Third Rail is an interactive murder mystery set on a New York City subway. A whodunit for the internet age, the story unfolds in the manner of a classic Agatha Christie mystery, but with the grit of modern-day New York City as a backdrop.
The story unfolds in real time on a trapped underground train comprised of six subway cars. Inside the cars and in the surrounding darkness of the tracks, passengers form alliances and get separated from one another, each believing another is the killer. The whodunit unfolds over 20 episodes; each chapter is approximately 5 minutes long and ends in a cliffhanger.
The primary interactive feature of Third Rail is the viewer’s ability to choose which of the train’s six cars to view at any time. By using a graphical interface to switch among simultaneous stories throughout the train, viewers can uncover clues on their own and attempt to solve the mystery. This interactivity also implores viewers to replay each episode as they follow characters from car to car and actively pursue the identity of the killer(s).
Envisioned as a cross-platform media event, Third Rail will be at its most immersive when viewed on distribution platforms that offer interactive possibilities. Without any viewer input, however, Third Rail plays like a standard edited film: a Director’s Cut mode automatically switches between cars at opportune times. The result is a feature-length film wherein all 20 episodes are viewed back-to-back, as if Third Rail were a normal, non-interactive feature. In this way the Director’s Cut will be the primary viewing method for any non-interactive platforms, such as broadcast television and theatrical releases. Viewers that watch Third Rail without interactivity may become repeat viewers, given the opportunity to experience missing parts of the story and explore unanswered questions by viewing Third Rail on the web or other interactive platforms.
Third Rail is feature-film quality entertainment that will premiere on several platforms at once, taking advantage of traditional distribution means as well as the unique narrative framework of short-form content and the interactive affordances of the web.