Chess Board

Don’t let us find a table, Create one!

This is my first article in my “Talking AR User Experience” corner. In this corner, I’ll be sharing usability and other user experience issues that I’ve encountered while using Augmented Reality apps and try to suggest solutions on how to solve them. If you like this topic, please participate in the conversation and don’t forget to share it.It will motivate me to spend more time writing these type of more technical articles.Thank you. OK, let’s begin.

Today I’ve played a little ARKit game. The game itself isn’t important for this discussion, but the way it is designed is. When I’ve started the game, it deployed a 1-meter height table on the floor.  So instead of putting the game on a flat surface on the floor or on a table, it created the table itself for the game’s board to sit on.

So why this is important you ask? Well, try to think about it for a second, why do you actually need the physical table at all, Only for the surface right? The thing is the average house has more floor space than tables. Playing on the floor is not an ideal place to play a game. For example, it’s winter, and I really don’t want to play a card game while sitting on the cold floor.

The table is usually a good place to play physical games because it already has chairs around it, or a couch if this is a living room. However, what happens if someone of your family is using it for other things, or there is a loud music from the TV that can interfere with your experience? There are plenty of other reasons why wouldn’t be able to play where the table is.

Now as I mentioned, when playing an AR game, for example, a floor surface is sufficient, all you need is a chair or place to sit to play the game comfortably. It happened to me just today, a few minutes ago.  The table in the living room was occupied, the TV was running and I could only play in the room where my computer is. I could have gone outside, but it’s slightly raining and very cold outside.

The thing is that this exact app that I’ve downloaded solved this issue. It asks the player to scan the floor and it generates a table and the game’s board on top of it.

I have to tell you that it felt really good playing the game like that. I was sitting comfortably on the office chair and enjoying a game on a table in my tiny room.  I could easily see myself enjoying playing other games like that, not just board or card games.

Having said that, that particular game didn’t offer a very flexible control over the table. I could resize the table, but the entire gameplay area would have resized as well. A few days ago I played a game called Castle Must Be Mine AR that did a perfect job in making sure that the gameplay is playable in almost any place.

CastleMustBeMine AR virtual table
This is not a real table the game’s board is sitting on, but a virtual one. (Image credit: XiaoFeng Wang)

This ARKit game has several controls at the bottom of the screen for resizing the game’s board, rotating it but also enabling the user to increase the board by adding virtual legs to its base, making it look like a table.

This type of design not just makes the game more accessible and solve many of the usability issues that are related to finding a place playing an AR game, it also really makes it more fun to play than playing it straight down flat on the floor. some games require physical movement around the board and getting close to objects in the game. In many games I found myself breaking my back just trying to interact with the game the way the developer planned it to be.

I just want to bring this thing up, mostly for developers who have a plan to develop new AR games. I don’t know if you have built-in analytics in your app, but I’m pretty sure that if that was measured, you would have seen much fewer people stop playing the app (lower bounce rate) using this design approach.