Help me make the Clone Assassin interactive comic & alternate reality game

If you’ve ever wanted to see me get tasered/stabbed, today is your lucky day! Today I launched a Kickstarter with the help of some really talented people. I’ve hesitated to do crowdfunding for anything related to Phrenic because nothing we’ve done so far has required it and it takes considerable effort to get a good campaign running.

This comic idea all started when Phrenic actor Steve Mattsson was interviewed on Foes of Reality and talked about his former writing duties for DC, Marvel, and cult favorite Boris the Bear. We discussed doing a comic with his friend, Paul Gulacy, a legendary artist for DC/Marvel who is also credited for drawing one of the very first graphic novels.

I loved the idea but didn’t feel like we had a compelling enough idea to crowdfund. Just adding a comic to Phrenic would simply feel like ticking off the “Comic book” box in a transmedia checklist. We came at it from new angles, like having it be the prequel to a clone assassin video we filmed–which was a step in the right direction but still not enough.

Finally, we came up with the idea that would allow readers to interact directly with the clone assassin based on clues from the comic. The way it works is a reader might see a text message drawn into the comic, which the reader could send a message to in order to begin a conversation with Anya, bringing them deeper into the story. Other interactions may unlock comic panels only available to readers who interact.


Judging from the deeply engaged people playing our Zoe Trapp alternate reality game, I felt like this type of interactive experience would be worth the effort. Even if we fail, it will have been worth the effort.

But I’d really like to NOT fail. I think this is a very cool idea and we’ll be beating much larger players to the game with it. I set up a live example of how the alternate reality game can be played. Send “I need your services” to the Clone Assassin’s by text message to 971-717-2850 or to her Twitter handle @ikillclones.

Be part of comic book history and help us make this happen!

(Update: we did not make this happen, but you haven’t heard the last from the clone assassin!)

Phrenic now has an alternate reality game that starts with interactive video


I’m always looking for ways to get people interacting more deeply in the story of Phrenic. Sometimes that means allowing people to create their own content (like in Go Clone Yourself) or letting them make decisions about where the story goes in a Tweet Your Own Adventure game.

The latest way to get wrapped up in Phrenic is the Life Identical Genetic Enhancement Screening test. It’s an alternate reality game that begins with an interactive video. Zoe, a Genetic Enhancement Advisor, asks you questions in a “live web conference.” You can answer yes to all of her questions but it’s more fun if you express a little reservation or doubt. (There is also a standard sign-up form if you want to skip the interactive video.)

Fill out a quick contact form and Zoe will immediately send you a brochure about genetic enhancements, followed by secret emails about what’s really going on with the genetic enhancement testing. She might ask you questions or send videos, photos, or artifacts like sketches of cloning storage pods.

This interactive story is designed to have more episodes and artifacts added over time. Zoe’s emails and tweets represent a new chapter in the story and also fills in another piece of “Play” in Phrenic’s tagline “a thriller you watch, read, and play.” Zoe’s storyline ties into other storylines so when Phrenic’s Clone Assassin comic project comes out in a few weeks, you’ll see the same events from the perspective of Zoe, a customer service agent spying on Life Identical.

Go get screened by Zoe or connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

And if you want updates Phrenic, sign up here. The Clone Assassin stuff is going to be awesome.

(If you’re interesting in this sort of thing, I created the interactive video with Adventr and all of the immersive interactions are done using Conducttr.)

My first Tweet Your Own Adventure game

the-doll-cyoaI turned an interactive story I wrote for Phrenic into a Tweet Your Own Adventure game. Not only is it a homage to the choose your own adventure type books everyone read as a kid, but it’s also a tribute to the text adventure games I used to try writing in BASIC on a TRS-80 (I was terrible at it). I decided to make a Choose Your Own Adventure game that was played entirely on Twitter.

What is a Tweet Your Own Adventure game?

It’s a new kind of text adventure game played entirely with Twitter interactions using @ replies. You don’t even need to follow anyone. It’s all done by sending @ replies to a character from Phrenic on Twitter, known as @PhrenicDoll. Think of it as a Choose Your Own Adventure story where you make decisions by replying on Twitter.

How do I begin playing?

All you need to do is tweet the word START to @PhrenicDoll

Then @PhrenicDoll will reply to you. At the end of the tweet are two options in ALL CAPS. Reply with one of those options (your answer doesn’t need to be in all caps). You’ll get a new tweet until you reach one of the endings (or if stop replying).

How do I “rewind” to a previous choice?

Let’s say you made a bad choice in the story and want to “rewind” to a previous decision. Just type the ALL CAPS option and you’ll resume the story from that point.

You can also tweet START to @PhrenicDoll at any time to re-start the whole game.

How do I pause the game?

Let’s say you start playing on the bus then get to work and can’t play anymore. Simply stop replying to @PhrenicDoll (she won’t mind). On your bus ride home, you can reply to her latest tweet to resume the story.

How do I stop playing?

To stop playing, simply stop replying to @PhrenicDoll. She only talks to you when you talk to her.

Does everyone see my tweets to @PhrenicDoll?

Your interactions with @PhrenicDoll won’t be seen by people who follow you unless they are also following @PhrenicDoll, or if they go directly to your profile page.

There are a lot of @ mentions to the @PhrenicDoll in my feed. Can I delete them?

Yes, once @PhrenicDoll has replied to your tweet, you can delete your tweet. But if you do that, you’ll lose the conversation thread in Twitter that allows the whole interaction to read like a story.

How did you make this?

I wrote the original story using Inklewriter and then modified it for Twitter using Conducttr.

Special thanks to volunteer beta testers: @EGGmockradio (first!) @Superglrl @phjpdx @QMpolly @audreywalker !!

What else has this Phrenic doll been in?

My talk about transmedia and indie film at UO

I was excited when Mary Erickson asked me to talk about indie film and transmedia for her film industry class at the University of Oregon. I was also a little nervous when I found out there would be about 100 students because I didn’t know exactly what to talk about or what level of experience the students had. I joked with friends that I would ask the class, “Who here has made a feature film?” and every single hand would raise. “Okay, but who here has made an app or transmedia experience?” and every single hand would stay raised. Fortunately that wasn’t the case, but I think many of them will be doing those things in the near future.

Before class, I got to do a nostalgia tour around campus. I quickly visited the classroom where I met my wife and hung out at Espresso Roma, where I spent many hours reading and writing and drinking mochas. I’ll also probably blog about this at This Is Transmedia with more transmedia-y insights, but I’m posting this on this blog as a proud UO Duck.

Introducing… Phrenic version 2.0!

I’m happy/relieved/excited to finally release the second version of my iOS app Phrenic. I’ve learned a lot since launching it in March (and even more since the initial app rejection in October–long story). What’s new? Why should you download it? Why am I making the totally unreasonable demand that you pay .99? First watch the new trailer, then read below…

More Stories, Episodes, and Extras

Now I can add new content without forcing you to install another app update. Just launch Phrenic 2.0 and you’ll have the latest story elements and behind-the-scenes extras. This version has a new mini-episode, a new short story, and a way for fans to submit their own content.

Phrenic still does not have push notifications because I hate those and turn them off except for things like Twitter.

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 6.29.50 PM

Audience Participation

I get asked about allowing fans to get involved by submitting stories or videos to be included in the world of Phrenic. Not that fans are actually requesting to do those things, but some people think a good transmedia project MUST have audience participation. I was initially skeptical but I’m coming around. There are some risks to opening a project to fan generated content (which I talk about here) but I realized I can let someone else’s lawyers worry about that.

mike vogel in doll mask

I’m now using Theatrics to allow Phrenic fans to submit videos or other content. To stoke creativity and give people a chance to remain anonymous, I’ve created a cut-out doll mask where people can disguise themselves and record a video about being a clone (or clone protesters). Approved videos will show up on the Theatrics site, PhrenicWorld, and the iOS app. A rough storyline will launch next week that will make it easy for engaged fans to jump in. If you’re thinking of doing it, PLEASE DO!

Here’s a picture of me wearing the doll mask….

No More In-App Purchases

Phrenic_EpisodesPhrenic 1.0 was free to download and watch episodes 1 & 2, but then it cost money for episodes 3 – 7. What a genius way to keep making money off your audience by releasing more episodes and charging for them! Except people don’t like that idea very much and the always-imminent cost becomes a barrier to getting involved in the story. I’m asking for a very small, one-time fee of .99 and I’ll give you a new kind of story that I hope you’ll enjoy so much that you tell everyone with an iPhone to download Phrenic. I like this model better.

The other reason I got rid of in-app purchases is a technical one. To sell the episodes as IAP, you’d have to download them to your iPhone or iPad. That’s fine if it’s a pre-determined, finite amount, like a movie or comic book chopped into chapters. But Phrenic is on-going with no end in sight. There wasn’t a clean way to delete the in-app purchase episodes and adding more would quickly fill up your device. Phrenic used to be about 45MB before you bought all the episodes, at which point it ballooned up to 165MB or so. The more you watched Phrenic 1.0, the more it bogged down your device. What do you do when an app takes up too much space? Delete it! Phrenic 2.0 is down to 9MB now because all of the episodes are now streamed (which means you’ll have to be online–deal with it!)

Getting closer to launching Phrenic

I’m getting closer to launching my transmedia project, Phrenic. The app is being reviewed by the App Store and I’ve got an idea in the works so people who aren’t on Apple devices can watch as well. My hope is to have a story I can continually add to in different ways over the course of the next year or longer. An interactive story here, a five episode video series there. I’m looking at some options for additional video games (there are three mini-games in the app). It’s an exciting project that allows me to be creative in many different ways.

And if you haven’t checked out Life Identical yet, please do, although it is vaguely spoiler-y.

Here are a few screenshots of the app…

AppScreenshots-iPhone-Episodes AppScreenshots-iPhone-InteractiveStory