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Writer Justin Bortnick discusses the secrets of the Frog Fractions 2 ARG

January 10, 2018 | By Bryant Francis

Last year, a years-long mystery alternate reality game finally came to a close with the release of Glittermitten Grove, an Adult Swim-published fairy management game that secretly contained Frog Fractions 2. At GDC this year, a part of that ARG will be dissected and discussed by writer and narrative designer Justin Bortnick. 

Since we at the Gamasutra Twitch channel could not contain ourselves, we invited Bortnick, who is partly responsible for that ARG (designers Erica Newman, Justin Melvin, and Micah Edwards would work on the latter component of the campaign), to discuss his work and philosophy on the Gamasutra Twitch channel earlier today. 

Since we didn't want to spoil the contents of Bortnick's talk (but we were happy to spoil parts of Frog Fractions 2), we decided to discuss his general narrative design philosophy, and the state of ARG experiences as a whole. It was an illuminating conversation, one which you can watch in its entirety up above. 

If you're somewhat in a rush (or are still trying to figure out what Frog Fractions 2 is), here are a few quick takeaways for you based on our chat. 

Alternate reality games don't have to have puzzles...they just wound up that way

During his work, Bortnick consulted with designers who worked on well-known ARGs like I Love Bees (the Halo 2 promotional ARG), and made the observation that an alternate reality experience doesn't necessarily require puzzle design, it's just been one of the more successful mechanics that eventually helped impact the genre. What's interesting about this analysis is that Bortnick points out that there's a fine line between an ARG and a general real-world puzzle scavenger hunt. What separates the two is finely-crafted narrative design, and a need to react quickly to how your players interpret your hunt. 

Sometimes your players come up with more interesting solutions, and it's useful to use them

Bortnick explained that during the run of the ARG, players often failed to solve puzzles in the way they were intended to be solved...but then stumbled on "solutions" that were more inventive or interesting. In practice, that meant Bortnick would rewrite the "solution" on the fly to help generate more content for players to dig through, all helping cover developer Jim Stormdancer while he worked on the full game. 

There's still more Frog Fractions 2 ARG puzzles out there in new games

To our utmost horror, as we tried to unwind the logic of Frog Fractions 2, Bortnick pointed out that there are still indie games being released with Frog Fractions-related puzzles (like Emily is Away Too). And with that revelation now we realize, that even Gamasutra has become a part of Frog Fractions 2.

For more developer interviews, editor roundtables and gameplay commentary, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel.  

Gamasutra and GDC are sibling organizations under parent UBM Americas

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