multiplayer AR Games

We need more Multiplayer Augmented Reality Games!

One thing that I see missing in many AR games is a social aspect. Of course, I have times that I just want to play a single-player game with myself and without anybody interfering or intervening with my gameplay experience. However, most of the time, I am looking to have a shared gameplay experience.

I Love Multiplayer Games

I remember that among the first multiplayer gameplay experience that really made me fall in love with multiplayer games was playing Battlefield (it wasn’t my first multiplayer game though)

After that I found myself enjoying playing many types of multiplayer games like MMORPG games like Final Fantasy and Destiny, online first-perosn shooters, CCG games like Hearthstone and many more.

One of my best social experience was actually on the PS4, where I got to play Destiny. Destiny was my first game on the PS4. The reason that experience was so impactful is that I was able to meet people within the game itself and then join them in a party chat (voice group chat). Many of those people that I met in the game became friends and we start talking almost on a daily basis.

If you ask me what I am most missing right now when I am here in Seoul, is playing with my friends and chatting with them. I think I met like more than 20 friends. Of course, not all of them stayed, but at least I’ve got like 5 people that I see them as close online buddies.

Social Game Advantages

Social online games have many advantages. Here are a few of them:

  1. Uniting you with people who are enjoying the thing you enjoy doing, and it’s so simple to have that when you play online games with a multiplayer aspect
  2. They can easily evoke emotions as those games, either co-op or competitive, based on interaction with real people. Many of those games require tight cooperation or can sometimes evoke strong ego reactions when dealing with 1-on-1 situations.
  3. Although the social interaction is online, it still gives the player a feeling of not being alone. It was very impactful for me because most of the time I am alone
  4. Having a multiplayer game can help the game spread very fast as players invite their friends to play with them.
  5. Can increase retention as players want to come back to that “online gathering” experience, especially when they know that those other people enjoy doing the same thing they do, and that playing that particular game.
  6. Improve social interaction – although it might not be your goal to practice your social interactions with people online, by interacting with people during the game, especially when playing cooperative games, you can improve your verbal social skills.
  7. Multiplayer games usually have a longer shelf life than single-player games. They provide continuous content updates and provide great replay value as well, especially in competitive gameplay sessions.
  8. Due to the social aspect of MP games, they also encourage people to pay for cosmetic items to make them stand out from the rest or pay for items that can give them some competitive advantage. So developers can also benefit from it on the monetization aspect of things.

I definitely prefer playing online games than single-player games, but I also like games that offer both so I can switch between the two while still playing the same game. This what was so amazing in Destiny, I could go do things on my own when my friends were not online or I just felt playing alone, and when they come back we could do other cooperative and competitive activities like Nightfall, Strikes, Raids, Iron Banner, etc.

Most of the Most Popular Video Games are Multiplayer Games

In fact, the most popular video games are multiplayer games or having multiplayer game modes, like Fortnite, GrThefttheft Auto V, PlayerUnknown”s Battlegrounds, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Seife, Overwatch, League of Legends, Rocket League, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty: WWII, Team Fortress 2, World of Warcraft, and others.

You don’t need to be a genious to understand that multiplayer games are very favorable among gamers, have a long shelf-life (of course it depends on the design of the game) and this is why many of the most popular video games today are multiplayer games.

Multiplayer Games Requires More Development Efforts

From my experience, multiplayer games require more investment than single-player games. A few of the reasons are the need to implement an infrastructure that supports concurrent player gameplay sessions even in real-time. You need to store data of players with their progression in scalable database infrastructure and make sure it’s backed up frequently.

Developers need to make sure that the game is well balanced and the experience works smoothly without significant lags that can ruin the experience. You need to monitor the incoming data to prevent abuse and cheats and make sure that if something like that occurs, you can quickly fix it.

Sometimes the server can suffer from DDoS attacks and this can render the game unplayable for many if not all of the players who are trying to log-in and play. It happened for many companies when they first launched their games or in the holidays. So it’s not like if you are a big company you are protected from this, on the contrary, you might become a target.

There are many other things that I haven’t mention here. They point here is that if multiplayer games were so easy and affordable to implement, we would have seen many MP AR games, but we don’t.

I saw many developers mentioning that they plan to add multiplayer mode if the game is received well by the community. Developers first design a single-player experience and check to see how well it received.

Now, you can probably see the issue here. Maybe that multiplayer AR game could have been that exact experience that gamers were looking for, but you probably won’t get to the point where you can assess it, because your SP experience doesn’t deliver on its promise, whether a multiplayer version of that experience could have been amazing.

Another thing that I’m sure developers worry is how to deal with small player-based until the game becomes popular. Maybe you need to implement bots and invest time in good AI code to replace non-available players. This all adds to the complexity of the game development.

different types of MP Gameplay Experiences

First of all, there are quite a few multiplayer AR games out there, you can clearly see that the majority of those games support local multiplayer gameplay, not an online gameplay.

Local multiplayer is much easier to develop, as the server and client are built into the app. The data is transferred between the apps over Wi-Fi and not over servers.

Some developers use what’s called asynchronous multiplayer experiences. This means that players play each one on his own free time and their result is compared against another player who either in an ongoing play or already finished playing. A good example of that is when playing a wording game where each player creates words on a large board or turn-based games where each player can play his turn whenever he or she finds it convenient.

If you decide on creating a multiplayer AR game, you, therefore, have different options to develop your experience. I personally prefer playing against another player in real-time 1-vs-1, but if you find that the development is either too complicated, you can try to deliver an asynchronous MP gameplay experience instead. Of course, it depends on how you want your game to be played. I’ve been talking with some developers, some sacrificed a different game design in favor of the other just so they can make it in time.

The important thing to know is that there are different ways to deliver online multiplayer gameplay experiences, Knowing your options will allow you to match those with your own limitations and restrictions.

Socialize Your AR Game

My favorite augmented reality game is actually a location-based arcade AR game called HADO. I first played it in Tokyo, Japan.

There are a few reasons why that AR game was so fun and exciting to play:

  • It was a competitive multiplayer gameplay experience
  • It was unlike anything I’ve played before
  • It was a hands-free AR experience (the phone was attached to a head-mounted display)
  • It was a social experience, which allowed me to meet and socialize with new people, even more, exciting when it was with people in a foreign country
  • We’ve spoken the same “game language”. So even though there was some language barrier, we had fun within the game regardless
  • Sports activity is fun

Anyway, I won’t get too much into it. The point is that a few of the main reason that I enjoyed this experience because it was social and had competitive and cooperative aspects

Even if you build a single-player game, try to add some social elements to it. Even a global leaderboard can make a meaningful change. A player who spends time in breaking his high score can show off his achievements online and check out how he stacks up against other players.

Get Inspiration from Current non-AR games

Take any AR game on the App Store and ask yourself this question: “Would I be excited waiting to play this game again tomorrow?”. If the answer is Yes, it’s probably is a good game (for you).

I’ve played hundreds of AR games and do you want to know how many of them I’ve played on the next day after I installed them, maybe five, at most. If you are not considering ones that I needed to play again in order to provide you with a reliable review.

So what happened to all those other AR games? Simple, I either finish them very quickly or those who I haven’t finished weren’t exciting and entertaining enough to keep me coming back for more.

Yesterday I’ve downloaded a non-AR iOS game called Shadowgun Legends. It’s a first-person shooter game that is heavily inspired by Destiny. I start playing that game and I can’t forget that moment when I spawned at the social tower and the avatars of real people moving around the place, it was such a memorable experience. By the way, this game is currently #2 in Role Playing on the App Store with 10.3K ratings and 5-star rating as of the time of writing.

I can’t wait to log-in today and get to level 3 so I can play the competitive online multiplayer.

The only two multiplayer games that I play are The Machines and Truck Stars AR. This is not enough to satisfy my multiplayer gaming needs and I satisfy that need in non-AR games.

Many developers are still on the fence waiting for AR Cloud technologies to emerge so they can deliver great real-time multiplayer experiences.

A few days ago Google announced Cloud Anchors, that allows developers to create cross-platform local multiplayer experiences. I highly recommend checking this out.

Future AR games will utilize AR Cloud in order to help deliver great multiplayer gaming experiences. I think that the next big game will utilize both local gameplay as well as give users who stay at home the ability to take part of the game in a different way. A combination of both remote and local gameplay can be a really exciting experience and promote great replay value no matter where you are.

For example, just imagine being able to control a mighty dragon,, fly and shoot fire g above people who play in a certain location on the map. You would see the players avatar and control the dragon on a Cloud AR-generated 3D map. You can see how damage you have done to them and they those real players can fight your dragon and kill it. I get excited by just writing this 🙂

Playing an outdoor game with many other people can be a really amazing AR social gameplay experience.  I think this would be great when AR/MR glasses become a common thing and the experience would be very seamless as your whole field of view will be used to deliver that new mixed reality.experience.

I think right now, the technology isn’t there to help deliver that exciting outdoor gameplay experience that I crave for such a long time, but it will come, I’m sure about it. Just imagine getting outside, seeing scorch green skies, and people fighting vicious dragons flying over their head and shooting fire.

I visit the App Store every day, looking in anticipation for a new multiplayer AR game or hearing that a previous game that I liked had received an online multiplayer game mode.

When thinking about new ideas for a new AR game, please, consider delivering an online multiplayer gameplay experience. It’s a great opportunity that delivers something that many few try and stand out from the rest.

I wrote this post to inspire developers to come up with great new AR social gameplay experiences, online or local. I don’t have anything against single-player games, but AR is very much missing those MP experiences. Until then, I think I will just go and play HADO any now and then.

If you want me to help you in the game design of your next big multiplayer games, just drop me a line on Twitter, I would be glad to be a part of your team. My dream is to be a part of a team who want to build the great new social AR game.