“ARG” stands for “alternate reality game” or “augmented reality game.”

The Secret World inspires a new hacking simulation game NITE Team 4

If you think a story-driven military hacking simulation game sounds right up The Secret World’s alley, you’d be correct. In this case, TSW is the inspiration behind a new game being developed by Alice & Smith, a Canadian game studio. Called NITE Team 4, the game will explore the world of cyberwarfare. It is expected to launch on Steam for PC and Mac in early 2017.

But inspiration is not where the connection ends. Alice & Smith and Funcom, which have worked together in the past (remember the ARGs Gate 33, End of Days, and The Black Watchmen?), are collaborating together on cross-promotional tie-ins. Everyone in TSW will get a NITE Team 4 military-style backpack gear for free, and those who own both games will get limited-edition NITE Team 4 uniforms. On top of that, TSW will get a new hacking mission in game, and both communities can participate in a special cross-universe ARG. During the last Streaming Ones livestream, Game Director Romain Amiel noted that the 2016 Halloween event would be a community mission (ARG?) — could this be it? [Edit: Community Manager Andy Benditt squashed that theory, unless he is just an Illuminati puppet?]

If NITE Team 4 catches your interest, you have the chance to not only support it but also influence the direction of the story itself. Alice & Smith has launched a Kickstarter campaign to expand the game include PVP modules, player malware crafting, mission editors and more. The various stretch goals let players vote on the main story, help build lore, and design key NPCs and factions. To learn more about the game, visit the NITE Team 4 official site.

Source: Press release; Kickstarter


Overeager Overwatch researchers hack actual accounts to find a fictional character

Account hacks happen. They’re unpleasant, but they happen, and you can at least usually point to them happening for logical reasons. Your account got hacked because you bought gold? Understandable. Someone you used to trust hacked into it and stole a bunch of stuff from you? Again, unpleasant, but it makes sense. Your account got hacked because overzealous Overwatch fans saw that you had a tag relating to the rumored character Sombra and assumed that hacking your account was part of the ARG surrounding the character? That’s… actually, wait, that’s entirely nonsense. And it happened.

And then it happened four more times.

In the vaguest terms, you can understand the chain of logic, since Sombra herself is supposed to be a master hacker. But to the great surprise of no one, it turns out that the hackers who broke into these accounts were rewarded with nothing more than access to the personal accounts of unlucky players with no connection whatsoever to the campaign. This fact did not stop the hackers from posting personal account details to the ARG community, although those details were quickly deleted by administrators. So it may be that the possible inadvertent leaking of Sombra’s identity was a good thing in the long run.

Source: Kotaku


Rumor: Overwatch’s Sombra and a new PvE mode have been uncovered

Who is Sombra in Overwatch? In a way, you could say that we’re all Sombra, but that statement wouldn’t make any sense. A more accurate answer would be that Sombra is an upcoming hero who has been heavily teased and hinted at… and may have finally been revealed. A leak on Reddit posted a screenshot and text from what appeared to be internal documents at Blizzard revealing the hacker herself and an upcoming horde-style PvE mode (similar to gameplay found in games like Gears of War or Mass Effect 3 multiplayer).

Whether or not this is legitimate is a different story altogether; there’s been an ongoing ARG surrounding Sombra, and this could be just another layer of deception and misdirection. It also lines up with what has been said about both the character and the promise of new modes coming to the game, which makes it that much more ambiguous. Either way, it sounds as if some of this (including the PvE mode) would synchronize nicely with the rumored Halloween event… so keep your eyes on the shadows.

Source: VG24/7, Polygon


Pokémon Go will soon let you pick a favorite buddy

Don’t pretend that you’re impartial and love all of your Pokémon the same. Sooner or later you’re going to have to make that brutal Sophie’s Choice with your pocket monsters, particularly when Pokémon Go introduces its new buddy feature.

“You will be able to pick your favorite Pokémon from your collection to become your buddy, opening up unique in-game rewards and experiences,” the developers explained. “Buddy Pokémon will appear alongside your trainer avatar on your profile screen, adding helpful bonuses such as awarding candy for walking together. You’ll also have the ability to change your buddy Pokémon at any time.”

In other Pokémon Go news, the success of the ARG was cited as one reason that Sony is “aggressively” pursuing mobile game development. Sharp-eyed players also discovered that Google Maps now allows you to pick Pokémon hunting as one of the options for your timeline.

Source: Pokémon Go, Polygon, BGR. Thanks Nordavind!


Overwatch spawns a mysterious ARG teasing Sombra

Overwatch fans have been chasing clues this month in what appears to be a Blizzard-backed viral ARG revolving around Sombra, the character teased earlier this month.

The Overwatch forums played host to a big clue: the posting of the Spanish phrase “la que tiene la información; tiene el poder” (she who has information has power), which suggested the Sombra connection. The forum post devolves into an animated string of gibberish code, only it wasn’t gibberish at all: It was a cipher. Long story short, the cipher led players to a fake in-universe website and a tips email that auto-replies with more code.

Most recently, players have uncovered more clues — a countdown timer, a video of Reaper, skull imagery — that suggest Sombra is close.

Gotta say, this is one of the more interesting things Blizzard’s done lately, and all without a hint of hoopla — after all, that would have spoiled the fun. Have any of you been participating?

Source: Polygon, VG247


Pokemon Go’s popularity appears to be waning

The mobile ARG powerhouse of Pokémon Go appears to be losing players, and not just drivers who hit people due to focusing on the game instead of the road. Data from Axiom Capital Management reported by Bloomberg show that the game is already down 12 million players from its height of 45 million, with engagement on a daily basis also falling off significantly. The downturn is significant, especially a mere two months after launch, and ties into earlier thoughts regarding the game’s long-term viability.

Of course, it’s worth noting that the game still has millions of players and has yet to launch in several key territories, including China and South Korea. It’s far too early to mark the game as a lost cause or even dying. But it would be fair to say that the honeymoon period with the game seems to be coming to a close, and its long-term future is perhaps not a foregone conclusion.


Leaderboard: Will Pokemon Go and the ARG genre stand the test of time? has an interesting piece out this week examining the bandwagon effect of a game like Pokemon Go, as investors and venture capitalists begin seeking the “next Pokemon Go.” “[D]evelopers are frantically preparing pitches and demos to that effect; IP holders are looking at their own franchises and trying to figure out which ones they could ‘do a Pokemon Go‘ with,” writes Rob Fahey. “This is an ill-advised direction, to say the very least.” He points out that studios shouldn’t jump on a bandwagon when “we don’t even know if this bandwagon is rolling yet.” It might just be another fad, especially if Niantic doesn’t make “dramatic updates and changes” soon.

“To put this in blunt terms, Pokemon Go has just managed to attract the largest audience of any mobile game within weeks of its launch – and it could just as readily find itself losing that audience almost in its entirety within a few weeks. If that happens, those enormous download numbers and the social phenomenon that has built up around the game will be almost meaningless.”

It’s a well-argued piece, and it made me wonder what you folks think about the staying power of Pokemon Go and ARGs, which so desperately depend on social momentum. To the pollmobile!

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Pokemon Go: The fake Harry Potter rumor and the patch of doom

The Harry Potter  Pokemon Go clone widely reported over the weekend was a hoax, guys. JTHX News originally claimed IGN posted the news, but the supposed source article never existed. Which you could find out by trying to click on it. Journalism.

The big thing Pokemon Go players are freaking out about right now is this weekend’s patch.

Niantic’s patch was directed at the three steps bug, but instead of fixing it, the studio removed it completely, which wouldn’t have raised much outcry on its own, but it was implemented in conjunction with an apparent cease-and-desist takedown request to the major tracking tools like Pokevision (which voluntarily complied). The intent, one suspects, is to drive players to spending on lure IAPs… or wander around cluelessly. Or, you know, quit.

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Pokemon Go: Drones, Tesla autopilot, finding Ditto, and dirty cheaters

Hands at 9 and 3, Poke trainers, and no cheating!

  • If you’re too lazy to actually go play Pokemon Go but don’t want to outright cheat to do it, try the method PewDiePie unintentionally lifted from Reddit: Physically attach your smartphone to a drone and pilot it around from your desk. Does his phone survive the ordeal? Check out the video below to see for yourself.
  • In other “this was a terrible idea” news, a Tesla owner apparently recorded himself playing Pokemon Go while his car was on autopilot. The video’s gone now, and yes, autopilot is cool, but autopilot is not really autopilot yet, folks. You can’t just clock out. It’s not designed to do all the work for you, as recent crashes have proven.
  • The first person to hit the level 40 cap in Pokemon Go has revealed that in fact he used to a bot to do it, not for the achievement but just to see if it could be done. According to the post on Reddit, the perpetrator won’t be revealing how exactly to copy his path, didn’t fight in gyms, and plans to delete the account. “I dont want to take anyone the fun of this game. I find it disrespectful and disgusting to profiling with that,” he wrote. Honor among hackers and all that.
  • Pokemon Go cheating is apparently getting a bit out of hand. VG247 profiles several new cheating programs that spoof GPS. As Massively OP reader Nordavind has pointed out, Niantic this year began severely punishing GPS-spoofing cheaters in its other ARG, Ingress, after years of the cheating devastating the game. One presumes Niantic will take the same stance with Pokemon Go cheaters of the same stripe, so don’t press your luck, and please don’t hand over your cash for these apps.

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EverChaosing: Adapting Pokemon Go for The Secret World and EverQuest II

So there’s this thing right now. It’s kind of a craze. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Pokemon Go? Yeah, I thought so. The thing is, I myself am not even slightly tempted. As much as folks are flocking to this game, I don’t even have an iota of interest. I did watch the cartoons when I was younger, but the game doesn’t grab me.

But the idea of this kind of gameplay technology does.

When the Pokemon Go discussion turned to using this game style for other things, my interest was piqued and my imagination took off! You might say that Pokemon Go is singularly popular because of the IP and the way it transitions so well into the real world. Well, I know (and love) another game that is seamlessly integrated into the real world: The Secret World! The thought of hunting down investigation missions or lore from TSW got me pretty excited. And what about EverQuest II? Take its collection of shinies and strew them around the world, and suddenly I’m poised to buy a new smartphone. I may not want to hunt and capture pokemon, but hunt shinies and lore? I may never be indoors enough to even play other games!

Both ideas were simultaneously so awesome, I couldn’t decide which one I’d focus on first — hence this week’s mash-up of both the EverQuesting and Chaos Theory columns.

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Pokemon Go: $35M revenue, movie deals, and the US government

Welcome back to our near-daily roundup of Pokemon Go news from around the alternate reality that we all live in now.

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The Daily Grind: How would you design a Pokemon MMORPG?

It’s been a good week for the alternate reality game genre: Aside from Ingress, most of the ARGs on mobile are teeny-tiny, and even writing about Ingress is met with confusion from most gamers. Pokemon Go is putting the ARG on the map in a much bigger way (pun intended), especially when it flirts with mainstream media (although not necessarily for reasons Nintendo or the police or really anyone will be happy about).

Pokemon has never really been my thing, but all the hype has made me wonder how the IP might work in an MMORPG proper rather than an ARG. MMOs have long abused the “gotta catch ’em all” spirit when it comes to everything from gear to achievements — never mind minipet collection and battle — so it should be a natural fit, right?

Apparently so, because a quick trip to Google shows there are literally dozens of fan-made Pokemon MMOs already online. I don’t think any of them is officially sanctioned, and some of them are of dubious quality, but clearly there’s excessive demand for this. So Pokemon masters, you tell me: How would you design a Pokemon MMORPG? How would it work, and what would it need to have to be true to the IP and the genre — other than, you know, a legal license? Or is the ARG the more natural genre?

(Thanks to BalsBigBrother, Nordavind, and Kanbe for the tips!)

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Pokemon Go is live in the United States

Have you previously tried to get into games using your phone’s “augmented reality” features, but found yourself lacking an emotional connection to things that aren’t small animals you can make fight one another? Do you like how Pokémon as a franchise sends children out into dangerous wilderness but wanted to actually send your own children out into dangerous wilderness with a bike instead of having them sit at home with a Nintendo handheld? Do you just really, really need a new way to capture Pikachu? These are all of the reasons to be excited about the launch of Pokémon Go in the United States.

Or, we suppose, you might just really like the gameplay.

Fans of the franchise can start exploring the game’s live features on their mobile devices right now, with iOS and Android versions both available. Hunt Pokémon in the real world, battle opponents with your own team, and make use of many (if not all) of the features of the classic games in a new format. It’s a fun excuse to travel while capturing monsters, or at the very least, it’s a good way to hold over your appetite for catching things until the next handheld games come out.

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