Run For Your Life: City Of Epic

It's more motivating than my friend Nick shouting at me.

To look at the way I write, you’d think me a svelte, muscular man, a hit with the ladies and the gentlemen. But the tragic truth is I sport a belly of some substance. What I need is to find a way to exercise that involves sitting at my desk, playing games. But until someone finally invents that, I may have to let City Of Epic suffice.

Apparently there’s a current trend for mediocre “exergames”, but BitBot Media claim theirs is going to be different. It’s going to actually be a game. An RPG, in fact. Just, one that means you need to get off your bum and do some exercise. Hang on, I never signed up for this!

So how exactly will this work? Well, we’re assured by one half of the team, Kelly Maguire, that it will be much more involved than just a decorated fitness log. City Of Epic will have a story. A story about being a newcomer in an absurdist Brooklyn, NYC. You’re trying to gain enough influence in the city to run for public office. (Run for – geddit?) Apparently everyone in Brooklyn is obsessed with fitness, and so it’s through your exercise regime, completing “feats of strength and endurance”, that you’ll gain the respect of your peers. And escape giant squid monsters.

Maguire explains,

“There are a few different game mechanics at play. Simple skirmishes (aka grinding) are made up of real-world fitness activities, which are then logged via a browser or mobile device. An example scenario: a crazy man with a brick is chasing you, and you’re given a couple different options for attacking or evading him. Once you pick, you’re given a workout challenge, and how you do will determine whether or not you’re able to escape. You have 24 hours to complete the challenge.”

Then on top of that you’ve got items and powerups to use in-game, which will give you an edge over enemies in fights.

“Everything is scaled to the fitness level of the player, so all challenges should be winnable with moderate effort. If not, you can get friends to do the challenge with you for co-op play.”

And finally, for long-term fitness goals there are quests, and there are even boss battles, “that we use to re-adjust the player’s overall fitness.”

I have to admit, as much as I hate the idea of going running, perhaps that could get easier with a game that prompts me with the words:

“The motherfucking zombie apocalypse is nigh, and you’re in the middle of a densely populated city. It’s 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) to the county limit, there’s not much time, and you need to get moving. DO YOU WANT TO SURVIVE?”

Er, okay!

BitBot are determined that this be a fully-fledged game, rather than what they call “just another shovelware fitness program.” In order to get there they’ve set up a Kickstarter, which they hope will fund their time so they can really focus on play-testing. A splendid motivation. They’ve so far got nearly $500 of their $5,000 goal. If you fancy helping them on their way, and get one of their rewards in the process, go donate.

Here’s a super-cheesy trailer that somewhat explains it.


  1. Xorlathor says:

    Go outside and start running. Now.

  2. magnus says:

    So it’s not the further adventures of an amnesiac Mermaid on a voyage of self-discovery? Awwwww! :(

    Ooops, what a complete fanny I’ve been I meant BitB(L)ot! :O

  3. bglamb says:

    I don’t get it.

    What’s to stop you just clicking the “I ran 5k” button without leaving your chair?

    • John Walker says:

      To quote the developer:

      “We’ve gone back and forth on the best way to handle this, but the simple fact is if you lie in the game, you’re really only cheating yourself. There’s no worldwide scoreboard, only one between you and your friends. So if you say you went running for two hours when you didn’t, your friends will call you out on it. Also you’ll still suck at running.”

    • Nallen says:

      Indeed, you have to assume that you bought the game to actually play it!

    • bglamb says:

      I guess this is something that will work very well with a friend.

      You can let your competitive side come out and keep each other in check.

    • ComradePenguin says:

      Fair enough though functionality on the mobile apps like measuring how far you’ve run, calories burned etc. which duller fitness apps do would be nice. You could quite easily turn calories into XP or some such.

    • dawnmane says:

      @comradepenguin : You COULD turn calories into XP, but that would lead to a totally perverted idea of what being in good health means. There are so many people who end up being ortorectic or otherwise addicted to losing weight, and that’s really, really dangerous. Your health is not something you’re supposed to grind your way to. Its about feeling good about yourself.

      Hm. I didn’t mean for that to sound parental or sanctimonious or anything, but I think someone has to say it. I speak from experience.

    • nimnio says:

      You see bglamb cheating on a fitness game. Your options are:

      a) roll your eyes
      b) snicker
      c) burst out laughing

    • ComradePenguin says:

      EDIT: I’ve just noted in my original comment I used “calories” when I meant “calories burnt” as a measure of exercise. My bad.

      @dawnmane I appreciate the point but surely that is a risk with any fitness game? I’m not sure denying the player or in more traditional applications the user would really help with this? Surely you could implement something like a daily XP cap that reflects a healthy amount of calories to burn based on dimensions like the players current weight, height, level of fitness etc to give them a good idea of what they should be aiming for. Then maybe some kind of dynamic leveling system based upon these factors.
      Also excuse my lack of understanding but I thought orthorexia was an obsession with eating what are perceived as the “right” kind of foods. I’m not sure how this would feed into calories burned (rather than calories taken in) (I should note my understanding here is little so please correct me if I have the wrong end or even a different stick). I merely used calories burned as measure of energy used and therefore the level of exercise taken. You could quite easily measure it in other ways if your target wasn’t weight loss, such as the muscle building potential of the exercise or aerobic benefits.
      I guess to get this flowing somewhere near the topic is that part of what these exercise apps do is give you information on what you’ve done and how that relates to your goal. If running 5 miles is what I would help, the barrier to doing that is reduced if the thing tells me I’ve done it and what I’ve achieved rather than leaving me to work it out and then click a button on trust.

    • dawnmane says:

      thank you for elaborating :) and you’re right about orthorexia, it’s just the diagnosis that comes closest to the whole harmful health-addiction I see in many people. I very much agree with the idea of scaling a daily xp cap to your overall fitness, and I don’t think these games are essentially dangerous, I’m just trying to make people aware of health being more than burning fat and losing weight.

      All that being said, I think this looks like one of the more fun versions of a fitness game. And combining the whole closure-concept of quests, xp and level can be a good way of motivating the otherwise unmotivated.

    • bglamb says:

      I think the point is that there is a difference between getting fit and losing weight.

      If you’re underweight and trying to get fit then burning calories isn’t necessarily what you should be doing. There are better ways to measure your progress.

      I’m underweight and try and eat healthily, but it’s hard because so much advice on how to eat healthily is just about cutting fat out of your diet. Drives me mad!

  4. DevilSShadoW says:

    I don’t really get it? Will it use kinnect? RFID chip inserted into your skull? Satellite tracking? THE OVERWATCH?
    How the hell are they going to make sure we’re not going to cheat? We all know mankind is prone to cheating when it comes to doing stuff they don’t want to do.

    ah, ninja’d

    Really? That’s not even funny.

  5. McDan says:

    Ha, looks kinda fun.

  6. Legionary says:

    I find the people getting stressed out about the potential to cheat quite funny. Way to miss the point. It’s a game whose mechanics are self-improvement. There’s no motive to play the thing if you aren’t interested in taking part in the central mechanic.

    It’s like buying a treadmill, setting it going but not actually walking it, just so you can sit on your own and look smug as the display shows how many calories you can pretend to have burned.

    • mwoody says:

      I’d say it’s more like meeting 10 strangers on the internet, agreeing to “get in shape” together, buying a treadmill, and posting on your group that you ran 1000 yards. Then someone posts they just happened to run “1001 yards.” And someone else ran “1337 yards.” And someone else ran “10 miles.” And then expecting that bullshit to somehow motivate you to run more.

      They’re touting their social aspects like they’ll result in competition, when in fact, they’ll destroy the entire thing. Horrible, horrible idea.

    • Crimsoneer says:

      I think the idea is to play with your friends. I don’t know about you, but my friends are dickwads.

  7. ComradePenguin says:

    This rather reminds me of EpicWin. link to Xp for doing your todo list.

  8. Koozer says:

    You can cheat at any fitness “game.” I stuck my Pokemon pedometer thing on top of the washing machine with blu-tac, worked a treat on the right cycle.

  9. Nallen says:

    What happened to the R rated screenshot?!

    What does R rated mean anyway? R for Adult..?

  10. Mattressi says:

    Hey, this actually sounds pretty fun. Wii fit and similar exercise ‘games’ have always bored me, but an actual game which happens to require exercise just might hold my attention.

    I’d love it if they made a phone app (Android/Iphone/whatever) which could measure your progress (if your out on a run, for example) and would update in real time where you are in game in relation to whatever challenge you’re trying to defeat (zombies, man with brick, etc). Something like a 2D, side on frame with you and your aggressor running. Perhaps GPS locating or the simple method of counting ‘bounces’ to judge distance run could be used?

    I’m generally fine for motivation to keep running, but I get REALLY bored after the first half hour or so, which is my main problem. If I had an animation on my phone of a zombie catching up to me whenever I slack off, I’d probably stay interested a little longer. Hell, I might even buy one of those waste-of-money phones just to get an app like that!

    • Nallen says:

      And shortly after you’d run in to a ditch/tree/old lady etc etc :)

    • Mattressi says:

      But at least I’d have cured my boredom :D

      I guess for outdoor city runners it’s less of an issue, but if you run on a treadmill, on the same stretch of beach or on the side of a long country road, it gets very boring very quickly and an app like I was talking about might make it a little easier for those people. If you need an app like this to entertain you while running, you’re unlikely to be running somewhere where you need to be constantly watching out for things, so I wouldn’t worry too much about running into something.

  11. ArcaneSaint says:

    “fears of strength and endurance”- yeah, those things scare me too. Glad I’m not the only one :D

  12. Rii says:

    Real zombies would be more effective.

  13. Crimsoneer says:

    I love this idea – GAMIFICATION! Crappy word is crappy, but the concept is genius.

  14. Sleepymatt says:

    I had no idea zombies stopped at county borders… WTF have we all been shooting them for when we could’ve just moved to the next state?

  15. Gothnak says:

    Wouldn’t this work better as a Kinect or Move fitness game?

  16. TsunamiWombat says:

    I might be interested. I’ve been trying to gametize my life, applying myself an experiance point/leveling system for certain activities. Unfortunatly I was never quite able to work out a reawrd for leveling.

  17. BooleanBob says:

    Hmm. Time to make this thread, I think.

    You’re welcome.

  18. Felixader says:

    I guess you could count that into the “gamiefication” area.

  19. Hatsworth says:

    I’ll just keep playing In the Groove.
    The only issue being it’s loud as hell and unfortunately that’s conducive to (rightfully) pissing off my neighbour.

  20. BeamSplashX says:

    So if you lose City of Epic, you die in real life?

    I’m phoning FOX now.

  21. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    Well, I mean, you could play this game, but those of us fortunate enough to live in the ghetto don’t have any problems with fitness, I have to run my ass all the way to the next neighborhood just so I don’t get my ass beat and shoes took when waiting for the bus.

  22. Dances to Podcasts says:

    So… Lazytown with zombies?