Augmented Reality Level Design
Level design takes on whole new aspects when you apply it to augmented reality(AR) games. Often level design principles are overlooked when creating AR games. This leads to games that don’t really utilize the technology to its fullest. Level design in an AR game is inarguably fundamentally different from that of a traditional game. This does not mean the concept should be abandoned. The future will be paved by those who utilize this technology to its fullest.
The average game designer might not see level design as a major concern for an augmented reality game. Essentially, with augmented reality you are using the actual world around you as the level. A developer might think of just their digital play space as the level they have to design. However, it is important to not take for granted the idea of augmented reality. Level design shouldn’t just think of the digital space with the physical space as background. It should find ways to make things in both the physical and digital space relate back to the game. One should consider how the game can interact with the environment, as well as how the environment could affect the game. Without this consideration, you end up with games that fall short in many ways.
Augmented reality is a powerful and unique technology. The fact that it is so new in the marketplace inevitably leads to underutilization of this amazing advancement. Even the most popular games in the genre don’t even seem to come close to making full use of the possibilities. Pokémon GO is the perfect example of one such title. It may be the most well-known augmented reality game yet released. It is hugely successful with a wide audience, but the actual augmented reality aspects of the game are extremely limited. It only comes in two major ways. The first is when you actually try to catch a Pokémon and the game uses your camera to place the Pokémon in the room for you to find. However, most players of the game will quickly tell you that your best option is to shut off the AR component, making the Pokémon appear in the middle of the screen every time, and making the game significantly easier. Why incorporate the surrounding environment if there is incentive to just turn off the feature to make the game easier? This is definitely a waste of otherwise fascinating technology.
The second application of AR in Pokémon GO creates a whole other problem – a problem that Harry Potter: Wizards Unite suffers from as well. This is the location-based aspect of the game. Something that is ranted and raved about by everyone who plays this game – at least, for the first month or two. Then it becomes a huge deterrent to future gameplay and causes users to flee the game. Sure, it’s neat that if I go near the local power station more electric Pokémon show up, but do I really want to go make that trek or hang out at the power station? The amount of gameplay one can experience conveniently is extremely limited, and the gate to more is worse than a monetary cost, or even being able to unlock something through earning an in-game currency. The gate is time and effort, something we have precious little of to be wasting it wandering around looking for Pokémon or dementors. So, what should game companies be doing?
The answer to that isn’t simple by any means. I can’t hand you the golden ticket of perfect AR design. What I can say is that this space is fundamentally new and different from any other type of game space. Exploring augmented reality and finding the best ways to utilize its vast potential is up to all the amazing developers in the world. They will find countless new and unique ways to capitalize on AR, to integrate the real and the digital to make a truly compelling space. One such company on the forefront of implanting AR in its games is Playper.
Dedicated to finding new ways for kids to play, Playper is creating AR powered products that incorporate paper toys and the physical world in great ways. Their current project, Kung Fu Boogie, takes a physical 3D paper folded toy and brings it to life in a fun AR dance battle game for kids. Start in the physical world by folding together your character and creating a physical toy to play with. Then move into the digital world and bring them to life to dance their hearts out! Kids love being able to move between physical and digital play using the same characters and bridging any gaps with their own imagination. In the game, you have a dance floor that appears from any surface you choose, and your own paper creations come to life as your playable character. This near seamless integration of physical and digital play shows off some of the potential AR games have when you keep the tech in mind while designing levels. It sure makes me want to Battle to the Boogie!