The Curfew’s Curfew Is Lifted

By Alec Meer on July 29th, 2010 at 5:42 pm.

The staring eyes of a girl who just read about the sex scene in Kieron's first draft. (Not really)
The Curfew, a free educational online game from Channel 4, launches today in Britain. The narrative-led investigative puzzle game is designed to teach political awareness, documenting as it does a near-future society dominated by an oppressive government, and asking the player to make decisions that reflect their own political opinions and meaningfully affect other characters in the world.

The Curfew is developed by LittleLoud and written by Kieron Gillen, a highly-respected international game critic, journalist and Marvel writer who AAAAARGH NO I CAN’T DO THIS AAAAAAAAARGH.

Kieron’s written a game, love ‘im. I know, our Kieron – he wrote words and everything, and they weren’t even about Iceman throwing an icicle at The Thing’s the solar plexus. Politics! Drama! Intrigue! Moral dilemmas! Clever Kieron! It’s out now. Go play it.

Kieron has put more details into the comments thread below.

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153 Comments »

  1. Feet says:

    KIERON WROTE A GA-AME

  2. Duffin says:

    Who the hell decided to release it the same week as starcraft!

  3. Cooper says:

    I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I noted the surveillance society / near-future government setting on the C4 page about it.

    Not enough of that theme nowadays. Like much of the hyperbole of the 80s and 90s, what has come to pass, though no less terrifying, tends to be much more banal than predicted. Nevertheless, I miss the urgency of those oldies…

    Anyway, am playing now…

    • Cooper says:

      Replace ‘Playing’ with ‘Encountering yet another loading screen after thinking the initial 5 minute wait was all”

      Heavy server load?

  4. Bonegnawer says:

    A GA-ME WROTE KIERON

  5. Azazel says:

    A GAME! KIERON WROTE?

  6. Zetetic says:

    Next time, write a fullscreen button.

    (Looks interesting, but by God the interface is infuriating and noisy.)

    • Zetetic says:

      Well, it’s managed to make me laugh and smile already despite also provoking me to annoyance!

    • Zetetic says:

      Well, I’d pay to have all the elements of interactivity surgically removed, if only so I can avoid the bits where it looks like I can click the questions and I can’t. I do appreciate the attempts to integrate the first game into the narrative (shame that finding a minigame irritating isn’t ameliorated by being told that it’s irritating), and rather pissed off by the second one being far more unpleasant to play.

      It’s an interesting world already, and the production quality isn’t bad. The nastiest thing comparison I could make is that it’s like Skins meets an episode of Doctor Who. Which isn’t so bad.

  7. Rinox says:

    I am utterly put off by there not being Icemen throwing icicles at the solar plexi of Things. No sale!

  8. Phydaux says:

    loading…

  9. The Hammer says:

    Who’s Kieron?

  10. Novotny says:

    What time are we allowed to play until?

  11. Dyst says:

    Style is fucking awesome. Actors are pretty low quality.

    • PHeMoX says:

      It doesn’t ruin it for me though, I think this is a pretty neat game and the ideas are pretty good.

      I, like many others though, am not that fond of all those loading screens.

      At times it’s not that clear that you should expect staying longer in a certain area, so things that follow each other up might not feel that intuitive (like getting the ‘next version’ of that program to crack the air tag, but there are more occasions of this.)

      All in all, pretty enjoyable game though. I like it.

  12. Kieron Gillen says:

    It’s only the first part of four. The other three should arrive early next week, I’m told. It does save your game after each scene, however, so you can pick up where you left off.

    It’s also worth noting that, as the text at the top of the page says, it’s the Beta, so there’s some stuff that’ll be tweaked. Stuff like tags not having text is the only really obvious thing I can see, though I still hope they have a cut-scene skip button.

    Oh – and there’s another video on the site. A party political broadcast thing with an actor whose sleaziness who I can only applaud. Go watch that here..

    KG

    • The_B says:

      I enjoyed your and Simon Parkin’s cameo in that broadcast. I also blame society.

    • Cooper says:

      Note for tweakage:

      Don’t dive straight into an interactive mini-game after a loading screen without a ‘Start now’ button.

      Tabbed browsers & alt-tab & the general attention deficit of the average regular internet user means I’m already somewhere else the moment I so much as glimpse a loading bar.
      And then get confused by the sudden noises, wonder where they’re coming from and lose 1/2 of the time of the game…

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Cooper: You are meant to fuck up the game though. It’s more of a gag than a game.

      KG

    • Cooper says:

      Yeah, I realised that moments after posting. I was posting mid-game. Less out of anger, more out of bafflement. Odd noises reminded me I was in the middle of something other than work / conquering the galaxy, and, instead of playing the game, I simply went straight to the source. I then went back to the game, played 10 seconds of it and got the joke and didn’t care anymore. I almost became Mr. AIM there. I got the whole ‘knee jerk reaction’ thing pat down. Maybe I should have called you names as well?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Nah – I think the intro game may be a tad too long as is too. Its purpose is primarily for narrative rather than the actual experience.

      KG

  13. nmute says:

    amazing music. sounds like something on Warp.

  14. Dyst says:

    Is it me, or does saving take forever?

  15. fitz says:

    Note to C4 staff: please learn the difference between Affect and Effect. Then correct the typo in your game.

    Thank you.

  16. YogSo says:

    Hey, Kieron never warned us it was going to be [spit]educational[/spit]! Give me my money back!

    Seriously now, congrats to KG. Going to check it immediately.

  17. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    Excited!
    But im going to wait the week, for the other parts.
    I have breaking a narrative.

  18. Morti says:

    jesus christ, the loading times are ludicrous, i cant play this.

    first scene, 4 characters, 2 out of them wont talk to me, the nerd kid does. I answer his question and bam , ANOTHER loading screen. Fuck this. Wish there were a client version of these games.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      That’s the last load for ages, btw.

      KG

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      I’m finding it neigh on unplayable. Not just the loading times (which are long), but the general performance. Mouse is so laggy the pixel hunting required to find the interactive bits is completely impossible. Shame, ’cause, you know, the writing seems quite good.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Ah. I rebooted to Windows and it’s much better. I guess this would be the poor Flash performance that Steve Jobs is allegedly so angry about.

    • Phydaux says:

      @Morti

      Yea that is exactly where I gave up. I had spent ages waiting at the loading screens for a few seconds of mediocre dialogue, then the “game” started. I spoke to the guy at the computer and he responded in a way that made no sense to the question I asked. Then it jumped straight into another loading screen. After waiting 5 mins, and the progress bar flitting around the 1/3 mark I decided that there was no way it could be worth my time.

  19. Dyst says:

    Well. I just completed the game and I’m now writing my third comment on this news article. Awesome!

    Really enjoyed it, the acting wasn’t brilliant but the whole thing was pretty cool and I really enjoyed the setting. Also, Crystal Castles.

  20. Flimgoblin says:

    Is this one better than VVVVVVegetable? :)

  21. Serenegoose says:

    You got Mark Thomas! Man. He makes an exceptional newsreader. I lol’d, hard when I seen that.

  22. skalpadda says:

    I’m not a fan of hunting for hotspots in the environment and the mini games feel a bit unnecessary but the writing is really good so far, looking forward to completing it next week :)

  23. gnodab says:

    damn you floorsweeper!
    i chechked the airtags on the menu like ten times but the game just does not progress, its sad.

    • Dyst says:

      Click the red tag, and then speak to the guy again. Then click the green tag, and speak to the guy one more time. He’ll then send you to the PC and you can continue.

    • Amanda says:

      Close the phone and open it again. The first time I found it, it wasn’t clickable at all (this was before it would even tell me I had the outdated thingie.)

      Also, there’s a typo in the loading screen tips. “The questions you choose ask…”

  24. Chris D says:

    I especially liked the irony of mentioning how the evil government was selling off personal details to private companies while at the side of the screen I was being encouraged to share the game on facebook.

    • Christian Otholm says:

      That’s not irony. Irony would be if you were forced to share the game on facebook. There’s quite a difference between being asked to do something and being forced to do something.

      Also – the game sadly crashed at the window cleaner scene. Otherwise it looked interesting.

    • Chris D says:

      I’m not sure being forced or not is relevant. It’s the juxtaposition of warning against government violation of privacy on one hand and being encouraged to voluntarily provide all kinds of personal information to a site with a lax view on who else gets to see that information, including private business interests.

      Voting is not the only way we can give up our freedoms.

      I should probably also mention that I did like the game.

  25. Jimbo says:

    Cor-phew!

    athankyouverymuch

  26. The_B says:

    WHAT ABOUT THE DRM?

  27. brog says:

    impressions (spoilers):
    - writing in the intro is tight. good job kg. i like how it acknowledges that it’s giving the player information the character should already know.
    - disappointed at having to go through the characters in a particular order. starting at the left is obvious, so i deliberately didn’t.
    - wtf gun-shooty minigame? not what i was expecting. didn’t like how it started instantly when i was away because of loadingscreen.
    - spent ages convinced it was a puzzle who to type into messenger program, no luck.
    - want to slap that guy.
    - finding “bonuses” is a bit of a dull distraction from finding where to actually go.
    - minigames continue to be a bit shit. no sense of where the slingshot is actually aimed.
    - “come back next week” eh what?

  28. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Liked it a lot.

    As I’ve told Kieron over Twitter, it reminds me of Floor 13, in terms of choice and consequence. Come to think of it, it’s Floor 13 on a ground level, figuratively (the themes and vibe of the game are also of suspicion) and literally (if you ever wondered how your agents would treat people and how the streets would be patrolled, The Curfew is kinda of a possible answer to that; also it’s hard not to imagine, as you walk those streets, some asshole in a suit overseeing things, creating more oppresive laws to oppress that which he can’t control more directly).

    I only missed one secret in the Boy’s flashback and, unfortunately, lost a bit of his trust in the final dialogue.

    What I liked about the game, so far, is that it reminded me of the same sense of paranoia and suspicion I only found in games like Shadowrun (Sega Genesis) and Uplink: that something or someone really is watching, that what you do has a meaning beyond your immediate awareness, that there are plenty of things you can miss if you’re not looking. I honest to god mucked about with the chat messenger to see if I could prod someone (other than the a specific person) to talk to him.

    I think that’s what got to me. It may be a MacGuffin but it’s applied in a way that you can’t stop falling for it.

    MOAR!

  29. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    On minigames, well, they could use a little bit more integration. The shooty bang thing kinda made me go “lol wut?”; it caught my attention’s pants down.

    Also: man, if someone didn’t know Kieron was on the job, the subtitle of that Holy Grail of ShootyBangs gave it right away, hahaha!

    Also 2: Kieron and Parkin on that short movie :)

  30. RagingLion says:

    I am officially stuck. Been staring at the street scene of the Boy’s story (the one after the fast food place) for ages and can’t see what I’m supposed to do. Talked to the policeman at start of scene and haven’t made any real progress since. Can’t fathom any hints from the air tags. Clicked on the boarded up sex shop but that just bonus material. The cursor changes to an upward pointing hand when on the right side of the screen and when I click it plays a sound effect and adjusts the screen but nothing changes. Any clues or has something gone wrong with the game?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Actually, let me put that backwards….

      yawyella no eht thgir. kconk no eht rood.

      KG

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Yeah, I got that. I think it’s bugged. When I started again it worked fine.

    • RagingLion says:

      Yep, it’s a bug and it worked when I reloaded it just like for the others. The first time round I didn’t get any of the annotations with the tags either, it just displayed ‘XCVXV’ … I was starting to think there was some sort of obscure puzzle with Roman numerals or something.

      I also had the parts where it returned to the main room have the audio out of sync with the video.

    • Chris says:

      In case it’s useful: I also got the window cleaning bug and the xcvxv (or whatever) text on the airtags. Selected all responses to window man, ending with “come back later.” Got his response, then video froze and game unresponsive. reloading (F5) solved this, at the cost of replaying the scene, and also fixed the airtag text. On returning to the safehose, the video sync also went, although it returned for the next scene.

      I don’t go for pixel hunting much, but this was interesting and well done. Congrats on the writing!

      - Chris.

  31. Bas says:

    I’m stuck too. Kieron’s probably saying to himself “I’m not Gamefaqs, piss off”, but can anyone else help? I think the dissident’s part is bugged. She walks into her office, and nothing. The mobile says there’s airtags, but it shows none.

    Also in the same section, if you browse for tags in the previous aquarium bit, you’ll see a woman standing somewhere, and she disappears when you turn off your phone. Ghost lady!

    For the rest, excellent writing! Can’t wait to finish it.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      How on earth have you got into the Dissident’s game? That’s part 3. It’s only meant to let you play Part 1.

      KG

    • brog says:

      going back to the site and loading seems to skip ahead to the next one. i got the first girl up to the first questioning, then it went black, now it’s loading the second girl.
      bugs, eh?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      I suspect you may have precipitated a panic at Littleloud.

      KG

    • Bas says:

      I used my 1337 hacking skills. Oh wait no, I just hit F5 after seeing the “see you next week” screen.

      WHY ARE YOU LOCKING CONTENT THAT’S ALREADY FINISHED? DO YOU EXPECT US TO PAY YOU HEARTLESS BASTARD?

    • brog says:

      none of it’s quite finished, hence “beta”. i assume the bug you found with the missing airtag is due to the unfinished state (i had the same).
      (some of the later parts had text on airtags though, which is missing on the bit we are supposed to have, so that’s a bit weird.)

    • Bas says:

      Also, the game’s fatally broken at the second questioning of the dissident.

      SPOILERS

      She asks how you think you knew why her boss would backstab her, and whatever answer you give turns the screen to black permanently.

      END SPOILER

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Bas: The reason why the other stuff is locked off is that it isn’t finished yet, which is why it’s probably a bad thing that you play it.

      KG

    • bill says:

      I heard the F5 thing works in Starcraft 2 as well. Lets you access the Protoss and Zerg campaigns, bu they’re bugged.

  32. Trans says:

    There is a bug at that bit. I was stuck there for 15 minutes, every time I tried to go to the alley on the right a weird visual effect happened but it didn’t go to the alley, just refreshed the same scene. I reloaded the game, hey presto, first time I click I get a new scene in front of the green door.

    Apart from that, pretty good. I look forward to playing the rest of the :)

  33. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Oh.

    The game erased my save file :/

  34. JohnnyMaverik says:

    “written by Kieron Gillen”

    I’m in

    *gives myself an obnoxious arse kissing point*

  35. Gritz says:

    Really cool. It’s like you reached into my brain and pulled out that I love Tex Murphy games and civil liberties activism. Was not expecting that.

  36. Nallen says:

    I love the idea of AR airtags! I feel almost totally convinced they’ll be real.

    …someone will now tell me they are…

  37. somnolentsurfer says:

    Is that video specifically selecting people from my Facebook friends with ‘Liberal’ political views? Win.

    • EthZee says:

      What, that computer “most wanted” thing? I’m not sure. I did see Cory Doctorow at the top of the list, though.

      Yeah, the game was alright. It ran terribly for me, though that’s probably the laptop more than anything. And I was slightly irritated by the Trust/Interview game, but that’s mainly because I have no idea what sounded suspicious or not; I’d pick a question which sounded perfectly innocent, only to get a surly response and a “LOST TRUST”. Well, I can’t help it if I don’t understand you surly, rebellious teenagers!

      I mean, there were options which resulted in “GAIN TRUST” but which made little sense to me. Any of them could have been ways of surreptitiously finding out information on the boy. But, then again, I am a paranoiac.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      In the Keep Safe, Stay In video, rather than the game itself. Saw Cory Doctorow and Simon Parkin in the game.

      I only lost trust once, I think for doubting his ability with a catapult. I got no change a couple of times though.

    • Nallen says:

      @EthZee – This is what I like about it, it’s the first game I can remember playing where there is some actual ambiguity about the way people will react to things you say to them (like you know, real people) rather that the option you pick clearly being positive, neutral or negative.

    • EthZee says:

      Yeah, I see what you mean, but it’s a bit annoying when something important is based on the results.

      Which is an odd choice for me to take, as usually I prefer random-chance stuff to direct skill-based things.

      Hm, I do hope there’s an option to be the traitor all along. That would be, as they say, a right larf.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      I suspect it’s the sort of thing you’ll feel out by the end of the game, one way or another. Different characters are, by definition, different.

      KG

    • EthZee says:

      Bah. I find interacting with people on a deep level in real life to be irritating as well, so I guess it’s not a problem with the game, per se.

  38. simonkaye says:

    When are they going to let Kieron write an episode of Doctor Who? It’s only a matter of time, after all.

  39. brog says:

    something i’m quite liking about this, over the average adventure game i’ve played (admittedly not so many) is that they haven’t felt the need to let the player go through all the content. your choices in conversation are real choices, the things you didn’t ask are left unasked.

  40. passingtramp says:

    Enjoyable, but I simply can’t shoot that damned camera. Is there a particular way I should be using the slingshot?

  41. dalziel86 says:

    SO MUCH LOADING SCREENS! SOOOO MUCH LOADING SCREENS!

    Load screen. Start Game page. Load screen. Intro cutscene. Load screen. Talk to a guy. Load screen.

    And each of these loading screens takes a minute or two. Can’t some of this stuff be streamed more efficiently?

  42. dalziel86 says:

    I eventually just gave up after being stuck on a load screen for ages. I figure I had the tab with the game on it open for at least 10-15 minutes, and I got maybe 10 seconds of interactivity out of it.

    TOO MUCH LOADING SCREENS.

  43. Markoff Chaney says:

    Nice work, from what I’ve played so far. I do want to express gratitude for allowing non UK people with insufficient Citizen Points to enjoy this interactive experience. I’ve been awaiting playing this for a while. Even having half of it with subtitles is a joy, but I’m playing a beta, so I should just be grateful.

    I also would like to echo the affect/effect sentiment. I could tell you didn’t write those bits. One of the loading phrases I keep turning around in my head and still can’t quite figure it out. It is pleasing in a sort of Dadaistic perverseness, but not quite right grammatically, nor fully sensical when prised into its constituent pieces. Or maybe I just don’t get that part of the game yet…

    Regardless, I look forward to exploring more of this Brave New World brought to life by your wordsmithing. Thank You, Kieron and Littleloud, even if I wanted to shoot the guy in the suits.

  44. ContingencyStan says:

    I agree with those above who have pointed out that the affect/effect error is rather jarring.

    In the interests of helping, the two statements affected by the issue are:

    “From time to time a character may turn a question back on you. Choose your response carefully, as the effect [affect] will be greater than usual.”

    “Pay close attention as you play through each character’s story. The questions you choose ask about their decisions afterwards will effect [affect] how much they trust you.”

    The second statement also seems to be missing “to” between “choose” and “ask” in the second sentence.

    On an unrelated note, I really like the design and content of the dystopian notice boards, posters, and screens. They evoke a strong sense of a modern-day first-world surveillance state.

  45. JohnnyMaverik says:

    Done, it was interesting, I didn’t find it nearly as challenging at some of the people above seemed to, but I liked it. Only complaints would be the game glitching up on me a few times, specifically not letting me return from certain view points and forcing a re-load, and Nigel Harman’s over-acting… although the cane didn’t help much.

    Looking forward to seeing what the Scottish dudes story is, although by the looks of things he’ll be pissed by the time we get that far.

  46. cypher says:

    The control system can feel a little clunky at times and the loading screens are ridiculous…

    But the settings really fun, and I love simple things like getting you to manoeuvre your phone to highlight the airtags or type in a persons name yourself. Its an old trick that really helps to up the immersion and yet seems to be used less and less these days!

  47. A-Scale says:

    Tremendous voice acting, great writing, and I love the inclusion of future forward tech (e.g. the phone that permits you to see digital things).

    The slingshot crap on the other hand is unacceptably bad. I can’t hit the camera because there is no sense of depth or reason behind it, and I quit the game in frustration there as such. Also, I thought I was meant to kill off the mass of 4 cameras you can click on, not the single measly camera off to the right in the darkness.

    Regardless, a wonderful experience. Let the libertarian inside you be free, Kieron. Britain can be great again.

  48. phineas says:

    I wonder if The Call of Grand Theft Duty XIII: Hyperdeath Electrofight is PEGI 18

  49. Sinomatic says:

    I love the setting, the concept, the design.

    I don’t love the dodgy english in the text, the missing text in some sections, the long loading times, the near-constant flashing between scenes, the glitchy bits. As its still beta however, I’m hoping these niggles can be improved upon.

    I hates the slingshot bit. Hates it with a passion.

    My biggest gripe by far is not having a clue of the tone of my question when I ask it. Since the main point of the game seems to culminate around discerning truth and gaining trust during the questioning phase, this seems just a tad daft.

    Its one thing if they react in an unexpected/bad way to something I asked in a friendly/nice/innocent way. Its another thing if they react badly to something that I chose believing it to be complimentary and was, in fact, insulting from the outset.

    During the boy’s story we got to hear *how* he was saying his dialogue before choosing an option (although I’m not sure how you chose made any difference to the reply in his case). Something similar for my character would have been really handy.

    (…And yes, I know that would have a) required additional voice acting, and b) replaces the player’s own identity with that of one provided by the game….but still, I think its important enough to warrant the inclusion).

    Regardless of my griping, I really enjoyed playing through it and I’m genuinely looking forward to the release of the other sections of the game next week.

  50. jpipesup says:

    Love it Kieren,

    Great concepts, Get story, Great game

    Loading screens are a little long, and definitely needs a button after the loading screen to continue (maybe only show it if focus was lost during loading).
    And bug wise – a couple of times I ended up with a blank screen and had to refresh, one computer I played it on failed to display the actual text for the airtags, it showed the title, but not the actual information for the tag, and of course the wonderful bug that lets you play through to the next episodes! Classic!

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