Love's labours won
Goodbye plastic

Meta4orce - chat with the designer


I've been enjoying an email exchange with the developer of an interactive animated sci-fi detective series called Meta4orce. Written by acclaimed comic book writer Peter Milligan, Meta4orce molds together a four-part episodic animated series with eight integrated online games to tell the story of a team of genetically-altered detectives tasked with solving highly sensitive criminal cases.

The game was commissioned by the BBC as an experiment in online interactive entertainment (the animated sequences were broadcast on BBC2), and it's available to play for free anywhere in the world. If you're familiar with the BBC's license fee system, you know that much of its televised content is restricted to UK residents only, so the worldwide availability of Meta4orce is a pleasant and welcome surprise.

In my conversation with one of the game's designers, Iain Lobb, he's written about the challenges of creating a console-like experience in a browser (Meta4orce is a Flash-based game) as well as the game design/theory implications of the project. He's trying to integrate short games within a linear narrative animation; which, when you think about it, means the game elements function as cutscenes to the narrative, rather than the other way around. The experiment here is to provide a different kind of interactive experience for gamers.

And that's where you come in. :-)

Iain was kind enough to solicit my feedback on the project, and I asked him if he would be willing to let me extend that invitation to my readers. He eagerly agreed, and so here we are. If you're interested, head over to the BBC's site for the game and give it a look. Then return here and post your comments and questions for Iain. He will pop in every so often to respond, and I hope we'll be able to generate a useful discussion.

Meta4orce is intended as a casual narrative game that blends media in an interactive online environment. I encourage you to meet the game where it is and consider the possibilities and/or limitations of such an experiment. As Iain asked me in his original message, "Are projects like this the future, or is it just a one-off experiment that will never lead to anything else? (like Dragon's Lair or those multi-disk CD-Rom movie/games of the 90s)."

I'm grateful to Iain for his willingness to engage with the community in this way, and I invite you to join in what I hope will be a constructive conversation. See you in the year 2034.

[Note: the Meta4orce site works best for users with broadband connections.]