In 2008, as an avid ARG player of 4 years, I took my first tentative step into a new type of endeavor – the telling a fan-fiction story that would span multiple platforms, interact with already-established communities of fans, and do its best to provide an entertaining experience for all who took part – all on the inspiration of a video game space opera, a science fiction universe of immense scale and philosophy, telling a bleak future for humanity, filled with shady ethics and morality shaped by need and desperation, yet with glimmers of hope and acts of heroism.



It was the first time I brought together a puppetmaster team, with the mission to tell a story in the form of a traditional ARG. It was a definitive learning experience, and was filled with amazing creativity and input. While it’s ended up a project on which I am excited to have produced, and I’m satisfied with where it ended up, it was a very long, rough road, with many hurdles and potholes.

While we saw it through to its end, struggles and all, we didn’t succeed in all that we set out to accomplish. Some problems we didn’t solve in the best way, though we put forth our best and most sincere efforts. And of course hind-sight tends to reveal alternative solutions and strategies that would have fared better.

This long-overdue detailed case study is a behind-the-scenes look at some of the trials, experiences, and lessons learned during the run of “Intimation”, as well as many of its highlights and joys. We’d like to be transparent in this self-examination about our development and the creative processes we employed, and offer a look at some of the things we did, why, and how they turned out from our perspective. Perhaps some of what we learned and techniques we used to tell this story may serve as a reference to help others and spawn ideas in future projects.

This case study is long, but written with passion, in both pride and humility while discussing the good and the bad. I hope you find time to peruse it, and if you played Intimation, that the good memories would vastly outweigh any criticisms, bumps, and issues you may have experienced along the way.

Just as our project’s name, This was the way their world ended, was inspired by the iconic quote from T.S. Eliot referenced in Halo, this prologue campaign ironically seemed to end “not with a bang, but a whimper”.

Ours was a grassroots ARG — yet a mere prologue to a greater story that has yet to be told.


The Halo universe created by Bungie had me enraptured the moment the Master Chief opened the door to the Flood in Halo: Combat Evolved – but it wasn’t the video game that hooked me, it was the immensity of the universe in which it took place. When 2004 arrived with the anticipated release of Halo 2, a promotional Alternate Reality Game called “I Love Bees” introduced me to the ARG community, to wonderfully creative storytelling, and then left me anxiously awaiting further exploration of the Haloverse.

ILB was an eye-opening experience, evidence of the greater potential that the Halo universe holds for riveting stories and mysteries, and it sparked a fervent desire for deeper exploration of supplementary fiction that would span the numerous games, novels, video shorts, graphic novels, and music. As this universe became more colorful and rich with eons of events, places and characters, I was stung with a new ambition. After ILB concluded, I’d hoped to see its story continue, to see more happen in this small glimpse of humanity’s future. I soon started wanting to tell a story myself – but not in a standard fan-fiction format, nor with a focus on the already prominent Halo characters and events. Having no rights to any existing Halo IP myself, I didn’t want the story to step on any toes, conflict with established canon or be a cause of concern to its owners, let alone raise any legal red flags, especially having never previously created any kind of fan-fiction. So it was a matter of figuring out what exactly could be told, and how to tell it.


The Halo storyworld is a vast chronology of science-fiction: people, places and events, with a rich galactic history. It reaches over 500 years to our future, and stretches over one hundred millennia to the past; it spans eons and light years beyond the Milky Way – and yet it doesn’t really make any reference to us, our world here, events in the 21st century, today. The story seems to take place all around us through time, but there’s a hole where we exist. We’re not an active part of it.

It was promotional ARGs such as ILB and Iris that changed that paradigm – not only did they tell and expand on Halo’s great storyworld, but we the players influenced the story itself, we became a part of it – a part of the Halo universe. We actually mattered. Parts of the stories occurred in our time. This is what inspired me to take this fledgling aspiration and develop a story in the form of an ARG. I wanted the story to have its place within the Haloverse, but to take place in our reality; which, like I Love Bees, would tell a Halo-inspired story that has its place in the 21st century.

Inspired by the success of a lone ARG puppetmaster, Jan Libby, who single-handedly created and ran her own grassroots ARG “Sammeeees“, I felt encouraged and empowered to go it alone. In 2008, I finally dedicated to start the planning stage, and with streams of creative content and stories being regularly released into the Haloverse, from official canon to a growing fan-fiction community, I was itching to get a story in as well.

Though previously I had helped behind the scenes developing content for another ARG, this would be my first attempt at a project of my own. So I set out with a lofty goal of creating an ARG that would appeal to Halo fans, gamers, ARG veterans, lay people, and ILB alumni, all-the-while attempting to tie multiple independent narratives together.
This, I soon came to realize, was far too lofty a goal.


My plan, when I set out on this daunting task of creating the ARG, was to spend a lot of time creating its story and brainstorming interactive elements – while simultaneously releasing an expository prelude. My plan was to release periodic teasers and references to existing Halo lore, leading up the ARG while I developed it, and to serve as a means of recapping recent Halo ARG stories to help lay its foundation and re-introduce people to what had already taken place in our era – from the discovery of the Cortana Letters in 1999 to the 2007 characters and events introduced in Iris – and how they could all tie in to the Haloverse canon.

Ideas for the ARG were pouring out. Lots of ideas. But while I was brainstorming, I never took a step towards actually producing a cohesive and satisfactory plan of execution. Finding time to create was hard. My full time job remained top priority, and with other important real-life commitments I felt like I simply wasn’t putting enough time in to see the project to fruition any time soon.

I realized quickly that I was starting out on the wrong foot for this task – I was trying to go it alone because the ever-talented Jan Libby showed that it could be done; but my reach was exceeding my grasp. If I had trouble maintaining a planning schedule, how could I even think of successfully maintaining an execution schedule for the ARG itself? I wasn’t in a position in my life to effectively go forth on the project.

I soon had a change of heart, and project development took a different turn: I stepped back and looked for help, seeking out a talented set of individuals who could focus on and produce quality content, so that together we could bounce ideas off each other and brainstorm, spreading the weight of development and creativity more productively.

The plan metastasized. I sought out a crew of specific people: someone more familiar with intricate details of the Haloverse; a skilled writer who could envision and compose a story framework in their own words; a talented musician who could capture the emotion and feel of the narrative and characters; a gifted artist who could visualize scenes artfully from a character’s perspective. But mostly, I wanted to build a hive-mind of experience to help bring things together far better than I could alone.

I scratched my initial lead-up plans. Literally, I started from scratch (my desk was littered with them). With a new beginning and fresh minds, things began moving and falling into place. It started to take shape – and has become what is now the Prologue. The plan took off, and by Christmas 2008 it was poised to launch. However, still over-eager to finally get started, the project stalled right off the starting blocks. Even after overcoming that hiccup, it was met with hurdle after hurdle as it pushed forward.

A number of our experiences, both bad and good, are discussed in the following chapters of this case study – the many ups and downs, fortunes and failures, successes and mistakes. In some areas I also get into a little more technical detail about the development process. This story and the project was and is close to my heart, and I hope that my passion for it is adequately expressed in this comprehensive lengthy case study. My sincere thanks to those who spent time proof reading it and helping to shape it.

It’s taken 5 years to finally bite the bullet and release this ARG analysis, warts and all. So please bare with me as you read! :)

In the end, what was first intended as a prelude to be told over periodic updates as an introduction to an ARG evolved into a detailed, interactive, budgetless ARG itself spanning many, many months. It was exciting, exhausting, memorable, entertaining, educational, frustrating, and humbling. And that, quite literally was just the beginning.


PITFALLS: Don’t test the blue bird!