Designing Great AR Games: Tips & Suggestions – Part 8

In this blog post, I want to go over some of the greatest AR games that I’ve played and see what, for me, made each one and one of them so fun and great to play. If you are a developer, I think you’ll find this post informative and inspirational. Because AR is still a relatively new technology, for developers, I think It’s a good practice looking at what other developers are doing and get inspired by it.

Some developers have done an amazing job in delivering some amazing gameplay experiences. While some already understood quite well what might work best and what might not in the early beginning, others are still experimenting and trying to come out with unique game ideas that will deliver new and exciting AR gameplay experiences.

When going over different games, try to pinpoint those exact features that made this game work well not just as a game in general, but as an AR game in particular. For example, in some AR games, the feeling of physicality and making good use of the vertical space to encourage good viewing angle of the mixed reality experience.

Employing the right practices is essential to deliver a compelling AR gameplay experience, and make it stand out from standard mobile games and other AR games that were poorly designed.

I’ve tried many games that were just ported from standard non-AR mobile games only to find out bad that experience was. Most of the best gameplay experiences came from games that were designed from the ground up for AR, rather than ones that ported or implemented a complimentary AR mode based on the original game.

In this post, I will do just that, analyze some of those top AR games. Obviously, I am not going to do that for all games, but for one of my favorite and highly-rated ones. Furthermore, this will be just a quick analysis, although when you analyze a game yourself or read a review about it, make a short list of its unique AR-related features and write what features made it play and feel great as an AR game.

Later, when you reach to the point where you start thinking of ideas for a new augmented reality game or designing your game, you can go over those key indicators and see how you can incorporate those in your game in one way or another.

I’ve been providing consulting for some game development companies and took part in helping them deliver a more compelling gameplay experience. Some of those practices came from my own thousands of hours of experience of playing AR games, while other based on academic reading and learning from other people’s experiences.

As a content writer and a reviewer, I spent a lot of time playing augmented reality games. This also gave me the ability to understand what type of features might work best to different game genres. However, there are some important key features that seem to work well for a majority of AR games, while other might work only for a particular genre.

In this post, I’ll go over some of my favorite games an highlight some of the key components that make them work well as AR games. Although this list is short, it will give you some of the understandings of things that work well for certain AR games, but mostly it will encourage you do do your own in-depth analysis on currently released games similar to ones you plan to develop and gain important insight of features that might work best for your game as well.

Analyzing the Top AR Games

Meddling Martians AR – a Great feeling of physicality (the virtual feeling like a real physical entity due to use of gravity-defying objects),  room-scale experience (great use the room’s 3D space).

Meddling Martians AR game screenshot

Defend It! AR – one of the first to beautifully implement ARKIt’s vertical surface detection to deliver unique visual effect of robots coming out from walls.

Hole in the wall, Defend It AR game screenshot

Tibb AR – in this case, quantity added quality. The game draws its great experience by covering the floor around you with lots of colorful virtual eggs and delivers a great 360-degree gameplay experience. You feel that the virtual took a significant chunk of the AR experience and I really enjoyed it partly because of that.

Slow motion effect in Tibbi AR game

Lightstream Racer – An AR game that delivered an immersive car racing experience using large room-scale level design and immersive 360° gameplay game mode. The game had elegant and sleek looking track that spread across the room with various road elevations and gaps to make the car appear flying in mid-air between tracks. That mid-air flight, as insignificant as it might look at first sight, was a very important element that actually made that important visual correlation that linked the virtual and the real world in an immersive way. Had the car was only on the track, the mixed reality experience would have seemed less exciting. The car itself doesn’t touch the floor and only moves on a virtual track so that mid-air move helped create that feeling that the car is part of reality, especially when you view it from different angles..

Playing Lightstream Racer AR game in the metro, Seoul

Nightenfell: Shared AR – a visually impressive AR game that uses a darkening filter to highlight the special glowing colorful visual effects in the game. This helped create a fanciful atmosphere like I’ve never experienced before.  The game also makes excellent use of verticality to make the experience fit small spaces yet still make use of the available space to deliver a challenging gameplay experience that looks like it is feeling up the room’s space.

Truck Stars AR – An AR game that proved that that small tabletop AR games can be really fun and exciting in AR. It felt like plastic toys came to life on the table of my living room. Seeing other players playing against you in multiplayer is a fun social experience that seems to be very much missing in AR games these days. I remember the first time I’ve played a multiplayer AR game. It’s like the other players are with you in your home, although they are not physically there. Just imagine something in your room start moving without you moving it, that how weird it felt. Had I to develop an AR game, I would definitely focus on delivering a unique multiplayer AR experience and there is a big empty room for those type of games. I do however understand that many developers are waiting on the fence for AR Cloud solutions so they can deliver on that promise.

AR Block Tower – again, I enjoy watching the virtual takes a plentiful of space in my room and being a significant part of the AR gameplay experience. The beautiful colors added a nice energetic and lively vibe to the viewable scene, coloring the living room in bright vibrant colors. The game takes good use of the vertical space which encourages the user to view the game not just from a downward angle, thus delivering a more exciting view of the mixed reality scene.

AR Block Tower mobile game for kids

AMON – one of my favorite AR games. Simple, yet employ some of the best practices of that showcase the unique components that make an AR game different than other games. This includes delivering an exciting floating object presentation, great use of physical perspective observation to deliver an immersive and novel optical illusion puzzle AR experience. The also game takes good use of the room’s area and volume space.

Sculpture puzzle pieces scattered around the room

Orbu – one of the most beautiful AR games, in my opinion, Featuring high-quality graphics and sleek level design that elegantly and seamlessly mixed with any real-world surface you place the game on. This what for felt like a new and fresh design, helped deliver a mesmerizing and relaxing viewing experience.

Orbu ARKit game screenshotpowARDup – a unique and fresh AR gameplay experience that astound me with its novel and gorgeous bullet-time feature, allowing me to observe a beautiful “paused” scene from different angles. The sleek and smooth on-surface movement and game controls help deliver a unique remote-controlled hovering car driving experience like no other. The game uses unique and artistic particle-effects based visual effects that made its bullet-time “pause” very exciting to observe in AR.

powARdup replay mode paused

GhosthuntAR: Survival – A game that delivered one of the most amazing screenshots I’ve ever taken in an AR game. The game features vibrant and splashy visual effects that felt like a true virtual invasion. One of the first AR games that really brought the virtual in full force into my world. The virtual “force” felt strong and very much took over the real-world experience in some points. I was in the same place but felt like I am in another parallel world.  The game features satisfying and perfectly assigned sound effects that further enhanced the shooting gameplay experience and horror atmospheric feeling.

PuzzlAR – a beautifully crafted puzzle augmented reality game that made the puzzle-solving experience more physical and therefore more satisfying than any other puzzler that I’ve played. Although I didn’t use my hands to grab the puzzle pieces, this felt as close is could be to that experience. I first thought that it might be too complicated having such 3D controls in AR, but with guiding visual cues and precise controls, the experience felt like second nature.

Smash Tanks! – one of my favorite ARKit games which I’ve played hours over hours. The game area blends beautifully with any environment due to the transparent surface. The game employs humoristic animations, exciting voice narration and destructible environment which is so much fun to see in AR. The straight on-screen character’s touch interaction make you feel connected with the virtual character you control in the game, which feels so much better than using on-screen controls. The game can be played literally everywhere, even in very small spaces.

InstaSaber – not a game but could have been an amazing game. This app uses computer vision tech to deliver a great physical AR experience of the player holding and controlling a lightsaber in his hands using just a rolled piece of paper. A fantastic app that makes us think outside the box and encourages us to use computer vision technologies as part of our AR games to deliver unique AR gameplay experiences.

Summary

Going over and analyzing the current most compelling augmented reality games can give us some insight on what things work best for AR and what things are not. Reading game reviews such ones you can find here on ARCritic.com can help you learn about the cons and pros of different game design approaches and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes and learn how to implement different features the right way.

This is just a short list, and I personally recommend going over many of the other reviews that I’ve written to get a better understanding what can work best for a particular genre when developing a game for augmented reality. I made this article to make it easier to identify the key points, but I do recommend spending more time going over the full review of a particular game that might play similar to your game and better, try to play a certain game yourself to get the feel of it.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my social channels so you get notified when I post a new guide. There is a lot to talk about and this is just the beginning, so stay tuned for more.

If you haven’t read my previous guides, here are the links to all of them:

Designing Great AR Games: Tips & Suggestions – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.