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Innovation & Job News

Port 127 game designers create an engaging ride in Hipster City

There's a new smartphone game in town, literally. If you've had enough of the aggravated avians, get on your virtual two wheeler and pedal over to Hipster City Cycle. And unlike Angry Birds, Hipster City has a narrative. "You start out living in Center City with a job as a paralegal," explains Port 127's design and coding team leader Michael Highland. "The goal is to blow all of your savings partying with friends and buying bike parts. As you move from neighborhood to neighborhood, the rent gets cheaper. We're turning the normal game progression around so that in Hipster City, you do something and get less." The final goal is to turn Binky McKee into a penniless cycling legend.

Highland sees Hipster City as more of an art piece, with an original throwback 16 bit soundtrack and very basic graphics that do a remarkably good job depicting the details of Philly neighborhoods. Graphic designer Keith McKnight faithfully recreated the orange tables at Pat's King of Steaks in South Philly, and in West Philly, you ride past hipster/student landmarks Koch's Deli, Allegro Pizza and Clark Park. At one point in the Northern Liberties map, you get to ride right on the El tracks, which Highland admits he's done in real life.

Highland says the game will officially launch for iPhone on May 19, and will take the average user about 10 hours to get to the end of the game, which also allows for competition with other players if you get lonely on the open road. Hipster City is simple to pick up, and meant to be played a few minutes at a time, taking the play through four Philadelphia neighborhoods in the process.

Highland, Kevin Jenkins and Keith McKnight all met at the University of Pennsylvania, and Alex Alsup went to Skidmore but is from this area. "Biking is nice, but harrowing at times," explains Highland when asked why the team chose cycling as a focus. "When I bike in Philly, my adrenaline is really high and I am in fight or flight mode."

Hipster City, which is entirely self-funded, also touched on a great marketing initiative which has brought them a lot of buzz without a lot of cash. Last fall, the group set up photo booths at events around the city, includings First Friday, and captured images of hundreds of local hipsters vying to become pixelated characters. There's a contest right now on the website: Visitors vote for their favorite three real people, and the top vote getters get to live forever in Hipster City. And, says Highland, cyclists from all over the world are spreading the buzz on biking forums.

"We're getting a lot of attention on international cycling boards and we're hearing that people in Taiwan and Dubai are excited to have the game."

Hipster City is unique among iPhone games in that it features a real world location, and Highland hints that other cities may soon be hipsterized as well.

Source: Michael Highland, Hipster City Cycle
Writer: Sue Spolan

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