This week's ACG Unabridges brings you Adrian Hon of Six to Start, straight shooter and one of the geniuses behind the smash hit health game Zombies, Run! Adrian and I go way back; we were Cloudmakers together, and later he was my team lead on Perplex City. He never fails to astonish me with his scope of vision and ambition. He's a terse one, so most of his juicy stuff made it into the Guide proper.
Interesting to see what he had to say about Zombies before it came out...
Q: Can you tell me a little about your favorite projects?
From a player's perspective, the best game I've played was The Beast - it had an intoxicating mix of fiction and real world gameplay, and it was truly cutting edge. As for the projects I've worked on, there are probably three key ones (four, if you include Perplex City, but I assume you're talking about that elsewhere!).
We Tell Stories (2008) was a project we did for Penguin Books who wanted us to work with seven of their top authors to create stories that could only be told online. It was a fantastic opportunity because they gave us so much freedom, so we created a story told over Google Maps (The 21 Steps), a story written in real time by two people (Your Place And Mine), and a new kind of Choose Your Own Adventure story (The Former General). It was a critical and popular success, and I think that was down to the simplicity and the strength of the stories, and crucially, the fact that people could begin them with just a single click and zero instructions. Not only did it win Most Innovative Website at SXSW, but also Best of Show.
Smokescreen (2009) was for Channel 4 Education, and was essentially a single-player ARG that took over your browser. The goal of the project was to educate teenagers about online safety, and we did that through a 13 part story. We really pushed the boundaries of what was possible with in-browser technology, and I think we succeeded in telling a really immersive story that could be played at your own pace at any time. The downside, however, was that it had little community feeling or multiplayer interaction. Smokescreen won Best Game at SXSW in 2010.
Zombies, Run! (2011) is an original game we're creating for the iPhone and Android with Naomi Alderman. It's still in development right now, but it's self-funded (along with Kickstarter pledges) and we're aiming to tell a highly immersive audio story while you're out running in the real world - and we're also planning to integrate an ARG into the fabric of the game. What's great about this project is that we're able explore the full range of possibilities of what smartphone can do in terms of location-based and augmented reality storytelling; but the challenge is, as ever, making the game fun and accessible rather than gimmicky.