Boomtown Fair is a festival that takes place annually in Matterly Estate, near Winchester. Unlike other “gig in a field” type festivals, Boomtown offers a much more immersive experience, alongside large and small indoor and outdoor music venues. This is a festival that I’ve been personally attending since 2013, I’ve seen it change and grow into what it is today. One of the most talked about aspects of the festival is the Boomtown storyline – a narrative that forms the history of this pop-up city. Festival goers or citizens can write their own parts in the story.
This article is all about Boomtown’s interactive storyline, how to get involved and what it was like to play “The Maze” at Boomtown’s Chapter 11 in August 2019.
If you’ve never been to Boomtown before and you’re wondering what the storyline is all about, or you’ve been to Boomtown but never really interacted with the actors or storyline, then this article is for you!
About the Boomtown Storyline aka “The Maze”
Boomtown is a music festival with a lot more to it! Besides the main stages and the small stages and all the street venues and forest parties, there’s also a series of optional quests to get involved with!
The quests involve interacting with actors, props, solving puzzles, looking for clues and paying bribes (with pretend money)! These quests all form part of a larger storyline that forms Boomtown’s history and current narrative.
The Maze can be “completed” by achieving 100% and tracking your progress via an app, a new one is released each year.
It usually involves hackers, finding information, trading information for more information, reporting back and forth to actors, paying bribes with Boomtown bucks, acquiring said Boomtown backs through whatever means possible and generally being a little bit cheeky.
Don’t worry – it’s really easy to get involved and you can do in and out of it, or make it a full-on mission to complete the game!
This is part of what makes Boomtown a festival like no other! The festival is extremely immersive and the maze adds an extra layer of escapism for the weekend.
How to play the maze
If you have a ticket for Boomtown Fair, you can begin playing by interacting with characters (street actors) in certain areas of the festival.
The interactive storyline quests are active on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the festival – usually beginning at 1pm and finishing at 7pm. This leaves the evenings free for special Boomtown fun and frolic!
It’s even possible to get involved in the build up to the festival, with plenty of pre-festival puzzles and mini-quests to play!
Remember – this is all entirely optional. You can fully complete the interactive maze, play a small part of it or not play at all. The choice is yours, but there’s collective fun to be had if you do choose to play!
Keep on reading to learn more about the different ways to get involved – based on Boomtown Fair 2019 – Chapter 11. This should give you a taste of what to expect for Chapter 12, as the storyline flows from chapter to chapter.
Boomtown’s Storyline History
Back in Chapter 7, the mayor at the time, Comrade Jose descended into tyranny which resulted in a people’s revolution led by the mysterious man behind the mask.
After Chapter 8’s revolution, the shady organisation called ‘Bang Hai Industries’ rose to power and took control over the city. By Chapter 10, the CEO of Bang Hai Industries unveiled their newest piece of technology – AMI. That stands for Advanced Machine Intelligence. AMI was (and still is) everywhere at Boomtown.
AMI’s face is part of the backdrop as your stroll through the city. Chapter 10’s finale saw the audience ask her 3 questions. As the crowds gathered, the question answering process was hacked and the broadcast by interrupted by none other than one of Boomtown’s fictional founders – Nickolas Boom!
Boom went on to ask AMI “Who really was the man behind the mask?” to which AMI replied “There was no man behind the mask. The leader of the people’s revolution was an Android, designed and build by Bang Hai Technologies…” and on that note, Bang Hai’s CEO demanded AMI be shut down – but his access was denied (and then the bass dropped).
“Hackers” and undercover agents had been working hard throughout the festival to interrupt this planned broadcast during the finale and several of the audience participants of “the maze” even featured in the closing ceremony.
Chapter 11: A Radical City
The 2019 Festival was called Boomtown Fair Chapter 11: A Radical City. In the build-up to Chapter 11, many of Boomtown’s venues and characters began posting hints online. Here’s an overview of what happened:
Mr Bliss is the proprietor of Momentary Bliss – a real-life venue in Boomtown’s Paradise Heights. He started posting inspirational-type quotes on his Instagram, and the more eagle-eyed followers knew that it must all mean something…
View this post on Instagram
This was accompanied by a website where one of the pages was “locked” and asked for a password to access it.
The clues posted on Instagram could be used to guess the password to enter the “locked” section of the website. The hints were related to using your “inner compass” and looking for “direction”.
Those who guessed the password correctly were rewarded with “Premium Status” and a voucher for a Complimentary Treatment of Momentary Bliss at Boomtown.
Bliss also encouraged his followers to wear a “signeture white t-shirt” in order to gain “elite” status. More on that later…
Both “premium” and “elite” status seemed to be limited on a first-come-first-served basis. Also, the locked section of the website disappeared once enough people had cracked it – whether this was a pre-enforced limit or someone deciding to pull the plug at a certain point is up for debate.
Posts from a mysterious organisation called OneCor appeared on social media, accompanied with a rather interesting website. From the website, you could register to become part of their Brand Ambassador Programme amongst other things!
This was a tease for OneCor’s first-time physical presence at the festival this year…
— WelcometoOneCor (@welcometoOneCor) July 3, 2019
The Last Tree
Another account popped up on Twitter this time, from a hacker whose name is Mad John. He has claimed to have hacked a hard drive belonging to Bang Hai Industries (and AMI…).
I’ve cracked the harddrive guys!!!
— ISawTheLastTree (@ISawTheLastTree) July 31, 2019
‘The Last Tree’ refers to a tree in DSKRT5, downtown in the city. The tree is worshipped by the Church of Noctua (one of the theatrical venues at the festival, also downtown).
Ivory Towers Academy
The Ivory Towers Academy is another real venue in the Town Centre at Boomtown. This year, they had a new website which featured some humorous staff profiles and course descriptions.
At the bottom of the website is a “staff email login” link, where you can use the names from the staff profiles in an attempt to “hack” into their emails. Clues for their passwords were hidden across the site.
Once you “hacked” the staff passwords, you could see their fictional inboxes. There was a bit of banter between two lecturers, some emails about a library book and an upcoming conference… all hints and clues for this year’s storyline.
Then, out of nowhere, “Steph from IT” emailed all staff asking them to reset their passwords immediately…
That meant it was time to get guessing them all again, only a couple of the passwords remained unchanged. Damn.
Villa Avarice is also at Paradise Heights, and is a place where there’s absolutely no shame in being better than everyone else! One of the staff email accounts from Ivory Towers Academy contained a booking reference for an exclusive session at “No Tomorrow” conference that would be taking place at Villa Avarice this Boomtown…
Those who cracked the passwords for the staff email accounts could access this booking reference and download an exclusive voucher granting them access!
Like in previous years, the way to physically play the game at the festival is to download the app – this year’s iteration was called Access AMI.
Around the festival, there were special AMI scan points (fancy QR bar codes) which could be scanned via the app. Each scan point counted towards your completion progress. Scanning each scan point was worth 2%, meaning you would need to scan 50 to get 100%. I, personally got nowhere near this!
Boomtown is split up into districts (themed areas) and only certain areas at the festival had AMI scan points. These were:
- Paradise Heights
- Copper County
- Old Town
- Town Centre
The app stated that you needed to scan at least 3 (out of a possible 5) is each district in order to “report” on it.
The Access AMI App also featured a map and a quirky “personality questionnaire” used to recommend stages and venues. This all seemed a little bit random and the questions were very obscure and tongue-in-cheek (as expected from Boomtown!)
Finding Scan Points
Looking around those 6 districts between 1-7pm during the festival and talking to actors was the best way to start, however, if you took part in the pre-festival fun with Mr Bliss, Ivory Towers Academy and Villa Avarice then you had a slight head start by making use of your Momentary Bliss voucher and No Tomorrow conference booking… after some hilarious theatrics, a QR code was produced for you to scan on your phone.
OneCor also had a large venue downtown, where you could sit through a theatrical presentation and meet their CEO. They unveiled their brand new innovative product – ZOIL – this artificial soil could save the harvest! Those in Old Town are sceptical, as the pirates have their own ideas about soil…
Engaging in these activities with OneCor, the Old Town pirates, the Paradise Heights elite, etc, would reveal yet more theatrics and scan points.
Signal Interrupted – The Hackers
Amongst all of this, AMI is still gathering data from citizens, she is still switched on and in control. Just like in previous chapters, there are hackers working underground. Upon scanning certain scan points, you’d see this message:
Followed by a clue as to where to locate the hackers… they must be close by…
If you found the hackers – they would outline their mission and explain how they needed your help. Your mission was to bring them a set of blueprints for Paradise Heights – we found them in a hollowed out computer desk in the library downtown! This particular set of blueprints, unfortunately never made their way back to the hackers as we were too late. I’m sure many others were successful in taking the blueprints to the correct location!
It’s worth mentioning that “Steph from IT” at The Ivory Towers Academy turned out to be a hacker after all – her account was always un-hackable with the message:
Ac3ss D3ni3d x s
There was a letter to be collected from the Post Office (Postal Posse) at Boomtown addressed to her, which contained some useful information for gameplayers!
Cygnet (baby swan) was a big clue, first spotted in Mr Bliss’s “segneture” elite (who all turned out to have radiation poisoning or similar…).
The cygnet club was a very exclusive group of powerful Boomtown residents who met daily to discuss AMI and other important issues affecting the city. I have no idea what else happened in this meeting apart from the fact that it took place by festivalgoers in character and that the cygnet clues were scattered everywhere through this year’s storyline…
Chapter 11’s Closing Ceremony
The closing ceremony took place at 11:50pm on Sunday night; the final night of festival and therefore the closing act and finale of the entire weekend.
The finale show was run simultaneously on the Nucleus Stage and the Relic Stage. It was 10 minutes long, featuring techno, drum ‘n’ bass, fireworks, lasers and this chapter’s conclusion.
AMI has been assimilating citizen data all weekend… it goes to 99.99% and then failed, interrupted by the hackers again no doubt. The image of AMI of the screen flickered between “good AMI” and “evil AMI” before she ordered in a distorted voice – “FIND THE ONE!”
See it for yourself here…
…and that was the end. It was very different to Chapter 10’s closing ceremony in 2018 which had a lot more involvement from festivalgoers.
Review of this year’s Storyline and Maze
The crew of writers behind this year’s Boomtown storyline have really upped their game, especially with the pre-festival puzzles. The staff email logins were particularly fun and infuriating to crack! It was much more involved than previous years and the amount of engagement with the maze is supposedly up 30%, with the access AMI app being downloaded 13,000 times.
If you managed to complete the game to 100% – please leave a comment below to let us know!
However, it seemed the game itself wasn’t perfect. The app worked seamlessly for me – an Android user – but less so for iPhone users. I was able to scan the special codes and the app would instantaneously respond. For iPhone users, they would have to take a photo of the code. This meant quite a bit of faffing with some very patient actors!
Several of the more easily accessible scan point codes were vandalised or damaged by the final day of the festival, they weren’t replaced or repaired by this point.
A small handful of actors didn’t seem very well-briefed on the game or the storyline and seemed genuinely confused, but this seemed to add to the fun rather than detract from it!
There was a noticeable increase in maze-players this year, which is fantastic to see, there were even some unofficial elements to the storyline, such as information exchanges and other groups being formed. This is fantastic and exactly what Boomtown want to happen – people become involved spontaneously which really does make this a festival like no other.
The closing ceremony lacked audience participation and was almost an anti-climax when compared to 2018’s closing ceremony bombshell.
However, I’m sure that Chapter 12: New Beginnings will be bigger and better than ever! I happen to know that the storyline writers already have a lot of mind-bending stuff in store for next year’s instalment, which is guaranteed to be absolutely nuts. Just trust me on this!
The maze was so much fun and a lot more in-depth that previous years, especially before the festival itself! There is actually a lot more to it than I’ve managed to detail here, there are sub-plots, minor storylines belonging to certain venues in the city, dead ends, red herrings and loads more fun I’ve barely touched upon in this post! Hopefully, you’ve got a good idea of what the Boomtown storyline has to offer.
In fact, it’s become clear (from looking at the date on the Blueprints) that there’s a strong possibility that there are two timelines developing here. There’s another possibility that two of the districts are actually the same location in different times…
‘The last tree’ is also referenced in the hacker’s blueprints, is it possible that Paradise Heights and DSTRKT5 are the same place? Let’s wait for Chapter 12…
If you took part at all, let us know your experience by leaving a comment below – keep it family-friendly, please!
Further Reading / More Info
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