AGC: What is AR and Does it Matter for Games?

That’s a wrap on the Austin Game Conference.  I thought I would write one blog post including all sessions, however my topics just keep going.  So here is AGC post #1 focusing on the opening keynote.


 

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To open the conference, John Hanke, from Niantic, the developers of Pokemon GO and Ingress, took the stage with Chris Plante from Polygon, to discuss the current state and future of Augmented Reality.  The beginning of AR was a letdown.  Augmented Reality started back about four to five years ago with marker tracking, where a person would place an object/marker in view of a camera, and a digital construct would pop out of it.  Hanke asserted that this never took off because it felt gimmicky.  It lacked depth and did not connect with the general consumer.  What is different now with Pokemon Go and the advancements in AR?

The push from tech giants such as Apple and Google have moved the field forward, accelerating the growth of the technology.  Hanke believes the technology we see in phones such as Apple’s ARkit, will be featured in AR devices of the future, such as AR glasses.  As game designers, it is up to us to decide how we use this technology.

Hanke argues that Pokemon GO’s success stems from how they used the medium.  Using both the camera and the players geo location, it encourages players to go outside and interface with the real world, creating an experience that doesn’t otherwise exist.  Players leave their homes and travel to locations for special Pokemon, items, and raids.  Players share this experience with others, connecting through techniques commonly used in MMO games.  Niantic’s games even offer up massive events where millions come from all over the world to share one experience.  Hanke stated that the social aspect of Pokemon GO will remain its most prominent pillar in gameplay features moving forward.  Niantic intends to connect people by connecting the real world and the digital.  Okay, so Pokemon GO was a success, what about your AR game?

Table_Top_One.0.0.PNG.jpegWe are on the bleeding edge of technology, which means there will be experimentation.  Developers will try to set a standard for what an AR experience is, and I believe we have a good example with Pokemon GO.  Ask yourselves, how am I using my medium to best serve the game?  (A question you should ask yourself with any medium) The example of AR tabletop games arose during discussion.  Hanke disliked it, mentioning that it doesn’t use AR to the fullest.  He argued that the experience isn’t enhanced merely by existing in AR.  Designers should ask themselves: How is this game better because of AR?

What makes AR special then?  What should you do with it?  AR is a unique interconnection between the real world and the digital.  Currently at Blue Goji, we’re building a mobile game that blends the two experiences.  We not only want to create relationships and interactions in the real world, that otherwise wouldn’t exist, but also add to ones that do (Unfortunately I can’t say more about my current project).  A tabletop game already exists in other mediums.  How can AR build on and add to the experience, whether it’s an app, game, or any product?  Find ways to incorporate the real world and the people that live in it. Use AR to cultivate the human experience.

What am I Doing?

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It’s a question I have often asked myself through high school, college, and now the “real world”.  It remains a question I can’t shake.  A college degree serves some as a path onward into adult life, manifesting in a career.  No such path laid before me once I received my diploma in economics and music, only more questions.

I moved down to Austin to work at a startup tech company.  During my time here, I’ve started to find more answers.  All my life I’ve been drawn to video games.  Since I was six years old, I’ve played games on my Atomic Purple Game Boy Color.  I grew up with classics such as Super Mario 64, Pokémon Gold Version, and Uncharted.  No matter where I have been in life, videogames have remained an unwavering pillar in my life.

Video games are stories for us to uncover, a social experience to share with friends, and technical feats that capture the imagination.  How is it done?

At Blue Goji, I’ve had the privilege of tapping into this creative process, designing a variety of games with our team.  Sitting in a room with a whiteboard and a bunch of people scratching their heads has been my favorite place to be.  It’s those experiences that I want to have for the rest of my life.

So what am I doing here?  This blog is my experiment into all things video games.  I hope to improve my writing, through exercises in game design and narrative.  I will begin this experiment by reviewing video games, studying the mechanics that make them tick.  There’s no doubt in my mind that this blog will evolve overtime.

To anyone who finds themselves reading this, it would be immensely humbling to receive feedback on these pieces.  This is a learning experience, and there’s no better way to learn then with the help of others.  So here I go.

Adam