Looking back at many of the AR games and apps that I’ve used as well as my own feelings and impressions, brings up an interesting insight. In this Part 6 of my “Designing Great AR Games: Tips & Suggestions” guide I talk about how to evoke player’s emotions and enhance the gameplay experience of your AR games by adding human-like characters to your game or human-like behavior to non-human looking 3D models in your game.
I think this topic is very important because, in augmented reality games, the gameplay lacks an atmospheric virtual scene and it isn’t rich in 3D models as much as standard 3D mobile games. The idea is that the virtual will blend with the real-world, so the intent is to create experiences that don’t obscure the vision of the real world. Because of that, it’s very important to make sure that those game characters are designed to be visually compelling.
The things we are discussing here are optional. After testing so many AR apps, I saw that these game design practices are actually quite common, and I think that you should at least be aware of their advantages and then decide whether you want to include them in your next game or not.
Persona-lizing Your AR Game
I found out that many of the excited AR experiences had human-like characters in them. If it was an object, the object was given, to some degree, a personalized human-like look and feel.
It easier to obtain an emotional feedback from the player when you apply some sort of personality or human-like behavior to virtual objects, animals or human characters in your AR experience.
Furthermore, when you personalize some of the game elements in your game, it’s easier to deliver a funny and humorous experience, if that’s what you are after.
Personalizing your game objects can be done by adding human-like characteristics, you can achieve this using graphics, animation, music or voices or all together.
Of course, you can just put a human character or human-like character (e.g. a robot). I actually found that playing accompanied by another character delivered a more engaging social experience. Of course, I wasn’t interacting with a real person, but it didn’t matter, I still felt, in a way, that there was actually someone there with me. I felt like I wasn’t playing alone. A good example of that was in the single-player AR mode in the game Kings of Pool.
By employing his in your game, you can deliver a more cheerful and engaging gameplay experience that evokes various emotions. Of course, t doesn’t have to be something funny, you can deliver a horror experience by personalizing your characters to deliver tension, anticipation, or fear. It depends on the theme of the game and what type of emotions you want to evoke for your particular game.
The bottom line is that whatever type of emotions you want to evoke, you want to make sure that your augmented reality game can produce an emotional feedback. This way you can deliver a more entertaining and compelling gameplay experience.
Let me you a few examples from current AR games and AR apps that either use personalization or use in-game human-like or human character to enhance their app experience.
- Smash Tanks – the tanks designed to look cute, a cute character pops-out of the tank and the tank has a cute attack animation.
- Moodys – an AR which its entire experience is actually built on personalizing real-world objects using cute virtual animated faces. Same goes for Bemo AR camera app.
- Snapchat Lenses – Snapchat heavily relies on animating non-human virtual content and giving it strong personality or using human-like characters in its short-animated lenses. Just yesterday I shot a cute video clip with a cute tortilla dancing on top of a metal plate in a food market in Seoul. Everyone that I show him that clip liked it.
- Kings of Pool – this was a fantastic gameplay experience. I was playing pool with a cute little robot. He had some really cute emotional reactions like getting excited, being sad, etc. I was laughing when I saw those reactions and it was a fantastic experience for me.
- AR Block Party – instead of just playing with boring flat blocks, the block items had eyes that looked at the point where I was aiming my stick at. I could even poke their eyes and see a funny reaction. This was less entertaining without having those big eyes animated sprites.
- HotStepper – a gimmicky app, but this was way more entertaining following this cool 3D animated character to the destination than using Google Maps. Of course, it very much lacked in functionality, but the AR experience was great. I’m quite positive that it wouldn’t achieve that much media attention had it lack that funny virtual human character visuals. You know, even in advertisements, a human face is used to attract people’s attention.
- Pokeminion in Things for Marge Cube – that app was an interactive experience in an app with a large selection of AR experiences for the Merge Cube. I controlled a cube puppet with a funny face and adorable face animations. Just think about it, there wasn’t a lot to it, just a cube with funny facial expressions, but still, it was a memorable experience (check this video out).
- JumpBall.io – a multiplayer AR game. The developer just added a single eye and eyebrow to the balls and it made the game so much more fun and entertaining. Just look at this image and try to imagine the game without the eyes. Wait, let me do it for you, so you won’t need to imagine.
Well, I let you get to feel that difference yourself and be the judge which one you would pick up.
- HAPPY! AR – that was really an entertaining AR app. An adorable and funny little flying donkey. Check out this video.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so I made one; here, take a look.
Take a look at the Curiosity rover 3D model in the top right. Even by just looking at that 3D model in Hello Mars iOS app makes you smile, with its camera head and legs making it look kind of human-looking.
As you can see, giving personality to 3D models in your game can help deliver a more entertaining experience. Many games can benefit from either adding a playmate character to give the feeling or a more sociable gameplay experience for single-player games or making 3D objects in your game come alive by applying human-like look, voice or animation. Even a small change like adding an eye to a ball like used in JumpBall.io can make a great impact.
This makes it easier to promote your game
Aside from those things making the game more entertaining, they work wonderfully for marketing materials like in screenshots and game trailers. A person who browses through the app store looking for AR games and sees those screenshots is more likely to pay attention to your game compared to has your game haven’t employed those type of visuals, animations, and sounds.
This article Chris Sgourakis mentioned a study that suggests with an appropriately targetted photography of a face, advertisers can similarity manipulate our feelings and buying behavior. There is more to it, so I recommend reading it thoroughly. There is tons of other material about this topic, so just Google it.
Also keep in mind that adding human narration to the game, like the positive and negative feedback when you die or eliminate an enemy in Smash Tanks!, this can also enhance the gameplay experience. Aside from giving the player a vocal positive feedback on his success, it makes you feel like others are there with you. At least I felt it quite strongly when I play a single-player AR game all by myself.
To be Continued…
Adding human or human-like characters or gameplay items to your AR game can definitely enhance the gameplay experience and even help your app get more attention.
I can definitely see that many game designers are aware of that and do employ this practice in their augmented reality games and apps.
I hope that this guide inspired you to try out to implement those type of practices in your own AR game. As you can see from my blog, YouTube channel and Instagram page, even I was more triggered to share pictures and videos of AR apps and games that employ those human-like look and feel to 3D assets in their AR app.
Having said all that, it doesn’t mean that you must follow that practice and put an eye and legs on any moving character in your game. Having that thought in mind might help you come up with better ways to make your next AR game more entertaining and compelling.
I hope that you find this guide useful. You can help me by sharing this guide with your friends on social media. We are just getting started and there are plenty of other important things to talk about so don’t forget to subscribe to my social channels so you can stay updated when I publish the next guide. Thanks for reading, can’t wait to play your amazing new AR game!