Late last year, premium cable provider Starz introduced Spartacus: Battle for Nuceria, a “trans-media experience” that serves not only as a narrative bridge between seasons two and three of their hit show Spartacus but also as a platform for dishing out rewards—exclusive, unreleased content and behind-the-scenes footage—to the show’s rabid fan base.
For fans of narrative-based gaming, Nuceria shades in gray areas and further develops characters viewers have come to know, extending on-screen drama and action to incorporate our own experiences. It also drops a dose of the thrill of gameplay into daily life. There’s no real battle, but real-time intelligence updates, video mission dispatches and the sense of community created amongst users allow for a unique gaming experience that borders on augmented reality.
Battle for Nuceria plays out as a series of missions dispatched directly to users—coined “Spartacus’ Rebel Army”—using the Encampment website and a custom app, The Hypogeum. Rebel soldiers then complete missions, allowing them to unlock new rewards as the battle wages on toward the January 25th premiere of Spartacus: War of the Damned, the final season of the series. Those who survive will earn the right to view the season premiere first.
But it doesn’t stop with rewards; every challenge allows users to accrue points. Greater achievements earn more points. More points means greater potential for prizes. Up for grabs are authentic Spartacus props, free movie tickets and signed memorabilia, but top point earners will be entered to win a trip to Rome. It’s not every day a groundbreaking gaming experience also offers straight-up real-life rewards. We’re in.
Missions thus far have incorporated everything from video and online gaming to scouting real-life and online locations:
Mission 1: After enlisting in Spartacus’ Army, rebels must participate in the Rebel Training Initiation challenge, an online game that tests the user’s battle prowess by slaying Roman guards, before being allowed to continue. Pretty standard stuff, but addictive in its simplicity.
Mission 2: Rebel soldiers may have gotten into Spartacus’ army, but to stay in they must train. Mission 2 sends users to gyms, department stores, libraries and museums to check in using the Hypogeum app and earn points for working out, procuring supplies and increasing intelligence.
Mission 3: The realities of battle force normal life into perspective, and rebels must prove their appreciation for their freedom by checking in with the Hypogeum at places of leisure: bars, venues, theatres and theme parks. More points in the bank!
Mission 4: This task brings in the Tractus for the first time, a custom browser extension that allows soldiers to take over any web page and leave their mark with rebel graffiti. Rebels must track down Roman-controlled territory on the web and earn points for gaining new ground.
That brings us up to date with Mission 5—our favorite so far—wherein Spartacus himself calls on rebel soldiers to venture out into the wilds of the internet in search of Rebel Marks. Guided by real-time intel dispatches from Spartacus himself, rebels must hunt out and scan the marks with the Hypogeum app.
Skilled soldiers will already have found it, but a careful look around our video section may reveal a Rebel Mark in the midst of Playboy.com itself. We’re never scared to get in on a battle, especially when it’s breaking down the barriers between gaming and real life.
Mission 6, the last before the new season begins, will challenge rebel soldiers to seek out images and content from War of the Damned and report intelligence back to Spartacus with Hypogeum. It’s dangerous in enemy territory, but every new find will earn rebel soldiers new points and spread the good word of Spartacus’ Army. The reward for completion: an early screening of the season finale. Not a bad reward for a few days’ web surfing.
But the battle doesn’t end there. The War of the Damned wages on, and rebel soldiers can expect to receive more missions as metal meets metal, blood sprays and heads fly.