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Old 05-03-2010, 03:56 AM   #1
ddelisle
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Default Augmented Reality Game Design

This is a post from my blog. I offer some theories on the future of Augmented Reality and the kinds of games we can (hope) to expect. Feedback is welcome.

Well I’m going to put on my Nostradamus hat and lay out some predictions so I can earn some serious I told you so cred. My predictions will involve various game designs that are free to whoever wants to run with it. Whoever dares to- I salute you.

Before I begin: What is Augmented Reality? It started some 10 years ago in Football Game broadcasts, where the 'First Down' line was superimposed over the live feed, and remained fixed despite camera movement.

It has now migrated to everyday commercial applications, typically with the use of a webcam. The first user-friendly application of this type of tech was a year (or two?) ago, a viral tie-in for one of the Transformers films that allowed users to see themselves wearing an Optimus Prime mask in real-time over their mugs. It was interesting, but gimmicky. Besides dorky cosplay, AR allowed people to watch concerts, or view intricate CG models.

Yeah there is a lot of cool stuff…people can take virtual tours and see cool stuff, but so far AR hasn’t had any real gaming applications. Until now!



With portable devices like the Nintendo DSi and the upcoming iPhone 4 (Thanks Gizmodo!) wielding 2 cameras, there is some serious potential for gaming. Here is a list of possible game scenarios that would utilize Augmented Reality.

1. A game based on 80′s film They Live, where you go around trying to find the Aliens among us. The movie had a device where the protagonist was able to see ‘cloaked’ Aliens with his special sunglasses. In a game like this, your mobile device would be the glasses, and random strangers would appear as Aliens. When one appears, you take him out– virtually.

2. Using Google Maps for reference, and a GPS to boot, you could go on a sword quest in a virtual environment that overlays your surroundings. Would certainly make those loot-seeking WoW players more active. You wouldn’t need to be constantly playing, just checking your progress and then engaging where you see fit.

3. Pokemon Snap-style game, where you go around your neighbourhood park, seeking elusive Pokemon. When they pop into frame, you have to snap the pic. This would be much more fun than the on-rails original.

4. Walkabout FPS games. Imagine playing Alien, where you are depending on a beeping radar to detect incoming attacks. When you are under siege, you are literally flailing about, pointing your mobile in all directions, firing at the beasts. You could also seek out Ghosts as a Ghostbuster (Or a Mansioned Luigi. yes I made that word up).

5. Procedural Games. Survey a crime scene as a CSI-er or Detective. The more thorough you are, the more evidence you compile. Some clues will be difficult to find. You decide when evidence gathering is complete, and see where the chips fall. Arrest, or Acquittal?

6. Face Recognition Tag. A multiplayer game amongst a group of friends that have been analyzed by the face recognition software. Someone is “it” and has an identifying mark, like a geeky mask or outfit. If you are “it”, you have to project the tag onto another participant. Power-ups can be used to ward off tags or to prevent them entirely. You lose points for wearing the tag too long, so check often to see if you are “it”.

7. Virtual Farmville: Now you can assign your carpet or rug as your farm acreage. You can arrange your farm as you see fit, and enjoy seeing it from all angles.

8. Model City/Train Buff: Like the Farmville app above, but you can create virtual cities and model train tracks that would envelope your floors throughout your place. You could even go all Godzilla and stomp on your creations.

9. Virtual RC Car: Wouldn’t it be fun to control an RC Car like you were 5-years old again? Just point your mobile at some asphalt and let the spin-outs commence.

10. Virtual Pets: The Tomigotchi craze revisited.

Of course, all this is dependent on advances that allow Users to experience Augmented Reality on the fly with a roaming mobile device, as opposed to a fixed, stationary webcam. The amount of processing power needed to keep the virtual items in sync with the reality the camera is seeing in real-time would be astronomical. Also, the ability to quickly map environments, objects, and people would also be a factor. I expect the first few apps would have very simple graphics, almost blocky/8-bit in nature.
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Old 05-03-2010, 04:45 AM   #2
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Thank you for bringing AR gaming to my attention. I hadn't thought much about it. We gotta stay on our toes.
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Old 05-04-2010, 08:20 AM   #3
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Just came accross this recently:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Akh8SyqMjnA
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Old 05-04-2010, 09:38 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Gear3215 View Post
Just came accross this recently:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Akh8SyqMjnA
That's a little like what I was describing, but they just used your cam feed as a background with the game being a basic overlay It's not really interacting with the environment, and I'm not sure the enemies are actually responding to the direction you are holding the phone...maybe you have to input your turns in the game as well to cover the full 360 degree radius shown in the radar. Hard to say, but it's on the right track.
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Old 05-04-2010, 11:46 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ddelisle View Post
That's a little like what I was describing, but they just used your cam feed as a background with the game being a basic overlay It's not really interacting with the environment, and I'm not sure the enemies are actually responding to the direction you are holding the phone...maybe you have to input your turns in the game as well to cover the full 360 degree radius shown in the radar. Hard to say, but it's on the right track.
ARhrrrr.

A tech demo, but a game nonetheless. Yesterday's game concept of my personal challenge makes use of augmented reality.

Oh, that reminds me...
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Old 05-04-2010, 05:19 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isaak View Post
ARhrrrr.

A tech demo, but a game nonetheless. Yesterday's game concept of my personal challenge makes use of augmented reality.

Oh, that reminds me...
Thanks Isaak, THAT is what I had in mind, especially for the Farmville/SimCity scenarios I described. You are basically overlooking a small town/city.

Awesome stuff. The graphics are almost Nintendo 64ish/ PSone quality, slightly better than I anticipated for something like this.
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Old 05-05-2010, 08:16 AM   #7
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That video is cool, although I did chuckle when they said they were working within the constraints of mobile phones. Do many modern phones support shaders?
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Old 05-05-2010, 11:23 AM   #8
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That video is cool, although I did chuckle when they said they were working within the constraints of mobile phones. Do many modern phones support shaders?
I think the constraints they meant was the capture frame rate and processing speed of the mobile device. I believe the software engine used for the game would process the shaders and materials.
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Old 05-05-2010, 12:44 PM   #9
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What would make ARhrrrr even more interesting would be multiplayer.

4 vs 4 zombie shooter mayhem, with players around a large 'table', screaming at each other for their untimely demise.

I can see the return of arcades where people group around large 'tables' of sorts, with a screen showing the game in progress for the audience.
You'd only need to bring your own smartphone and load AR software provided by the arcade.

Throw in those large, multi-touch screens demoed by Microsoft with some awesome games loaded on it, that could very well be something.

Also, aren't Lasertag games AR games... at least of some sort?
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Old 05-05-2010, 01:27 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isaak View Post

Also, aren't Lasertag games AR games... at least of some sort?
The simple explanation of AR is taking a real live feed and overlaying it with graphics that sync.

Like that first down line in football...it is digitally placed on the field underneath the players. The camera could move or change angle but the line remains. Players can run over the line too.

Lazertag I would qualify as a real-life activity that uses sensors. I love Lazertag.
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