Designing Great AR Games: Tips & Suggestions – Part 5

Developers always searching for ways to make great augmented reality games. Some developers have decided to use external accessories in order to deliver unique and exciting AR experiences that help you create unique and exciting new gameplay experiences.

If you haven’t read the previous guides, I recommend doing so: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Marker-based and Markerless AR

This all gets back to the early AR days (it’s not that way back) where many AR apps used physical markers to deploy the virtual content on top or around them (aka Marker Tracking). These markers served as an interface between the virtual content and the real world, allowing the mobile device that generates the AR content to measure the location and orientation of the 3D camera and change the content accordingly.

Having said that, markers are still used today for many modern AR applications. Even Facebook launched AR experiences that are tied to real-world tracking markers. Furthermore, AR markers provide very consistent and accurate tracking, so even if the market is moved, the device can keep tracking and move the content with it in real-time. Even out face, when scanned, can work similar to how markers work to control virtual content. Snapchat’s AR lenses for the front camera is a good example of that.

So even in days where many new AR games are markerless, marker-based AR is still very much a valuable option for developers.

Use Physical Accessories to Enhance the Gameplay Experience

I’ve seen quite a few developers who have seen the advantage of using external accessories, whether using markers and different computer vision technologies to create unique and innovative augmented reality experiences.

One of those companies is Merge, which delivered the Merge Cube. The Merge Cube is a black cube which each of its 6 facets is basically a marker. Merge released an SDK that allows users to create AR experiences where the content can be anchored to any of the markers and it worked with great accuracy and responsiveness. When the user rotates the cube, the content is rotated with it in real time.

Before and after launching Tiltball on the Merge Cube
Just the Merge Cube, and when playing the game – amazing isn’t it?

The result was nothing less than awe-inspiring. You can check out some of the top Merge Cube apps that I’ve tried like Tricky Temple, TH!NGS for Merge Cube, 57° NorthTiltball,  and Dig! just to see what makes Merge Cube apps and games unique and innovative. It’s the first time that really felt, in some apps, the virtual feeling physical.

This is just one example. Other good examples are HADO (ream-based eSport AR game), Mekamon (control real physical robots in AR battles), all those AR guns out there (mainly for laser tag shooting), and more.

Using accessories can help developers introduce innovative augmented reality experiences that can easily stand out from the rest. Of course, they are harder to produce and require more than just coding and using just digital assets like images, visual effects, and 3D models. Those accessories, when designed from the ground up and are not just simple markers, can increase the production costs. However, when I think about great ideas for AR games, I do my best not to limit my creative thinking based on my financial status. If I have a great idea, I might find someone who might want to invest in it.

One good example is using AR to enhance physical card games. I am personally waiting to play Warhammer Age of Sigmar Champions, a physical and digital card game. I was also thrilled when the Kickstarter baked AR card game Genesis achieved its goals and I have a dream of Hearthstone making its way to the AR realm as well, someday.

There are things that physical accessories can do that no digital one can. It might be the feeling of belonging, the enhanced experience of actually being able to feel the virtual, not just see it, aside from the other advantages like accurate placement, fast detection, and control of the virtual content when using markers, especially when placed on a very small area. The ability to create hands-free experiences like we’ve seen in HADO when used with head-mount display and a wrist accessory.

This is just a small list of implementations, and the available possibilities are immense.

AR Accessories on a Budget

However, not every AR game that uses accessories or external markers needs to be expensive. One good example that I’ve already talked about is a card game based on card markers.

Sometimes back I came across a small app called InstaSaber. That little AR app enlightened me and made me understand how computer vision technologies can enhance augmented reality apps and games.

This an ingenious app where users can hold a simple folded A4 paper in his hands and the app makes it looks like they are holding a dual-wield Lightsaber. The experience was original, exciting, fun and interesting on the explanatory level.

This is a good example of how accessory-based AR games can be done with simple and cheap household items.

I did wish that there was an actual game associated with it, but it was just a simple experience. However, you can check this app and inspired to create your own  Beat Saber VR like augmented reality game!

Speaking of lightsabers, you can now use Lenovo’s Star Wards Augmented Reality kit for 1-on-1 local multiplayer lightsaber duels – this is insane!


As you can see, AR accessories can help deliver original, unique and fun AR experiences that can easily stand out from the rest.

I recommend searching for some computer vision technology SDKs and see if you can find ones that can help you develop a game with external physical items.

As you can see, it might not be too expensive to produce and you might be able to do it with very little investment on your side. Even so, open your mind to any type of AR games and see whether you can come up with an idea that uses an AR accessory to deliver that type of amazing and unique AR game.

I hope that this article got you inspired in thinking in different ways of making AR games, rather than just trying to stick with the familiar.

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