Nanotech Zombies & Larp 2.0

Larp 2.0, Nanotech Zombies, and Hallow’s Edge

To help give an idea of what Hallow’s Edge is about, the following self-interview with creator Jedediah Walls explores the world of Steampunk to its biblical roots, nanotechnology, and how these things will change Larp forever. Jed lives in South Bend, IN.

So what is Hallow’s Edge?

The web has really changed things, and table games are no different. With PDF books and Online Role Playing, the way people approach games is totally different now than it was 20 years ago. It seems that the technology is different, but the way we go about making the games – and playing the games, has stayed the same. Now it’s changed whether we like it or not. RPG’s haven’t died, they’ve just changed form.

So we really wanted to Zig where other people  Zagged. We wanted to create something that was still and RPG game but was fast, easy, and fun. We wanted it streamlined for the user instead of forcing the user to streamline to us. Most of all, we wanted it to be free, and still turn a profit.

So we really set out to create Larp 2.0.

The end result was Hallow’s Edge.

Okay, that’s a good background, but what is the game about?

Steampunk zombie combat! People dress up in steampunk gear and then fight each other with foam swords and guns. 250 years after a zombie apocalypse, most people hid underground to survive. But now they’re fighting back – the government decides to re-colonize and wipe out the zombie infection forever. It’s post-singularity steampunk.

But there’s more than just zombies in your game, ya?

That’s right. Really, one of the major driver’s of this game was thinking about how the future could go wrong. I’m thinking of the singularity here: Ray Kurzeweil’s idea of what is going to happen when machines, people, and AI are all knit together by nanotechnology.

He describes it as a golden age.

But we got to thinking that nanotech – moreover, nanotechnology guided by AI is potentially the most devastating force we could face as a species. In our world all these Nanites became infected, hacked the other nanites and all the systems they interconnected to, including people. It shut down their brain activity and reprogrammed the flesh that was there. Moreover, it hacked into databases: when it saw someone, it used facial-recognition technology, got their identity, hacked their facebook page, discovered all that person’s friends through the friends list, hacked THEIR cellphones and triggered the phone’s GPS: it ate them COMPLETELY. Anyone devoured became infected themselves.

Our zombies are nanotech zombies.

But the AI didn’t stop there. They downloaded every book on psychology, information warfare, and mythology. They used the nano to twist many of these poor souls into shapes that resembled myths that people feared the most: vampires, werewolves, creatures from the abyss … It looked so much like fantasy that the line began to blur. Cthulu became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The game Eclipse Phase is one way the singularity could go. This is another other. It’s post-singularity.

Web 2.0, huh?

Web 2.0 didn’t introduce new technology so much as it introduced a new way of thinking about web technology: how could we streamline pages based on how people actually use the web? They stopped thinking of just the web as a place where you built sites, but rather a place you built a whole presence – a bunch of different sites that all mutually encourage activity.

I found the idea of an unbook on Warren Ellis’s site – that’s pretty much what we have going on here. We talk about it in terms of software: release notes, bugs, patches … the free PDF is a software application, not a tome. The unique thing about this application though is that it convinces you to actually step away from the computer….

In other words, it’s not just a table game, it’s a GAMING PLATFORM.

But doesn’t your game seem a lot like Amtgard?

Yeah it’s got a lot in common with Amtgard. But we have a lot in common with all Larps. And all table games. And all MMORPG’s. Amtgard itself is a child of Emarthnguarth and Dragohir. And those are just based on kids running around with sticks shaped like swords. There’s a rich family of games here that goes all the way back to pre-historic times. You can’t knock all online games because they all use the mouse and a keyboard. You can’t knock all RPG games because they use dice. We use foam swords, like about 50 other games. Some things all of them do similarly and others they all do differently. For instance, we embrace foam-shooting guns.

Don’t you think that handing out experience for bringing in new players is … I dunno … cheesy?

Not at all. People are rewarded all the time for stuff like that on Vampire Wars and Mafia. Why should conventional RPG’s be any different?

In your book, you say that Punk has been around since pre-history?

Yeah Steampunk is just Punk, another incarnation in a long line of emergent culture. Punk is the modern day incarnation of the youth movement – kids learning to be okay with themselves. Anytime you see identity struggle with society, even … especially when it goes horribly, it’s a punk movement. Stories like those of Joe Orton, Pocahontas, the children’s crusade … totally punk.

Really punk traces its roots all the way back to early agriculture society. Cain was the first punk because he was the was the first one to declare his individuality. I bet though, the moment I say that someone else is going to cite Marduk or something even older. Heh.

Most independent creative ideas fail. Do you think you have what it takes?

I’ve worked in new media for some time now. About 10 years ago I spent a summer working for White Wolf as an Intern and wrote a couple of things for them while I was down there. I spent a lot of time before and after hosting and playing larps since. I’m a certified small business entrepreneur and my Master’s is in Social Networking (almost done!). I hope that makes me qualified.

I don’t think I got everything right, but I made a game that can adapt and evolve much faster. Culture is emergent … our games should be too.