Friday, February 04, 2011

Jaded Viewer Rewind: EA's Majestic plays YOU!!!

I'm going all nostalgic here but I hope that a few of you remember a game back in 2001 called Majestic from Electronic Arts. Maybe even some of you played the game. Well I did. It was the first mass marketed ARG (Alternate Reality Game) that took full advantage of the Internet. But the Internet back in 2001 was quite different from what it is today. High speed Internet was a luxury and streaming video was well in its infancy (the predominant video player of choice was called REAL player) but we did have AOL Instant Messenger which was at the time the social networking communication tool of choice.

So what's Majestic?

It was a sci fi conspiracy game that utilized different forms of real life communication. The game was played with:
  • Majestic Navigation System (on your PC) (either bought through EA or downloaded)
  • Secret web pages
  • AOL Instant Messenger
  • Phone
  • Fax
  • E-mail
  • PDA (do you younglings even know what that is?)
You could option how you wanted to be communicated but to get the magnitude of the game I turned on work! I worked for a dot com back then and figured it'd be fun to get weird IMs, mysterious phone calls and crazy e-mails from strangers who were involved in a government conspiracy that needed my help.

And that's how the game was played. You had to help these characters (played by various actors including Joe Pantoliano) who would direct you to different puzzles and clues. For instance you'd have to view a video and then "hack" into a government encrypted file.

The game took place in real time. If a character told you they would contact you the next day at a particular time, they would. To me that was the fun part. I would get random calls at work with a woman screaming "They're after me! I don't know how they found me! I need your help!"

You'd get e-mails with FBI letter heads and links to webpages that had something revolving UFO's and many links to radio talk show host Art Bell. The beauty of the game was at the beginning, a message from EA told you the game was suspended (check this link out).

Slowly, people would contact you over a few days leading you to the next clue.

I remember some of the clues were fuckin hard. Part of the community that grew from Majestic players was that people who were on the same level as you could be contacted via forums, message boards and AIM to help. Some of the puzzles were easy, others you had to look really closely at to figure out what to do next. Remember that Lost ARG? It was in the same vain. I remember you had to enter a combination of passwords with the password clues hidden in various messages.

Sadly Majestic was discontinued after 9/11 (I guess the paranoia hit close to home) and ended because the audience diminished after the first episode.

In some ways it was ahead of its time.

Imagine if Majestic was done today. You could be contacted 24/7 with phones, apps within phones, Twitter, Facebook, AIM, YouTube, etc.

Alas this real life X-Files never caught on. And oddly enough I never got to finish the game I started. I actually got to about Episode 3 (out of 4). Hmm anybody know how it ended?

Well for now, my inner Mulder will have to wait until they come up with a reboot of this game or some sort of variation.

Check out these videos of what was.

First up, the marketing campaign circa Summer 2001.

EA Majestic from Mercury Multimedia on Vimeo.

The Majestic trailer

A preview of Majestic Episode 2.

Here's a making of video featurette.

Here is some LINKAGE:

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  1. I TOTALLY remember this game and it was f'n awesome. My friend and I played it and used to love it. You're right - it was way ahead of its time and 9/11 did not help things any. It was marketed horribly and people were creeped out (except me) by the threatening phone calls. I used to scheduled my lunch breaks for calls and messages to continue the game. Such a great concept, but marketed poorly. EA was too busy pimping the new Madden on PS2 and didn't give it the time of day. If they did this today, it would be a total hit. Imagine what they could do now integrating Skype, Facebook and Twitter. I wish I knew how it all ended. Thanks for reminding me of this, JV!

  2. Dude that is amazing, I have never even heard of Majestic! I would have been totally in, I wonder how much it cost for them to keep that damn thing operating?

  3. Geof - Thanks for the FB link. Glad you played it as well. I thought I was the only one. Just to ahead of its time I guess. Somebody make another ARG!

    Carl - The best part were the automated AOL IM bots. You could write anything and it would respond the same...too funny. I thing the EA servers werent the problem....nobody "got it". A little to real for ppl.

    Maybe we'll get a new ARG that wants to try again.

  4. I wish someone could rip the in-game music from the CDROM and post it. It was atmospheric and awesome.

  5. The cdrom featured three tracks from Electric Skychurch's album Sonic Diary... Heaven, Dark Prophecy, and I believe Dream Machines.
    All the rest of the atmospheric background music were shoutcast channels featuring specific subgenres of ambient tracks put together for the game...

  6. Does anyone remember the codes / cypher some of the messages used?

  7. I remember that I tried to solve all of the Solitaire1947 puzzles but never even came close.

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