Welcome to Zombies, Run! 8.0

Get ready, Runner 5, because you’re about to see one of the biggest updates to Zombies, Run! since its launch! We’re bringing new stories for beginners and veterans alike, and we’re adding one of our most-requested features ever.

Raise the gates – and update your app via the App Store and Google Play!

New Adventures

Storytelling + gameplay = awesome running experience. We think Zombies, Run! has proven that handily, and that’s why, for the first time ever, we’re bringing new adventures to the app. Every month, you’ll see a new story, ranging from epic thrillers and races against time to exciting historical and scientific adventures.

We’re kicking off with Lewis and Clark, a two-part story by Alex Acks where you’ll follow the footsteps of two of the most famous American explorers of all time on their 6000km+ journey across the continent.

Next month, you’ll be hot on the heels of a murderer in Track the Ripper by Lulu Kadhim. Are you fast enough to stop the Ripper from cutting a deadly swathe through Victorian London?

And this summer, prepare for an epic five-part sci-fi adventure, Venus Rising, written by Elliott Gresswell and Naomi Alderman (ZR co-creator and Lead Writer). Featuring the ZR cast in an all-new setting, this is a run you can’t miss.

The best thing? All of these New Adventures can be played by anyone, no matter how far along you are in Zombies, Run! We’re incredibly excited to be making your walks, jogs, and runs more fun and we can’t wait to hear what you think.

Season 8

Tomorrow, our biggest adventure – by far! – will continue in Season 8 of the main Zombies, Run! story, where you’ll be journeying to a mysterious location in the Far Hebrides, a chain of islands north of Scotland. Luckily, you’ll have some of Abel’s finest on your side – and for the first time, we’ll be releasing a map of your travels as you go along!

The first half of Season 8’s 30 missions will release weekly starting tomorrow, with the second half coming later this year…

In-Progress Run Saving

There’s nothing worse than discovering your phone has run out of battery during a mission, and losing your hard-earned progress and supplies in Zombies, Run! That’s why, starting with ZR8, if the app quits during a mission for whatever reason – battery running out, closed by mistake, a crash – then we’ll save all of your run log, distance, time, supplies, and progress up to that point.

This is possibly our most-requested feature ever: one that we hope you’ll never need, but one that you’ll be glad to have if you do! Even better, you don’t need to do anything to make this work; when you restart the app, you’ll just see your in-progress run log saved in the usual place.

Improved Design

We’re building on the foundation of our complete redesign in ZR7 by making ZR8 even easier and faster to use, particularly for finding and starting runs. Run settings are now re-organised and easier to find, and we’re making better use of the screen so we can show you more information and options.

There’s also new helpful tips and advice for the thousands of Runner 5s who join us every day, and lots of tweaks and improvements for veteran residents of Abel!

Faster and More Reliable

Behind the scenes, we completely reworked the content management system in the app, which means it’s faster and more reliable, particularly on older devices and Android phones.

And More to Come…

We’ve got a lot more planned this year, which we’ll be sharing here on our new blog! Not just updates about the app, but also interviews with our writers and behind-the-scenes looks at our production process. Stay tuned, and stay safe out there, Runner 5!

The Road to Season 8

With Season 8 of Zombies, Run! on the horizon, it feels like we’ve been around forever. A lot of things have changed since we first launched Zombies, Run!, and with plenty of plans for the future, we thought it was time to take a look back at where our apocalypse began.

2011

Back in the mists of time otherwise known as 2011, Six to Start boss, Adrian Hon, and novelist Naomi Alderman came up with a thrilling idea; a fitness app that made you run by tapping into your desperate need to escape hordes of the undead. And so, Zombies, Run! was born.

The Kickstarter launched in late 2011 asking for the modest amount of $12,000. The enthusiasm for it was overwhelming, and in the end, it raised over $70,000 – a smashing success for the early days of crowdfunding.

We’d never made anything quite like this before, so the development was a bit of a learning curve. We didn’t have a studio so audio was recorded in a bedroom in the director’s flat. Not the most high-tech of setups!

2012

But it all paid off. We released Zombies, Run! in 2012 when it quickly became the top grossing health and fitness app on iPhone. The Android version of the app quickly followed. What we’d anticipated being a story that lasted for a single season, quickly became so much more.

The 5K training app was released later in 2012, and we already had bigger plans ahead. Season 2 development was well under way, and this time there were no more duvets on bedroom walls to muffle the sound – we had a sound booth!

2013/2014

Seasons 2 and 3 brought a lot of changes and let us stretch our legs a little. We completely overhauled the app and introduced the base builder in the form that we know and love today. With 60 missions each, these seasons were bigger than ever. We brought on more writers and even got a cameo appearance from Margaret Atwood herself!

These seasons allowed us to play around with our format. In Season 2 we introduced side-missions – extra stories that added a bit of variety to the season.

In Season 3, we tried our hand at introducing multiple choice missions, where runners could choose what story branch they wanted to take. It was fun to experiment with our format and play with what we could do with audio storytelling!

2015

2015 was a year of big events for us. In January, we hosted our very first live show at the V&A museum. Fans volunteered to be made up into gruesome zombies, or to play Runner 5 and be chased around one of the galleries, acting out a mission written specially for the night.

The biggest change came with the release of Season 4. Apps had changed a lot since 2012 when we first released Zombies, Run!. There was more competition than ever, and freemium apps had become the norm. The change to having a subscription system allowed us to make Zombies, Run! our focus, and also to enact a few other plans.

Our very first Virtual Race also made its debut in October 2015! This was much more limited in scope than our current race, but the enthusiasm for our Runners 5 was undeniable, and that spurred us on and the races have become a fixture of our calendar with the eighth virtual race coming up.

2016

By 2016 we’d settled into our season release format, and turned our sights to other projects. 2016 saw the release of the Zombies, Run! Book and our audio drama ‘The Way of All Flesh’, a prequel to the main story which contains a few familiar voices.

We also launched the Kickstarter for our very own board game! While we had a prototype ready to go, the Kickstarter let us go into production with it, including creating a fully voiced companion app. This was finally brought to fruition in late 2017 when we received the final copies of the game, and were able to launch it at long last!

The Future

We’ve settled into our groove since then, producing two races a year, alongside a full length season of Zombies, Run!. While we might have been a little quieter, that doesn’t mean that we’ve been slacking. As always we’ve been working in the background to make improvements to the app and to add a few new features such as our Statistics screen. We’ve also been able to add support for the app on Apple Watch and Android Wear, and late 2018 saw us introduce Siri integration to Zombies, Run! on iOS, letting people really ‘raise the gates’ at the start of a mission.

And we’ve definitely been thinking about the future. Next month, we’re launching Season 8 of Zombies, Run! alongside our 8.0 update to the app – and our latest big addition, ‘New Adventures’. Stay tuned…

New Subscriptions Price Rise

Change is coming

Attention, Runners Five! Beginning from Monday May 13th 2019, we’ll be increasing the price of all new Zombies, Run! subscriptions, as detailed below. These price changes will only apply to new subscriptions; if your subscription begins before that date, these increases will not affect you unless you allow your subscription to lapse without renewing it.

  • New Annual subscriptions will increase from $24.99 USD to $34.99 USD
  • New Monthly subscriptions will increase from $3.99 USD to $5.99 USD

Legacy subscriptions will be unaffected by these pricing changes, as will all active subscriptions begun prior to Monday May 13th.

Since we first created Zombies, Run!, we’ve been committed to striking a balance between affordability and sustainability. We want to make a game that will reach as many people as possible while also ensuring we’re able to continue supporting it to the standard we believe our players deserve. That’s why we put our prices up only when we believe it’s necessary to make sure we can keep giving Zombies, Run! the attention it deserves, and why this is our first price increase in over two years.

Increasing the cost of new subscriptions allows us to increase the resources we can dedicate to improving Zombies, Run!, and to creating a wider range of the amazing content you love to run to. We believe our new subscription prices still represent great value – less than ten cents per day, or the cost of one cup of coffee per month! We hope you’ll agree that your time at Abel is worth it.

Stay safe out there!

Help beta test Zombies, Run! 8.0

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!

We’re keen to hear your feedback about anything unexpected you discover while using the beta version of the app – just email us at support@zombiesrungame.com with your phone model and app version!

Photo by Steven Lelham on Unsplash

Ciaran’s Zombie Apocalypse Squad

It’s a discussion that everyone must have at some point in their lives, one that has haunted mankind for years. Who would you have on your zombie apocalypse survival squad?

We’re no strangers to this question here at Six to Start – after all, we spend a pretty big chunk of our time considering the undead and making them come to life in Zombies, Run!. And now we set out to answer that most pressing of questions as we ask the team, which Zombies, Run! characters would you choose to support you in the zombie apocalypse?

First up in my team is Janine de Luca. A genius electrician, survivalist, and spy, with a few tricks up her sleeve, Janine has a whole load of practical skills which would be invaluable in the apocalypse. Beyond that, she’s level-headed enough to keep her cool even in the most stressful of situations.

Photo by Nicolas Thomas on Unsplash

A possibly controversial choice, but next up is Amelia Spens. Sure, you’d have to keep an eye on her every second of the day and be thinking three steps ahead to stop her from double crossing you, but the zombie apocalypse is about more than fighting the undead – it’s about diplomacy. And knowing people. And rooting out the dark secrets of your enemies to ensure your own survival. Something that Amelia is a master of.

Peter Necropolis/Lynne is my next choice. He’s not the smoothest of guys, and his snark can get a bit exhausting, but who doesn’t want a man who is immune to zombies and semi-immortal on your apocalypse team? It’s like turning down Captain America for the Avengers!

No apocalypse squad would be complete without a medic. And for me, that has to be Doctor Kefilwe Lobatse. Calm and self-assured, Lobatse has the perfect bedside manner, and has worked in the worst sorts of situations – and that was before the zombies arrived! It’s easy to become a monster of the non-undead kind in the apocalypse, but Lobatse’s strong sense of justice will help to keep you on the right path.

Last, but not least, is Sam Yao. Every apocalypse squad needs a radio operator, and every runner needs a Sam Yao to guide them back to that red light on the tower back at base. His upbeat attitude and light-hearted chatter is the perfect balance to Janine’s severe demeanour. Even in the darkest of times, you need to discuss the important things in life – like your favourite pre-apocalypse TV shows.

radio tower with red light
photo by Steve Halama


How We Make Virtual Race ARGs

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!

European Rescue Force “Rescue 5” race t-shirt

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!

What’s next?

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!

What’s on Adrian’s playlist?

Last month we checked out Ciaran’s playlist – now it’s Adrian’s turn!

Adrian Hon – CEO and Co-creator

So I’m going to share the secret behind my music playlists for races! It’s a very reliable and predictable formula: I always start with an up-tempo song that gets me excited but isn’t too fast, because let’s face it – you can’t actually run that quickly when you’re stuck in the pack. Some good starting songs:

  • Come On! Feel The Illinoise! by Sufjan Stevens:
  • At Least it Was Here (“Community” Main Title) by The 88
  • A Thief’s End (Uncharted 4) by Henry Jackman

Once the pack starts to thin out, I want a few songs that’ll settle me into a nice, solid, bouncy rhythm – again, not too fast, but not too slow. If I’m doing a half marathon, I might have 5-10 songs along these lines:

  • Lose Yourself to Dance by Daft Punk
  • Extreme Ways by Moby
  • Lost Coastlines by Okkervil River
  • Feel the Lightning by Dan Deacon

Now we’re around halfway through the race and it’s time for me to put on a burst of speed (as Sam would say)! Usually, other runners are starting to flag at this point, so it’s really satisfying to do a few sprints and overtake people. Fast, short, intense pop songs and movie soundtracks that I can best describe as “determined” are what’s necessary. Stuff that makes you feel like a hero:

  • Spider-Man Loves You by Daniel Pemberton
  • I Have to Try (The Flash) by Blake Neely
  • Brother’s Keeper (Uncharted 4) by Henry Jackman
  • My Shot (Hamilton) by Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Portions for Foxes by Rilo Kiley

In a 5K or 10K race, I’ll usually be close to the end and I can round out my playlist with some longer, fun songs. In a half-marathon, things get trickier since I find it pretty easy to lose steam here. Here’s some great songs that keep my spirits up as I get closer to the finishing line:

  • Tron Legacy (End Titles) by Daft Punk
  • End Titles (Moulin Rouge) by Craig Armstrong
  • Moog Necklace (Ocean’s 8) by Daniel Pemberton
  • It’ll Get You There by Rilo Kiley
  • Despair by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Yep, there’s a lot of movie-closing soundtracks there! These work really well because they’re longer and reprise all the main themes in the movie in a satisfying and, yes, distracting way.

I rotate between five or six different race playlists for 5Ks, 10Ks and half-marathons, and of course I always love adding new songs. The only problem is that I tend to listen to my favorite songs to destruction, so I always need a new supply!


Last of the Halloween 2018 Shirts

Halloween 2018 Virtual Race short & long sleeve t-shirts

Our Halloween 2018 Virtual Race t-shirts: soft, stylish and the best thing to wear for escaping an island full of rabid hybrid animals.

Featuring athletic wicking fabric, and an exclusive Tomorrow Island: Dreamhatcher design on the front and back, it’s the perfect addition to your running wardrobe.

The last few are now available in store – but be quick, because sales must end on Friday 29 March.

Head over to the ZR Shop to get yours!

What’s on my playlist? – Ciaran

Music can play a huge role in the Zombies, Run! experience. We’ve all had times when a song has perfectly matched up with a bit of the story – and had shuffle throw up that rogue Monty Python track in the middle of a serious moment! Music can heighten emotions, especially when you’re exercising, and with so many emotionally charged missions in Zombies, Run!, it makes the choice of music pretty important!

Here, we talk to some of the people behind Zombies, Run! to find out what’s on their playlist!

Ciaran Roberts – QA and Support

My music taste is pretty eclectic (and I am always several years behind the curve when it comes to picking up new stuff). I have one big playlist with about a hundred songs on it that I just keep adding to as I find things I like. I’m a bit of a magpie! This includes everything from Fall Out Boy to Shakespeare’s Sister, a couple of anime intros and that one track I got for free from iTunes and really liked. I’ve currently been introduced to a band called Battle Tapes because of their song Belgrade, so I’m working my way through their back catalogue.

One of my favourite tracks to run to is Laura Palmer by Bastille. It really makes me feel like I’m having an epic moment when it comes on during a mission, especially if a zombie chase is involved. On the other hand, there are a couple of my favourite songs I’ve had to kick off the running rotation because the beat leads to me tripping over my own feet!

I’ve had a couple of moments of real serendipity when it comes to music, although they weren’t necessarily good for my pace. One of them was during the mission ‘Actual Cannibal Rescue Mission’ when Actual Cannibal Shia LeBeouf started playing. It did throw me a bit off my stride though. Hard as it is to run while crying, running while giggling is equally difficult!

The other was a real tear jerking experience, when Everybody Hurts by REM came up during that mission in Season 4. Sometimes my playlist just doesn’t want me to be able to keep running!


Adrian’s Running Tips

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!
My daily 7KM route around Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh