Orange often surprises with its innovations and projects emerging from the transmedia lab. Such is the case with Alt-Minds, an out-of-the-ordinary transmedia game developed with Lexis Numérique, which is due for release at the start of November.
How is Alt-Minds revolutionizing the world of video games? Will it be a guaranteed hit or a case study indicating the future of gaming? With the launch fast approaching, we had the chance to meet the team, including Eric Viennot, the ‘narrative architect’ and the driving force behind the project.
A few words first of all to set the scene of Alt-Minds for you. Five scientists have been kidnapped and it’s up to you to lead the mission to find them. In short, a classic plot idea. An idea born from a real experience when Eric Viennot received a business card at his home, but found the person had a namesake. He spent two hours browsing through profiles, leading his investigation to find this writer.
Alt-Minds echoes the concept of total fiction, developed by Eric Viennot – a scenario which is played out on a number of platforms and which leaves us juggling fictitious and real information. You can also lead the mission in real time, on your PC, mobile or tablet device. The characters will be able to call you. You may be able to find answers to puzzles on Google Maps, on a website, etc. A rich experience, an in-depth scenario, eight weeks of immersion. ‘People will feel they are part of an epic journey. (…) the strength of this game is that the scenario is linear but you will lose yourself down trails that I don’t even know myself. As the game is so well-researched and very realistic, you find yourself in a very open world.’
Ten years on from the In Memoriam game, Alt-Minds picks up the key ingredients of its predecessor with the merging of reality and fiction, but it goes further by including the possibility of encountering the characters in real life, and gameplay in real time. Eric Viennot tells us that the real time element allowed them to leave doors open in the scenario with a view to integrating possible major events that might unfold during the gameplay. The writing has been so complex that in four years it has seen Eric Viennot’s role shift from ‘writer’ to ‘narrative architect’.
‘Alt-Minds is the coming together of the video game, social networks and TV series, because I’m convinced that TV series will be connected to the internet in the future. What you see with Alt-Minds is a forerunner of how series will be in five to ten years’ time’.
We’re not in 2022; Alt-Minds comes out at the beginning of November, and you can see the trailer for the game here:
The strength but also the weakness of any revolutionary new release on a market is that it is difficult to judge the actual success of the product. The game is literally the stuff of dreams. Inexpensive (around 20 euros for more than 50 hours of gameplay), and offering a system whereby users can catch up on episodes to even out the time invested by players, the game targets fans of series as much as gamers, whether they be casual or hardcore gamers. As a consequence, it can reach a lot of people, all the more so as it is being released in four European countries simultaneously… In Europe? Are you sure?
When I ask Eric Viennot why Alt-Minds isn’t being released in the US first (considering the multi-screen consumption, the culture of TV series and the American public’s relationship with video games) he tells us that once again the ‘little Frenchies’ can surprise a few people, but the Americans will say ‘it’s still just a French product’. What has been seen in the cinema industry therefore also seems to apply to the world of video games – it’s difficult to just turn up Stateside, even if you have an absolute killer on your hands.
Is the general public in Europe ready to play for half an hour a day, to take part in the live game, to commit to the mission? The use of tablets and Generation Y’s infatuation with the latest technologies leads you to think that, sure, there is a risk, but it could pay off. And to all those who say half an hour a day “is far too long”, I’d say there are always alternative solutions. Personally, I’m going to form a team (but keep it quiet!).
As well as already being a textbook case for its innovation, writing and ambition, Alt-Minds can follow in the footsteps first laid down by In Memoriam – a new market segment, somewhere between games and TV series; a field that will lead to the development of new expertise and new professions.
I really hope that Alt-Minds doesn’t prove to be ‘too ahead’ of its time, not only because these four years of remarkable work should be appreciated, but also and above all because Eric Viennot already has ideas in mind for the next stage of this adventure…!