Tube Games with Chromaroma


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
Photos and illustrations by Mudlark
09 Monday 09th May 2011

There's a brand new augmented reality game out beneath the streets of London, and it goes by the name Chromaroma. All you need to play is an Oyster card and a desire to travel. That image above? Well, that's what the tube map looks like with movement from Chromaroma embedded in colour. The basic premise goes like this: commuters pick a team and a corresponding colour. They then use their Oyster cards to 'own' specific stations around the city, earn points travelling and learn more about London by taking on specific missions. It's all about gameplay factoring into something as banal as daily travel. We caught up with developer company Mudlark's director, Toby Barnes, to get the full story.

First off, can you tell our readers a bit about your personal involvement in the Chromaroma game?
I am the founder and Managing Director of Mudlark and we develop and run Chromaroma. Chromaroma was born from our love of Harry Beck (the draftsman who created the current tube map), underground infrastructures, the idea of a hidden world under London, ambient games, slow games, ambient checkins, location gaming and creating stories from the mundane. 
How have Mudlark and Chromaroma cooperated to take the game to London's underground network?
Chromaroma is a game that adds colour to your journeys by turning them into something competitive, collectible, and playable. The game looks at the travel data produced by your Oyster card and awards points for every journey, with bonuses available for healthy travel, travelling outside of rush hour, walking the last bit of your journey, visiting new places and more. It's Top Trumps meets Risk on the scale of an entire city!
Chromaroma development map 
How did the project come about? And what were your first thoughts on the idea when you heard it/were pitched it?
Chromaroma is our game. We pitched it to Channel 4, who are our primary investors. The initial pitch was "something about games and the underground. Playing the Oyster card"
They gave us a tiny bit of money to build a prototype which we did in a couple of days, that has now grown to a game with over 10,000 players.
Chromaroma demo
Chromaroma swipe demo
How important do you think an element of play is to urban living? What do you hope to achieve with Chromaroma, in terms of changing how Londoners connect with transport and each other?
The game has different parts, that allow people to be as involved as they want. There are Missions that involve solving puzzles, and visiting stations at a certain time of day, following stories and uncovering secrets. There are items that a player can find or buy that can give them an edge in point scoring and climbing up the leaderboard. There are teams that aim to capture the most stations and eventually own London. The game also has an interactive 3D flash animation that shows your journeys, so commuters can watch themselves zipping around London on trains and bikes.
What do participants get out of taking part?
Chromaroma is a game, so players get a playful experience out of doing something they already do. That starts with points, but develops the more players play Missions, complete Collections, aim for Achievements, try to break the records of fastest journeys, or travel healthier by bike or by walking. Ultimately it's a chance for people to learn more about their city and how to travel around it in an innovative and fun way. 
Station ownership charts
Station ownership charts, colour-coded
From what we've seen about Chromaroma so far, points earned contribute to stations being 'owned' by a particular team. How important do you think other incentives may be in growing the game?
As a single player you can play the Get Off One Stop Early mission on your way to and from work. Do this everyday and you're sure to climb the leaderboard very quickly. If you're more of a team player, you can look on the Team Map to find stations that are vulnerable to being taken over by your team - get to that station and capture it and more points are yours. These are just two examples, and our players are finding new ways to play the city all the time.
You capture a station by joining a team and visiting a station that either no-one has visited, or that another team has visited less than you. By looking at the team map you can see how much of London each team owns. The map also shows stations that are vulnerable to capture, so that if you're really keen on owning the city, you can go there a few times and claim that station as your own!
Where do you hope to see the project go in the future?
Three main areas:
1. We want to take the game to other cities. Imagine NYC vs London, Tokyo vs Toronto, Moscow vs Paris. We are talking to Amsterdam and Sau Paulo but these things take time;
2. We are working with a number of major brand owners, creating custom content for them, missions, items, locations, even distributing or publishing new content, stories, music and video as achievements and rewards. 
3. We have so many ideas for new gameplay that it would take us another two or three years to build them all if we started today. Our players are giving us new ideas all the time as well. So the focus for now has to be allowing more people to play. Currently you need an Oyster card that has been topped up online, but we hope to work with Transport For London to make it possible for all the different types of Oyster and Travelcard .
And we've got to ask, what team do you play for when you're in London?
Yellow all the way.
Find out more about Chromaroma and register to play here.

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