The Whenabouts story starts of course with finding a mysterious wood crate - and the incomplete journal within it - in the mail. But it's the 11 deliveries that follow - the "time parcels" sent from different eras by the story's protagonists every two weeks - that unfold the plot, shape the characters, and draw out the suspense of the adventure. Let's take a closer look at these pieces of puzzle and plot...
1. Present Day
A small wood crate delivered in December (to parents) contains a mysterious and incomplete field book and various artifact clues. A code entered online reveals a Skype-style dispatch video* from the main characters and a longer-form video further introducing the backstory.
An envelope mailed in early January includes an old (non-functional) 5.25" floppy diskette with a code-scribbled label. Another dispatch is revealed as well as clues hidden within a series of ASCII art - viewable in a simplistic Mosaic-style web browser.
An envelope arrives in late January containing a strangely-labelled VHS cassette tape sleeve. A code on the tape label unlocks access to a virtual VCR (and bulky cathode-ray tube TV) on which to view an interesting but fuzzy short film.
An envelope arrives in early February containing an old IBM-style computer punch card. After decoding the card using text in the field book, an interactive fiction (eg. Zork or Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) Q&A is presented on a green screen computer terminal.
An envelope arrives in late February containing a 35mm film slide with an elaborate clue-filled photo. The twins' video dispatch invites viewers to visit a virtual drive-in theater and to “pay special attention to the newsreel”.
A postcard picturing a vinyl record arrives in early March. A code on the circular label gives access to an online virtual record player (or gramophone), revealing a musical audio clue.
An airmail-style envelope arrives in late March containing a typed telegram slip. Access to a virtual telegraph allows interaction with informative in-game authorities.
A parchment envelope arrives in early April with a page of classical sheet music. Per instructions in the video dispatch, the song must be transcribed note-by-note on a virtual piano to unlock another piece of the storyline.
An aged and wax-sealed envelope arrives in late April containing a handwritten (calligraphy) letter. Instructions within the letter reveal a small online gallery of 16th-century paintings, each depicting key scenes in the story.
Another postcard arrives in early May displaying missing parts of a map (half of which was in the initial crate). The map corresponds to a special-access “old world explorer” point-and-click puzzle game in which the whereabouts of a key item can be discovered.
A padded mailer arrives in late May containing a real metal pocket watch, the object which returns our protagonists home. After solving a riddle related to the timepiece, a video plays out concluding plot lines.
Finally, in June, a success wall poster arrives in the mail which recaps the many scenes and characters encountered in the story. A farewell thank-you dispatch from Marie-Anne and CJ is followed by access to a virtual letterpress where “I was here” or "thank you mom and dad"** postcards may be created.
And so you see: the mysterious wood box is only the beginning! A whole journey unfolds - incrementally and in true many-media fashion. While primarily designed as entertainment, Whenabouts also delivers multidisciplinary puzzle-solving and an indirect education about the history of human communications. Curious?
*All eras include a dispatch video from the Marie-Anne and CJ (played by actors) bridging the physical object and the digital experience with clues, hints, and firsthand story developments.
**We'll print and mail the "thank you" postcard to the related Whenabouts backer. After all, parents are also involved in the journey; we send them hints-and-tips heads-up emails prior to each delivery.
pledged of $200,000 goal
seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful This project reached the deadline without achieving its funding goal on September 17, 2012.
Aug 22, 2012 - Sep 17, 2012
Pledge $25 or more
SUPPORTER - For those who love the idea but aren't up for the journey (or don't know any tweens). Includes: a Whenabouts branded 48-page (blank) kraft-cover Field Notes memo book; a copy of the official Whenabouts wrap-up poster; insider emails (opt-in); discussion forum access; our thanks.Estimated delivery: May 2013
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1 backer Limited (199 of 200 left)
SAMPLER - A second supporter level, getting one of the mailed objects and access to one of the 12 digital experiences. Includes: a cubic hinge-top wood box; a Whenabouts pocket watch; access to one of the virtual experiences (which one? a surprise); insider emails (opt-in); discussion forum access; our thanks. International: +$20.Estimated delivery: Dec 2012
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MAIN (1st tier earlybird price) - see below for details. International: +$75.Estimated delivery: Dec 2012
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MAIN (2nd tier earlybird price) - see below for details. International: +$75.Estimated delivery: Dec 2012
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MAIN (3rd tier earlybird price) - see below for details. International: +$75.Estimated delivery: Dec 2012
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MAIN (4th tier earlybird price) - see below for details. International: +$75.Estimated delivery: Dec 2012
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MAIN (5th tier earlybird price) - see below for details. International: +$75.Estimated delivery: Dec 2012
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MAIN (regular price) - Includes: the starter crate and its contents (such as the "incomplete" book); 11 letter/object mailings (including postage!); 12 video dispatches; 12 digital experiences; insider/heads-up emails and discussion forum for parents. International: +$75.Estimated delivery: Dec 2012
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DOUBLE - Includes MAIN times two (for multiple recipients/participants/addressees). International: +$150.Estimated delivery: Dec 2012
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4 backers Limited (96 of 100 left)
DELUXE - Includes MAIN plus: one of the video dispatch messages is personalized; the recipient's name is engraved on the pocket watch; recipient's face drawn into the wrap-up poster; a Whenabouts branded 48-page (blank) kraft-cover Field Notes memo book. International: +$75.Estimated delivery: Dec 2012