Reality Ends Here is a pervasive alternate-reality game played on the campus of USC. Players utilize collectible cards to generate prompts for an infinite range of storytelling projects, which get exchanged for points on a global leaderboard. Originally created by Jeff Watson, I was in charge of economy and puzzle design for its third season.
It was necessary to rebalance the distribution of game cards because previous seasons of the game stagnated when certain players became disproportionately powerful, thereby marginalizing less engaged players. Imbalanced cards like Points Bonanza, a highly-exploitable card that doubled the score of all actions, were removed from the game. It was also necessary to create a new range of unusual pink cards and include more powerful cards in starter packs to keep the game creatively engaging.
More information about the game economy can be found here.
A range of powerful cards was distributed through a series of puzzles that utilized the entire campus as a play space. Riddles and puzzles would incentivize players to explore and be attentive to new parts of the USC Campus. Narrative trappings would tie these puzzles into the history of USC and notable students who went down the same paths as the freshman players were about to enter. This made the player’s first year at USC feel more magical and full of potential.
More information about these puzzles can be found here.
A comprehensive “Game Runner’s Guide” by Simon Wiscombe can be found here if you want to run an instance of Reality Ends Here for your own organization.