Tag: Naomi Alderman

Zombies Run Expands to Virtual Races, Board Games


Lace up your favorite pair of running shoes. Pull up a playlist of some of your favorite songs. Finally, plug in your headphones. Now, you are Runner 5.

Some of you have been Runner 5 for quite some time now. Zombies, Run is well into its fifth season, with 190 missions from Abel Township to date. After finishing those missions, you may have volunteered for dozens of side missions and challenges to protect your village from zombie hordes, rival towns, evil scientists, and shady corporate interests. Others may have fallen behind. That’s okay – if you only go out running once a week, it would take over four years to catch up with Abel Township’s efforts to rebuild a semblance of civilization in the wake of a zombie apocalypse.

ARGNet has written at length about Zombies, Run in the past. But for those new to the free-to-play mobile game, Zombies, Run is an episodic audio narrative designed to blend seamlessly with your running experience. At the start of your run, just load up the app, choose a playlist, and begin your mission. As the series’ silent protagonist Runner 5, you are thrust directly into the narrative through a series of short audio drama vignettes to provide a narrative context behind your run. Your own playlist serves as the musical interludes between the story. Sometimes, tortured groans from zombie hordes serve as impetus to pick up the pace, or risk getting caught and devoured.

The free-to-play version of the game allows you to unlock one story mission a week. If that pace is too grueling, a $19.99 yearly membership unlocks every story mission, along with a host of other features.

Keeping Things Simple Through Iterative Design

Zombies, Run‘s success is built off the back of the most non-intrusive user interface in mobile gaming and its incredibly rich storyworld. It’s generally easy to spot players of other location-based games like Ingress and Pokemon Go on the streets, because gameplay is so heavily centered around looking down at your smartphones, and briefly stopping along your route at dozens of different locations. Zombies, Run still lures players into the real world for its gameplay, but does so more stealthily. It’s practically impossible to distinguish a Zombies, Run player from someone simply listening to a podcast or musical playlist on a long walk or run. And the game’s frequent updates have held to that core principle. Recent updates have made it easier for runners to binge through a series of missions by enabling auto-play functionality to get caught up on the 200+ episodes the first five seasons of Zombies, Run will eventually encompass. Audio syncing capabilities have expanded to allow runners to pull in music from external services like Spotify or Pandora to serve as soundtrack for their runs, expanding past the phone’s built-in playlists. And new offerings like 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and marathon training plans help provide structure to personal goals.

None of that would work without Zombies, Run‘s riveting narrative, which provides the backbone of the experience. Over the past five years Zombies, Run co-creator and lead writer Naomi Alderman has been leading the team of writers through the difficult task of guiding players through their role of silent protagonist through the trials and tribulations of post-apocalyptic survival. For the most recent narrative arc, Alderman notes,

Season 5 takes Runner further from home than we’ve ever been before, in search of the truth about the origins of the zombie plague. Season 5 also sees us have to tackle enemies who are more powerful – and know more about us – than any we’ve ever dealt with before. There’ll be wolves and bears, soldiers and spies and of course constant zombies chasing Runner 5.

The team clearly places a priority on ensuring the highest quality of writing and audio production goes into every mission, and the series pulls on writerly talent from sources ranging from the game’s own fan base to Alderman’s Arts Initiative mentor Margaret Atwood, for a brief cameo appearance.

Even Runners 5 who don’t expect to reach the newest content for a few years still have a few surprises in store for them. One of the more surprising projects in development is a Zombies, Run board game, coming soon to Kickstarter. The pending game is being pitched as “real-time, open world, story-driven, co-operative, and app enhanced.” The other main update? Virtual races.

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Alternate History Serial “Balance of Powers” Launches

Major Sonja Slade of the Prussian Army“Think of it as an alternate world Cold War era spy adventure, if that kind of thing included stuff like blood sacrifices packed with dark beings.”
– Andrea Phillips, Balance of Powers Kickstarter campaign video.

Before Adrian Hon and Naomi Alderman took to Kickstarter to fund the mobile app Zombies, Run, there was Balance of Powers. The Kickstarter campaign sought to reunite Hon and Alderman with former Perplex City collaborators Andrea Phillips and David Varela to tell an “alt-history Cold War-era spy adventure.” Finally, almost a year after meeting its funding goals, Balance of Powers is ready to see the light of day.

An update to the Balance of Powers Kickstarter page on August 1st alerted backers to the opening of the story’s website. On the first of August, a short but intriguing prologue gave a quick glimpse into the beginnings of the story and the mind of Major Sonja Slade. The August 1st update also included details on an upcoming live online event, which is scheduled to take place on August 25th at 7pm London time (4pm EST, 1pm PST). Details about the live online event and how to participate will be announced in the weeks leading up to the event.

A few days later, the first chapter posted, introducing character John Noon, the insurance clerk, while providing readers some insight into the shape and flavor of the world. The story weaves together the lives and adventures of an ex-spy who asks too many questions, an insurance clerk who is out of his depth, the daughter of a man accused of terrible deeds, and a major in the Prussian Army pursuing an investigation of the Bulgarian ambassador’s murder. In a city called Midway, the characters will come together – but for what purpose?

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Breaking News: Perplex City Season 2 Delayed Indefinitely

Earlier today it was revealed on the Perplex City game site that the expected June relaunch of the popular alternate reality game would “no longer be possible.” Season two was scheduled to be released this month, but the statement on the site makes reference to the quality of the experience, and how Mind Candy believes in holding off on releases until “they’re ready and… [they’re] entirely happy with them.”

The landscape of Mind Candy itself has also undergone major changes, as Story Team members Adrian Hon, Andrea Phillips, David Varela and Naomi Alderman, as well as COO Dan Hon, have all left the company within the last 48 hours. In blog posts, Dan Hon notes that he wants “to try something new,” while his brother Adrian remarks that “it’s time… to move on.” Phillips and Alderman echoed sentiments of celebration, sadness and thankfulness for the players of PXC, and Varela chose the Unfiction forums to sum up his thoughts on the turn of events.

Details are still emerging, so watch ARGNet for further details. The story will be part of the discussion on the upcoming 26th episode of the ARG Netcast as well.

Thanks to Brian Enigma at Netninja for the summary post and links.