Grey Area, a new Finnish iPhone gaming startup (see our previous coverage), has been operating silently the past months, but now the firm has released a new teaser trailer and screenshots of their upcoming location-based MMORPG for iPhone called Shadow Cities. The game transforms the neighborhoods and familiar streets as part of the game world, visible to the player through iPhone. The tagline is "Your city is a game." The company promises the game will be available on the iTunes App Store in late 2010.
The game tells a story where Mages have been missing for centuries, and darkness and "Shadow Spirits" have taken over. Now the player's responsibility is to become a "modern mage" and help humanity to regain control of the world. Player hunt spirits, gain experience, explore the surroundings with new eyes, and learn more and more powerful spells. Players can use magic and strategy to battle for the control of their neighborhoods with their friends and other players.
In addition, there are two sides battling against each other and not only the spirits: the tech mage Architects and the impulsive spell artist Animators. The player can select which side to join, and there are also further role playing elements as one proceeds. The video also show a neat "rune spell" system, i.e. casting spells by drawing magical runes on screen - Something we haven't seen anyone else do on the iPhone yet.
Grey Area's video trailer:
The main problem with location based game ideas is often that it is unreasonable to expect people to run around cities as part of the core gameplay to complete tasks and actions. However, Shadow Cities seems to be more like level based social game that ties in to daily habits (like visiting shops and cafes etc., like with Foursquare), location information, and real players. (Of course the video appears to be a bit dramatized.)
If the game is more like "Foursquare on steroids", meaning deeper gameplay elements, it may be rather widely appealing and working concept. Not as mass market as the most widely spread casual games, but just enough to reach a rather good chunk of active players, who likely also monetizes above average (provided it is designed cleverly). The game will be free to play, monetized by selling virtual goods: one can buy Mana potions, with which to cast spells in battle among other things.
Shadow Cities is said to be piloting in Finland still this year, published globally soon after.