It’s not a game, and it’s not a mere companion to an upcoming movie or television show. Nevertheless, this upcoming HBO miniseries-based app has been three years in the making and is one of the most intriguing forms of a murder mystery ever to arrive on the App Store. HBO’s Mosaic, a US $20 million project directed by Emmy-winning Steven Soderbergh, recently launched as a free download.
A Patent-Pending ‘Branching Narrative’
This is a standalone project that immerses you into an intriguing murder mystery right on your iPhone or Apple TV. PodOp, the developer behind the app, has filed at least 14 patents for the technology behind this interactive storytelling experience, according to sources TechCrunch has heard from.
Within Mosaic, you can choose to follow one character’s story all the way to the end, or you can jump between characters as the action unfolds. The choice is yours, allowing you an opportunity to enjoy a star-studded app that’s a bit like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure murder mystery weeks before the tale lands on the small screen.
In addition to the content that will eventually be released to premium television, HBO’s Mosaic app features appendices, called Discoveries, that dive deeper into aspects of the story beyond the central narrative. These include extra clips, voicemails, and documents you can investigate to learn more about what’s happening outside the main storyline being developed through the main scenes.
An Ever-Changing Storyline and Web of Characters
Sharon Stone stars as author Olivia Lake, with other members of the cast including such names as Beau Bridges, Paul Reubens, Garrett Hedlund, Jennifer Ferrin, and more. Written by Ed Solomon, the branching narrative revolves around the interactions two men have as they interweave their lives with Lake’s.
Lest you think this is another Choose-Your-Own-Adventure with fragmented continuity problems and disjointed endings, the similarity lies only in that you can choose which perspective to view each scene from. The app allows you to leap back and forth between characters, with the effect of providing you with different aspects of the story along the way. The ending will be the same regardless of your choices, which may frustrate those looking for the ability to sway the climax and conclusion of the narrative.
Mosaic Could Be the Beginning of a New Genre
I want PodOp to become Pixar. We’re going to be the Pixar of branching narrative.- Steven Soderbergh
PodOp has built storyboard management and analytics tools that help Soderbergh tell the winding tale behind Mosaic, evaluating how audiences respond. Soderbergh wants the platform to expand, though.
Soderbergh has two more Mosaic titles he’s building up, and it’s unclear where the technology might go from there. Perhaps other creators will license the idea and launch their own separate apps based on the technology, or maybe Mosaic will become a hub for a new form of interactive entertainment.
If the initial experiment succeeds, this might even pave the way for a new genre of free and paid apps. On the other hand, Mosaic could turn into a portal for viewing and even purchasing additional branching narrative stories.
HBO’s Linear Offering of Mosaic
Beginning January 22, 2018, HBO will air a six-hour rendition of Mosaic. This miniseries will be a linear cut of the content within the app, for those traditionalists who don’t enjoy or prefer the branching narrative style of storytelling.