By Haley Moore, April 1st, 2010

Update: The April Fool’s version of the site has been moved to a permanent page.

For April 1, my favorite webcomic, xkcd, switched over to a new interface: unixkcd.  The site now emulates a UNIX terminal.  You navigate by typing in commands, and the terminal responds, one line at a time.  There are also tons of command-based easter eggs to find.  It’s more awesome than pranksterly, really.

The experience is powered by Wordpress and doesn’t require flash.  A little link hunting at the bottom of the site and we discover that the prank is an adaptation of a free WP template called CLI2, which is part of a whole family of bash-like templates made by Rod McFarland .

Why does a free terminal-like WP template matter to transmedia?  Well, for one, you can write text-based games for it.  (The xkcd prank includes one.)  But more to the point, a terminal-style web site is Alternate Reality 101.  I’m looking at you, Jejune Institute, and you too, Project Abraham.  And I haven’t forgotten about you either, Exoriare.

The emulated terminal is a great storyteling tool that gets your audience in a game-playing mood, and its something that most indie ARG developers don’t have the time or resources to execute.  I don’t know if CLI2 was intended for storytelling, but it seems like a natural next step.

Presumably, xkcd will return to it’s normal site design later tonight, so I highly suggest you poke around with this prank while it’s still live.

Lest I seem to be leaving out anyone, the xkcd adaptation of CLI2 was done by chromakode.  The source code for his variation is available here.

Rod McFarland

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Haley Moore is a newspaper reporter, artist, and playwright based in north Texas. She has worked on several indie, fan and commercial Alternate Reality Games.

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