Former CCP president, Mike Tinney, is working on a massively multiplayer online fitness game that draws some inspiration from CCP's hardcore MMO EVE Online, but for the most part is "the exact opposite" of the hardcore space sim.
Tinney left CCP in February 2012 and announced in October that his new company, Fitness Interactive Experience, is developing UtiliFit, a game that hopes to make getting fit a fun and social activity.
Speaking to Polygon, Tinney says that the idea for the game was born out of a desire to find a way to get motivated to exercise and become healthier, and doing it through a video game seemed a natural step for the development team.
"We learned a ton of lessons from EVE Online," Tinney says. "We learned a lot about the social and community side. EVE has a very strong community side and the manner in which the game runs is a very sandbox-style game. People don't really play against the computer, they play with and against each other. That maximized human interaction is the cornerstone.
"We learned a ton of lessons from EVE Online ... We learned a lot about the social and community side."
"I think CCP would agree with me — it's their philosophy that it's the cornerstone of true persistent, infinitely scalable gameplay. That philosophy is in a lot of our design initiative for Utilifit."
Like other fitness apps on the market (Fitocracy, RunKeeper, Lift, MapMyFitness) UtiliFit requires players to play in the real world rather than the virtual world. The game plugs into the player's real-world social networks and encourages players to interact with others who are also trying to become more healthy. But the social element of EVE Online is about as much as UtiliFit borrows from the notoriously inaccessible, hardcore space MMO, with Tinney describing the fitness game as being a much more accessible gaming experience.
"Every game has its own special thing and I would say that UtiliFit is intended to be the exact opposite of EVE with a very simple log-in prototcol. You can enter the game and begin playing right away without having too much set up. Your account registration is as simple as clicking a Facebook connect or entering an email address."
THE CHALLENGES OF FITNESS
Few details have been released about UtiliFit, which is currently in closed beta. Tinney was able to tell Polygon that the game is turn-based and challenges players to perform "micro physical challenges", which are physical tasks that can be completed in short amounts of time. Where most fitness apps track a user's progress and spit out data based on what information the player inputs (E.g. food consumed, miles walked, excerises performed), UtiliFit has a strong MMO influence with progression elements, which Tinney believes is an important factor in motivation.
"Every good game — and a lot of bad ones — have a compulsive response component," Tinney says. "So the game gives you a series of choices or some sort of challenge that you have to do in the game, and you do that, and then the game gives you a reward for doing it. It responds with some sort of immediate gratification loop and an indication of what step a player should do next in order to advance in the game."
"Every good game — and a lot of bad ones — have a compulsive response component."
Tinney believes that while many fitness apps can track a player's progress and tell players how useful certain activities are, there's a "missing link" — the motivation component. Many apps require players to go out and perform exercises before they engage with the app, whereas UtiliFit will will have a pro-active questing component. Apps like Fitocracy also have similar questing features where players are assigned challenges to complete each day — how UtiliFit's MMO component differs from this is yet to be revealed.
The team behind UtiliFit is working with medical experts to ensure that the game is safe and effective. According to Tinney, it's already working for him.
"Since January (2012) I've gone from a 36 to a 32 inch waist," he says. "I'm not just playing UtiliFit, I'm also watching what I eat, but UtiliFit has become a great thing to do because you can always incorporate more activity into your lifestyle and it's just a nice way for me and other people to change some core habits."
UtiliFit is expected to be released sometime in 2013. It is currently in closed beta.