Endgame is going to be a fascinating project in collective storytelling. The project started as Endgame: The Calling, a novel published in October from best-selling (and controversial) author James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton. It is the first of three books.
Before the second novel comes out, Google’s Niantic Labs division will launch its Endgame mobile game. Much like its predecessor, the geo-location game Ingress, Endgame is an alternate-reality game, set in real-world locations as the battlegrounds that 12 factions will fight over. Fans form their own factions based on the Ancient Societies in the Endgame novel. In the book, societies compete with each other to be the one faction that survives the apocalypse. One of a cast of teen characters leads each, and that individual has received training for the moment when they will face their tests.
But here’s the interesting twist. The real-world players and factions affect the outcome of the story. In fact, Frey and Johnson-Shelton will weave the stories of the most active players into the second and third novels, said Jim Stewartson, a member of the Niantic Labs team, in an interview with GamesBeat. Fox, meanwhile, is working on three movies based on the franchise. It’s one of the ultimate “transmedia” projects, or a single entertainment property that crosses multiple media.
“The plotlines of the game, movie, and novel will merge into one story,” Stewartson said.
Frey stirred controversy earlier in his career when it was found that he made up or exaggerated incidents in ihs life that he passed off as a memoir in A Million Little Pieces, about his alcohol and drug addiction.
Storytelling doesn’t get more interactive than that. Stewartson is a veteran of alternate reality games. He was one of the brains behind interactive transmedia productions like 42 Entertainment’s “I Love Bees” campaign for the launch of the Halo 2 video game, and he is one of the people bringing that expertise to Endgame. One of the hallmarks of I Love Bees was that 42 Entertainment got 50,000 pay phones to ring at once, and each player heard a snippet of a recording. The recordings were pieced together to broadcast an hours-long War-of-the-Worlds-style story about the alien Covenant invasion of Earth.
“Google has the online gaming rights to this franchise, and Niantic is extending this intellectual property into mobile,” Stewartson said.
The novel tells the conspiracy story of 12 ancient civilizations that aliens forced to compete to the death in order to save humanity. The winning faction will survive, and everybody else on Earth will die. Embedded in the pages of the book is a huge puzzle, and the first person who solves it will get $500,000 in gold. That gold is currently on display at the Caesar’s Palace casino in Las Vegas.
“We’ve been building a story that turn the novel into an alternate reality game, and, by next year, becomes a mobile game,” Stewartson said. “To me, this is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.”
Google’s Niantic already has success with a massively multiplayer online mobile game, Ingress, which has been played by more than 7 million people. Ingress has just two factions, but Endgame is going to be a lot more complicated with 12 factions. One of the characters is Stella. She goes online to teach about a philosophy passed on to her by her father. She finds out that what she has been taught has a lot to do with the Endgame competition. Stella has reached out to the audience that is learning about the Ancient Truths.
“At its core, Endgame will have the same core DNA as a geolocation game like Ingress,” Stewartson said. “But it also has player versus player action, and that is a very different mechanic. The interesting thing is that the real players will be incorporated into subsequent novels. That might be the first time that has ever happened.”