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Spectrum on "Quest" for reality

Posted by iNext - 2006-02-26

Spectrum MediaWorks confirmed that its flagship franchise "X Quest" will ship as a massively multiplayer online game at the same time Fox Broadcasting Co. debuts the "X Quest" reality TV series produced by Imagine Television.
Alex Seropian and Jim Banister formed Spectrum MediaWorks three years ago to create new entertainment franchises that could debut across multiple formats. "X Quest" was the driving force behind the company's foundation, Seropian said.

"Entertainment convergence is something that has been talked about for a long time, but the multiple media distribution pipes are now in place to create properties that can work on multiple levels," said Seropian, who founded game maker Bungie and co-created "Halo."

Although no launch date has been secured, the "X Quest" game and TV show are expected to debut in the first half of next year.

Imagine Entertainment principal Ron Howard "plays games and understands the medium," Seropian said. "He brings that knowledge with his ability to tell compelling stories to this project."

Howard's ideas have been used for the TV series and the MMO game, he added. An MMO game developer is working on the game, which will allow thousands of console gamers to explore and interact within the virtual world of "X Quest." Seropian said that in addition to the console MMO game and TV show, consumers will be able to interact with the franchise through the Internet and mobile content.

"It's inevitable that linear and interactive entertainment will combine, and Imagine seems intent on being one of the pioneers in this genre -- a combination of the cinematic look, the modern gaming experience and the dramatic character dynamics of television," Banister said. "People living a game, and a fictional story, in a way that's interesting for 20 million people to watch every week."


The "X Quest" universe is set in the near future, and all of the technology will be based on NASA-type future reality rather than "Star Wars" fantasy, Seropian said.

"X Quest" is based on an "aspirational pyramid" approach that Seropian said starts with two teams of seven contestants that enter the cramped compartments of a space simulator and partake in a monthlong series of missions within the virtual world. Viewers can watch the adventures unfold on Fox.

Gamers will be able to enter the world via Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and interact with reality show contestants, according to Spectrum MediaWorks, and events in the game will have a direct impact on the TV show. Seropian said the game also will be designed to offer the best MMO game players the chance to appear on Season 2 of the TV show. Thus gamers can "aspire" to climb the pyramid from video game to virtual reality TV show contestant.

Seropian said "X Quest" was created from the ground up as a TV show and a game "structurally designed to exist in the same virtual world." Although the reality show will be unscripted, a fair amount of story was created for it. In this sense, Seropian said the TV show was similar to designing a game, which has a story but leaves the gamer many choices in interacting with the world.

Banister said that crossing from one medium to another requires an understanding of how the creative process, underlying technology and business models differ. With "X Quest," Spectrum MediaWorks and Imagine have assembled a team that can operate in any of those arenas with equal facility, Banister said.

"The prime reason why the game industry is outpacing cinema, and will eventually outpace television, is that huge numbers of people have demonstrated a desire to immerse and interact," Banister said. "'X Quest' is the first, but certainly not the last."

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