Monday, October 29, 2012
Locally-created Urban Zombie app lets you fight fiends at Dallas landmarks
Zombies at NorthPark! Zombies in Deep Ellum!
DALLAS From college students, brain-dead from finals and shot-gunning their ways through frat parties, to sharpshooter financial consultants in Dallas' business district, our city teems with would-be warriors who are more than prepared for the impending zombie apocalypse. But, while The Walking Dead’s third season is freshly underway and Halloween is just around the corner, nary an undead fiend has surfaced in Dallas. Until now.
A company of Dallas-based creatives at indie design firm Studio 2511 have designed Urban Zombie, a new “augmented reality” iPhone game that brings the interactive fun right to DFW. Want to uppercut a ghoul in Pegasus Plaza or blast a baddie outside Highland Park United Methodist?
Here’s how it works: You simply download and then launch the app, check in, and start hunting. The software utilizes your phone’s camera viewfinder to put your favorite landmark right in the game.
“It’s real-time action in real-space,” said Justin Léger, Urban Zombie owner and chief application architect. Léger is joined by who he calls a “genius” lead game designer, Justin Pierce. Pierce studied New Media Art at UNT, and the team is completed with iOS developer Chieh-Yu “Joy” Tao, who received her master’s in electrical and computer engineering from NYU.
Gameplay is relatively simple -- you fight zombies to collect brains, which act as currency to spend on upgrades and other items – but there is a strategic element: You can also earn zombies to create an army that can be placed around the city. You determine whether you want your zombie team to fight anyone playing in a particular area, or if you want to challenge a specific friend. Your friend will be notified, and the next time he or she visits White Rock Lake, West Village, or any spot of your choosing, your minions await.
Addictive as gameplay may be, each fight lasts about 10 seconds. It’s quick-play fun, and your phone slips back into your pocket until your urge to ambush strikes again. The download is free, and you can upgrade equipment by barter the brains you win or purchasing them the old-fashioned way.
Want tech specs? Léger said that the game uses a mix of technology. "The game play is built with Unity and uses several components from the iPhone's hardware during game play: the camera for the augmented reality video feed; the gyroscope for player control and rotation of the augmented reality world; and the accelerometer for weapon reloading and punching the Zombies away ... The backend API, the BRAINS behind the curtain, is a custom solution based on a framework that I have been writing and enhancing for years."
The game idea came about in 2011 when Léger was playing around with facial detection technology on his iPhone. Other games have used marker-based technology, but those require players to carry image markers with them, he said. With Urban Zombie, Léger was able to use the iPhone's gyroscope to superimpose a virtual game world on top of video feed, and that's what makes the game so immersive.
Studio 2511 has formed a Kickstarter project, which Léger said will raise funding for, among other needs, "ramp[ing] up the art and audio, and mak[ing] sure the servers are ready to support the growing number of players and zombies."
While Urban Zombie already has over 120 backers, as of this writing they have so far raised only about $8,000 of the needed $38,500 goal with an October 31 deadline looming. Those who pledge at least $5 receive schwag such as free zombies, T-shirts, an upgraded arsenal, and more.