Black Crown Project

Launched in 2010, the New Media Writing Prize was created to connect the ever widening gap between traditional narrative-led publishing and interactive new media writing that’s written or designed specifically for viewing on the web or hand-held devices. Sony have since helped create an interactive way of exploring J.K Rowling’s magical universe via Pottermore but it’s Random House UK who appear to be making the boldest moves into new, gaming style narrative and platforms.

Written by debut author Rob Sherman, the Black Crown project invites players to join the shady Widsith Institute as clerks “whose work is managed through the application of bespoke diseases, to facilitate the task of categorising and analysing the Institute's archive of diaries and journals, belonging to the world's greatest explorers, those who travel beyond the edge of the world” according to the first communication SFL have received from the Institute.

Eremite Black Crown
Over the course of the free-to-play experience, players will begin to learn about the furtive figure of the Miasma Eremite, who journeyed to the town of Loss, through the exploration of numerous bizarre objects and documents brought back to the Institute from its singular civilization. They will also meet a host of weird characters including the mysterious clerk Wayle, and the terrifying Shushbaby as they descend to the Marvel Ouse and begin to uncover the nefarious Black Crown project.

The sign up process to the project is brimming with fantastical language and turn of phrase. After selecting a character name, players are asked to “Reveal your age. An estimate is sufficient, for those of you who come from civilisations spiritually opposed to records, or whose age is fractional, universal, and not represented here. You have our sympathies”. The third question enquires as to what distance you tend to stand from people and animals when talking to them. The verbose humour lands on the right side of accessible yet the overall tone on the site and in the artwork released at launch would seem to suggest that a darker adventure lies ahead…

“Black Crown represents Random House’s ambition to push the boundaries in online storytelling, experiment with new business models and launch a debut author in a groundbreaking way,” says Dan Franklin, Digital Publisher, Random House Group. “Rob Sherman is a superb writer and a rare talent, and I’m delighted to be publishing him in this way.” The narrative will be an organic process, updated and added to in several stages after stage one’s month-long running time and there will be opportunities for eager players to unlock story strands, acquire items and status within the world via micropayments.

Black Crown is powered by Failbetter Games’ Storynexus platform, with bespoke functionality created for the Black Crown project. Additional Miasma features developed by Popleaf. For more info and to sign up to Stage One, visit the Black Crown project website.

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