WWDC 2010: Insurrection 2035 impressions
Ever since the iPhone was introduced, we've been looking for a good location-based MMO -- a game that could rely on location information direct from the iPhone to let many different players interact with each other on a grand scale. There have been a few contenders so far (MyTown is definitely the most successful to date, and Shadowforce's Gunman has loyal fans), but I don't think anyone's really nailed that feeling of hunting players and exploring in real-life that we all dreamed of. Paranoid Games, however, is going to give it a shot with Insurrection 2035, an interesting idea for an iPhone game that's due out in early July.
I got to see the game in action this week at WWDC, and while I didn't get to play it (the game is basically a map interface so far, and a lack of players means there's not a lot of action going on quite yet), Sam M makes a good pitch. The idea is a virtual version of the Assassins game, where a group of players hunts each other around real-life locations.
In Insurrection, there's a "Big Brother-themed backstory" that has players working against each other, trying to predict and report other players' movements to an authority. You check-in to the app while out and about, other players can see your check-ins, and vice versa, and then if you're able to check-in and "report" someone from the same place that they're checking-in from, they're "arrested." They get a timeout from the game, and you get points towards local and worldwide leaderboards.
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But is it fun? For some people, it will be. There are obvious privacy concerns -- right now, everyone's movement is open for everyone to see, so there's no friends lists or social features built in to the app yet, though I was told that's a plan for the future. You can set up two "safe" spots that won't be uploaded (your home and your workplace, basically, so people aren't trying to report you while you're working or show up outside your door at home), but other than that, you're basically broadcasting your location to the game whenever you load it up, for better or worse.
The app doesn't necessarily spread any identifying information -- all it needs is a username, and it's not tied to your phone number or picture or anything -- but if you're leery of checking-in on Foursquare all of the time, this might keep you up at night.
There are probably some thrills here that a certain audience has been looking for -- a real-world, always-on MMO cat-and-mouse game that will have you looking over your shoulder whenever you visit your favorite coffee shop or stop for a slice of pizza somewhere. The game also has proximity mines that you can set, and then when someone checks in close to a location where you've set up a mine, they'll be arrested for a period of time. And future plans for the game are interesting too -- eventually, they want to add a clan system to the game, which will let you strategize with friends about how best to hunt someone down and claim the leaderboards for yourself.
Finally, the game's business model is interesting as well -- they're starting out with a subscription fee. The game is a free download, and will be free to play for 30 days, but after that period, they'll ask for a $1.99 in-app purchase for each 30 days of play. That's not a lot, given the server backends they'll have to run (especially if the game takes off -- Sam admits that they haven't done a lot of large-scale testing yet, so if the game scales up fast, they might have to scramble to keep it going), and I'm guessing a good core audience will happily pay for the experience they're promising.
The game's in App Store approval right now, and they're aiming for a July 4th release date. We'll have to see how it all works out -- while this type of gameplay might not appeal to everyone, there's certainly a group of iPhone users out there who won't mind a little danger thanks to their GPS device. If everything goes as planned (and that seems like a big if even now), Insurrection 2035 might be the location-based MMO those folks have been looking for.
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