Gamers can now do more than rack up points or bragging rights. Thanks to a new mobile game created through a collaboration between Coca-Cola and (RED), they can join the fight to end AIDS.
Lee Perry, BitMonster
(THRED), a free-to-play iOS game launching today in the iTunes App Store, gives avid players and casual enthusiasts alike an opportunity to raise awareness and funds to help end mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015. It’s the first app to use Apple’s In-App Purchase mechanism to raise money for a cause – in this case the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria – the world's leading financer of programs to fight these three diseases. The game is the product of a multi-year partnership between Coca-Cola and (RED).
Players can buy “power ups” within the game, with all proceeds (excluding taxes) going to the Global Fund to support HIV/AIDS programs in Africa, including treatment to help prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
The game explores a captivating, 3D world of living, dragon-like gateways, vivid colors and shifting walls. An abstract soundscape created by DJ Poet and TOKiMONSTA – and also featuring the Skidka remix of Tiësto and Swanky Tunes’ “Make Some Noise” donated by Tiësto from the DANCE (RED), SAVE LIVES album – adds to the multisensory experience by changing tempo and rhythm during gameplay.
A behind-the-scenes documentary – Making the Game for (RED) presented by Coca-Cola – will air on MTV in Australia, Canada, Mexico and more than 50 countries in Africa. Watch the trailer.
We caught up with one of (THRED)’s creators – Lee Perry of BitMonster – to learn more about how this groundbreaking game came together:
Lee Perry, BitMonster
Can you describe the game's overall style and objective?
(THRED) follows an "endless runner" format, which is a popular genre of games played on mobile devices. You simply start moving through obstacles of some sort, and the challenge increases and increases over time. The goal, of course, is to see how far down the path you can make it intact. With (THRED), we wanted to merge that endless runner gameplay with music-based trance games.
How is (THRED) different from other games?
It’s pretty unique in two ways. Obviously, the first is its direct association with a cause and the fact that it gives players the opportunity to affect change in the world by helping to deliver an AIDS-Free Generation by 2015. It’s also a playable music visualizer. We like to think it would be something you could see on a screen behind a DJ at a concert.
What about the game are you most proud of?
It may sound uninteresting to people outside of games, but our timeline was patently insane. We spent about a month developing (THRED), which is incredibly aggressive. When we formed BitMonster at the beginning of this year, our goal was to create smaller games in a matter of months. This allows us to try more interesting concepts, take more risks and have more fun. Our previous experience had been with huge-budget games, which typically take two to four years to complete.
The only way (THRED) could become a reality was with a team like ours. We’re six people working in a basement with basically no overhead. This was a rare chance to take on a challenge like this without worrying, “Will the game provide salaries for 100 people when it ships?”
Aside from that, we of course take pride in the fact that people could be alive years from now because of what our team, Coca-Cola and (RED) pulled off here. We really hope we generate the funds needed to provide anti-retroviral drugs to HIV+ expectant mothers in Africa. It’s such a tangible and achievable thing. If reviews for the game are great, and lots of people download it, that’s awesome. But we want to convert those users into people who are willing to contribute a few dollars to make someone’s life possible. If nothing else comes of our careers after that, at least that lasting mark is left on a family somewhere.
Were there any specific 'a-ha' moments during the development process?
There were a few, including the first time I walked over to Aaron Smith – one of our three artists – and saw his early prototype of the tunnel sections. They were shimmery, cool and unique. It was all very vibrant and laid the groundwork for the game. We knew from seeing that video that we could make something special.
How did the collaboration with the three DJs come together, and why is music important to gameplay?
We knew early on that the music would be extremely important. But with such a short production schedule, we knew we wouldn’t have official music until we were nearly done with the game, so we had to put in a chunk of placeholder music to keep our feel going.
With Tiësto, we were excited to hear he was donating a special track, and once we got our hands on it, we saw it worked perfectly in the game. We had a call with DJ Poet and TOKiMONSTA and were able to show them the game and give them a couple bits of technical information about how the game needed the music to be in short loops and have different speeds. We think it turned out really well… especially if you immerse yourself in the game and play with headphones on.
I imagine you guys are pretty competitive. Which BitMonster crew member holds the (THRED) high score?
Oh yeah, we’ve had some competitive scoring days here in the office! I think Aaron is on top right now.
What did you guys work on just before (THRED)?
Our first game as BitMonster was Lili, a game about a college-aged girl who travels to an island ruled by some rather bizarre wooden creatures. It's funny and approachable, and has received loads of awards for being the best-looking game for Apple's devices. Apple contacted us during development and worked with us to get Lili shown on their keynote stage demo where they introduced the new iPhone 5. Lili actually was just included on Apple’s "App Store Best of 2012" list, which is something we couldn't be more proud of.
If the App Store is not available in your country, you can still donate here.