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Augmented reality mobile game will bring alien invasion to your doorstep... and beyond

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/7/2015 (750 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A local creative arts and entertainment company has developed an alternative reality adventure that lets you channel your inner Luke Skywalker right in your own backyard — but instead of heading into battle armed with a light sabre, you’ve got asmartphone on your hip.

Clandestine: Anomaly is the first effort into the gaming world for ZenFri, set for release Tuesday for iOS devices.

The command centre in the mobile game Clandestine: Anomaly is seen in the sky above Munson Park.

TYLER WALSH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The command centre in the mobile game Clandestine: Anomaly is seen in the sky above Munson Park.

It was developed by a local indie team and a number of high-profile experts with international experience, including Joshua Ortega, an established novelist, comic-book writer and writer for the popular console game Gears of War 2.

Essentially, Clandestine: Anomaly features an alien invasion in which your phone has been hacked by alien technology, which allows you to engage in an intergalactic battle happening all around you.

"You get to be the star instead of playing a character. You’re using primitive human technology to fight an alien war," said Corey King, ZenFri’s cofounder and chief executive artist.

Clandestine: Anomaly is different from so much of what is available in gaming today because rather than playing under the artificial light in your basement, this seek-and-destroy mission takes you out in the real world. Its game space is two kilometres by two kilometres.

"We didn’t want to take a nice, beautiful environment and try to recreate it in the game, we wanted to make it a part of the game. Our game takes place in the real world. We wanted to create a story that takes place on the biggest canvas possible," said King.

And there’s no place more real than Munson Park off Wellington Crescent, where King took videographer Tyler Walsh and me to show us how it works. The park is right on the Assiniboine River; there are running paths, lots of trees and people walking dogs, all of which are recognized by the game.

At one point a deer crosses in front of us. Or so we think. Is that real or alternative reality? "That’s for you to decide," King said with a wink. "I’m not going to reveal."

"We have the most realistic graphics because we have real nature while you’re playing the game, which is amazing."

(Disclaimer: No deer were harmed in the shooting of this story. Only a small handful of enemy fighters, which we’re pretty sure were computer-generated.) Taking on aliens with a cellphone might sound like bringing a knife to a gunfight, but it’s been supercharged with alien technology, allowing you to call in airstrikes, set up communication towers, receive and send messages from other characters in the game and arm your units to shoot down enemies.

To make sure players aren’t walking into trees or stepping off curbs into oncoming traffic, Clandestine: Anomaly features short alternative reality windows of about 20 seconds.

"We were concerned about privacy, too. Part of the reason why we didn’t make it a multi-player game is so (one player) wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, you killed my stuff!’ and they’re in the physical world. You know how angry people can get playing games," he said.

"And part of the reason we made it brief is people will feel dumb if they’re asked to do this for too long in public. (The AR mode) is really the length of taking a few pictures. There’s no incentive to move around (when in AR)."

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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