by NorseGamer, HSM Editor-in-Chief, with information provided by Joe Dale, nDreams Digital Product Manager
“Certainly it is true,” said Cornelius. “And the land has never quite forgotten them.”
–C. S. Lewis
I sometimes picture all the years of Home — all its achievements, its product releases, its notable moments from developer and community alike — coalesced into one long symphony. If we keep with this analogy, then what we’re about to discuss here is nothing less than the fourth movement from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: the Ode to Joy.
Because, at long last, Xi has truly returned.
That’s right. You heard me. After more than three years of silence, nDreams has formally announced its sequel, Xi: Continuum.
From Joe Dale, nDreams Digital Product Manager:
Xi: Continuum is the sequel to the 2009 console-based alternate reality game Xi, which had over 600,000 unique players and gave birth to a hugely passionate community that has been clamoring for a fresh Xi experience.
Patrick O’Luanaigh, CEO of nDreams said, “Xi: Continuum crosses between console, websites, videos and the real world, yet can be played at any time. We believe that the game offers a genuinely original game experience that will be unlike anything else you have played before.”
The mushroom cloud you just saw was the entire Home community going up in a giant “WTF BOOM” moment of glee.
The original Xi is still hailed by many as the high-water mark of Home. Xi: Continuum aims to recapture that magic and even expand on it. This is no easy feat, though: Home is a much more decentralized and balkanized environment than it was back in 2009. Part of what gave the original Xi so much impact is that at the time…there really wasn’t much of anything else to do in Home.
This is not to knock the original experience at all; but there is no question that recapturing that same lightning in a bottle in today’s Home environment is going to be a tall order. Home’s user base has grown exponentially since 2009, and there are a whole lot of people who never experienced the first Xi. On top of that, the people who were around at that time have romanticized the memory of that magical experience and elevated it to such a level that it may be impossible for anything to truly match it. Further, nearly every major game release in Home, over the last six months, has experienced massive bugs and lag issues due to server stress. Given how much traffic is going to be exploring Xi: Continuum, I can only hope that the infrastructure of Home itself is capable of handling the load.
Oh — and to top it all off, there are already people whinging on the Sony forum about how much this new Xi experience is going to cost them.
The fact remains, though, that Xi: Continuum has a lot going for it. First off, no one else has released an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) into Home since the original Xi, and the formula of blurring the lines between the real world and the virtual world inherently lends itself exceptionally well to Home. Since there’s nothing else in Home that comes close to interactively blurring the lines the way the Xi formula does, it should be a hit even with those people who never experienced the original. And while I agree that the social scene is the beating heart of Home, there is no question that it is games in Home which help to actually bring people together in a cooperative, communal spirit — and Xi did this better than anything else in Home.
Xi also benefits from its ability to play on the human fascination with surrealism, which nDreams is already remarkably adept at creating. Just as Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner turned television inside-out with its puzzles and riddles — elevating an ordinary TV show into a cultural phenomenon that is still hotly debated and discussed to this day — so Xi did the same with virtual reality, and Xi: Continuum promises to continue and expand upon this.
What fascinates me, personally, is the process involved in creating something like this. Building an ordinary Home game takes a hell of a lot more time than a typical Top Gear montage, and building something like an ARG is a hideously expensive and time-consuming process with a lot of moving parts that need to work together. When you consider how Home itself has evolved in the last few years — and I know of more than a few products in development which had to be completely reworked because of core updates which changed how Home functions — I can only imagine how daunting it was to try to bring something this massive to life.
Here’s the bottom line, though: we’re about to have a new Xi experience unleashed upon us all. For every Home user, old and new alike, this is a properly Big Deal. In case you’re completely in the dark as to what made Xi such a cultural experience for the Home community, take a look at this and you’ll understand.
And now it’s time to do it again.
At the beginning of 2012, we told you that this would be remembered as the “Year of the Game” in Home.
What, you thought we were kidding?
Say goodbye to daylight, fortify your internet connection, and put away the breakables — Xi is back.