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Allison Road Hits Dead End

On June 4th, after over three months of silence from the developers, Lilith Ltd. announced they were cancelling the much-hyped Allison Road game.  In a short & sweet message on their official Twitter page, the developers announced:

Their further statement, released earlier today, was equally vague about this sudden & unexpected news.  The Twitter page displayed a link to the game’s community page on Facebook, which reads:

Hi all,
After a long consideration between Team17 and ourselves, we have reached a mutual agreement to end our collaboration on publishing Allison Road under Team17’s Games label.
Sometime things pan out differently than expected as game development and publishing have so many layers of complexity… We’d like to especially thank everyone for their support through-out, it has and will always be appreciated!

For those unfamiliar with this title, Allison Road was an indie project that sprung up after Konami cancelled the upcoming Silent Hills game, which was to be a continuation of the Silent Hill franchise.  The studio released a demo called P.T., that quickly blew up on the internet.  Not only was it graphically impressive & terrifying, but the project had Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear fame, director Guillermo del Toro, & staring Norman Reedus as the unnamed protagonist.  Having played through P.T. (Playable Teaser) myself, I can attest that it looked to be the shot of terror the Silent Hill franchise was in desperate need of.  Sadly, this was right around the time Konami lost their collective minds, cancelled the project, thereby ticking off both their employees & fans.

Naturally, with gamers livid over this decision, numerous P.T. clones emerged shortly after.  Most were just variations of the demo, which is ostensibly a creepy looping hallway simulator.  But the only grabber-on that went a step further & aimed at creating a full gaming experience was Allison Road, in development by newly formed Lilith Ltd. in the UK.

Support abounded for the studio, with them quickly raising money on Kickstarter.  But before they could reach their deadline, Lilith announced they decided to sign on with Team17.  Team17 are the developers behind the Worms series, but also a company that has shown they recognize good indie projects when they seen them, as they’re also set to publish the Kickstarter indie Yooka-Laylee.  At the time, this seemed like a good thing, as by all accounts this could only help Lilith.  Now they could focus on making the game they (& their supporters) wanted while having a backer who would allow them creative freedom.

That is why this cancellation business had come out of left-field.  Sadly, in this day & age, it’s not uncommon for Kickstarter games to be cancelled.  If anything, it’s more surprising when they actually come out.  But usually the signs start to become obvious.  In the case of Allison Road, as far as I heard (or rather, didn’t hear) there were no problems.  The last update on Twitter was back in February asking for character artists, which says to me they were hard at work.  But maybe we should’ve taken the silence as a red flag.

This announcement has left many people asking if Allison Road is completely dead.  Lilith’s wording is a bit ambiguous, & neither has Team17 made any statements.  According to the Facebook statement, the decision to cut ties was mutual, so it can be theorized there were difficulties on both sides.  But it’s unclear whether Lilith will attempt to restart the project on their own, as it sounds like they were unhappy with the publisher side of their arrangement.  But that might be a problem.  Depending on what type of agreement they had, Team17 might now own the rights to Allison Road.  I won’t claim to be an expert on the matter of game publishing & copyrights, but typically when a publisher brings a smaller studio onboard, they essentially buy the rights to their IP.  I’ve seen countless times when a publisher buys up a smaller studio (& their IP by extension) then shuts down the studio but continues to publish games under their copyright.  In short, it’s entirely possible Lilith Ltd. doesn’t even own the rights to “Allison Road” anymore.

And frankly, even if Lilith does still own the rights, I’d be leery about trying again on Kickstarter.  This news has struck a massive blow toward their credibility as a developer, so it’s very unlikely they’d receive the same level of support as before.  I’ve heard of plenty of games that tried a second campaign, but none that have succeeded.  Gamers are already jaded against crowdfunding as it is, & incidents like this don’t help.  I think it’ll be hard for Lilith moving forward, as this black mark will always be upon their name.

I also find it strange, as many others pointed out in their comments, that it took them eleven days from the time of the cancellation announcement to make an official statement.  Especially one as vague as what was offered.  I get the sense that both sides were arguing over how to make the announcement, how to divvy up blame.  That it fell to Lilith to break the news — notice how despite the Twitter post claiming the statement is from both parties the actual statement was made by Lilith (“Team17 and ourselves”) — makes me think their might be bad blood between the studios.

Actually, looking back, I noticed that Team17’s Twitter feed very rarely showed anything about the game.  They advertise the crap out of all their other upcoming titles, especially Yooka-Laylee.  So the fact that there’s nothing about Allison Road (no videos, images, etc.), which was just as hyped, suggests to me that perhaps Lilith wasn’t making as much progress as Team17 wanted.  Perhaps Lilith wanted to maintain control over their product & felt Team17 was being pushy.  Maybe their ambition was simply too great.

This is all just speculation, of course.

Personally, I think we’ve seen the end of Allison Road as we knew it.  If Lilith still owns the rights, I don’t think it’ll be successfully funded a second time.  If Team17 owns the rights, they might bring another team in to do it, but it won’t be the same game Lilith originally intended.  Perhaps it will be another P.T., & maybe inspire other developers to give us what we lost.

– GamerDame

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Training for the Zombie Apocalypse

I’ve never been a huge fan of zombies, but they seem to be as difficult to escape in popular culture as they are in the media they’re portrayed in.  I just feel like, pardon the pun, they’ve been done to death.  In all the years zombies have been around, the only real change-up has been that now some of them can run.  Often, where gaming is concerned, I feel like they serve the same function as Nazis: an unambivalent enemy that you don’t have to feel bad about mowing down by the thousands.  They’re suitably human enough to provide the cathartic experience of ending a digital life without having to feel guilty about killing actual people… or getting politicians on your back.  So for all that I enjoy horror, I tend to avoid zombies.

Because of this, it might be surprising to say that zombies are actually helping me get in shape.

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed some posts with #zombierun.  Apparently the saying is true that there’s an app for everything, because there’s an app that actually makes running fun by following the #1 rule for surviving the zombie apocalypse: Cardio.

Zombies, Run! is an app available on both Android & iOS that gamifies getting into shape.  I’ve written a little about gamification in the past when I talked about HabitRPG, an app that encourages people to complete tasks through systems you’d find in any RPG, like leveling up & gaining loot.  “Gamification” is an idea that’s been growing in the past few years, & is essentially trying to translate the elements that make playing games enjoyable over to more productive pursuits.  In simple terms, think of taking the frustratingly addicting elements from games like Farmville & using them to encourage people to actually get things done.  You can probably think of lots of ways games reward us for playing.  A narrative experience, the innate satisfaction that comes from improving our skill or levels, completing missions, gaining loot… all these things make us want to play more.  You might be surprised to learn just how much psychology is behind game system design.  Gamification is a concept with a lot of potential, & some serious hazards.

If you’re interested in learning more about it, I recommend checking out Extra Credit‘s channel.

Zombies, Run! takes all of these elements to encourage people to do something that most of us don’t find all that enjoyable; Running.  Or cardio in general.  The synopsis for the app is:

Run in the Real World.
Become a Hero in Another.

Only a few have survived the zombie epidemic.  You are a Runner en-route to one of humanity’s last remaining outposts.  They need your help to gather supplies, rescue survivors, and defend their home.

And you have another mission — one they don’t know about…

You are the hero.  You are a character is this dystopian world.  The way it works is pretty simple.  You start-up the app & run, walk, jog, or whatever.  As you move you’ll occasionally receive radio transmissions from your home base progressing the plot of whatever mission you’re on.  You’ll also gather supplies as you run, which you use to build up your home base when you’re not on a run, taking on a bit of an RTS vibe.  With those supplies, you can build up defenses, construct new facilities to keep everyone safe & happy, or even expand your territory.  It’s like playing a game, but no one can try to guilt you into sitting on your butt all day.

I’ve been using the app for about two weeks now, & I really enjoy it.  It’s the most polished, put-together app I’ve used.  The writing & characters are engaging.  It really makes me feel like I’m part of the story & what I do matters.  There’s a nice variety to the missions.  Not only are there story missions, but Supply Runs, Races, & Airdrops.  You can even train for marathons.  It’s actually made me want to exercise, which is amazing.  As someone who exercises pretty regularly already, I’ll be the first to tell you it gets boring after a while.  It’s never really been something I did because I enjoyed it so much as it was just something I knew I needed to do to stay healthy.  But now I want to go for a run every day so I can just to build up my base.

I think it’s a great app for any level of fitness.  You can go at your own pace.  You don’t have to run if you don’t want… unless you’re being chased by zombies.

That’s another cool feature is that you can set it up to have chases during your missions, where you have to keep a certain pace to stay ahead of a zombie “horde.”  Just on the normal setting, it’s not a long run, but it’s pretty exciting.  It even plays zombie sounds in your headphones so you know how close the zombies are.  And if you get caught, you lose supplies.

The only drawback I can see is that, rather than a one-time purchase, it’s a subscription-based app.  You can get the app for free, & have access to pretty much everything.  The only modes you have to pay for are Airdrop & Interval Training.  I also think the free version caps the number of supplies you can pick up on a run.  But, given the amount of work that has to go in to an app like this, & that they’re always adding new features (they just released the first two missions for Season 5), I think it’s fair.  I’ll probably end up subscribing to support the developers, which will make it the only app I’ve ever paid for.  So that really says something about the quality.

If this has piqued your interest, you can check out the site at zombiesrungame.com.  So if you’re one of those people who said the only time you’d ever run is if a zombie were chasing you, now’s your time.

– GamerDame

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