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Smokescreen Day#5 Part 1: Editing Hero

So, I’m trying to complete Smokescreen before Brutal Legend comes out, so I did two missions in one day. Here’s part one, where I’m engaging in a play activity I never, ever expected as a game character: copy editor. It makes a decent game of two distinct kinds, although more feedback would have made me very happy. I continue to be impressed that the narrative does not shy away from actual issues. Spoilers within.

So the story starts with a phone call from Max. (I don’t know this from the text, and I don’t recognize the voice right away, but it becomes obvious as we go.) It starts with an article on a victim of binge drinking, a problem that lots of White Smokers seem to be having. I click on a link in the article to get to the girls White Smoke page, and then a link from there takes me to Cal’s sister, Keira. Turns out she’s selling fake IDs on line. Max knew she was behind it, but now he’s got to shut it down because of the heat that the police may bring to White Smoke, not to mention the fact that he doesn’t want her arrested.  And since I was so good at proving that it was Cal insulting Max on the Daily Hate, at least as Max sees it, he would like my help with this.

So step one is shutting down Keira’s operation.  Max gives me log in info to access Keira’s site, and I end up in her mailbox. Max asks me to send a message to her ID contacts to tell them she’s not making any more fakes. It’s a simple puzzle of finding the write mail button and picking the ID related group to put in the To: line. It’s more a narrative step than a game, but it’s nicely immersive.

On to the real gameplay. Max needs to clean the site of references to fake IDs, just to make sure that the police can’t find anything if they look. My first step is to look through a scrolling list of pages that Max found in a search, to isolate all of the ones that actually deal with fake IDs and aren’t false hits. The websites are listed in couple of line summaries, and they scroll fairly quickly. You have to flag the ones that are bad. It’s kind of neat, but the game interface gets in the way at the bottom, so close it before you start. While you do this, Keira calls Max and chews him out for shutting down the operation and for abandoning her and Cal a year ago. I finish this section with 84% efficiency, which gets me some award.

The second part of game is the rest of the scrubbing job. There are still profiles that mention fake IDs, and we need to change the references to them one profile at a time to keep the site clean. It’s a little creepy to be doing this kind of censorship, and it makes me wonder here if the lesson of the whole story is to be suspicious of sysadmins.  Also, I remain impressed that this game stays kind of edgy, with me protecting both a person and a website involved in making fake IDs.

Now, the first time I try this, I literally have no idea what to do. There’s a clock counting down in one corner, and a counter of references to fix in the other, but I’m basically looking a social networking page with no indication of the interaction. I run out of time on the first two profiles of the set desperately clicking around trying to find away to affect the pages at all, and in the process I somehow freeze the clock.  I quit and start over, just to make sure that I didn’t miss something in the text.

I do better in the first part this time, scoring something like 95%, but there’s no clues in the text about what I’m supposed to do. However, this time I get lucky by clicking on the word ID in a wall post. That causes a set of replacement words to appear, and when I click one, it changes the text. Now I’ve got it. You’re copy editing the pages by finding and clicking on the bad words. Once I know this, it’s a kind of fun hidden object-like hunt, and I fly through the five profiles with a good sense of constant tension.

The final challenge is cleaning up Keira’s page. There are 15 references I have to find on it — I only get 14, so Max decides he has to delete the page. I wonder if I could have stopped that. Max gets a text from Keira telling him she’s pissed that he deleted her page. He goes on to say how White Smoke is now full of articles flaming him, accusing him of selling out to advertisers. He tells me that he would have refused Anderson (the ad firm), but he’s not credible. He reveals that the ad network had already backed out because of the police interest, and his bitterness about the site’s reaction makes me think he’s not totally being sincere now.

That’s the end of the story. I get all of the achievements except two, and play the mission one more time to try to get them. I don’t, but I do complete all 15 references on Keira’s page this time. Max doesn’t delete the page, but we still get a nasty text from Keira for having changed it at all. It’s nice that the narrative changes slightly to match my experience. And I guess there’s no pleasing some people.

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