A word from guest writer Elizabeth Bear

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As we’re releasing the second set of episodes from Zombies, Run! season 3 this week, our lead writer Naomi Alderman spoke to writing legend Elizabeth Bear about the guest episode she’s written for us. It’s so exciting that wonderful writers like Elizabeth are interested in Zombies, Run! and we asked her a few quick questions.

Elizabeth, it’s such an honour for us that you’ve written a guest episode for Zombies, Run! How did you first hear about ZR, and what made you want to write for us?

It’s hard to remember now exactly what the “vector” was (a little zombie humor), but I know I had heard of the game via internet buzz for a while before I started playing it. (My phone was too primitive at the time!) The real triggering incident, though, was my friend Emma Bull’s love for the narrative. She actually came on the fan podcast I’m involved in, the SF Squeecast, and picked Zombies, Run! as her topic of fannishness.

As we all know, there’s nothing like word of mouth to sell something. And once I started playing, I was totally hooked. I’ve never actually been much of a fan of zombie narratives (weird, right?) but the way the game treats the zombies as a combination of natural disaster and individual pathos and humor worked much better for me than the more traditional horror approach.

As for writing for the game–honestly, who wouldn’t want to, if they were a writer? Great characters, tense storylines, snappy dialogue! That’s just fun!

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Can you say a little bit about your episode? How did you decide where to take Runner Five? 

Hah! Well, honestly, I started with a joke and an homage. The homage is still key to the episode (I don’t want to spoil it too much, but let’s just say I’ve always had a weakness for campy 60s spy shows), but the joke got left on the cutting room floor.

I got the genesis of it while participating in a zombie obstacle course run in Texas last year–like Zombies, Run! for real… ish–and the rest of the plot sort of dropped into my head all at once while I was out for a run one day over the winter. I do a lot of plotting while running.

(I hang my head in shame about the cutting of the joke. This happens to everyone writing for ZR… to fit in arc plot other things have to go.) But finally, what’s your favourite song to run to?! And, which member of Abel Township would you most like to go for a run with?

Oh, gosh. It’s hard to pick just one, but Rob Zombie’s “Living Dead Girl” is a big favorite on my Zombies, Run! playlist. (I amuse myself by picking appropriate music for the apocalypse.) It powers me up the hills really well. I’ll also date myself by admitting that Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s “Runner” is also in heavy rotation.

I’m not a very fast runner (unlike Runner 5!) and I’m a bit of an asthmatic. So I think I’d pick Maxine as a running partner. I’d trust her to drag me home if anything went wrong.

New missions, plus an update to the Android app

The Zombies, Run! Season 3 hiatus has ended! We’re back to releasing new weekly missions for you to enjoy every Wednesday. Season 3 Part 2 will contain another 20 missions, after which we’ll be taking another short break before Season 3 Part 3. But don’t worry too much about that, there’s plenty to enjoy before then!

Additionally, we’ve released a new version of Zombies, Run! for Android. This update adds audio notifications for distance and time, which we know is a feature you’ve been after for a while. Head on over to the Google Play Store and update your app for the new feature.

This week’s new missions are named “Sin In My Heart”, “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “I’m With Stupid”. As usual, no spoilers, but we’re eager to hear what you think of them!

To get access to all previously released missions, you just need to purchase the relevant Pass from the Store. But surely you’ve already done that, right?

Keep an eye out here on the blog, because tomorrow we’ll have a special message from author Elizabeth Bear about her experiences writing a Zombies, Run! mission!

What’s new in the latest version of Zombies, Run!

You may have noticed that the Zombies, Run! app has been updated on both Android and iOS recently. We’ve been hard at work since Season 3 launched, squashing bugs and making sure every feature works exactly how it should. Here’s what’s new in the latest versions on each platform:

Android (v3.0.9)

  • New Airdrop Mode designer – we’ve made it much faster!

  • You’re now able to share your statistics on Twitter straight from the app.

  • We squashed some bugs which were affecting base synching and miles/km conversion.

  • Improvements to the user interface. (Added in 3.0.8)

  • We fixed the store error, so everyone can go ahead and purchase a Season Pass. (Added in 3.0.7)

iOS (3.0.2)

  • Older devices will no longer crash during long runs.

  • Materials have been retroactively awarded for any Season 3 missions that have been run.

  • Fixed issues with run logs related to failed chases.

  • Various bugs squashed alongside user interface improvements. (Added in 3.0.1)

  • The Season 3 Special Pass is now available to more users. (Added in 3.0.1)

These updates are available right now, so head on over to the appropriate app store to grab them.

The making of: Interval Training

Today we have a double-post – from writer Andrea Phillips and narrative designer Matt Wieteska – on how the new interval training mode came to be. It’s a complicated tale, and has been two years in the making – which is why the story’s set firmly in Season 1! – so we thought it’d be great for Matt and Andrea to describe how the new mode was created.

Firstly, here’s Andrea to talk about her work in writing for interval training:

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INTERVAL TRAINING! It’s out in Zombies, Run 3! AND I AM SO EXCITED!

You see, I wrote interval training scripts for the Zombies, Run! family back in April… of 2012. Mm-hmm. I see you’ve done the math. It’s been a bit of a wait, huh?

But now the happy day is nearly here. Finally, I can share my excitement with the world – and you get to do interval training. Plus zombies!

Which is great for runners, by the way. The intervals, I mean, the zombies as such are not so great for you. But intervals build endurance! Cardiovascular capacity! Speed! Everything you need to get ahead of a shambling horde and stay well out of biting range.

But there are a few challenges involved in making a game for intervals that require a break from the usual ZR format. You can’t know how many intervals someone is going to want to do, for one. Can’t know for sure how long each one will be, or how long the rest period between should be. And interval training needs to be tailored to the individual runner’s ability and goals, so we can’t just make up a one-size-fits-all interval series and make everybody happy.

On top of that, it’s really hard to write a single overarching story for intervals… because an interval trainer will want to do them again and again. It’s a recurring task, like washing the dishes, or brushing your teeth.

And so for interval training, we went in a new direction. After all, the people of Abel Township have recurring tasks, too. Did you ever want a little more insight into how exactly daily life in Abel rolls out? How they gather food, say, or do laundry?

Now, for the first time, you get to help the fine people of Abel Township finish their perfectly ordinary daily routines. In their own… particular way, of course.

Lace up, you have some chores to do, Runner Five!

And here’s Matt, to talk about the technical challenges of creating the new mode:

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Designing Interval Training mode for Zombies, Run! presented us with a couple of seemingly incompatible goals. Firstly, for it to be useful as an exercise tool, Interval Training had to allow users to customise and create their own workout routines. Secondly, it needed to give runners the immersive, entertaining running experience that Zombies, Run! is known for.

Making the two work together proved to be an unique challenge, as Andrea has discussed: how do you write a story when you don’t know how long it needs to be? Moreover, how do you write a story to fit a workout when you have no idea whether the player will be walking, jogging or sprinting flat-out at a particular moment? Finally, how do you communicate the pace-changes that interval training programmes are famous for without ruining the story?

These were the problems presented to Alex Macmillan (Lead Dev at the time) and myself when it came time to design Interval Training. We ran through a few options at the beginning, each less feasible than the last:

1) Design the workout routines for the players and then write scripts for those specific workouts. (Making the app a lot less useful for actual training.)

2) Write a bunch of scenes which go along with each type of exercise, then play them at relevant times. (Making the story an essentially non-sensical sequence of events with no relationship to one-another, as well as probably playing clips over the top of one another.)

3) Write specific scripts for every possible permutation of intervals and every possible run length. (Making Andrea spontaneously combust when she needed to write well over 8.3×10^81 scripts)

Basically, we were stumped.

In true British fashion, we finally figured the problem out over a post-work pint. It doesn’t matter whether the player is walking, jogging, or sprinting, nor does it matter what they’ll be doing next. Instead, all that matters is whether the player is currently speeding up or slowing down. That means we can structure the story around periods of rising or falling action, which can be chained together until the workout’s finished, with changes of pace cued by a secondary character. Yes, thanks, mine’s a stout.

Actually getting all this working proved to be rather more complex than it sounded over that (/ those) beer (s), requiring the creation of several elaborate flowcharts, diagrams and spreadsheets. Alex M makes a mean diagram, let me tell you*. To top it all off, someone had to actually make the damned thing work, a task which fell to the incomparable Mohsen Ramezanpoor, who handled all the implementation and user experience design.

In the end, though, I’m confident that we created a game-mode which is fun, which fits in perfectly with the world of Zombies, Run!, and which lets you have an exciting running experience no matter which intervals you choose.

Guest post by Matt Wieteska, narrative designer for Interval Training Mode. He also writes the Radio Abel and Airdrop segments for Zombies, Run!, and is the audio director for all of Six to Start’s games.

* I second this. You have barely lived if you have not seen one of Alex M’s diagrams. – Naomi Alderman, Lead Writer and Co-Creator

Missions 3-6 Out Now!

Four new Zombies, Run! Season 3 missions are now available to download. We’re now on track to release three new missions every Wednesday (apart from a couple of short mid-season breaks).

Mission 3 is completely free to download and our Season Pass sale is still going, so you can get the rest of Season 3 for cheap! This sale won’t last long though, so act fast.

This week’s new missions are as follows:

  • Mission Three: “Rescue Me”

  • Mission Four: “Left To My Own Devices”

  • Mission Five: “Walk of Life”

  • Mission Six: “Career Day”

We’re happy to announce that we’ve also fixed the store problem some of you Android users were experiencing, so you should all now be able to purchase Season Passes with no problems.

Temporary Zombies, Run! store issues

We are aware that some Android users are experiencing issues with the Zombies, Run! in-app store which is preventing people from obtaining Season Passes. We’re currently working on a fix for this which will be made available as soon as we can — in the meantime, we will be keeping you up to date via the Zombies, Run! Twitter feed.

We’ll also be releasing a new version of Zombies, Run! on iOS which fixes an issue with the Season 3 Special Pass. Currently this will only be available to buy for people who have previously bought *any* Season 2 Pass and the Season 1 Race Missions.

We’re changing this so that anyone who has previously purchased Season 2 content (a Season 2 Season Pass, Season 2 Pass Plus or a Season 2 Side Mission Pass) will be able to get hold of the Season 3 Special Pass.

Rest assured that the current launch sale for Season Passes will not end until shortly after these problems are solved, so you won’t miss out on your chance to get access to all of our upcoming Season 3 content at a discounted price.

We apologise for any inconvenience that has been caused. We’re working to get these problems solved as quickly as possible!

Zombies, Run! Season 3 launches in April

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Since the launch of The Walk in December, we’ve had our heads down fixing bugs, improving the game, and preparing part 2, which came out this week. But this is the Zombies, Run! blog, and so we’re happy to say that we’ve also been hard at work on Zombies, Run! Season 3.

We’re delighted to announce that Season 3 will be launching this April! We’ll let you have an exact date as soon as we know one.

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Season 3 will bring changes for the people of Abel Township. They’ve got a huge adventure to undertake to rescue their friends – and as ever there are plenty of zombies in the mix, their grasping fingers and gaping maws longing for Runner 5’s flesh. Excitingly, once or twice this season, some crucial decisions will be down to you, the player – choose wisely, for you hold Abel Township in your hands.

And on the app side, as well as several new features including detailed statistics, the return of the new and improved codex, and new sharing options, we’ll be redesigning the interface, making it much easier and faster to use. All the things you loved about Zombies, Run! will still be there, plus a host of new awesome options we’re still yet to reveal!

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Before launch, we also wanted to give our iOS users an important heads-up: with ZR3, we’ll now require users to have iOS 7 or above. This lets us make the best app we possibly can, using all the features of the new iOS to the full. If you haven’t upgraded to iOS 7 yet, this is your shuffling, zombie-moaning wakeup call!

Well over 90% of our iOS users are currently running iOS 7+ and almost 99% have devices capable of running iOS 7. If you want all the cool new features of ZR3, upgrading to iOS 7 is the way forward. But if you just can’t do that yet, don’t worry, since ZR2 will still work and be available for redownload for iOS 6 devices. That way you won’t lose a single day of running away from terrifying zombies!

Stay tuned for more exciting details about Zombies, Run! Season 3 in March and April!

Image credits: The amazingly talented Azisa Noor.