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A million flowers

[Some interesting responses to the Illumination announcement provoked this blog post.]

Echo Bazaar is a game about secrets and mysteries... among other things, but secrets and mysteries come high on the list.

We've learnt, over the past year or two, that people react very differently to secrets and mysteries: there are those who

- play 100 actions a day and remember everything
- play 100 actions a month and pay attention to the funny bits
- are mostly in it for the flirtation
- are mostly in it for the hats
- are only in it for the secrets and mysteries
- can't bear the thought they might miss a single piece of text, and trawl wikis to catch everything
- keep an alternate Twitter account or two, and try all the other choices so they can play everything
- could really use a hint or reminder now and then
- regard the mysteries as a challenge to be solved, and won't go near spoilers
- regard the text as semi-relevant fluff and just want to get every item in the game
- enjoy the text, like the atmosphere of mystery, are here to smell the flowers
- want to solve the mysteries competitively, for themselves
- want to share and work with other people

... and so on and so on.

If there was an 'official' way of playing Echo Bazaar, it would be to play through with one character, pay attention to the mysteries, swap stories with other people, read occasional spoilers or commentaries to catch things you'd missed, and enjoy the arbitrariness and irrevocability of some choices. It's how we'd play, and it's what the game's best suited to.

But the more things we can be to the more people, the better. So we're trying to find balanced approaches to suit a variety of play styles, and to cultivate a player community that can do that.

And more than that, we're interested in taking these lessons into future games and other projects. Illumination is one experiment to this end. This is still a young field, and we think there are probably some fascinating techniques and approaches out there to discover. Your suggestions, as ever, are welcome.