At 12:00 noon SLT on Sunday, February 1st, 2015, MadPea’s latest grid-wide challenge, Buried launches. Their first major event of the new year, Buried contains all that people have come to love about MadPea’s games: mystery, clue-solving, immersive interaction, and fun. Buried offer all this – and a lot more, as I found out, when I was, with a small number of other bloggers, invited to preview the game on Friday, January 30th.
Keen MadPea players are probably already aware of elements within the challenge: in keeping with the most popular MadPea games, it is focused on unravelling the mysterious disappearance of a young woman, and contains MadPea’s trademark blend of grid-wide vendor locations (25 in all), rewards, and the introduction of geocaching as a part of the gameplay structure.
Once formally opened, Buried will run for a period of two months, a time frame which reflects the slow burn nature of the challenge – and I’m intentionally using that word repeatedly. Buried isn’t a hunt, it isn’t even in quite the same vein as MadPea’s recent mystery adventures such as Blood Letters or the very popular Room 326 / Mad City events involving the Silent Peacock Hotel. It really is an immersive narrative, focused on the missing character, Lilyanna Morano.
Players will begin their investigations at a holiday location amidst a small cluster of remote islands. Here they must uncover the first clues to set them on their way. The aim here is not simply to get people into the “hunt” aspects of the challenge; it is, like the opening chapter of a book or the initial opening of a film or story-arc television series, about setting the scene and establishing the characters.
“What we want to do when the player first comes here is that they well feel the story, and they will really get into who the main character is,” Kiana Writer, who heads-up MadPea and is responsible for writing the Buried story and who took a hand in the opening region’s design, explains. “Who Lily is, how she lives, what she does. So we tried to leave a lot of little clues about her personality to find. They can actually take a boat to and from every island and explore each of them.”
Part of these explorations involve finding the essential element to the challenge activating the game HUD. This is supplied when players arrive on the main holiday island, but will not activate until such time as the first clue has been solved.
Once activated, the HUD reveals the geocaching nature of the game, and introduces you to the other “character” within it – that of the C-Me Corporation.
C-Me is the entity behind the new approach to geocaching Lilyanna was researching at the time of her disappearance – and they would seem to have a very twisted take on the technology.
Exhibiting something of a Mission: Impossible flair for theatrics, C-Me appear to be using geocaching to play a game of their own. snaring people entering their sphere of influence, and then toying with them and sending them hither and thither in the search for C-Me capsules.
But did they arrange for Lilyanna to vanish, or were their machinations merely the catalyst for her causing her own disappearance? The only way to find out is to enter into their game…
Also, should you participate in the challenge, do make sure you have both local sounds and the music stream active when exploring the islands; a considerable amount of work has gone into these not just visually, but audibly as well. Seeing and hearing the environment really is the only way to truly experience it. Do note, also, that because of the slow burn nature of the challenge, the number of people able to access the “holiday island” location is limited to a maximum of 20 at any given time – so patience is also very much part of this challenge.
“Gameplay and immersion is important to us with this game,” Axiomatic Clarity, the man responsible for the overall look and feel to the regions, and who designed the game HUD, explained. “We’ve put a lot of work into the usability of this build. We want people to be able to explore and discover the secrets and clues, and we’ve put in a lot of atmospheric elements, the lighting, the sounds.”
Exploration of the locations on the island is essential; it’s only through investigating Lily herself – the house she’d rented in order to write-up her research, the surrounding islands, and so on, that players will uncover the necessary clues that will both lead them to Lily’s hidden tablet, together with the means to access it once found in order to transfer the data it contains to their own (HUD) tablet. This in turn will draw them into C-Me’s mysterious game, and thus start them on their grid-wide journey of discovery.
I’m not going to give too much more away on the game itself. What I will say is that anyone who enjoys MadPea’s narrative-lead adventures is bound to enjoy Buried, which will run for around two months following the opening on February 1st. The opening itself will be preceded by a launch party at !Exodus! Rock Club, starting at 10:00 SLT on Sunday, February 1st.
Putting something like buried together is a huge undertaking, as well as Kiana and Axiomatic, bringing the game together has involved the skills of some 20 people from across the globe, testament to both MadPea’s extraordinary reach and desire to bring compelling, immersive activities to Second Life, and to the platform’s own inherent abiliity to host such activities. That both succeed so well is exemplified by the eagerness with which each new game from the company is awaited by MadPea fans and players.
For my part, and while only exposed to a small part of Buried, I found myself entirely drawn into the concept and execution of the challenge. The gameplay in the opening “chapter” on the island where everything kicks-off is completely immersive and requires a level of engagement which encourages the player to seek out more – not because there are prizes from some 25 vendors to be obtained, but because there is a real challenge involved here; you’re seeking to find – possibly rescue (who knows?) a missing person and get to the bottom of just what C-Me is really all about; rewards gathered along the way are actually quite secondary. As such, Buried marvellously builds on the successes of recent events such as the aforementioned Blood Letters and Room 326 stories – and offers an intriguing stepping stone towards MadPea’s upcoming (and completely stunning) UNIA.
Note that SLurls for Buried will be available when the game officially launches. With thanks to Kess and Kiana for arranging the preview and the invitation to attend.