MMO Bicycling Game Simulates Real Life Bicycling
My local gym recently installed a new state-of-the-art group cycling program called MyRide+. Instead of a boring spinning class, first-person videos are projected on a large screen behind the instructor, and it apparently is supposed to make the class more socially and physically engaged. In my eyes, it's just gimmicky, but at least while it's new, it is pretty popular.
Before MyRide+, my gym had individual exercise bikes made by a company called Expresso (pictured below) that had a video screen attached, and allowed you to save your stats either to a USB thumb drive or online. I tried it a few times, and got quickly bored with it since it wasn't too different from just a regular exercise bike, but featured animated CG in a FPS view of me riding alongside random computer generated bike riders on different types of terrain and slopes.
Zwift Makes an MMO That Simulates Real Life!
Now, there is a new London-based company called Zwift, that is taking gimmicky exer-biking to a whole new level of boring. Taking the CG animation from Expresso, and combining it with the socially engaging aspects of a spinning class, Zwift is turning exer-biking into an MMO. Zwift bikers will have the ability to ride together in a virtual environment, as well as compete against each other. It's just like riding in real life, but virtually.
It works by using a real bicycle and putting it onto a supported bicycle trainer alonf with a few tracking components. Zwift supports both "smart trainers" (bicycle trainers that can control resistance to simulate road terrain, wind, etc.) and "dumb trainers", (ones that have no resistance control) and uses supported ANT+ devices to send and receive data between the bicycle and the game. (which runs on PC and Mac)
If this all sounds a bit silly to you, that's probably because it is. Since you are required to use a real bicycle, it's probably a lot more interesting to just take your bike outside, and ride around in the real world. Don't have friends? No problem. Riding a bicycle doesn't require you to ride along with other people, however, you're most likely going to run into other people riding bikes too IRL.
While I'm all for marrying video games with exercise equipment, Zwift seems to be just another gimmick to get people to exercise. People who own bikes are already going to use them outside, and are likely willing to drive to the mountains or some other areas if they want to ride on different kinds of terrain. Zwift seems to be made for people who either have no friends or are truly too lazy to ride their bikes outside.
Blue Goji Gets Gamers
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A friend of mine recently started a new company called BlueGoji. When I visited his office a year and a half ago, he showed me some exer-games that he was working on that I thought were more on the mark of how exercise and gaming should work. It didn't matter whether you were on a treadmill, exercise bike, elliptical, etc., but so long as you were moving, the games would work. The first game he showed me was something similar to Sonic the Hedgehog, where the objective was to move as quickly as possible.
The faster you ran or pedaled, the faster your character moved through the game. Along the way, you could steer your character to collect powerups and diamonds. In a different game, your character would ride on a bike on a busy street, and there would be obstacles in the way, where you would need to steer your bike out of the way in order to avoid collisions. For both of these game demos, it showed me the true potential of exer-gaming, in the sense that I was sweating by the end of the 10 minutes he was showing me these games, but it had felt that I only got to spend about a minute on either game.
Hopefully, these other companies creating games for exercise will understand that at least as gamers, simulating real life in a video game yields a very boring game, no matter what video game buzzwords you throw on it. Just saying that it is an MMO doesn't automatically mean that it will attain WoW-like popularity.