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Perplex City, aloha

June 1st, 2007 · 42 Comments

It’s said that it takes 4000 hours of study and practice to become an expert, whether it’s for sport, music, dance or academia. 4000 hours works out to be about three years of full time study – the same length as an undergraduate degree.

For the past three years, I’ve worked at Mind Candy as Director of Play, which really means I was the lead designer of Perplex City. I’m pretty sure I worked more than 4000 hours during that time, but that doesn’t make me an expert; it just means I’ve figured out a lot of ways of how not to make ARGs. I know that I shouldn’t dangle random strings of numbers in front of people who are looking for secret messages everywhere. I know that I shouldn’t expect weary players to be able to decode a signal being flashed by torches across the River Thames – while being several hundred feet above the ground. And I know that I should never underestimate our players.

I’m sure you’ve heard the bad news. Perplex City Season 2 will not be launching in June, or in the near future. At the time, I was being honest when I promised that it would launch next month, but there are some circumstances that are out of control of even a puppetmaster. I know that this will hugely disappoint a lot of people, and it’s a real disappointment for me. We all worked very hard on making Season 2, but it just was not to be. And so, it’s time for me to move on.

I’ve had a wonderful three years at the Mind Candy. I’ve learned a whole range of valuable and bizarre skills, from organising an event on the other side of the world to researching how bees dance. I wouldn’t be able to list all the things we achieved with Perplex City – the rich story, the friendships made and the battles won are endless. I feel privileged to have worked with some of the most talented and hard-working people in the business who helped make Perplex City, and to have had the opportunity to make a game for such a dedicated and energetic group of players.

In particular at Mind Candy, there’s the Story Team: Andrea, David, Jey and Naomi, all of whom are also moving on to different places and projects. I’ll always remember the times when we ran live events together – not just because of the sense that we worked as a team, writing and improving each others dialogue in real time, synchronised to multimedia – but because we did it with our players, who added their own melodies to what we did. It was like jamming in a band, and it made a beautiful sound.

I also remember writing the first post by Kurt, feeling so excited about writing something that would be part of the Perplex City. Almost two years later, I remember writing his final post in Season 1 and reading the comments on the forums about it. More than a few people suggested that it was made by a different writer, which I took as an (inadvertent) backhanded compliment.

And then yesterday, I wrote his post that’s up on Violet’s site. It pretty much summarises how I feel.

I’m sure people will have a million questions, but here’s the thing: I’m in Hong Kong right now, and I’ll be out of touch for a week and a half. So if you have anything you want to ask or comment about anything, send me an email and I will get back to you.

Tags: adrian · arg · perplexcity

42 responses so far ↓

  • Mikeyj // Jun 1, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    That’s a bit of a shock. I think “Why?” is probably a reasonable question. Is that the end of the ARG and the cards too? I think a breather over the weekend and maybe a bit of explanation might be very helpful for lots of people.

  • Adrian Hon // Jun 1, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    I can’t really answer the question ‘Why?’. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’m not at liberty to. You should ask someone at Mind Candy.

    It is Mind Candy’s hope that they will bring back the ARG in the future. However, the facts for now are that all of the story team has left Mind Candy, and Perplex City Season 2 is not coming out any time soon. The cards are going to continue being sold and supported; they’re all designed and we already have some copies of wave 2 in the office.

    (minor edit)

  • Bit1313 // Jun 1, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    I do hope (not holding my breath on it) that this is a setup for the ARG. If not, best of luck to each of you. You are a great group of people whether behind the curtain or out for the whole world to see.

    Warmest of Regards,

  • Adrian Hon // Jun 1, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    It is not a setup for the ARG. Thank you for your regards though.

  • marc m // Jun 1, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    Adrian, sorry to hear the news…

    I’d just like to say a big thanks for entertaining me over the last 18 months that I’ve been playing. It really has been fantastic, and I wish you the best of luck in the future. We all do :)

  • UKver2.0 // Jun 1, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    This is gonna seem insensitive, but keep in mind that maybe I’m just trying to keep something alive that is truly dead…

    You’re in Hong Kong, right? I’m not much for figuring time zones and all that stuff, but how is it that you posted this message (and responded a few times) around the same time that all the other characters in the ARG and all the other staff working on PXC posted to their blogs? That seems strange to me. It’s just about as coordinated as every other PXC update. Maybe more so.

  • My Life in Fiction // Jun 1, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    [...] Hon leaves Mind Candy2007-06-01 20:14:45 by Nick in Games Industry, Games, ARGs (no comments) permalink Well, I can say with a high level of certainty that I did not see that one coming. Adrian Hon isleaving Mind Candy. In addition to that, it seems that the June launch for Perplex City episode 2 is postponed for now. Adrian explains very little in his blog post, which is understandable, I think, but it does add to the mystery of the thing. I watched his talk at this year’s Nordic Game and there was no indication that anything was going on behind the scenes. Perhaps the complexity of the thing combined with politics behind the scenes screwed up the project. [...]

  • Nick // Jun 1, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    Wow, this is quite a shocker. I wish you and all the others affected by this the best of luck and truly hope that you will be able to set up something new. PC inspired me to investigate the world of ARGs anew and I hope that whatever political or financial (or othe) issues haven’t completely turned you and the others off ARGs. That would be a great shame.



  • Rich // Jun 1, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    I’m sorry to hear that, Adrian. It seems that during the three years you set the gold standard for a new kind of entertainment. I don’t know what else to say, other than that I’m now wondering what new ways you’re going to find to amaze us in the future.

  • Netninja » Blog Archive » PXC, RIP? // Jun 1, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    [...] As many know, and some may not yet know, something (what? I don’t know) went down at Mind Candy in the past few days, with regard to Perplex City. First of all, there is their Perplex City homepage, which states that Season 2 will be delayed indefinitely. Then you have blog posts from the in-game characters Violet, Kurt, and Scarlett that basically say the same thing. Add into that the blog posts from a lot of the company/game founders that say that they are leaving Mind Candy: Dan, Adrian, Andrea, and Naomi. Not that I have been following Season 2 (and/or Perplex City Stories) very closely, but two questions that are on everybody’s minds are WTF? and WHY? Did people leave voluntarily because of something going on (bad politics, new job opportunity?)  Is a veneer of “voluntary” hiding something else? Or is it just cost-cutting measures?  (They had a pretty large staff for being, effectively, a startup company.)  Part of me is curious, but part of me just doesn’t care.  For the most part, PXC dropped off of my radar when Season 1 ended–I needed a break, then never really returned with anything resembling enthusiasm.  For what it’s worth, the wiki and catalog will stay up, despite events. [...]

  • Jonathan Waite // Jun 1, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    Sorry to see the news, Adrian. Rest assured, I always enjoyed your frankness and exceitment about ARG, and I will look forward to your next venture.

  • Mikeyj // Jun 1, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    “Someone at Mind Candy”!? Oh dear…doesn’t sound good.

    With ARGs, and I know we can’t compare to the amount of work that you guys have put in, and this is me teaching my grandma to suck eggs, the players take a certain ownership beyond that of other media and contribute a significant amount themselves. It would be really great if someone…yourself and some other MC’s maybe, could possibly answer some questions. On your own time-scale is fine, preprepared questions fine, but it would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for all your work on Perplex City – my thesis would have less typos and my personal relationships would be less fraught without it, but I would do it again ;)

  • Another Hon // Jun 1, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    Every cloud has a silver lining. Look forward to seeing new projects from you.

    Enjoy your holiday!

  • Frankie Roberto // Jun 1, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    Good luck in whatever you move onto! Look forward to following your work.

  • Guy // Jun 2, 2007 at 12:17 am

    It’s been a pleasure and a privilege, good sir. A toast to you, your team, your City, and your future endeavours!

  • MD1500 // Jun 2, 2007 at 5:46 am

    I just don’t understand this at all. Less than two weeks ago, there was the audacious Radio 1 event, promoting the Perplex City ARG to a whole new audience. Up until yesterday’s announcements, there was absolutely no sign there was anything amiss.

    Abandoning the ARG now, when seemingly the vast majority of work has been done, and after such a high-profile tie-in, just doesn’t make any kind of sense to me. I’m sure I’m not the only player who’d appreciate an explanation. The whole concept seems too good just to drop like this.

    I’d also like to know if we’ll ever find out how we were meant to solve certain S1 cards, or what the meta-puzzle clues meant?

    Thanks to you and everybody on the story team for making this such a wonderful, memorable experience and good luck in your future projects.

  • duckie // Jun 2, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Well, I suppose it’s apt to say “so long and thanks for all the red herrings.”

    I can safely say that I’m not feeling any sense of abandonment or bitterness… sometimes things happen, and they happen for the best, even though it doesn’t seem that way at the time.

    Very best of luck in your future projects; we look forwards to seeing what you get up to next.

    Sara & Jamie

  • Lucy // Jun 2, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    You made a beautiful thing and you let us have the pleasure of joining in. Thank you. All the best in wherever your life takes you, and I hope to see you around.

  • Dan Hon // Jun 2, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    In response to UKVer2.0 – Wordpress, and most other blog packages, allow you to schedule posts.

    Please understand that, for the people involved, it must have been important for them to say something (even if it would not necessarily answer the questions on many peoples’ minds) as soon as possible.

  • Perplex City Team Depart, ARG On Hold | Video Games // Jun 3, 2007 at 8:41 am

    [...] I first read about this on Dan Hon’s blog, where he’s collected his own and links to other people’s comments on this. Adrian Hon also points out in a comment in his blog: “It is Mind Candy’s hope that they will bring back the ARG in the future. However, the facts for now are that all of the story team has left Mind Candy, and Perplex City Season 2 is not coming out any time soon. The cards are going to continue being sold and supported; they’re all designed and we already have some copies of wave 2 in the office.” [...]

  • Dooley // Jun 3, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    I have to say a mighty stupid move by mindcandy, thousands of supports/fans/customers bought season 2 cards and were eagerly awaiting season 2. Way to abandon those who kept you in business.

  • Angus Alderman // Jun 4, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    Good luck for the future Adrian and thanks very much for all the fun you’ve brought us in the last three years.

  • Dagelijkse Links at Past is prologue // Jun 4, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    [...] Perplex City, alohaNo season 2 for the ARG Perplex City(tags: arg) [...]

  • Jane Mcg // Jun 4, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    Good luck with what comes next, Adrian — I know you will do many spectacular things and I can’t wait to see/read/play/survive them!

  • Perplex City Closed « Pixel-love // Jun 5, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    [...] Adrian Hon insists: It is not a setup for the ARG. [...]

  • Mark Young // Jun 5, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    Hi Adrian,

    I’m really sorry to hear the news about Perplex city/Mind candy. We met in the gerkin earlier this year and it was a privelege for me to meet you guys and talk about the plans for Season 2. What a shame it’s not to be.

    I wish you all the best in the future and thanks for the gaming fun you’ve given me and my friends over the last few years.

    All the best,

  • missbhavens // Jun 5, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    I’m feeling a lot of things at once…I’m shocked, appalled and pissed off. Not at you, really, but certainly at Mind Candy. I don’t get it. All that work already done? All that hype? Stuff ready to go? Cards printed and ready? I’ve got 10 packs of Season 2 cards. They weren’t exactly cheap. This doesn’t make any sense.

    I’m not delusional; I don’t think this is part of the game. What I do think is that this is really, really messed up.

    Mind Candy may as well dissolve after treating their customers so incredibly badly.

    Good luck to you in your endeavors. Don’t let this happen again.

  • moof // Jun 7, 2007 at 3:00 am

    In response to MD1500’s comment: on the contrary, I wondered if something was amok when everything went mysteriously quiet after the Radio One shindig. All that lead-up, with a payoff of… silence?

  • Norman // Jun 7, 2007 at 10:44 am

    I am still trying to understand this whole phenomenon. I am very confused right now. Help!

  • Perplex City On Indefinite Hold, Or Is It? by GamingMoments Network // Jun 7, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    [...] The immensely successful alternate reality game (ARG), Perplex City, whose first season ended in February with one lucky player discovering ‘The Cube’ in some woods in the UK, has had its second season put on indefinite hold by its creators, Mind Candy. The game, based partly on collectible puzzle cards, and partly on websites and live events, has been beset by difficulties since they started rolling out the season 2 cards earlier this year. The main online portion of the game was due to start earlier this week but instead Mind Candy announced that its director of play, Adrian Hon, and most of their story team would be leaving for pastures new. Due to the nature of the business there is speculation among players that this is the start of the game and that the departure of so many staff is actually part of the story. ARG’s are often well known for mixing fiction with reality, leaving clues and plot hints in places in the real world. The genre came to prominence with the viral marketing campaign for Halo 2, television and cinema trailers for the game had the web address appearing where you would normally expect the games website to be shown. People going to the site were led a merry dance through puzzles and cryptic clues which led to the discovery of an AI seeking its freedom. More recently the Nine Inch Nails latest album was promoted through a similar campaign, created by the same company as ilovebees, where the first web address on the trail was found by stringing highlighted letters on the back of a tour t-shirt together into a web address. Later clues were found on flash drives left in toilets at various venues on the Nail’s European Tour along with selected songs and videos. [...]

  • Andrew Williams (Nik_Doof) // Jun 7, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Even though I haven’t played along for a long time I must congratulate you on the amount of work and dedication you put into PxC, I doubt it’ll be continued success without you.

  • Jim // Jun 8, 2007 at 3:33 am

    If I didn’t like something that a company is doing or not doing then I would complain as loudly and as frequently as my passion dictated — directly to that company. All this speculation is a waste of time.

  • Jemima Dixon (Mima) // Jun 9, 2007 at 12:27 pm


    Sadly we never had the chance to meet as I was unable to get to the live events, but I have been involved on the player side since the start, and I would like to say a big thank you for all the hard work that you have all put in which has been much appreciated.

    I will really miss PPC. All the best for whatever you are going to do next.


  • Sharn // Jun 10, 2007 at 10:03 am

    Hi Adrian,

    In utter utter shock! Also gutted that I will never be able to test PPC2 afterall. Nevermind – best of luck in the future with your non-MCD work. Keep us posted.


  • OgreCave » Attention motorists: Perplex City is closed // Jun 11, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    [...] Yeah, I saw the news and didn’t post because it just made me unhappy. (Especially when people started asking, right there on the goodbye posts from the story team, if this was all a setup to the start of season 2. For some reason the jackassery of which the Internet is capable keeps surprising me.) Mind Candy has put the second season of the Perplex City ARG on indefinite hiatus, and everyone on the story team has left the company. Stony silence about the issue on Mind Candy’s corporate site, which is always a wwwwwwonderful sign, but there are various messages and discussions out there, and the PXC-focused sites do all have some in-story bits about the end. [...]

  • Yehuda Games » Blog Archive » Scrabble With Mom // Jun 11, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    [...] Perplex City also suddenly decided to shutter its follow up game until further notice. [...]

  • rockeateraidan // Jun 16, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    Don’t mean to come off rude, but…

    …well this certainly sucks.

    Now I don’t have anything to do!

    Well, I certainly enjoyed the journey. So, is PXC over, er, what happened? Budget cut, massive-lay offs, what? I think the whole team is a group of geniuses with great and original ideas. I’ll be watching you guys sprout across the world of ARGs.


  • Caspian // Jun 22, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Sorry to hear the disappointing news, but best of luck to you in your next endeavors. Having seen your work and spoken with you at ARGFest, I know you will find success in whatever path yo uchoose next.

  • Andy // Dec 24, 2007 at 5:43 am

    I couldn’t respond to any of this at the time – not you or Dan or Naomi or David V or anyone. It was too big to take in, let alone reply intelligently to.

    Still is, kind of.

    Just, thank you.

    Not for the winning – for the ride that led there.

    Well, the winning too.

    But mainly for whipping up the perfect storm and sending us all out in it.

  • Metal Ghost // Dec 7, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Wow, major necro-bump here, but I just started watching the Google TechTalk that you gave Adrian, where you were talking about the ‘upcoming’ changes to season 2. I haven’t been active in the ARG scene, but was immensely intrigued. Not sure if you’re even going to see this, but Mind Candy’s website still even has a prominent link to Perplex City from their homepage. What happened? Did they just decide to get out of the entire ARG business altogether? I guess that’s pretty obvious really, but just wondering if anyone knows the ’story’ behind the scenes.

  • Adrian Hon // Dec 7, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Hi – yeah, they just got out of the ARG business altogether and are making plenty of money on kids social games. Fair enough – it worked and there was a huge opportunity there, but not one I was interested in.

    Not sure why they still have PXC up on that site to be honest… I would’ve thought it’d be taken down by now.

  • Metal Ghost // Dec 15, 2011 at 2:07 am

    Hi again, I just wanted to say thanks for the response! I finished watching your GoogleTechTalk on season 2 and then when searching around saw the talk you gave on ‘We Tell Stories’. Great discussions, and I considered myself very lucky to have stumbled across both presentations. Thanks for sharing with the community. I’m really looking forward to catching up on the ‘We Tell Stories’ series….already have seen a couple.

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