Nowhere to Hyde

hydeHere’s something extremely likely to be of interest to readers, in day two (of two!) of an inadvertent horror games special. The following piece was written by Iain and is reproduced by kind permission; use of the first person refers to the column where it was first published, though this site happens to endorse the sentiments expressed.

Hyde

Somewhere in London, Next Spring, Maybe

We’re also looking forward to Hyde. It’s a bio-logical maze, from the creative people at Slingshot. Here’s the backstory:

“You’re taking part in experimental trials of a new drug developed by the Jekyll Corporation. It’s designed to modify the capabilities of the human body, giving you the power to control your environment simply by controlling your physical state (your pulse rate, breathing, posture etc).

“Armed with some wearable tech your assignment is to navigate your way though a maze of connected rooms, using your new powers to complete a series of increasingly challenging tasks along the way.

“But this is a smart maze: it knows where you are, and how you’re doing. You begin to realise that someone – or something – is working against you. You’ll need to stay calm to retain control of your surroundings. Because there’s only one way out of this maze, and that’s through it…”

Some of the doors are opened by completing simple tasks: follow a sequence of lights, or find the hidden switch. Other challenges are completed by your own body: open the door by holding your breath, or lowering your heart rate. Ah! Something very new, we’re not going to get that experience elsewhere.

Slingshot describe Hyde as “Crystal Maze meets Portal in the real world”; it’s a challenge to make progress, and an unseen hand is working against you. There may even be cake. {1}

The creators are open about what they know they can do, and what they don’t know. Messrs Evans and Johnson have been working on this idea for some years – an email about their plans for 2013 intrigued us with this idea.

We can be sure that the game will be safe. Slingshot are responsible for 2.8 Hours Later, the zombie sprint game bringing the undead to the streets of your city{2} since 2010. During that time, they’ve scared almost 100,000 players witless. Some of them may actually have completed the game without being caught. Everyone has seen sunrise the next morning.

And we can be sure that the game will be scary. Slingshot’s hallmark is to bring horror tropes to the outside world. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and the introductory video gives fair warning. There is nothing like a locked door to make a cat curious about what it is like behind it. Curiosity pursued the cat, shouting loudly and waving something threatening.

Hyde isn’t for everyone. It is experimental, it’s pushing the boundaries, it might be disturbing, it’s likely to break new ground. None of these descriptions apply to The Crystal Maze: from the moment we heard about the idea, we knew roughly what the end product was going to be. We have an inkling about what Hyde will be, but the end result will surprise us.

That’s if we ever get to see the end result. Like The Crystal Maze, Hyde is being crowd-funded. As with all crowdfunding ideas, this column encourages caution. Stop and think for a moment. You may not get value for money, and you may not get anything at all. Can you afford to spend this money and see nothing in return? Especially as the target of £50,000 looks out of reach at the moment; through very unfortunate timing, two projects are drawing from the same well of money at the same time.

As well as advance tickets, it’s possible to be a real-life lab rat and help to develop the game. People with lots of money and an interest in game design might choose the “Mad Professor” option, experiment with body tech and transfer the knowledge to other projects. And if we all have a look behind the sofa, we might find money to hire out the entire maze for a night.

The Crystal Maze plays to nostalgia. Hyde is cutting-edge technology. We dearly want both of them to work.

More ((…including a really evocative trailer video that comes thoroughly recommended.))

{1} Excellent, lucky, or rich players gain access to the “Soho Rooms” at the heart of the maze. Is that a cunning euphemism for “cake shop”? We’ll have to find out.

{2} Except Plymouth, much to the chagrin of everyone involved.

3 Comments

  1. The most interesting thing I’ve seen there “Hyde will take repeated visits to master, except with this ticket. We’ll give you keys to unlock doors and access levels of the game normally very hard to reach, including the mysterious Soho Rooms.”

    The idea of a game where you can only get so far on a single play, but go back armed with that knowledge and progress further is pretty interesting – it’s essentially building a bigger, branching experience rather than multiple different rooms.

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  2. I would LOVE this thing to exist in the world. But crowdfunding is a trust thing and..

    They are shooting themselves in the foot with the graphic design of the kickstarter. Lots of information lies on a giant, barely legible cyan-on-white clip-art fest of an infographic. All the above the fold space is devoted to blank images and impossibly, an empty animated .gif. No information scent to keep people reading. And more subjectively, it’s ugly as can be.

    And text doesn’t pitch, it just waffles about like it’s a developer diary. Most glaringly, there is a “This is the story” section, then later on a mostly similar “Story” section. And a clear lack of proofreading.

    From a non-presentation standpoint, they don’t seem to be paying enough attention to the complexity of the physical build. Do they have locations scouted and costed? Do they understand just how much boring stuff like wires and co-ordinating electronics go for, and how much of it they need? Do they know how to test a real-time system where people try to trigger five different mechanisms across the maze at once, including one asked to do both a thing and its opposite? Their past projects, which they don’t mention prominently enough, show they are very good at logistics, but don’t really show a lot of construction / technical expertise. For such a unique and custom build, assuming they can be outsourced is risky.

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  3. For posterity, I should report that the crowdfunding effort failed, and failed badly. The project secured slightly more than a quarter of its target.

    For reasons related to this, and to poor sales of its 2.8 Hours Later experience, Slingshot went out of business a week later.

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