We’re getting ready to roll out our latest huge update to ZR next month, and we’d like you to help make as it good as it can be by joining our beta test groups. It’s easy and fun and you get to check out all the latest features early – although because these are pre-release versions, there is a chance the apps could be a little less stable than usual!
When we made our first Virtual Race for Zombies, Run! – a race you can run anywhere in the world, at a time and speed of your choice – we knew we wanted to do more than a fancy medal and certificate. Our races would be different: not just a distance to cover, not even just an action-packed story, but a whole event building up to the race itself.
And so, just like Zombies, Run!, our races combine the physical and digital worlds. All entrants get a race pack including briefing materials, a medal, and a certificate, and now on top of that we add a live story that unfolds in the weeks leading up to the race, via email, phone numbers, websites, and two training missions that help set the stage. It’s a bit like the Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) that we used to make at Six to Start – games that take place in all sorts of different media at the same time.
With each successive race, our ambition has grown. There’s only so much story you can convey in the 30-60 minutes it might take to run 5K or 10K, but by expanding the story beyond the race itself, we can make the whole experience much more exciting. That’s how we’ve gone from our first race being a straightforward single 5K/10K “mission”, to our latest races becoming multi-week, multimedia events.
We don’t expect all entrants will scour every webpage and call every number in our ARGs, so we write the race scripts without assuming any background knowledge. But because we take so much care with the story, you definitely get more out of the race the more you read!
Here’s some of our favourite race ARGs and how we made them!
Fall 2016: Xia Hifa (VR3)
Our third virtual race takes place shortly after the zombie apocalypse: you’re infiltrating Xia-Hifa Biologics, a biotech company that developed a cure for a lethal flu virus called Junin-2 that’s now sweeping the country. With civilization and health services broken down, what might have been a dangerous flu is something that could off the remainder of humanity.
We designed the Xia-Hifa website with a modern, corporate design that tells you the breadth of their work, and also provides clues about their other projects, including the ANNIE AI that runs their operations – someone you might meet during the race.
We even created a phone number for the company (no longer active!), along with a little puzzle hidden in a corrupted map…
Spring 2017: European Rescue Force (VR4)
As a member of the elite European Rescue Force, tasked with handling nuclear, biological, chemical emergencies that local and national governments can’t. With your high-tech drones and exosuits, there’s no problem too big to solve – at least, not until you hear word of a new outbreak…
We went in a very different direction for the European Rescue Force (ERF) website – this was a rawer, more data-driven, and more dynamic website that updated every single day in the weeks running up to the race. We imagined the kind of dashboard that a real emergency service would use, and coupled it with phone calls and recordings from ERF operatives on the ground across Europe, to deliver a real sense of urgency.
We always make sure the race T-shirt fits in with the theme of the race, and I personally love the design of the European Rescue Force shirt, although it does get me some odd looks when I run around Edinburgh wearing it!
Halloween 2017 (VR7)
This was our first official “Halloween” race and we decided to go with a non-canonical “Treehouse of Horror”-style story, where anyone could die! Since it’s set in Abel Township, well after the apocalypse, we didn’t think it’d make much sense to have a proper website. Instead, we imagined our favorite Abel Township residents gossipping about the upcoming Halloween party via the low-tech Rofflenet forum.
Luckily enough, we had already turned Rofflenet into a ‘real’ forum for all virtual race entrants so it was easy to put the discussions online!
Part of the backstory for this race was an unusual “Demons and Darkness” game – you can still call up the fictional hints line we made for it!
+1 205 791 7088 (US) +44 20 7183 8664 (UK)
Tomorrow Island: Halloween 2018 (VR7)
Welcome to Tomorrow Island: The Resort of the Future! It’s your mission to travel to this mysterious theme park for billionaires filled with genetically-engineered creatures, and retrieve the high-tech PRISER device that could help feed humanity. Yes, it’s Jurassic Park meets Westworld meets zombies!
We created a luxurious-but-creepy website, Discover Tomorrow Island, complete with a map and children’s introduction to the theme park. This creepiness extended to the colouring book we included in all race packs, which was a fun way to convey just how strange the genetically-altered creatures were. We aren’t talking about your garden-variety dinosaurs here!
We spend a surprising amount of time trying to figure out the best way to make race shirts interesting, and I love how we weaved the “keyshirt” directly into the Tomorrow Island story this time!
Our Spring 2019 Virtual Race, Train to Oban, is on sale now and we have a brand new ARG website for the New Oban Express: the world’s fastest train, travelling from London to the technological utopia of New Oban in just two hours.
The world’s fastest train. One infected zombie. A two hour journey. Your mission? Survive.
Not only that, but all entrants get a fold-out leaflet and train map showing you exactly what you might encounter along the very, very long train. I wonder how that might come in useful during the race…?
We’re also thinking about how we can use ARG storytelling techniques for Zombies, Run! more broadly – in other words, not just for virtual races. Stay tuned!
You’d think that the people who designed Zombies, Run! would be life-long runners, but nothing could be further from the truth. I used to hate running! The worst part of school for me was the weekly cross-country run, where I’d never fail to get a stitch. The entire reason I wanted to make a running game was to make it more fun and less painful.
These days, I run a lot more, and even better, I enjoy it! But I know what it was like to drag myself outside for a run, and so here are my tips for making running more fun. This isn’t a guide about how to get fast – it’s about how to make running a habit!
Make it as easy for yourself to go for a run as you can. Lay out your clothes and trainers the night before, or in the morning, so you can get ready at a moment’s notice. This is particularly important for places that have changeable weather!
You should be prepared to run every day but you should also ensure you build in time to rest. How does that work? Well, if you plan to run, say, 3-5 times a week, then it’s easy to come up with an excuse for why you aren’t going to run today (it’s cold, you’re a bit tired) and why you’ll run tomorrow instead. But the more you do this, the more likely you don’t hit five runs in a week (or even three runs). So if you can get into the mentality that you can run every day, you’re more likely to hit your goals.
At the same time, don’t obsess about distance and steps and calories. Running isn’t an exact science and something is always better than nothing. You might think that a 15 minute run isn’t as ‘good’ as a 30 minute run, but it’s a heck of a lot better than a zero minute run.
If it hurts, stop running. Especially your joints.
The great thing about running is that it’s one of the cheapest forms of exercise. You don’t need fancy T-shirts or socks. The one thing I’d suggest you spend money on is getting good shoes. Try to find a dedicated running shoe store to get some advice; many of them have treadmills and cameras to analyse your gait.
Don’t overdo it. Pushing yourself too far is counterproductive. The only times I’ve really hurt myself while running with sprained ankles or falls was when I was tired or on the brink of illness and went for a run anyway because I “had” to.
When it’s cold, it’s tempting to put on too many clothes, which can make you overheat. The right amount of clothes is different for each person, but I find that wearing gloves can make a huge difference on a chilly day, and can save me from having to put on a hoodie top that’d otherwise slow me down.
Move at a pace you feel comfortable with. Sometimes a slow jog or walk is the best. As they say, anything faster than a slow shamble will get you ahead of the zombies. But at the same time, if you feel like you have the energy, don’t be afraid to run or sprint!
I always start my mission and playlist before I open the door. It means I can get out of the gates fast!
It might sound odd to say that it was fanworks that got me into using a fitness app. Fan fiction and fan art are not the first thing that spring to mind when you think about fitness, even if plenty of fitness apps have dedicated communities. But fanworks are what got me into Zombies, Run!, and what kept me engaged during the long dark waits for the next season.
Zombies, Run! stands out because of its ability to serve both the fitness and fandom communities, allowing a level of crossover that is hard to find elsewhere. A thrilling narrative combined with a solid running app means it’s easy to find stories of people who were drawn in by the story finding themselves signing up for marathons, or hardcore runners suddenly feeling the need to share artwork of their own Runner 5.
You see this crossover in the Unoffical Zombies, Run! Facebook group. This fan-run community skews towards the fitness side of things; runners will find plenty of posts containing advice, people’s personal bests, and information about upcoming races. But it’s impossible to scroll through more than a few posts without stumbling across another side of fandom. Rubbing shoulders with a post about a runner’s first 5K will be someone asking whether a character from Zombies, Run! would approve of their running route. Underneath a happy photo of new running shoes, you’ll find someone’s post of ‘Notes Found on Abel Township’s Corkboard’. Artwork of characters, custom Zombies, Run! Playlists, themed medal holders – there’s a strong streak of creativity and engagement on display.
The fanworks-to-fitness ratio skews the other way when it comes to the other bastion of Zombies, Run! fandom: Tumblr. It’s hard to say exactly how much fanwork there is on Tumblr. The Unofficial Fanwork Archive which recorded everything from 2012 to 2016 has over 2500 links, so there could easily be over 4000 individual fanworks by now.
While most fanwork posts on the Facebook group tend to focus on a personal experience of being Runner 5, the Tumblr fandom delves into the world of Zombies, Run! in a different way. Runner 5 is still the most featured character in fanworks (inevitable with their status as the main ‘character’) but there is far more content starring the rest of the cast. For example, the characters who host Radio Abel – Jack and Eugene – each have nearly as many appearances in fanwork as Runner 5. There are plenty of fanworks which don’t include Runner 5 at all!
The fanworks cover a huge range of topics. You can see art that illustrates a scene from the app, or read about a world where Maxine and Sam are college students… or jaeger pilots in Pacific Rim. And far from being a solitary undertaking, the fandom has organised special events that have built a strong community and enduring friendships. For example, the Iron Zombies challenge, hosted on chat rooms, gave participants 90 minutes to create something based on a series of prompts, or to sit back and cheer on other people as they raced against the timer. Exchanges, such as the Secret Santa, are meticulously organised, with hours of work going into making sure participants are matched up.
Fandom’s creativity has not gone unnoticed! In the past, Six to Start have drawn from this talented pool – artist Kascha Sweeney drew fan art before becoming the company’s official artist, and a writer on Seasons 2-4, Andrea Klassen, wrote some exceptional Zombies, Run! Fan fiction.
And it isn’t restricted to fiction and art. The fantastic fan podcast, ‘Podcast Detected’, which I was involved with early on, has been running since 2014. It’s an eclectic mix of in-depth discussions, mission reviews, and the app’s place in a wider fandom community. Some episodes include interviews with fans, and with the cast and crew of the app itself. They’ve even recorded at a few special live events.
The NineWorlds Geekfest convention played host to Zombies, Run! panels for several years and featured writers, actors, and production staff. I have a special fondness for these since I was involved in organising them, just from love of the app. Attendees had the chance to hear stories from the soundbooth, the writers’ thoughts about what they’d like to do in future, and ask questions about the creation of the app. These and other meetups, such as the Zombies, Run! Live event in 2015, have provided a great opportunity for fans and creators to come together to celebrate the app and the fandom that they’ve created.
With so much on offer in the Zombies, Run! fan community, it’s easy to see why people keep coming back season after season. The winter blues can make it hard to even consider running at times, but the strong and creative community built up around Zombies, Run! is what keeps me waiting for the next time the gates of Abel Township are raised.
Here’s a list of places you can check out Zombies, Run! Fanworks:
Hello Runners 5! It’s almost the end of the year, which makes it the perfect time to look at what we’ve done with Zombies, Run! since our last update in Spring, and what we’re planning for the first half of 2019.
I’m really happy with the improvements we’ve made to ZR recently. We added some big new features like Statistics & Personal Bests and support for Siri Shortcuts. We also spent time improving accessibility on both Android and iPhone, including much better support for VoiceOver assistance for the visually-impaired. We care a lot about making ZR accessible for as many people as possible, so we’re really glad to be bringing you all such big improvements in these areas.
Our boardgame has continued to reach new audiences this year, and we were thrilled to see glowing reviews from Rahdo Runs Through and Big Boss Battle. We’re preparing to release the next big update for the boardgame app, which includes not only a number of bug fixes but also a tonne of exciting new content from our amazing guest writers, including Chocolat author Joanne Harris!
I know it’s practically a joke to read “bug fixes and performance improvements” in app updates, but we really did fix a lot of bugs in recent months! ZR still isn’t entirely crash-free but we’re seeing a huge improvement in stability and we’re committed to continuing that work.
So what’s happening next?
In the first half of 2019, we’ll be doing a lot of work behind the scenes to improve the performance of Zombies, Run! When we first created ZR, we made some assumptions about how many missions we might have, and let’s just say we’ve blown well past those assumptions. So we’re going to make ZR faster, especially on older phones, and that will also improve the stability of the app – fewer crashes and hiccups during runs! We’re also hoping to roll out a feature that will save in-progress run logs in case of crashes, battery problems, or accidental app closure.
Not every change will be behind the scenes, though. We’ll be improving the design of the app to make it easier and faster to customise your runs, and to help new players discover the many, many, many features that Zombies, Run! already has. Part of that will include improving subscription management and the way we explain how to use Zombies, Run!
Finally, we’ll be spending a lot of our time on some secret developments that you’ll hear more about in due time. We’re really excited to tell you more!
Season 8 will be coming this Spring from ZR co-creator and lead writer Naomi Alderman, and next month we’ll be revealing our Spring 2019 Virtual Race. If you like zombie movies and foreign films, you’re going to love this race!
That’s not all! We’ll be adding something entirely new to Zombies, Run! that everyone can enjoy – new runners and veterans…
We’ve added some fantastic new merch to our official store this year, including new posters, mugs, T-shirts, and tote bags, and we’ll be keeping up the pace next year!
We’re also exploring the idea of holding official fan events in both the US and UK – potentially even a fan convention in London! We always love meeting fans and we’d like to reach out further, so watch this space for more details.
Later in 2019…
Our main source of income for Zombies, Run! is from subscriptions. We think this is a really healthy way of supporting development – as long as you continue to enjoy Zombies, Run!, we can continue to maintain and improve it with new stories and features for years to come. That’s why one of big goals this year is to give you more for your subscription, and you’ll start to see that pay off in the coming months.
Apple Music and Apple Watch are still on our to-do list, and we hope to use their new updates to improve our support for both of them in the future.
We’re all really grateful for your support throughout the years, and we can’t wait to see what you think of what’s coming next year!
– Adrian Hon, CEO and Lead Designer at Six to Start
The results are in! Our Halloween Virtual Race 2018 has been a resounding success, with over 2200 races run, thousands of kilometres’ distance covered, and PRISER devices saved in 1299 cities around the world!
As always, the best part of running this Virtual Race has been seeing all you Runners Five out there sharing your hard-won progress, getting involved in all the twists and turns of the story, and showing off those medals at the end!
We also got the chance to meet up with a few Runners Five when we hosted our London meetup to run VR7 together!
Congratulations on your races, everyone! Abel Township is proud of everyone who escaped Tomorrow Island. Sign up now at www.zombiesvirtualrace.com to make sure you’re on board for our next adventure!
In the next few days, we’re rolling out our 7.2 update on iPhone and Android, and it comes with one big new feature: all-new Statistics including Personal Bests!
We’ve completely redesigned our Statistics feature, making it easier and faster to use than ever. You can view your distance, time, pace, calories, supplies, and zombie chases for every week, month and year that you’ve played Zombies, Run!
And then there’s Personal Bests – the most requested feature from our fans! We’re calculating your best 1K, 1 mile, 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon distances, not only for your new runs but all your historical runs. Yes, that’s the sound of our servers number-crunching their way through millions of runs on ZombieLink!
That’s not all! We’ve added a new Progress section, so you can see your journey through all seven Seasons of Zombies, Run!, plus our Virtual Races:
Statistics are available for all Pro Members, and for the first time, we’re offering a preview of your current month’s stats to all users!
Our 7.2 update doesn’t stop there. On both iPhone and Android, we’ve included several important bug fixes and performance improvements, and on iPhone we’ve included:
Improved VoiceOver accessibility across the app
Improved Calorie calculation (it was way too low before)
Race mission list now shows progress indicators against each mission
We have plenty more we’re excited to show you in the coming months, so stay safe out there, Runner 5!
This Saturday, Runners from around the UK gathered in London, coming together to run this year’s halloween Virtual Race as one big happy Abel family. Don’t they look grand in their matching Tomorrow Island race shirts?
They were joined by the voice of Sam Yao himself – Philip Nightingale – who sent the Runners off with the traditional cry of “Raise the Gates!”, and bestowed them with their medals at the end.
No time to lose – grab a hold of this week’s missions, the last of the season, Come Together and The End.
You can download these right now from the ‘Missions’ tab. If you’re a Pro Member, you can download and play both missions immediately. Otherwise, you can use your free weekly unlock to play either one.
It’s been a terrifying season, full of twists, turns and thrills, and we hoped you’ve enjoyed it! As always, please let us know what you think of these missions, and Season 7 as a whole, here or on Twitter (@zombiesrungame).
That’s right – in our latest 7.1 iPhone update, you can now use Siri to start your next Zombies, Run! mission and specify just how long or far you’d like to run.
What’s cooler than that? Oh, how about creating a custom Siri Shortcut so you can say “Hey Siri, Raise the Gates!” to kick off your next adventure?
You can create Siri Shortcuts for lots of different mission types: just look for the Add to Siri button in the Run Complete screen, or go to your phone’s Settings > Siri & Search > All Shortcuts. This works on all phones running iOS 12+!
Using Siri isn’t just fun and fast, it’s really important for people who have difficulty using touchscreens. That’s why we’ve also improved VoiceOver and Screen Reader in 7.1, with descriptive labels for more elements and improved readout order.
Got a favourite moment of Jack and Eugene’s banter you want to revisit? Now you can, just by tapping the “Listen to XX Story Clips” in the mission details screen. We’ve expanded it from Story missions to include every Race, Radio, and Virtual Race mission, and it’s coming to iPhone and Android!
You want more? We got it!
New in 7.0.7 for Android
Redesigned Interval Training and Related Download screens
New offline license checking system
Louder zombie groans during chases
Clip playback and summaries for Race, Radio, and Virtual Races
Improved screen reader integration
Crash fixes, especially for Android 8+
New in 7.1 for iPhone
Redesigned Mission Category screen
Fixed the progress bar not updating on back-to-back missions
Improved handling of phone calls during missions
Clip playback and summaries for Race, Radio, and Virtual Races
Improved VoiceOver and Screen Reader integration
“Hey Siri, start a 7 kilometre mission in Zombies, Run!” now works
Siri Suggestions will help you start your next mission at the perfect time and place
Create Siri Shortcuts for your favourite run types
All these new features are free for everyone. Stay safe out there, Runner 5!