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Mobile Augmented Reality game idea; "paranormal investigation"


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#1 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 19406

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 11:31 PM

Hey guys,

Just thought I'd quickly share an idea I had for a mobile augmented reality type game -- I have no plans in the short term to actually develop the game in question, so feel free to steal/change/do-anything-you-want with the idea -- just thought it was a cool idea that might be worth sharing.


Players would sign up from a website or via mobile apps, which would be available for iOS and Android devices, and game-play would be largely or entirely via the mobile apps.


The basic idea is that each player takes on the role of a paranormal investigator looking for signs of ghosts, spirits, alien activity, etc. These creatures and the signs they leave are not visible to normal human senses however, so the mobile app provides players with a set of tools -- special camera modes, EMF sensors, etc.

These would of course all be simple gimicky tricks, but we could for example provide a camera which "detects different, usually non-visible light spectrums", by accessing the phone's camera and then overlaying out own graphics on the resulting image. By accessing the GPS for location information we could put these in specific places, and players could track different sorts of "activity".


Awards could be given for things like being the first player to detect a certain activity, for getting additional different information about a previously discovered occurrence, or for discovering related activities. Players could also be given options to somehow deal with "hostile" presences, or to "help trapped spirits".


What does everyone think? Would this be a fun game? Would you play it? Can you think of any potential problems and possible solutions to them, or do you have extra ideas that could enhance such a game? Is anyone already working on such a game?

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#2 Krohm   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3261

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 03:54 AM

I think it has really good potential! It also provides plenty of social interactions!
It would basically be old-school treasure hunt with tech. I think I'd like it.

I'll be honest, I've been thinking at this AR thing for a while but I couldn't find anything useful. I've indeed looked at some AR stuff on OpenAR.net involving buying houses and tourist related, the tech is definitively here!

I'm not going to do that.

#3 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 19406

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 06:17 PM

The tech is absolutely there for it; because we're looking at presenting paranormal activities/spirits/whatnot it would be acceptable to take shortcuts that would be a deal-breaker for other applications; where interior decorating and property sales often involve the use of a real-world marker to ensure the augmented reality graphics are over-laid in a precise and correct position we could easily explain away small differences or errors in positioning, and even things like having our graphics accidentally intersect with a wall or solid object need not be a deal-breaker for immersion.


There could be a random chance of an event occurring no matter where a particular player is, and then by allowing the player to report that information we could provide a similar experience in the same location or near-by for other players. I absolutely love the idea that a group of different players who don't necessarily know each other could end up working together to document and try to explain a particular in-game event.

#4 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2245

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 09:32 PM

I wonder if you could effectively use players to unknowingly generate content for other players. For example, one type of mission would be getting them to tag creepy areas that they think might need a follow-up team. Areas that get tagged many times (and map to public spaces) could be new staging areas. Therefore the players are themselves finding locations that would be good to play the game. Get players to try to follow the dead person's last steps chronologically and use the trace of their movements as the path the simulated ghost travels for the next player that visits that location. Essentially scatter clues and let them build the narrative themselves.

#5 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 19406

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 12:21 AM

That sounds like a great idea to build up a solid set of suitable locations rather than just locating things randomly!

You could also have events which recur on a specific schedule that players would need to discover to solve a particular mystery -- think for an example a spirit which manifests every Tuesday after being killed on a regular night out, or a larger-scale event that occurs less frequently but could potentially draw a larger crowd of players.


Keeping to public locations is probably a good idea for safety and legal reasons, but your mention of it brings to mind an interesting/different options for monetization, where businesses or organisations could agree to host an in-game event in exchange for the crowd it might draw; if they were selling drinks, appropriate souvenirs, etc. and the game was popular it could make a good marketing gimmick and easily get some people in the door.

#6 Krohm   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3261

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 02:40 AM

As a side note, this made me think about Elebits (Wii). The game revolved around capturing this little energetic creatures hidden in familiar settings. Just writing from brainstorming reasons.

#7 Olof Hedman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2953

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 10:12 AM

There are a couple of "ghost hunter" AR games out there, but I don't think anyone has added the location part to it yet, which imo is a pretty obvious "nice idea".

But also one that one might find surprisingly hard to implement well.

A problem with player generated locations is of course the "chicken and egg"-problem, so you would have to not only depend on this.

Also, you don't want to force your player too act too much like a dork in public, waving their phone around, most people are pretty self conscious - so something less action based is probably a good idea.

Some location based games doesn't care about your actual position, but your relative position from where you started your game. This can be good for some game modes.

#8 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2245

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 03:32 PM

I think for a good startup some of it would be hard work, e.g. find lists of "known" haunted houses as a seed. Maybe there's a way through public records to find properties that were built a long time ago or that had known deaths in them? Maybe using property sale records and genealogical databases?

For user safety I would suggest cross referencing with things like the Google crime map (only applies to some countries), so you can avoid sending people to violent areas.

I'm sure there would be other data-mining ways.

On top of that, start with some random stuff. And get users to do plenty of the recon missions. ;)

#9 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 19406

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 05:23 PM

A problem with player generated locations is of course the "chicken and egg"-problem, so you would have to not only depend on this.

Absolutely. I think if I were to try implementing this I would use three approaches to begin seeding the system with initial content for the first players to get started:
  • Pick some random, well travelled public places in random cities, and manually (or perhaps using a semi-automated approach) add them to the system as "event sites" with some sort of event that would recur regularly for at least a while -- perhaps even until x number of players have interacted with it. I would probably start by seeding US, UK and Australian capital cities in this manner, being sure to pick at least one major location in each. The events in question should also (at least initially) be more obvious ones, rather than relying on the smaller chance of players stumbling onto something subtle.
  • Create and manually add to the system some "major" events that will be viewable/detectable from a wide area -- think "lights over the <whatever-city> skyline type things -- and then slip some sort of notice into the system that there will be something to look at, giving an exact date and fairly accurate time so that interested players wouldn't have to wait around too long if they're interested. At least a couple of these events would be set to recur a week or two later, again with warning, so that friends of any initial players might be persuaded to also check it out.
  • Have a weighted random chance that some event might occur ANY time a player is using the game tools, and allow the player to report this so that other players can check it out. You would of course need to do some basic checking with mapping data, etc. to make sure you don't encourage break-ins/trespassing/etc. Any time a randomly-generated event of this sort occurred you would communicate it back to the game and inform other clients in the area to also display an event. Things that would increase the chance of an event randomly occurring would be:
  • If the player in question has never detected an event, we should boost the chance of them finding one -- unless we detect they're already at the site of an existing recurring event.
  • If the player in question is in a location that is not near any existing events in the system, we should give a big boost to the chance to start seeding the area with an event -- where possible this scenario should be more likely to be a recurring event and/or one that moves around the local area in a pattern players could discover and track.
  • If a player is in a location that has already been marked as a "possible event site", "creepy" or similar and there isn't an existing event in the system there we should boost the chance of a random event being created.
  • We should DECREASE the chance of a random event occurring if the player is near a site that already has an event -- it should still be possible, and would occasionally lead to busy sites with a lot going on, but the chance should be much lower of secondary or tertiary events being added to any given location. The chances of anything beyond a tertiary event being added at any particular location should be almost unthinkable.
You could also help to kick-start the system by pre-adding some votes to the system that certain locations are "creepy" based on existing local lore, etc. to take advantage of existing ghost stories and the fact that potential players might try out visiting such places when trying out the game.

#10 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2245

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 06:30 PM

What kind of events were you thinking of that could happen at arbitrary locations? Are you sticking purely to ghosts, or ghosts-and-aliens-and-chupacabras-and....?

#11 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 19406

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 09:57 PM

Are you sticking purely to ghosts, or ghosts-and-aliens-and-chupacabras-and....?

As I said, I don't actually have any plans to actually implement this in the short term, it's just an idea...

If I were to implement an actual game I would probably include a large range of different "events" in the game -- various types of spirits/ghosts and aliens seem to be the most easily explained and would work in a variety of settings with different types of feedback for players. Anything with a supposedly physical manifestation isn't really suitable, as we can't put actual objects in the world -- but we can simulate all sorts of visuals, mock radiation signatures, audio "at frequencies beyond normal human hearing", etc.


We could give them radiation detectors, a number of different camera modes, some sort of special microphone, EMF meters, and then have all sorts of different activity for different events and/or different stages of a given event.


We could also have more general detections warn the player to look for something more specific in the area -- consider an example where a player is just walking down the street, perhaps not even thinking about the game at the time -- we could alert them with a beep and/or vibration and on-screen-note telling them that "electro-magnetic fluctuations have been detected in your area -- keep an eye out for paranormal activity". If they're busy they can just dismiss the message and continue about their business, but if they're interested they could open up the app and try investigating or keeping an eye out using the other "tools" at their disposal.

#12 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2245

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 10:09 PM

It was shorter than saying "in your theoretical concept". ;)

I wasn't sure how to keep them occupied, but telling them there's ghosts or aliens in their washing machine might raise a groan. To add to that, maybe EVP, a la White Noise? Feed them some audio intentionally smothered with static to keep them interested. Would there be a success/fail condition? e.g. solve the mystery of XYZ? Or just "do the mission, get next mission"?

#13 lmbarns   Members   -  Reputation: 460

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 01:31 AM

Reminds me of staring at a fish finder on a boat wondering if it wasn't just some programmers twisted joke. Oh there's a big one!

I think you could fudge a number of "phenomena" out of the various inputs. Maybe really simple stuff that's not so apparent to someone not aware of the code. Like instead of overlaying an image on the camera, just guaging the amount of light where cap-on = 0 and pointed at the sun = max value. Then figure some sum of light-ness.

Also unkown logic puzzles would keep things mysterious. Like turning your phone upside down activates some event listener that triggers the next time you press call. Maybe it's a 3-5 step deal so people don't ever realize turning the phone upside down started the event.

#14 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 19406

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 06:43 PM

Would there be a success/fail condition? e.g. solve the mystery of XYZ? Or just "do the mission, get next mission"?

Probably a bit of both.

Players wouldn't be fixed to a single "mission" at a time -- if they're in a place the system has an event, it's time for it to trigger, and they're using an appropriate tool from the app, they'll be able to detect it and start investigating.

They would also receive tip-offs (you could consider these "missions") from the system -- "we've had reports of <some activity> in your area (or <at specific nearby location>) at around <time>, please investigate if you're able". These would probably be sent to players that don't seem to already be investigating much -- anyone who hasn't detected anything for a day or two -- and should in the majority of cases not be sent to those who are already finding plenty of activity, as they don't need the system to point them in the direction of anything new at least for the time being.


It should always be possible to piece together clues and identify the phenomenon -- "we've collected these energy signatures from another investigator, and in combination with your footage have determined this event to be the presence of a <some specific spirit>, no further action required". The user might receive an award or achievement ("discovered first ghost", "discovered <x> ghosts", "helped identify ghost"), and if you had a concept of XP or anything similar would be given some.

In some -- but not all -- cases it might be possible to somehow do something about your discovery. You might have a few tools that "emit energy signatures to remove <specific type of spirit>", which could only be used after successfully piecing together clues to identify the target correctly. You could also have some spirits that simply want to be acknowledged, and simply researching them successfully would mark them as complete and disable further occurrences of the event. Another idea might be a tool that allows you to "herd" specific spirit types -- to either use them as a predator against some other spirit, or to unite them so that they're satisfied and choose to leave. I'm sure there are plenty of similar ideas that could be expanded on. Again, players would be awarded achievements, xp, etc. for successfully completing any of these.

Also unkown logic puzzles would keep things mysterious. Like turning your phone upside down activates some event listener that triggers the next time you press call. Maybe it's a 3-5 step deal so people don't ever realize turning the phone upside down started the event.

Cool idea!




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