For quite some time now I have been fiddling with the idea of layers of realities facilitated by your mobile phone, games which uses the mobile phone to tell stories and engage the players based on their surroundings and their proximity to other players. Taking alternate reality games to the next level.
The first exploration was through a talk called; ARG + AR = The physical environment and the reality as a game platform, held back in january 2011. The talk exlores how Alternate Reality Games could expand and be more accessible utilizing Richard Bartle’s four player types and the phone.
Layers of realities – Or how we will live in parallel worlds facilitated by our smartphones
“For many people around the world, “first life” reality has few charms, and, even for those more fortunate, active participation in a virtual world is more intellectually stimulating than the life of a couch potato slumped in idle thrall to Big Brother.”
- Richard Dawkins
There is so much fun stuff going on in the gaming industry at the moment. I’m in love with Xbox Kinect and the amazing technology, the low price and how hackable it is. Nintedo’s 3ds is also pretty cool stuff. But what amazes me the most is the smartphones. These small computers packed with so much state of the art technology and power. It enables a totally different set of gaming. Gaming in the streets. Gaming beyond your flat screen television or your computer. Gaming where you are the main character and your surroundings are the gaming platform.
I have envisioned the next big MMORPG and it will take place in your neighborhood where all the kids will run around flicking their phones like swords and wands battling each other out in the streets. They will run into the woods and battle orcs and dragons while questing and looking for treasure. This is my mad look at games in the world of tomorrow.
The untapped potential of games and emerging technologies
I don’t care about technology, but I care about possibilities. So I will point out some of the emerging technologies that enable these new possibilities for games. Taking a look at Gartner’s 2011 Hype Cycle, augmented reality is almost at the peek of its hype and it will probably hit mainstream adoption in 5 to 10 years. Augmented reality enables us to layer graphics on top of the real world and manipulate our perception of it. It’s still in the experimental state, but we have definitely seen some cool games and services utilizing the technology.
But there is not just augmented reality that is enables these kinds of games I soon will elaborate and envision here. When 4G hits the mainstream in 5 – 10 years we will be able to stream high definition video and graphics to our mobile phones on the go. That will enable us to feed some crazy realistic graphics to your phone and make your augmented reality even more real. While graphics is not crucial for a stellar game experience it sure will make it more interesting and enrich the game experience. The most crucial technology for location-based games played on your mobile is of course GPS, which is practically standard in every mobile sold today.
That pretty much wraps up the technology part. Let’s get to the fun stuff; let’s envision a game utilizing your mobile phone (or some glasses, lenses or whatever else) to take you into a parallel universe.
The game world
Okay, imagine you’re walking home from work and suddenly your phone nudges you. There is something happening just around the corner and your friend is also hanging out there. What is going on? Is there a battle against an enemy guild, an epic creature fight or is he just grinding to get some extra gold. Let’s take a look.
At the same time, your friend receives a message on his phone telling him that you are whitin his proximity. He would love to hook up and slay some monsters together. He sends you a message inviting you to team up.
You receive the invitation and accept the invite. You have this pretty hard quest that you could sure need some help to finish. Shortly after, you are booth deep inside the parallel universe enabled by your mobile phones.
Your quest takes place a little out of town in the forest. So you and your friend heads for the forest. The forest is a dark place. Tons of evil just waiting to finish you off. You’d better prepare your sword and spells. You’d better be rested.
Quest – The Forest Dweller
Approaching the forest you and your friend both look through your smartphones and eagerly spot a bunch of orcs hanging out in between the trees. Hoping to get some random kills and more experience points and hopefully some nice item drops and not to forget some extra gold, the orcs must die. You head for the orcs. Your friend is a warrior and serves as the tank, which means he absorbs most of the damage and holds off the enemies while you, who are a wizard, can get some nice spells in to do massive damage to the foes. Everything goes smoothly as you both go into attacking mode armed with sword and wand, which in reality are your phones. Your warrior friend flings his sword (phone) while getting into an attacking stance by screaming his well-known battle howls (recognized by the phone’s microphone). You, on the other hand, move your wand (phone) in specific, almost choreographed manners while mumbling your spells. The battle is fairly easy as almost every battle at the start of the forest is. Soon enough when you and your friend gets deeper into the forest the real battles will take place, maybe even some epic fights, but only if you are ready for it. The orcs dropped some nice stuff. Your warrior friend actually got himself a new sword and is pretty happy with that. You didn’t find anything of particular interest, but there are more orcs ahead.
You battle your way through the woods slaying orcs, spiders and some randomly wandering ogres. Everything is good. You’re gaining experience points and you’re close to reaching the next level. You’ve even wandered upon some random players and teamed up with them for a while, but now they are gone and you and your warrior is left behind deep in the woods surrounded by foes. Your quest awaits, but are you ready for it? The quest is just five minutes away. You decide to try and defeat this sucker. The reward will be worth it. So you rest to get some more stamina and to be able to fight longer. You find The Forest Dweller, an enormous giant with an unhealthy attitude and a vicious mind. When The Forest Dweller spots you there is no way back and you have to attack it. So attack is what you do. Swinging swords, casting spells, screaming and howling, hoping to get away alive. At first it seems impossible, The Forest Dweller has extreme amounts of health points and is immensely strong, if he hits you, you lose approximately 25% of your health points. You have resurrected the warrior a couple of times already and only got one resurrect left. But you will not loose. Death is for losers! The fight must go on. And suddenly the bastard seems to get weaker, it’s starting to wiggle and at one point you are sure it is going to fall, but suddenly it raises its arm and smashes his fist into the head of your warrior friend who falls dead to the ground. It’s only you and the monster left. Your magic points are almost depleted and you only have enough points for one spell – resurrection for your friend or a last fireball for the big monster. So you flick your wand and slowly but accurately speak out your spell of choice – The Great Fireball. The fireball hurls towards the forest dweller and you can see the troll trying to play dodge ball with it. But he isn’t fast enough and the ball of fire hits the sucker right in the face and pushes him to the ground. The flames start to take hold and suddenly the forest dweller is burning like a matchstick and you got your self a brand new unique wand with magical power far better than any wand you have ever seen. After some rest you can resurrect your friend and your journey continues.
You’re hooked. You have been questing out in the parallel world for quite some time now. And you’re taking detours and regularly team up with random people all the time, all in the name of your game character. You have even joined a faction and your status is rising and you’ve even attended some faction battles.
In the parallel world there is a war going on. There are a number of factions battling each other for their land and resources. The faction that controls the most land gets the most resources and the faction with most resources is the faction with most power.
Randomly scattered around the map (the world) are resources of different interest. Resources are used to make weapons and other magical items. You need wood, stone, metal, gold, diamonds and all kinds of special resources to make the best items. So controlling the most valuable and useful resources is crucial. The players control a resource by checking into the resource station. Each day you and your faction get a certain amount of resources based on the resource stations you control. You also have to guard your resource stations. If someone else checks in to your station, you loose the control and the resources stashed there. Luckily you can set up a guard tower and hire some mercenaries to help out. Factions heavily guard their most valuable resources and massive battles with dozens of people flicking their phones and battling each other for the resources are not uncommon. You and your faction control some great resource spots and you all take turn to guard it. Whenever an enemy approaches your notified on your phone and you run to the resource spot guard it.
Suddenly you find yourself living two parallel lives, the one you were born into and the one you discovered while playing the game. Everywhere you go there’s also a hidden world revealed to you by your phone.
One day you’re waiting at the bus stop and unexpectedly you notice a mysterious locked box. To open the box you need to solve a puzzle. That seems like a nice challenge to do while waiting for the bus. The guy next to you has also found the mystery box and you decide to collaborate to solve the puzzle and share the reward afterwards. Suddenly you got yourself a new friend, killed a few minutes and got some nice rewards.
Another day you’re walking to the coffee shop when suddenly your phone nudges you to let you know that there is danger ahead. You enter battle stance. Armed with your wand your looking for the foe. And then he enters; a player from your opposite faction. You flick your magic wand and articulate a suitable spell to harm the foe. The fight is on. He is skilled. His spells are strong. And he is deflecting your spells like they were thin air. It’s a hopeless fight. You have to decide what to do, surrender, flee or fight to death. Fight it is. People have started to notice you and they are gathering around you to watch. You’re wounded, weak and will not last long. But then, out of thin air your warrior friend appears and joins the fight. He is stronger than last time and absorbs the foes spells like candy. A nicely swung sword delivers the final blow and confirms your victory. It’s time for coffee.
Layers of layers
These are some of my rambling thoughts and ideas. It’s the hardcore version. How this will play out is uncertain and most likely it won’t be anything like what I have envisioned here. But what I know, is that we’ve got the technology and the means to make parallel worlds layered on top of the physical world, where we can see and be what ever we want. We can live whichever story we want to live. The only thing that is stopping us is our imagination.
If you have read this far feel free to let me know whats on your mind.