badge.jpgA couple of weeks ago, ARGN received a witty recruitment letter from The Sky Remains 6th Dimension Detective Agency, kicking off “The Sky Remains,” a much-anticipated game by Licorice Film.

If you haven’t had a chance to jump in on “The Sky Remains”, don’t worry! The game is still “in progress,” and Licorice Film has designed it in a way that allows players to follow the story at their own pace. In addition to the website, the player-maintained wiki is a good place to start, as is the “Useful Info” post for the game.

Currently, the 6th Dimension Agents of The Sky Remains Agency are working to solve Case #1: the case of Wendy Skinery, a pregnant woman living alone in an isolated house in England’s West Country. Wendy’s grandfather left her the house and everything in it, including some strange photographs. Agents on the case work under the supervision of agency director, Ms. Poliakov. Players of MeiGeist, Licorice Film’s first interactive project, may run into some familiar faces around the agency, as well!

A series of increasingly disturbing transmissions from Wendy seem to indicate that she is being haunted by a mischievous paranormal entity of some sort. Airy giggles and slamming doors give viewers an unsettled feeling as Wendy provides details of the events that she first chalked up to her own mental state. Repeated incidents have convinced her that this is not “all in her head,” and she has requested the help of the 6th Dimension Agents to sort the case out.

After signing up to join The Sky Remains, players get an introduction to the agency from Ms. Poliakov and receive their first assignment. The Sky Remains is “leveled,” beginning with basic orientation tasks similar to the “tutorial” level in a video game. The introductory level gives players some experience with traditional ARG puzzles and strategies, such as information hidden in a webpage’s source code, changing urls to find hidden pages, and messages and clues hidden in a larger message. Part of The Sky Remains can be a single-player game if the player chooses, but forums and a messaging system on the site provide players with the opportunities to interact with each other.

To unlock a new part of the story, players complete tasks assigned by Ms. Poliakov. Once an assigned task is completed, players must submit answers to Ms. Poliakov. As they do so, they advance in rank and are able to view subsequent transmissions from Wendy and receive further information about the mystery. Sometimes, the website does not clearly indicate what to do next after completing a task. Hint: After listening to Poliakov’s post-task audio, you have to click on the case file (top left corner of the interface) again in order to get Wendy’s next transmission to appear. However, all good detectives must hone their observation skills, right?

Once a certain number of tasks have been completed, Agents earn their bronze and silver badges, along with access to the Filing Cabinet, which holds still more content and introduces the geocaching and mediascape (or mscape) portion of the game. The geocaches, located around the world, contain the “Shards,” fragments of messages from Sam Skinery, a relative of Wendy’s who may be trapped in the 6th dimension. Not all of the Shards have been discovered yet, and there may be one in your part of the world, Agent!

Licorice Film developed The Sky Remains in partnership with HP Labs and their new “mscape” mobile gaming platform. Mscapes require a compatible gps-enabled device. Players do not need to view the mscapes to participate in the game; however, a significant portion of the game is contained within them. Each mscape contains a narrative and a mini-game. These mscapes serve as portals into the “6th Dimension”, where players can communicate with Sam Skinery. Unlike the geocaches, the mscapes don’t require you to go to a particular location and can be experienced anywhere in the world. Playing the mscape in a large area where one can move about freely is helpful.

The “Meta” page on The Sky Remains’ website indicates that once players have finished the first case, they will be able to open their own case files and create their own interactive narratives. With its forums, The Sky Remains offers not only a game but also a social networking site for aspiring game creators and narrative designers and a place for their creations.

The Sky Remains is currently being discussed in “CF With Potential” on the unFiction forums.