July 02, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Moviegoers are just beginning to scratch their noggins about Steven Spielberg’s futuristic fairytale, ”A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.” But thousands of Web surfers have been trying to solve puzzles connected to the movie since April, when a murder mystery loosely connected to the film’s plot began unraveling. But since the production was veiled in secrecy, little was known about how much of the Web game’s storyline was connected to the film, and who was running the campaign. Now that ”A.I.” is out, the team that conjured Jeanine Salla and Evan Chan agreed to step into the light — and answer some of our questions about the game.

Who created this game?
Jordan Weisman, 41, the creator of MechWarrior and BattleTech; Elan Lee, 26, a former intern at Industrial Light & Magic; and a team of some 10 story developers and website producers at Microsoft engineered the campaign. It’s among the most sprawling online movie promotions ever undertaken, encompassing nearly 200 websites so far, and it rivals ”The Blair Witch Project”’s online offering in popularity.

Why is Microsoft promoting a movie produced by DreamWorks and Warner Bros.?
The answer will become clear this fall, when Microsoft launches its videogame console, the Xbox, and releases two console games, and a PC game based on ”A.I.”

How much did Weisman and Lee know about the movie beforehand?
Weisman pitched the concept to ”A.I.” director Steven Spielberg and producer Kathleen Kennedy last year. Weisman and Lee then joined the handful of people who pierced the production’s airtight cone of secrecy and got to read the filming script. They used it to map and flowchart the game, and Spielberg helped steer the plot in broad strokes. But the bulk of the game’s storyline is crafted by the Microsoft team, says Weisman. ”Spielberg has always said: ‘Well, you guys are writing the sequel.”’

How closely do the ”A.I.” sites follow ”A.I.” the movie?
The game does share characters and themes with the film. The most direct connection is Martin Swinton (played by Jake Thomas), the young boy in the movie who is being cryogenically preserved until a cure for his disease is found. In the end, though, his relationship with David (Haley Joel Osment) is left unresolved. In the game, which takes place 50 years after ”A.I.”’s primary story arc, Swinton has grown up to be a successful architect. And his unfinished business with David will become a plot element in the online murder mystery now that the movie is out.

type
Movie
Genre
mpaa
PG
runtime
145 minutes
director
Cast
Frances O'Connor,
Sam Robards,
Jake Thomas
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