Award-winning game designers, Slingshot, are marking the year of the zombie by announcing the launch of ‘Asylum’, the next chapter in their smash hit urban chase game, 2.8 Hours Later.
The game, now in its fourth year, has a new story, characters and game structure as it embarks on its second national tour of the UK in Nottingham next month.
2.8 Hours Later, which has been played by more than 20,000 people since its launch in 2010, now includes multiple threats and a darker tone to reflect year five of the UK recession.
In addition, Slingshot will be deploying for the first time their prototype bio-sensing technology, to measure the impact the game has on players, enabling the team to draw up fear maps that will aid game design and route planning.
In 2.8 Hours Later ‘Asylum’, the infection is at pandemic stage and UK cities are on lock down, isolated by the Government from the zombie-infected badlands around them. When these measures fail, the authorities abandon the city, and the once safe zone becomes a prison, overrun with zombies, vigilantes and scavengers.
In Asylum, it’s not just the zombies who are out to get you. The Government is trying to kill off the infected, which introduces some tough choices for players. If your nearest and dearest get bitten, do you hand them over, or do you try to protect them? Then there are bounty hunters and vigilantes on the lookout for anyone who shows signs of infection. These new threats engage players on a deeper emotional level, forcing them to question who the real monsters are in the post-apocalyptic scenario.
The first iteration of 2.8 Hours Later, in 2010, reflected on the profound social changes brought by of the formation of the coalition government and the cuts in public services they promised. The new, darker narrative of Asylum reflects the social impact of the last four years of austerity and recession, as poverty and hopelessness become chronic.
Slingshot co-founder and director, Simon Evans, said: “We felt it was the right time to give the game an overhaul. On one level, we’ve had to introduce new safety features and so wanted to re-design the fear factor to counter that. But we also wanted to address the deeper economic and political crisis the country is facing. The zombie apocalypse was inspired by a return to Tory cuts and the misery they brought. Now we’re almost four years on and we’re still in recession. The zombie infection is the recession, and the culpability, corruption, greed and violence it engenders is the world we live in now.”
The introduction of Asylum comes as zombies are hitting the headlines in 2013 with the imminent release of World War Z as well as other zombie films, Warm Bodies and RIPD, and the increasing interest in the genre, illustrated by the rise of other zombie-related pastimes, such as fitness classes.
The national tour, which starts out in Nottingham, will also take in Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester and Liverpool at the rate of a new city each month. There are plans to tour wider in the UK later this year and also to take the game to the USA, the birthplace of street game festivals, in 2014.
With a huge Facebook and Twitter following, 2.8 Hours Later is at the forefront of a burgeoning trend for such games, which started in America and has seen festivals spring up from Cardiff to Toronto. Since its first staging in Bristol in 2010, the game’s popularity has spread via social media and word of mouth, and players have actively petitioned its creators to bring the zombie menace to their home towns.
Slingshot is working on a range of increasingly sophisticated immersive games. The company, which grew its turnover by 400% in 2012 thanks to the success of 2.8 Hours Later, was commissioned to create a game for the Animated Exeter Festival (18 – 23 February 2013). Time Winders uses RFID technology to enable players to interact with smart objects dotted at secret locations across Exeter’s city centre.
Time Winders, and another new game, Cargo, both use technology developed by the University of Nottingham’s Mixed Reality Lab, as part of the EPSRC supported Orchid Project, which is exploring how human interaction with computers is set to change as computation increasingly pervades the modern world.
And for Jekyll 2.0, which they’re producing as part of REACT’s Books and Print Sandbox, Slingshot has teamed up with Anthony Mandal of Cardiff University to create an interactive adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, Jekyll and Hyde, which is driven by the player’s bio-data. Their sweat, breath and heart rate will animate the world around them, triggering doors to lock and lights to go off.
Game producer and Slingshot co-founder, Simon Johnson, said: “It’s great to be able to use some of these technologies to create games with. They enhance the games by introducing some otherwise almost impossible elements. But the games are still not about the technology. In Time Winders when you’re busy shooting down falling bombs, solving riddles or searching for Rune bones you’re just immersed in playing. The destination is engaging with new experiences; the tech just gets us there.”
2.8 Hours Later ‘Asyum’ will debut in Nottingham from March 20 – 23 from 7pm. Tickets cost £24 – £30 each and are available, along with the full list of locations and dates, from the 2.8 Hours Later website, http://2.8hourslater.com/.