Scott Walker asked me on Twitter: “Can you elaborate (or quick blog post) to clarify re: Shadow Cities and missing context?” This was in reply to me tweeting re: Shadow Cities that “been playing Shadow Cities for a couple of months now – verdict: yes, but would benefit from context.” So here a quick post to elaborate, as 140 characters is a bit limiting.
To recap – Shadow Cities is a Finnish startup, in Beta mode in Finland. It’s a quite nice iPhone game, that uses OpenMaps and GPS to put a magical layer on top of the “real world”, a layer in which you and a lot of other mages do battle. Two teams compete, the Animators (or “Hippies”, as we affectionally call ourselves) and the Architects (or “Narks”) for the win in each campaign, which lasts about a week each. As a mage you can build Dominators to conquer Gateways and collect energy. With this energy you can maintain Spirit Catchers (to catch spirits, which you need to get points for your team or donate to research to get Mana Potions which replenishes your mana) or Beacons, which act as waypoints for your team mates to warp to, over great distances. You can also build Traps to thwart your enemies spells, or Heal other players or Dominators or Beacons, and you can naturally attack with the “Z” spell. You gather experience points and advance in levels and get more perks, better spells etc.
So, all in all a compelling game. These past few weeks have seen numerous rule changes – as it is in Beta mode – some for the better, some for the worse.
What I severely lack is the context, which I believe the game would benefit immensely from. The background story is flimsy to say the least; “Animators vs Architects!”, yes, but why? There are no NPC:s, not even static ones… there should be a story world, as the game world has been built very nicely on top of the real world, a story world to get campaign ideas from and to let players draw more inspiration from. If Gray Area, the company behind Shadow Cities, would do that – get some good transmedia storytellers onboard – there is the possibilites for a major transmedia campaign; comics, board games, tv series, you name it. As it is now, it’s a compelling game and a unique game plan, but not really there just yet.