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Talofa Games has launched Run Legends, a mobile game that turns walking or running into a game as you engage in co-op fitness battles with friends around the world.
Run Legends is available today on the Apple App Store as well as the Google Play Store, said Jenny Xu, founder and CEO of Cupertino, California-based Talofa, in an interview with GamesBeat.
Run Legends is a movement game where you unleash attacks and special skills as you walk or run. You can use these skills to defeat the villainous Sappers who are draining humanity’s energy. Level up your gear, make new friends, and learn more about the world of Run Legends as you level up your fitness in real life.
“Fitness and gaming do not need to be mutually exclusive, and we are extremely proud to build a game that enables players to improve their health while having fun and playing with friends. We look forward to working with our players to scale this new social fitness experience and create a happier, healthier world,” said Xu.
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But what sets Run Legends apart from other fitness games is that it lets you play in real-time alongside your friends in a co-op mode, no matter where they are in the world. Whether running around your neighborhood or walking on the beach, you can control your character’s movements and unleash powerful attacks by moving faster or slower.
“The goal of the game is to run and walk outside to fight Sappers, which are enemies that represent real-life anxieties,” Xu said. “So players are building mental and physical health as they upgrade their gear. They can make friends as it’s a cooperative game, but they can also learn more about the players’ character backstories.”
You can play with different character classes to take on different types of enemies. Each session takes around five minutes to 15 minutes to play.
“It’s short, but meant to get people moving,” Xu said. “You can run or walk to play. What we do differently is that we set the game’s difficulty level to where the player calibrates it. So you can actually play no matter what skill level you’re at in the real world. Somebody who is an Olympic athlete can play with somebody who just got off the couch, and not feel any worse about their performance, because what we reward is consistency rather than physical ability.”
Run Legends takes a unique approach to promoting mental and physical health by using a storyline that involves battling and overcoming symbolic representations of anxiety and fear, like the Critical Grandma.
During the open beta period of the game, friendships were forged between players from South Korea, Ukraine, the U.S., and dozens of other countries, who regularly worked together to defeat enemies by joining the same missions, Xu said.
The most active players have logged hundreds of miles by playing an early version of the game. That’s easy to do when the virtual announcer, the Operator, is calling out your team’s actions and accomplishments, to keep you fully immersed in the midst of epic battles.
“We’ve already had players tell us about how they’ve lost five pounds, found slivers of their former selves, and gotten more quality time with their dogs through Run Legends,” said Xu.
The game has unlockable missions and rewards, events with leaderboards and prizes, invite codes to send to your teammates for co-op battles, collectible resources to craft into new gear that support a variety of movement styles and tactical roles and customizable pace settings so players of any skill level can be the MVP of their team.
You can buy virtual currency in the game and in the future there will be battle passes, cosmetics, and powerups. But for now, the company is going to try to get as many users as it can. Xu said the game is targeting GenZ audiences as well as anyone who wants to exercise.
A long run
I first met Xu when her team won the grand prize for the Niantic Beyond Reality Contest in 2019. For that contest, Xu and her family created Run to My Heart. Then going by JC Soft, the company created a social running game built on the Niantic Real World Platform, where you had to run in the real world to certain locations in order achieve goals in the game.
“This is the spiritual evolution of that game where we won the contest,” Xu said. “It has come a long way.”
As a concept, the game has been in the works for four years. In the middle of that time, Xu decided to reboot the whole project and start again from scratch.
“We had this whole game story world that had to just be thrown away,” Xu said. “That was probably the hardest reset. We had to cut the team and bring in new people. So it was a really hard time.”
When the company pivoted, it shifted to using the Unity game engine.
About the same time in 2021, the company shifted from being a bootstrapped studio to raising VC funding. The company has a team of seven people now, as well as six contractors.
“That also changed how we thought about it. We now want to make this into like a much larger thing and with a much larger team,” Xu said.
The company also went through Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp, and that made it easy to onboard the game onto the iOS platform.
The Talofa team has been built up with game veterans from Riot Games, EA, and thatgamecompany. Xu has created mobile games with over 10 million downloads. The company hasn’t announced how much money it has raised.
“This has just been a dream project for me coming from making indie games for over 13 years. I started when I was 12. I was a runner and a collegiate athlete,” Xu said. “The combination of these two things and my interest in mental health all manifested into this one product. And I think that the authenticity of that love is one of the more special things that our players have picked up on. It’s like, wow, the devs really love this game. And I think that’s what’s going to help us at launch.”
A new audio feature
Apple welcomed Xu’s company into the camp because it was using audio in a novel way.
“They liked the fact that we use spatial audio, which is a relatively new feature,” she said. “When you have Air Pods, and you turn your head, they allow you to actually move within the virtual space. The game is uses interactive audio and immersive audio. And we rely on that because we don’t want somebody to look at their screen while running outside. They’re actually just relying on audio experience. And when they turn their head, they’ll hear like the enemy in front of them. And then they turn and now it’s on their left side of their head. So that like real world, immersiveness is also really important to like the experience of the game, and making it feel very different from what’s out there.”
The company has been in testing in the U.S., Ukraine, Russia, and South Korea. The company found users through Discord and Twitter, and more than 20,000 people have played it. On Google, more than 25,000 people preregistered to play.
“The community is super interested in it,” she said.