If you got here from Sarah's blog, or Exocog, or the Institute for Precognitive Studies, or WeTheFuture, you have some idea of what's been going on around here over the past month or so. I'll deal with the rest of you later, but, if I can speak to our friends for now:

As you no doubt have assumed all along, this excursion into the world of Exocog was indeed an experiment in interactive fiction and Internet gaming. It was done partly for fun and partly out of professional curiosity: I wanted to know what would it be like to run such a game, and, to be honest, what the commercial possibilities for creating these kinds of events might be. So I identified a few likely candidates for such an event, pitched the idea to them , and off we went. We approached the project from the perspective of "Suppose we were asked to run a web event for an upcoming movie, say, Minority Report. What would we do, and how would we do it?" (There was no connection to Fox or Dreamworks or anyone else like that — this was purely work on spec.)

We Exocog folks obviously owe a massive inspirational debt to the people behind The Beast, Majestic, Jawbreak, and other such web events. We have huge respect for what they did, but we wanted to take a slightly different perspective on this sort of event. In particular:

We didn't have a Microsoft/Dreamworks-sized budget for the game — this was a total volunteer effort. That limited the complexity of the game and the amount of time that the game could run. But, from the perspective of exploring how these games might fit into the real world of entertainment marketing, where time and budgets are almost always limited, having no budget could actually be an advantage. Rule number 1 for us was to maximize the bang for the buck.

We wanted to be very player-accessible. Again, with all due respect to The Beast, it was a complex and challenging world, and we know that many people found it hard to get past the puzzles and into the story. So we chose to emphasize story and character over puzzles, and to make it easy for someone to drop by a site, spend a few minutes catching up on what was new, and then moving on until (we hoped) the next day. So Rules number 2 through 5 were story, story, story, and story. I'm still analyzing the web logs, but I think we were successful at that. We knew we wouldn't get the traffic that The Beast did, but that was just as well — it mean that we could learn about the process of the game rather than worrying about server overload and the other mechanics of keeping a set of high-traffic web sites running. (See previous point about lack of budget....)

So I started writing the story, building the web infrastructure, and roping the other people into helping. So it's time to pull the curtain back and let these folks take their bows:

Janet Miller
Liz Miller
Philip Andrews
Visual design, Exocog and WeTheFuture (Don't blame Philip for the Institute's site!)
Sameer Ketkar
Stefanie Jones
The Precog Chorus: Anders and Violet
Jim Miller
Executive producer, story, Peter, minor characters, web implementation, sysadmin

Yes, this was something of a family affair, but don't hold that against them. I'm incredibly grateful to all those folks. If we were able to put together a compelling story, it's because they brought the characters to life and made people care.

The final bit of thanks that needs to be paid is to the players. You know who you are — you stuck with us through the rocky periods, let us know what was and wasn't working, and generally gave us a lot of fun. One of the things that I was most surprised by was the outgrowth of blogs and sites that people put together. I was expecting interaction; I wasn't expecting this sense of community. Thank you. You made it worthwhile.

As for what's next, beyond getting a bit of sleep, the future will tell. We've learned a huge amount about what it takes to run one of these games, and we are definitely pursuing how to do it while also keeping a reasonable amount of bread on the table. We have some leads, and a quick scan of the weblogs suggests that we've had some frequent visitors from companies who could easily make use of these skills. We'd love to hear from you. Meanwhile, I'm happy to hang around for awhile, "after the show", and talk about how all this played out. I'd especially like to get your reactions and feedback, of whatever sort. If the kind people at vpmusic can afford the bandwidth, that would be a reasonable for such a discussion. I'll stop by there from time to time, and see what comes up.

Thank you all again; it's been great fun.

Looking to the future,
Jim Miller
20 June 2013 2002