A new smartphone app released next month promises a new immersive gaming experience for mobile devices and is ushering a new wave of something technical, important, techniportant and importnical. We visited the London studios of SHOUTY LAB, the start up whizzkids behind the incredible new app, for a demonstration and a cup of scalding hot water loaded with artificial sweeteners (the full interview can be found here).
Arriving at the central London offices of SHOUTY LAB, you’d be forgiven if you thought you’d walked straight into a hipster coffee shop, full of people with trendy beards and turn-ups on the turn-ups of their jeans and you’d be right, because SHOUTY LAB as their name doesn’t even remotely suggest, have set up base camp behind a secret hidden door in a trendy coffee shop owners face. Once you have managed to gain entry, you’re confronted with a minimalistic room where all the furniture is made from vintage iPads and the coat stand is a reclaimed Peruvian homeless person, ironically wearing head to toe Paul Smith. Very modern indeed. We’re greeted by Earl “Getaway” Timpson, the 22year old CEO of SHOUTY LABS and the brains behind the company behind the idea behind the app behind the coffee shop owners face and as we later find out, behind an extremely controversial range of concentration camp themed ready meals.
Earl drags us through to the demo area and sits us down on a huge Fox’s Glacier mint for a pre demo briefing, “the whole idea for this app came from a conversation in my local pub” says Earl, “at the time, a throwaway comment by one of the locals struck a chord, in this case, my spinal chord which had come loose and was hanging down the bottom of my expensive jeans. The guy had said to me ‘bet you wish I could control your body remotely with my phone, so I could pop that spinal chord back in for you’- I was gobfounded” continues Earl, “such a simple idea but such a huge array of applications. Obviously, this was a groundbreaking thing, potentially worth millions so I had to act quickly. Step 1 was taking the guy around the back of the pub and executing him, so’s he didn’t steal his own idea. I then gunned the rest of my pint of Aftershock and ran home sideways as fast as I could, I couldn’t wait to get started on coding the app”.
Earl is visibly excited as he talks us through the next stage of the app’s development; “the first part was easy” he says, “what was the app for? What functionality would it have? It was easy for me to answer these questions- I wanted to be able to control any celebrity living or dead simply by using a £1.99 app for my smartphone. That was it. Simple. All I had to do to make this crazy dream a reality was get funding to pay developers, luckily my father owns a large chain of shops that sell large chains to shops and the lizard people, he was easy to convince once I told him what I wanted to do”.
Earl lifts us telekinetically into the testing room where employees test the game for bugs and we can quickly see that the game is generating a huge amount of enthusiasm, even though the testers have been working night and day testing the game for the last 6 months. “There’s nothing like this on the market” says Billy O’Drilly, chief tester for SHOUTY LAB. “I’ve been playing this for well over 5 months now and I’m still hooked, it’s incredible what you can do from the comfort of your chair or at your office desk, just yesterday I spent the afternoon instructing Eamon Holmes to scream into people’s faces, before pushing them into the canal. What other application allows you that much freedom? Not even Grand Theft Auto 5 allows you that much freedom”.
first person view screenshot from Billy’s Eamon Holmes session, here Eamon has pushed a couple of indian boys into the canal after screaming at them. The whole session can be recorded and uploaded straight to youtube for others to view later.
Effortlessly speaking in morse code, Billy invites us to watch Gary, one of the junior developers, as he begins a new game on one of the demo computers (prior to release, the game is run on one of several high-powered desktop computers for bug reporting). “There’s no waiting about in this game” says Earl and he’s right, within seconds of loading the app, the tester has picked Anthony Worrall-Thompson as his playable character and is starting his game. Worrall-Thompson is in an office in Hampshire, mid way through a conversation with his solicitor when the tester takes control. He instructs him to quickly stand up and sit back down repeatedly as fast as possible, whilst banging one hand repeatedly on the table as hard as he can, the other hand is told to jab himself in the eye and the TV chef responds instantly, with no detectable lag. The reaction from the solicitor is hilarious and it’s truly amazing to watch the fat cook bending quickly up and down. “There’s literally no limit to what you can do, it’s truly the world’s first real-time, real-life sandbox game with no boundaries” says Gary, shortly before instructing Worrall-Thompson to breakdance into the sea.
Gary invites us to take over but at Earl’s suggestion, we decide to start a new game. “You can pick anybody alive or dead” says Earl, “you can be as creative as you like”. We decide to play as our favourite TV star of the 80’s, Bobby Ball- one half of 80s duo, Cannon & Ball and we get to work. Controlling Bobby is intuitive, utilising the gyroscope and accelerometer in the game controller (like in all smartphones) to provide movement, instructions are recorded to the cloud where they are wirelessly pushed into Ball’s head. Bobby is about to cut into a piece of battenburg cake when we tell him to slice off his own fingers and run out of the front door, unfortunately, we forget to tell Bobby to look both ways at the road and we’re hit by a passing car, ending our go. “It’s just like real life” says Earl, “the characters can die if you put them in dangerous situations”. Taking heed, we start again, picking our latest playable character Linford Christie, who is relaxing at home. Using the inbuilt time travel function, we send Christie 10 years into the future and enroll him on a part time snooker refs course, before running backwards out of the door and down the street. Christie is a fast character whose speed comes in handy when sprinting into people as fast as we can, we use the microphone to instruct Christie to run to the nearest HMV and get him to try standing jumps over the racks of CD’s, providing gasps of confusion from the other shoppers. Their confusion turns to fear, as Christie begins to do push ups on the floor whilst eating a Back To The Future trilogy box set, before bolting upright, slapping a nearby HMV employee and leaping backwards out of the shop screaming. Interacting with the public is a massive part of this game and it’s gut achingly funny to watch as Christie tries to bite the knees of passing shoppers, before attempting to haul himself over a raised flower bed in the high street, using just his lips.
All to quickly Earl tells us it’s time to end our go and we leave an exhausted Christie nailing himself to the wall in TK Maxx, it’s not lost us that this game is addictive as we begrudgingly hand back the controller. “It’s great isn’t it?” says Earl, “as soon as you stop playing you want to start playing again!”. He’s right. “This game will follow the freeium model, using in-game purchases to enhance the experience. Downloadable content will allow you to control the ghost of Hitler, bring him forward in time and haunt people in real-time or use the weightless upgrade to smash Sven Goran Eriksson into the ground. Future multiplayer modes will allow incredible celebrity interaction in real geographical locations- imagine using Steven Gerrard’s great, great grandson to watch Mary Antoinette fight the naked ghost of a futuristic dead Billy crystal on top of the Eiffel Tower, whilst other celebrities circle around them in the sky? Wouldn’t that be incredible?”. He’s right. Mind Control is slated for release in Q2 2014 and will be available for iOS, Android and next year’s Duxford Phone 47.
This article appears in the October issue of Fact Hole internet science and nature magazine but will then reappear 3 years later on a crisp that looks like Jesus