Celebrating local AR game pioneers
It’s no secret that Australia and New Zealand have more than their fair share of awesome game development talent, and we’re proud of it! With the launch of the augmented reality platform ARKit last year, and now ARKit 2 on iOS 12, some local game developers have outdone themselves with brilliant use of the technology in their gameplay.
Here are a few of our favourites, with thoughts from their developers on the process of creating with ARKit.
Yuma Soerianto: Let’s Stack AR!
Yuma Soerianto from Melbourne may only be 11 years old, but he has been heralded an iOS game developer whizz-kid thanks to his passion, dedication and skill in creating games for the App Store. He explains how he got into using ARKit:
“I had already made a game called Let's Stack in 2D. When I found out about ARKit at the WWDC conference last year, I thought the game would be good in AR.
It turned out that using ARKit was the easiest part of making Let's Stack AR! The framework made it easy to implement AR without too much code. The hardest part was learning 3D in SceneKit because I had no experience making games or apps in 3D.
However, at the beginning, I was faced with a problem unique to AR. As the players placed the blocks, the tower got higher and higher. Soon enough it was impossible to play the game because we couldn’t see the top of the tower! I finally had the idea of moving the tower down as we play, and keeping the tower at a comfortable height. I learned that, in AR, we have to consider the players’ real environment too.
My advice to other developers considering using AR, is that AR works best if you can integrate with the environment. In my game, you can actually see the tower in real life and get a sense of accomplishment knowing your tower is taller than the Sydney Opera House!”
Let's Stack AR!
Build the highest tower in AR
PlaySide Studios: AR Robot
TJ Munusamy from PlaySide Studios in Melbourne, gives us the low-down on developing the awesome AR Robot game:
“A robot battling game was something we’d conceptualised quite some time ago. This idea was put aside for a while, but resurfaced when we realised it would be a fantastic way to demonstrate what we can do with ARKit!
ARKit was very straightforward. It’s utilisation in AR Robot was not completely new to us since we’d developed our debut AR title last year, AR Dragon. However the added benefits of ARKit 2 meant we could take the technologies utilisation to the next level, and bring a unique play style. This was our first time making a multiplayer game in AR.
Quality is of the utmost importance to us here at PlaySide. We want our AR experiences to be absolutely seamless to the user. We spent lots of time conceptualising different ways to train the user in how to use our particular AR experience. In AR Robot, the challenge was how we communicated the steps required, in the simplest way, for the user to get the best play experience.
The best advice I could give other developers, would be to really think about unique experiences that you could provide using AR to your audience. AR works like magic when you’re able to provide a unique method of interactivity with your device that would not work quite as well otherwise.
We think the technology complements our game idea rather well! The game has been a hit; we’ve been complimented on our work a lot and it’s great to receive emails from players about how much they love the game.”
Build! Battle! Upgrade!
Halfbrick: Shadows Remain
AR thriller Shadows Remain, is a genuinely spooky slice of AR horror which uses the immersion of the medium to its fullest. Here, Ali Mohebali, the project manager on the development of the game, shares how the team at Halfbrick in Brisbane brought the game to terrifying reality:
“The genesis of the game came about after Apple’s announcement of ARKit in 2017, which tied in nicely with Halfbrick’s upcoming Game Jam. Because moving a camera around AR space is fairly intuitive, we had the idea to use 3D space in a hidden object game. AR also allowed for innovative perspective puzzles, which is one of the most important features of the game.
Implementing ARKit was simple, and with all the provided tools in hand, we got the game prototype up and running within a week during the Game Jam. Most of the time during development was spent on designing and implementing the gameplay itself.
As the concept of an AR game was fairly new to mobile players at the time, our biggest challenge was familiarising and on-boarding users without boring and lengthy instructions.
With AR, an immersive experience is of utter importance. So my advice to other developers would be to take full advantage of the intuitive 3D space navigation of AR technology, while keeping the controls as simple as possible. Also, ARKit enabled devices are pretty powerful devices, so make sure to exploit the opportunity to provide high quality visuals and sounds to enhance the player’s immersive experience even further.”
Shadows Remain: AR Thriller
Paranormal Puzzle Adventure
Turbo Chilli: Ghosts 'n Guns - AR
Turbo Chilli, the Sydney studio behind Ghosts 'n Guns - AR, have created a seriously challenging yet fun AR experience with this game that, despite the name, is scaredy-cat friendly – the ghosts are more cute than scary. Ben Hazzard, Director at Turbo Chilli, lets us in on their development process:
“We designed Ghosts 'n Guns - AR from the ground up specifically for AR, as we felt a lot of the pre-existing titles coming out with AR modes were not always suited to the technology. Our goal was to bring our passion for classic arcade gaming to AR in a way that felt natural and immersive to players.
ARKit was very quick to get up and running and we had our first prototype playable within a day. The tutorials provided the perfect base to build upon and the AR-supported devices behave very consistently.
The big learning curve for us was figuring out what types of gameplay were a natural fit for AR. We tried a number of different game prototypes before deciding on Ghosts 'n Guns. The main issues we came across were confusing controls, complex calibration steps and unnatural motion, which detracted from the player’s immersive experience.
Our advice to other developers would be: don’t just bolt AR into an existing game or app unless it is a natural fit. Test the idea on real players early and look for signs of them reacting instinctively and without inhibition. A quality AR experience should be engaging enough that players no longer care who is watching or how extroverted they might appear.”