Smokescreen


Jerradsmokescreen screenshotIf you have ever used the Internet (and if you're reading this, there's at least a 70% chance that you have), then you'll probably be familiar with the core components of Smokescreen, a new alternate reality game (ARG) from entertainment company Six To Start. Social networking, blogging, and chat lingo are all part of this game that takes on the task of warning players about the dangers of the Internet in a way that makes you feel like you're experiencing them first-hand.

The game is played through simulated websites, instant messengers, and mini-games in the form of social network applications. It's fairly straightforward with what you're expected to do, but there is also a hint button to give you a little nudge in the right direction if you get lost. Sound is required for this one also, but the game will warn you before you even get started, and so you don't get too far into things and then get stuck.

The game itself is laid out into different missions, and that's where things get interesting. Every few days a new mission is made available. Right now there are only six (To Start!), but they'll be rolling out new missions over the next 4 weeks or so. The missions can be played in any order, and once you have completed them, you can go back in and start them from various checkpoints. Registration for the site is not required, but it is necessary if you want to save your various achievements. Sadly, I did not realize this right away, so my high score in the Rumour Mill game is now lost forever. That is one thing this game didn't warn me about: always take screenshots or it didn't happen.

Analysis: Smokescreen is quite an unusual game and therefore won't appeal to everyone. The gameplay is fairly straightforward and not particularly challenging, and if you're like me, you'll wish these characters really existed just so you could correct their spelling and grammar. There is also some infrequent mild language on the site, hence the yellow rating. Still, it's hard to find too much fault with a game in which the goal is to educate people, especially when it manages to do so in such an engrossing way. Through all the different messages and recordings, you really start to get into your character. Any game that makes me feel like a character on Degrassi is worth a shot. It is quite evident that a lot of heart and soul went into making this game, and according to the developer's website it took over 2 years and 50 people to make this happen. That commitment shines through in the small details, like the extra lessons to go along with each mission. Those of you with kids will definitely want to consider sharing this one with them. Just make sure to get them a dictionary, too. Illiteracy is no laughing matter.

Play Smokescreen

58 Comments

I really like ARGs and I'm oh so tempted... the main thing that's putting me off at the moment is the bit where it says "receive phone calls"

How does that come into it? I don't have to leave personal details like that to take full advantage of the game do I?

Hrmm... since it's a game about safe internet use, I doubt it would ask for those kinds of details, but how does it "call" you?

Hahaha I like it, this game allow us to join an internet drama without really be inside it :) . The world of smokescreen feels small and some of the convos are not realistic -- like in there you can convince a theft with just a few im messages.. other than that though I could see what kind of awareness the game wants to tell ;) .

Nanimo - the game doesn't actually call you in real life, it's just simulated. So, for example, in mission 3, you hear a phone ringing noise and you have a click an 'Answer Phone' button on the screen to listen to the conversation.

No personal details at all are required to play the game; there's no registration.

(Disclaimer: I'm the lead designer of the game)

Possible bug?
I started out with mission 6, but when I got to the photoshopping part, everything froze after the first pic was done (tried it twice). Is there a secret hidden button I haven't found or what?

Gah! I'm stuck on the

find who told the first rumor bit.

I went to he boy in a coma site where jo has one running and I saw it there but clicking it didn't help. And there were no underlined names! :(

Ah, ok then, worries alleviated.

I remember some old ARGs where they were really immersive like that.

In the meantime, I didn't manage to resist the temptation and started playing anyway :P

I found the language used and profiles filled quite realistic. Some of my younger friends *do* write badly on the internet. I found myself being strangely pleased that some of the characters liked the same things as me (Persepolis, Pan's Labyrinth, Y tu mama Tambien, Camille etc.)

This reminds me of something... A website from 2000, 2001 maybe. It was a precursor to a blog (so long ago that it was called a weblog). It was the web counterpart to a Channel4 TV show about a new media company. The website itself is the project that the characters in the show were working on and it was updated as the show was aired.

Thinking about it, that show and the concept of the site was ahead of its time. I came to it a bit late and only ever saw the website, but I really liked it... it was actually full of interesting content and links.

I can't for the life of me remember what the hell it was called. This is going to keep niggling at me and annoy me until I can recall...

How do you click the "Begin Search Button" when

you're searching for the Fake ID pages

I can't find the button!

Ah, I remember it now. It was a BBC show called "Attachments" and the site was "SeeThru.co.uk". It starred a young David Walliams (of Little Britain fame).

I managed to find it because I remembered that it's the place that released that simple (yet so addictive) helicopter game.

I can heave a sigh of relief now.

Incidentally, my search reminded me of another show called "Nathan Barley". Which is a comedy show with a similar setup.

Anyway, back to the game in hand:
I kind of like and kind of don't like the messenger system. I understand that you do need to have some sort of script, but the method of interacting with the characters feels too restrictive and linear. With the technology that's already being seen in things like the text adventure games and "chatbots" surely it wasn't beyond the skills of the team to let the user type in their own dialogue? I don't think I'd stray too far from the script anyway.

The danger with creating an internet "world", restrictions and scripting like this become all the more glaringly obvious.

Case in point are the character profiles, I'd have preferred meandering through and having a good nose around all the profiles on my own terms rather than being shunted along in a parade unable to go backwards or sideways.

Anyway, back to playing the rest of it.

Anyone remember playing the Jamie Kane mystery a few years back? They had an IM system that would accept your own dialog. It was still scripted and linear, but it did make it feel a bit more open.

http://jayisgames.com/archives/2005/08/jamie_kane_1982.php

Unfortunately, that game is no longer available to play. But I did think of that one when I checked out Smokescreen.

Turns out there WAS a secret button, hidden underneath the controlscreen-thingamajingy...

Nanimo:
It's a slightly different concept, but have you heard of the TV shows Echo Beach and Moving Wallpaper? Moving Wallpaper was a comedy about what happens behind the scenes at the production of a soap opera. Echo Beach is that soap opera, ideally presented just after it's counterpart, because it's presented as a straight drama, but if you've seen the accompanying episode of Moving Wallpaper, all sorts of in-jokes trickle through and turn it into a comedy as well.
The problem is, in most countries where it was shown, a lot of people didn't get the meta-joke - often because the stations didn't, and played them separately - so Echo Beach got low ratings, and was cancelled, leading Moving Wallpaper to spend a lot of time setting up jokes where the audience doesn't get to see the punchline.

I love ARG's, they're one of the ultimate interactive experiences, and the good ones are often fiendishly clever and inventive.

That reminds me, is JIG ever going to feature "Something in the Sea," or has Mark still not found enough of Lutwidge's puzzle boxes for it to be worth JIG's time yet?

Holy crap, this site is awesome! Mission 3 had me laughing so hard my roommates had to pause the show they're watching to find out what was wrong... :D WHEEEEE!

argh. can anyone give some hints on how to get the nixon achievement for mission 5?

i read in the discussion boards in the game that you've gotta make the fake id pages look 'coherent' (like. the changes you make hafta fit in with the theme on each profile)... but i've tried so many times and still can't get it! some of the answers look really similar to me (i.e. they all seem to fit the theme lol), and for some of them i don't even know what the options refer to! (like. i don't watch top gear or whatever other shows they used in the options, so it's really hard for me to find out what fits into the theme?)

Well, I reached Mission 6, but I'm afraid I can't progress further because there's a part of it that doesn't seem to work for me.

Someone else has already mentioned it, but I think I'll put it in a spoiler tag.

At the part where you're meant to photoshop the guy's head, I click on the spot and move the mouse but nothing happens.

But it looks like you can move on to other missions without completing previous ones so I suppose it's not a big loss.

Anyway, now that I've played more of it, it feels more and more like one of those interactive novels where your input is limited to just click and drive the story onwards rather than the full and rich experience I expect from an ARG. I found it really quite frustrating not being able to click on things that are clearly meant to be links.

Having said that, as a story it is on the whole interesting, amusing and engaging. I found the character Jo really difficult to like or to sympathise with.

I found the "boy in a coma" stuff that she was doing really abhorrent and she has yet to redeem herself in my eyes.

I have to admit that I did go back and replay some bits:
Mission 3

I *just* wanted to see if I could get that bar filled.

I've played a few ARGs in the past, so one of the first things I did was have a look under the bonnet and nose around in the source code.

As a head's up, Adrian:

You can see all the descriptions for all the achievements there. I presume you don't want users to know this information beforehand so it's curious why you'd leave that information there.

Maybe I'm being a little unfair in my review because I'm comparing it with other ARGs. For it's target audience, and for its message, it's pitched almost perfectly.

Jay
I do remember starting that and finding it really interesting except I'd put it on hold because I was busy with work. Evidently, I've completely forgotten all about it and now it's too late to go back and have another go. :(

jolson42
I have heard of the show, but only after it was all over. I always seem to be a bit late with these things. Or it could be that they've not promoted them well enough.

I'd have liked to have seen it, it sounds like a really interesting concept.

I'm currently watching Harper's Island on BBC3 and getting really into it (ep. 6 so far, I think) I've seen 3 eps of Harper's Globe, it's web counterpart and I have to say that I'm a little disappointed with it.

snowmoon:

You can usually tell from the user's page and theme what they're into. Top Gear is a program about cars with one of the hosts being Jeremy Clarkson. So for that one you need anything that refers to cars, Jeremy Clarkson or Top Gear.

I haven't gotten the Nixon one either, but I have all other achievements on that mission. So I have reason to believe that the Nixon achievement only relates to cleaning up Keira's profile. It would make sense, since Watergate was a scandal caused by Nixon and he tried to clean it up, much like this whole fake ID ordeal is caused by Keira and now we're trying to clean up her tracks.

ah darn. lol.. some other user got the nixon achievement, and on the game's forum, they said they can't be sure, but they *think* it's got to do with the non-keira profiles lol... but somehow i'm still not getting the themes/answers right for those i guess... either that, or it refers to keira's profile, and i'm not getting that right either lol...

thanks for your help though... maybe i'll try again another time :P or wait till someone gets the answers right LOL!

(i do wish there was a way to skip through all the dialogue if we've already played through once though. i don't mind playing it again and again to get the achievements, but i don't like waiting for the dialogue to run haha!)

I've

read all the mail

on mission 2 but I don't know what to do after that??

Hmm... in the Daily Hate mission, I found it much more telling that...

Cal's INBOX was the second-most-viewed page

than the other pages listed.

snowmoon:

I saw that message, but that person also says he got it along with the achievement for completing the mission. That's why I figure it's only related to Keira's profile. Also because I got the Perfect Forgery achievement after getting a good score on all the other profiles.

If you want, I can play through it again and post the right choices. I can't help you with Keira though, I've tried a lot of combinations of what seems like logical choices, but I've still not gotten the Nixon achievement.

@ThemePark, thanks for the help, but i think there's no need... because i've got all the other achievements except the nixon one too lol... i keep trying and trying, but i still haven't got the answer either haha!

I can't find the

"jo got the rumor mill from keira." link

. I went to the boy in a coma site but i still don't know what to do. Can anyone help?

YAY i got the nixon achievement!!! :D

you get it from the normal user profiles, not keira's...

i think the one i got most wrong was the profile with i think green frames and orange/black background? the one with 'wigs' and 'beards' lol... you're supposed to use the 'comps' and tickets options (i kept using the wig, i think that's what i got wrong lol) i kept thinking 'comps' = computer... but apparently they mean 'complimentary tickets' lol

I am trying to get the Gagglewhack achievment without luck, any insight?

Heinz57:

You need to come up with a filter that returns exactly 3 of the messages.

The messages relate to something in the next episode.

To earn this achievement...

...you have to find the only 3 messages that mention fake IDs and create a filter with those.

And thanks snowmoon for figuring out the Nixon achievement. I too thought comps meant computers. It's still weird though since I'd figure getting the Perfect Forgery badge would automatically give me the Nixon badge if I had the others as well.

On the first mission, I got to the "first rumor" guy, but nothing happens.
My error thing on IE says

Object doesn't support this action
find_danny.js

Is this "fixable" by playing on Firefox, which I guess I should have done in the first place?

doesent seem to work for me, I only get the first line of the audio captions and I cant hear anything.
am using IE 8 on vista

Thank you themepark for your help. I still haven't gotten the Gagglewhack achievment though. Without spoiling anything I read how to get it, I just can't seem to find the right ones. I even have limited it down to the requiremwnt several ways. Somehow I just can't nail this one.

Hmm, I got it now...I think I know what I did wrong.

@cyberjacob: i think there's still some problems with the game.. you can still play it w/o audio, or at least, it hasn't been much of a problem for me so far. but if you really want the audio to play, you can try refreshing, i think (check out the 'help' section in the game, or i *think* there's something about it in the discussion forum of the game too... i read something about how if the volume control doesn't show up in the bottom right of the game panel (i.e. the one that shows your progress through each mission), it means the audio didn't load properly, but if you refresh or something then it might work)

On the first mission, how do I tell Melissa who wrote the first rumour?

I don't know how to get the dirt digger achievement on the White Smoke Day mission :( Help?

@Vogonviking
The way I did it is going through the pages while they're talking.
Oh, and how to add spoiler tags?

[Edit: Please read the spoiler help, found in the commenting notes just above where you leave a comment. -Jay]

This comes nowhere near the (now defunct) Jamie Kane, BBC interactive game.

But it's okay.

How do you actually flag the fake ID comments in the 6th mission?

fake ID comments in mission 6:

are you talking about 'clearing up the profile pages'? hover your mouse over words like 'ID', or 'age', or 'drinking' or stuff like that, and it'll turn yellow. click on it to see options that you can change the words to

hey on mission 3 i can't figure out the last

fake id hate

i have

"my mate is 13 in 2 wks..."

and

"huge crowds of under-age kids..."

Just a quick update on my opinion of this game:

Mission 8 is a very, very beautiful flash piece. So unexpected after the average 8 that have previously been seen.

Has anyone managed to figure out the Photoshop part in Mission 6? It says to click on the red dot to start...but nothing happens when I do!

More episodes out now :)

Has anyone found the pattern for the video clips on number 9?

You can set the clips in the right order easily by looking at the timestamp of the clips

I just looked at this Jamie Kane game, looks interesting, sucks that it's closed, any reason why? People taking it seriously or something. Cause they didn't just stop updating, they stopped the game........weird. MYSTERY! jk. I don't get how level 10 ties in with the story

Is billy like a terrorist or something? I also need help with one of the last minigames of that mission help would be good

i need help with that stuff up above.

smaug85:

HIGHLY doubt Billy's a terrorist. What I really suspect:
Billy is someone we haven't met yet... NOT Emma, given all the bile she dumps in that general direction.
Jamie's dad framed Max.

These are just my suspicions, though. We'll find out in two more episodes!

BlackWolfe Coyoten:

I posted before i played mission 11 i don't think it was Jamies dad, but i DO think it's someone we met and is actually billy, like Jo or melissa or maybe that Holly Oaks that it says billy is catching up with on the home page.

I'm on mission 6 and on the photoshop task. But when i click the red button and go along the dotted line, nothing happens, the button just wont work? Pleaseeeee help! It's driving me insane >.

On Mission Six, Skiving Off, the game freezes after I photoshop the first head. It won't do anything! Help me please!

can someone please say what order the video's are mean't to go in for the music video's on the cctv :)
pleaseee help

Can someone help with mission 11? I've been stuck on the 2nd bit (the motive) for days now! The closest I've gotten is the It's Personal bar to a tiny bit less than full, but then there's no room left to put any more clues in. The other clues, however, seem so ambiguous that they could go in any column.

Hi im stuck on the mission with the fake id's!

I have logged into the admin user but i can't fine the 'create new message' button

PLEASE HELP ME :)

On Misson 11, Suss, how do you weigh up the evidence? I've assigned all the evidence, but I can't seem to find the weigh button. Is it hidden behind the IM box or something? Help me!

on mission 2, i cannot figure out what to do once you have read all of cals mail..

anyone tell me?

hi, I am really struggling with the mission where...

you have to stop the cars from getting on the field, I have no idea where to put the signs

help please :)

Hey,
I'm stuck on the Taffic Jam bit. Pleaseee help!!

I need help on the second bit of mission 11. A lot of people are stuck on it as well. Please can someone help... thank u.

Is there anywhere you can get a full walkthrough? Trying to go back after finishing game to get all achievements and having trouble with a lot! mission 3 - love actually???

Heinz58's advice was fantastic, it worked beautifully! Here are the lyrics to the song if it helps:

You sleep on my doorstep,
steal all my letters.
Cut out all the words and glue them back together.
Because life's better when -
THEY TAKE THE COLOUR OUT!

Our moments are fleeting,
but endlessly repeating
and all the moments that we've missed
taking pictures of the dark
WITH NO ONE WATCHING!

they're watching this city, if you're not sorry now then you will be
they're watching this city, if you're not sorry now then you will be
they're watching this city, if you're not sorry now then you will be
they're watching this city, if you're not sorry now then you will be
(who would of thought that)

imagine if the air was ours.
But they follow you they follow you they follow you round.
imagine if the air was ours.
But they follow you they follow you they follow you round.
imagine if the air was ours.
But they follow you they follow you they follow you round.
imagine if the air was ours.
But they follow you they follow you they follow you round.
imagine if the air was ours.
But they follow you they follow you they follow you round.
imagine if the air was ours.
But they follow you they follow you they follow you round.

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