YouTube video page in order to win the round. The player with the most “likes” on their video would inform the narrative, and earn a point. This mechanic proved itself to be confusing and unbalanced. In an attempt to get more views and votes each player would post the videos onto their Facebook walls. The Facebook users were unable to determine the difference between the Facebook “like” button and the YouTube “like” button. While many players were getting some decent views to their videos, their audience did not clearly understand the mechanic and many votes were being lost on Facebook.
Another flaw with the “like” button mechanic was that it was completely unbalanced. The audience was never given a reason or opportunity to watch any of the other response videos, they would only click the “like” button to a video because their Facebook friend asked them to, not because they actually thought it was a more interesting or better idea then any of the other options. In order to address this voting mechanic issue, I decided to move the voting action into the “Moderator” panel that Google/YouTube provides as a tool on any YouTube creator’s channel. When the feature is enabled on a channel, it opens up a panel where players can submit response videos and the audience can vote on their favorite sub-plots while being exposed to all the other options at the same time. Requiring the voting to take place on a single page also resolves the “like” button confusion between Facebook and YouTube.
An additional redesign in the game was to apply a time constraint on response videos. In the first round of play, some of the videos that were submitted were really long and the audience lost interest and were unable to understand the concept or idea of the submitted video. I have now put a two minute time limit on any submitted video response, this will insure that the audience can watch all of the video options without wasting too much of their day. The time constraints also help players keep their videos tightly paced and more interesting for the short attention span of the Internet audience..
Another new design element to the game was posting a schedule, which would allow everyone to know when key video elements were posted and when submission deadlines were due. I also spaced out the deadlines so that each round takes approximately month, thus keeping production pressure to a minimum and allowing the experience to take a more casual gaming pace.
These were some of the biggest design changes so far, I know I am forgetting some at the moment, but as I continue working my way down the timeline I am sure they will reveal themselves.
June 27th 2011:
HE’S COMING BACK!! – THE VIRAL SOCKPUPPETS PRESS – UPDATE JUNE 27th 2011 (INTERACTIVE)
I created a Viral Sockpuppets Press news brief/ teaser to alert the audience and players that the game will be relaunching on the 4th of July when Uncle Pappy returns from his fishing trip (I paused the first season of game play by sending Uncle Pappy away on a fishing trip).
The teaser video got some attention and a few of the previous players of the game created response videos to the announcement.
Angelus Caligo posted this video:
and Grobbly Gribbly posted this video:
Both videos were exciting for me because it meant that even with the long amount of time that had past, there were some folks that were still interested in playing my game.
July 4th 2011:
4th of July (Interactive) – With Uncle Pappy!
I finally posted the new dilemma. I tagged the beginning with some text that notified the audience they were watching an interactive story-game. I also provided them with links to previous videos in order to help catch them up on the narrative and engage them into the experience as quickly as possible.
The video did not receive any where near the amount of response videos I was hoping for, I think this was largely due to the fact that I launched the new game in the middle of the summer vacation season and many of my previous players were either on vacation or on tour with a live performance. However the response videos that I did receive were amazing.
Angelus Caligo’s Video:
The Crazy Roommate’s video:
All three of these response videos were submitted within the first week, I produced a little reminder video, to encourage more people to post response videos, it didn’t work. During this time, I also received an email from another interactive series on YouTube called YouTupolis asking for me to make a response video for them. I decided to take this opportunity to potentially expand my audience and have my character engage with another interactive audience.
July 11th 2011
July 11th Reminder/YouTupolis Response Part 01 – With Uncle Pappy!
July 18th 2011
News Brief – The Viral Sockpuppets Press (Interactive)
This was the first official V.S.P. update of the new season, I was out of town and did not have the time or access to an actor to shoot this live, so I used the cloud animation tool Xtranormal in order to create the character animation. This tool was easy to use, and allowed me to create the video solo, but lacked the fun character work of a real actor. It’s great to use in a crunch, but I still prefer to have a living living “Dana Rollins” host the new brief’s. The big change to the format of the game in this video was that the V.S.P. was no longer going to spend time summarizing all of the submitted response videos, but rather do a quick summery of the months narrative so far and provide links to the submitted sub-plots.
July 25th 2011
News Brief (The Winner) – Viral Sockpuppets Press (Interactive Storytelling)
A new addition to the game this season was another episode of the V.S.P summarizing the story and announcing the winner of the round. This video was meant as a virtual trophy for the winner, sort of an unlocked achievement in the game. I am not yet sure how effective it is or if it is needed, but I will continue to make them for the duration of the current season to find out.
This about wraps up the first month of game play for the new Viral Sockpuppets season. Was it financially successful? No. Did it develop a huge audience? No. Was it an unreasonably huge amount of work for one person to do? Yes. However, it was fun as hell. I loved the few response videos I did receive, and as long as I am getting enough response to keep the narrative alive I will continue to run and develop it until it matures into something that can sustain itself.
There will be a new dilemma every month during the gaming season and each season will run for three months before taking a break.
Please be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/blightproductions
and check out the official game blog here: http://www.viralsockpuppets.com
I hope to see you in the game!
-Brian A. Bernhard