The Augmented Reality trend seems to be the next big thing in mobile gaming, and game developers have certainly taken this thing seriously. Since Pokemon Go shook the world a few years back, the developers kept competing in all genres and shooting all kinds of ideas at us, like its Christmas. But, making a good Augmented Reality game turned out to be a bit tricky, pretty much the same as any other type of game, and so today there are very few AR titles actually worth the time and effort.
As I mentioned, Pokemon Go was the first AR game for most of the world, but the Augmented Reality concept has been with us for quite some time now, since the 1990s actually. The credit for making the first AR technology is given to Professor Tom Caudell, from Boeing Computer Services, Seattle. Prof. Caudell wanted to develop a way to help the manufacturing process, and as he experimented with some virtual reality tech he came up with the complex software which could overlay the position of things during the building process and predict where to place future materials.
Since this is Boeing we are talking about, two teams were immediately put to work on this tech, and in 1992 the first fully functioning AR system was developed to be used by the US Air Force. It was naturally used for training pilots, and it was called Virtual Fixtures.
The other team wrote a paper referred to as KARMA, or the Knowledge-Based Augmented Reality for Maintenance Assistance, and they became and remained leaders in the field of AR until today.
It was a team of people from Columbia University and they built an HMD with trackers attached.
However, despite these various breakthroughs, the AR tech wasn’t used or possibly even understood, until 1999. It was then that Hirokazu Kato, from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, came up with a unique software called the ARToolKit. It could do video capture and track real-world actions, combining them with interactions from virtual objects, and it could be done with a simple handheld camera or a similar device. This is the basis for AR software today.
And, only a year later, in 2000, the first Augmented Reality video game was introduced by Bruce Thomas, from Wearable Computer Lab. It was called ARQuake, and it allowed players to walk around without using any hand controllers. All it took was a computer backpack and gyroscopes…
Today, this tech has advanced drastically, and so the games that we are offered range from quite impressive and magical, to some which are still in the experimental stages.
Here are some picks recommended for you…
The Machines AR
The basic premise of this game is that two factions of robots battle in a never-ending war. To win, the goal is to take down the enemy’s base within the time limit. The game can be played against the AI, or more interestingly, against real players via the Player vs Player (PvP) mode.
The robots are standard futuristic mechs, tanks, and turrets, but the innovative thing about it is that this is new to the AR world. This is a fun and immersive experience, as the game’s visuals and the overall atmosphere are all incredibly well done, and they will turn any real-world surface into a Sci-Fi war movie.
Kidu: A Relentless Quest
Now, playing an AR game is one thing, but playing a platform in the Augmented Reality environment is what makes it a complete experience. This is probably true for many, and it is why most of the AR games are in this genre.
However, Kidu: A Relentless Quest caught my eye because it looks attractive, but the game’s physics and mechanics also appear to be something more than the usual ‘walk and jump’ platforms.
This game’s amazing visuals are however not the main event, and the focus is actually the shifting perspective feature, which enables you to angle your camera (phone device) to shift your platforms and affect the gameplay directly. It is nothing new but paired with the game’s fun side-scrolling allure and the levels themed by ancient civilizations, it makes for a fun experience.
The gameplay of this game is not anything along the lines of a standard video game everybody’s used to. It is a more an educational experience, and it actually requires you to purchase hard copies of Dinosaur 4D+ cards, which you will view through your phone’s camera, and with the help of the application the dinosaurs will come to life.
The reason I was so delighted with this tech is that although it may lack in a standard gaming aspect of fun, it may come to influence education as we know it. Besides seeing the prehistoric dinosaurs come to life, you can read fun facts about them, view them in skeleton form, and even make them perform some actions. It is actually insanely fun, especially as an educational tool for youngsters.
This game might look like a standard platform AR cutie pie (because it does look delightful), but it is a very intricate puzzler, where your line of sight and perspective are your only controls, as you need to use them to help your hero reach the top of the Sky Island and obtain the artifact.
Now, this game might make you move a bit around the room, or whichever space you choose to play at, but it is a rewarding experience, as with each level the puzzles become more intricate, and your perception of the world, both real and virtual, is really put to the test in this immersive experience.
It is on a rare occasion such as this that an AR video game has a cool storyline, or rather a cool setting. It places the player in the near future, the 2040s, where, as the game states, the humans have ‘…fallen into the hell we have created’. Everything is connected via the web and the first ever AI cloud server, Ethereus, is brought to life. Next, fully automated smart cities spring up, and the entire world’s security is controlled by droids and artificial humanoids, all controlled by Etherius. Naturally, something goes wrong…
You can choose to play on the side of the Humans or the Evolved. The Humans are waging a losing battle for the control of their world and are facing extinction, while the evolved, under the control of Ethereus, are programmed to maintain the security of the planet, even at the cost of human sacrifice.
The best aspect of this game is that its massively multiplayer feature allows it to become a giant PvP laser tag. It is insanely fun and easily playable by anyone, so it deserved its place as the top pick easily.