advantages of AR mobile games

Advantages of AR Games Compared to Standard Mobile Games

I’ve seen some people who wanted to know what is the advantages of playing a game in augmented reality than the playing a regular mobile game without this technology. I know by reading many people’s comments on Twitter that something that maybe this technology isn’t great for gaming, isn’t exciting enough and therefore they don’t understand the need for it in the gaming industry.

Indeed, some AR gaming experiences are underwhelming and make you think about why a developer has decided to use AR in his game in the first place. However, there are some gaming experiences that definitely succeeded in winning people’s hearts because of the AR technology, for example, Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go seems to just come out of the blue. However, by analyzing the game, you can see that it employs some key AR-related components that helped with his success.  In this post, I want to talk about the advantages of AR in gaming and more specifically, what make AR games stand out from standard non-AR mobile games?

I know that there are still many people who are skeptic about this technology being able to deliver on its promise when it comes to gaming. By understanding the medium’s benefit, I think you’ll see that AR has a very strong profounding base on which it will be able to deliver on its promise when it comes to the gaming industry.

Let’s Start with VR

When it comes to VR, the benefits are obvious, as it allows the user to feel inside the virtual world, rather than seeing it from the outside. When the content is covering your entire field of view and your body can be tracked, it allows developers to create games where the user feels an integral part of the gameplay environment. It’s like literally being part of the game itself. It actually more than that, but even without explaining too much, all a person needs to do is just put a VR headset own and let the experience speak for itself.

I remember the first time I experienced VR, it was in Barcelona, Spain. It’s there where I got to try out VR using the Gear VR headset. It was a rollercoaster experience that Samsung set up in Placa de Catalunya square. Once I tried this experience, I didn’t need anyone to explain to me what is VR. In fact, one of the main things that developers struggle with is trying to transfer the excitement of their gaming experience through a regular screen. Some simulated videos helped, but still, until a person try the experience itself, he or she can’t really comprehend what’s VR is all about.

So How AR is Different?

This is less of a problem in Augmented Reality. The reason for this is that as for right now, most of the AR games are experienced through a screen in front of the user, in most cases, a mobile device.

This means that if people see the experience on his screen, for example, in a video, an image or animated GIF, they can get a good idea of how the AR gaming experience would be like.

I said “in most cases”, because when we talk about AR, we usually refer to mobile devices. Having said that, there are a few exceptions. One of the most important ones is that AR can be experienced quite similar to VR, where a user wears AR Glasses or an AR headset. As of the time of writing, you probably might read a lot of Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) glasses, but the thing is that when it comes to games, there aren’t any popular AR glasses that many consumers are familiar with or use. Let me explain.

If you Google the term “AR Glasses“, you probably will come across quite a long selection of AR glasses which are available for consumers, but most of those are either not designed for gaming, are in early development stage, are very expensive.

Microsoft HoloLens has gotten a lot of media coverage and many people are familiar with it. You can even play AR games with it and quite a few games were developed and still being developed for it. However, due to its high entry-price, it was accessible to an only limited amount of people. An article posted on The Verge was posted with a title: “Microsoft says HoloLens sales are in the thousands”.  We are now in June 2018, and the development version of HoloLens costs $3,000 and the Commercial Suite costs $5,000. You get the point.

When trying to explain the benefits of AR technology for gaming in general and multiplayer gaming in particular, we need to also need to give a relevant answer that takes the type of AR device into account, like when using AR glasses, which might have their own advantages compared to experience AR games via a hand-held device.

In the next section, I will talk about the advantage that AR brings to the gaming scene compared to standard mobile games. Some of the advantages mentioned here can only be applied when using AR glasses. I will mention AR glasses where it’s relevant.

AR Advantages

Let’s talk about AR glasses for a moment. Just so you know that I haven’t tried HoloLens yet, many other AR glasses, as of the time of writing. However, I did get a chance to get a good taste how its like to play an AR game with a wearable device when I’ve played HADO in Tokyo, Japan. It was also a multiplayer game, so it definitely gave me a good understanding of how it is like playing a multiplayer AR game using goggles.

I personally waiting to try out Magic Leap One Mixed Reality (MR) headset, but having an experience using an AR headset in HADO gave me a good understanding of what to expect and learn more about AR headset advantages, without trying HoloLens or Magic Leap One.

Now I also want to point out that I played HADO, not with AR glasses like HoloLens. It was actually a headset similar to Gear VR, with a slot for an Android phone. The way it worked is that the phone projected a video stream of the real world onto the screen, and the game inserted virtual content on top of it. Because the device was closed to my eyes, almost my entire field of view was covered by the real world camera stream. So it did feel like I am in the same place but now virtual content was mixed into my view.

Here are some of the advantages that playing AR games on mobile or with AR glasses have over standard non-AR mobile games:

Physical activity – The ability to play a game that requires physical activity, which was invigorating and a healthy physical activity. In fact,

Hands-free gameplay –  I can play a game where my hands are free from holding the device.

Real First-person Experience – compared to mobile, with AR glasses, It felt like a real first-person experience. I was in the game, but not as an avatar, but with my physical body. In fact, many games for AR glasses will be designed so the player is the center of the experience and the experience.

Face-to-face Social Interaction – unlike mobile games where, in most part, I get to socialize either in text chat or voice chat (in some cases video chat), here I get to actually play and socialize with other real players on-location. I can watch their reactions and socialize with them naturally, which by itself improves the multiplayer gaming experience time fold. Furthermore, studies have shown that having a person inspired to go outside and socialize helps improve his social skills and can even help with anxiety and depression. It’s not for nothing that many companies who develop multiplayer platforms mention the phrases “Bringing people together”. or “We want to create a social experience”, this actually one of their leading goals. They know that once people get positive feedback from the experience, they will want to experience it again.

Authentic Human Body Controls – Playing AR game with AR glasses allows body-based gestures that aren’t available in standard mobile games. I mean, you do have the ability to track rotation using the gyroscope, but this is different than what computer vision enables. Just imagine being able to open your hands and move it forward to cast a spell like a wizard or hold your hand in front to create a shield (like in HADO). This body gestures are perfect for many types of games and can deliver a more authentic and exciting gameplay experience because of the resemblance of the human movement with the actual physical action that is used in the game.

A strong feeling of responsibility for your actions -In AR using computer vision, virtual objects can be integrated and real-world physical objects can be manipulated as part of the gameplay experience. Making an action in the real world that leads to an immediate visual effect in the real world leads to a strong feeling of responsibility of what’s happening in the game, more than usual because it’s happening in the real world.

Physicality – the sense of feeling something physical as you interact with a standard non-AR mobile game this is almost non-existent, or at least the options are very much limited. The only thing that comes close is a haptic feedback. With AR glasses, because your hands are free, you are free to use a unique type of controller that enhances that feeling of physicality in the game. For example, holding a physical gun-like controller, interacting with a physical object that is part of the game, etc. I’ve also heard about AR gloves that should create a more precise haptic feedback that can even give you the sensation of touching different materials.

Furthermore, some AR games that I’ve played like Meddling Martians AR, gave me feeling like I was indeed holding a bucket and capturing falling bomb. That experience, although played only with virtual content, felt quite realistic in the sense that the virtual felt at some level, physical.

Better User Experience for Kids – When using AR glasses, you are no longer restricted to holding a device in your hand.   You might find it an issue, but there are kids that for them holding a device in the hand for a long period of time isn’t a fun experience. This has an advantage, for example, in educational games for kids, where you expect the kids to play the game for a relatively long period of time. In an AR game using AR glasses,  the kid might only interact using his hands when needed. Of course, wearing a device might have its own usability issues, but it depends on each device specific design, some will be easier and more comfortable to use than others.

Customized Virtual Body Props – just imagine looking at your hand and watching it comes on fire as you release a fireball, or having Wolverine claws coming out of your hand (that’s a great idea for an AR app! tip me later). That extension of something virtual looking a seamless part of your own body help deliver a unique experience that further enhanced the connection of the player with the in-game activity.

More immersive Gameplay Possibilities – wearing AR glasses means that most of your field of view (FOV) will be used for the game experience. This can by itself allows game developers to come up with some interesting game ideas and gameplay mechanics, like playing a game 360-degrees, make an enemy spawn behind the player, etc.

A Real Three-dimensional Gameplay Experience – with AR glasses, you really get to sense a perception of depth in a game. The fact that you do interact with the game in the real-world space and the virtual content can be placed in the 3D space, helps deliver a real three-dimensional gameplay experience. It’s similar to VR in that way, but in VR the entire scene is all virtual.  Worth mentioning that in VR users still view the experience via a screen but because most of the field of view is covered by the virtual scene, it helps create the illusion of the player actually “being there”, in that 3D space. This is why players get the feeling like they are inside a game, rather than watching it from the outside.

More Immersive Simulation Games – With AR developers can deliver better simulation gameplay experience that helps improve users real-life abilities but without putting the player in any sort of a risky situation.

Vixeo creature in augmented realityGetting a Real Sense of Scale – this is something that you can get in VR and in AR, but you don’t get in a standard handheld mobile game. The way to really comprehend size is if you get to see it in your real or virtual world. I a way that you can asses its size by comparing it to other real/virtual world object or compare to your body size. If you put a huge 16-foot dinosaur in front of you in AR, you can get a real sense of its size. When using a mobile device, you still get to use the device as a window through which you view the virtual content. However, with AR glasses, this experience would be way more realistic and exciting to the user. A huge advantage that AR has that you don’t get when playing a standard game.

Unique On-location Setups – with mobile AR, developers can create an on-location gameplay experience that leverage pre-built gameplay arenas with physical items that help deliver gameplay experience like never before. We can already see it used in on-location arcade AR games like HADO Kart (I got to test it in Tokyo), where you sit on a small physical vehicle and compete against other players with virtual content like coins dropped in the scene in your need to collect them.

Developers can, therefore, designed their own physical environment to perfectly match and combined with the virtual content. We’ve already seen it well received in the VR market and AR is no exception.

More personal and bonding co-op and Competitive Gameplay Experience – with on-location AR games, developers can deliver more unique AR co-op AR gameplay experience that makes the player feel more emotionally involved when employing certain action in a cooperative game. It does depend on the experience, but imagine you and your friend fighting against a big monster in a fantasy-themed battle game in augmented reality. Now imagine your friend’s health getting really low, and you deploy a shield, move in front of him in order to protect him from the dragon’s fire until he manages to replenish his health. This physical protection action has a strong emotional impact on the player, it increases social bonding and let the player feel more responsible for its action. This adds empathy as an important aspect of the gameplay experience, the ability to understand and share the feeling of the other others within the same gameplay experience.

Just imagine a game like HADO Monster Battle, but with the ability to protect your friend when yo usee it damaged. This is why I think that defensive capabilities should be added to HADO Monster Battle.

Now regarding competitive gameplay. Even if a player plays against you from a remote location, when I played a multiplayer game like that, I felt that I didn’t want the other player to win, as I was playing in my own home. I first felt like I actually invited someone to play against me in my own house and second, I felt that I must win because I have a “home” advantage  That feeling of being able to see the other plays action within my own private space had a strong emotional impact that I usually don’t get when playing standard mobile games. It still hard for me to really describe it in words, but that feeling was unique and help me get more excited about playing a competitive multiplayer game in my home.

Summary

These are a few examples of why AR is such a great technology for gaming. Before you even start thinking of ideas for an AR game, it’s important to learn the medium benefits. Learning its advantages will allow you to better leverage the technology to create gaming experiences that better fit the medium and focus on the thing that makes an impact, rather than trying to replicate an experience similar to a regular mobile game.

It’s important to add that many of the benefits that I’ve mentioned here will be further enhanced using AR glasses, some do require AR glasses in order for the player to benefit from them.

All in all, if you followed this article through, you can clearly see that AR brings many benefits to the gaming medium and allow developers to deliver a gameplay experience that some just can’t be reproduced in any other gaming medium.

If you want to understand why an on-location arcade game like HADO is such a success and fun to play? because it was able to deliver an experience that makes use of the advantages that AR technology brings to enhance the gameplay experience in many positive ways as discussed here, and in ways that many people haven’t experienced before.

I hope this article encouraged you to develop your own Augmented Reality or Mixed Reality game after understanding some of its benefits. If you find this article useful, please don’t forget to share it with your friends and peers. Thank you!