Putting our thinking caps on.

When forensic anthropologists of the future try to piece together the skeletal remains of this project, this week will serve as the fragments they use to identify the genesis of the entire organism.

What we mean by that silly metaphor is that this was the week things really started to take shape for us.

A quick recap: the project is about creating a puzzle-driven, narrative experience (somewhat similar to the notion of an escape room, but with more story elements) that’s designed to get 21 through 35-year-olds excited about natural history/natural history museums.

We thought long and hard about what an exciting experience might look like that meets all of these goals and initially outlined a story that involved players boarding a space craft, landing on an alien planet, finding extra-terrestrial bones, working with and later against an evil robot, discovering the remains of a dead survey team, and blowing up the planet.

Readers, if you have any familiarity with projects here at the Entertainment Technology Center, you’ll instantly realize that this falls into one of the classic traps of the program—overscoping. Our advisers were delighted with the energy and enthusiasm we were bringing to the table, but reminded us that we need to deliver something remotely achievable by the end of the semester, and that we best scale back our pie-in-the-sky ambitions.

Practically speaking, this meant keeping some of the grand scientific questions our draft experience was raising (and even some of the cool tech that we were imagining), but adapting the idea into something we could actually (mostly) build over the next 12 or so weeks. Our advisers rightly informed us that we’d all be better off creating a prototype that was as close to a finished product as possible, rather than rough sketches for what the “real” experience would like with a multi-million dollar budget.

So when we went back to the drawing board, we realized we could still do a lot of what we wanted by setting the experience in a single, earthbound location. Our story could still be about dealing with bones discovered on another planet, but how about a real one like Mars, instead of something fictional. And maybe the robot could even play a significant role in the story/experience…

More on this guy, the story, and the specific types of puzzles we’re creating next week!