The Death of AR

So one of the biggest decisions we made to make it to IGF was to ultimately cut our AR section entirely. Taken out of context, this seems like a huge decision that betrays our game entirely as it was originally pitched, so I wanted to take the opportunity to give more context to that decision. There were really 3 reasons we dropped it: technical issues, scope, and fun

Technical issues: When it comes down to it, we couldn’t make it work. It was kind of a crazy idea to begin with anyway, and I’m still amazed at how much we actually did get to work, but after we lost Metaio and switched to MaxstAR it looked very promising that we could make up the work quickly. However, what we didn’t realize is that it looked promising on one machine in one set of lighting and camera conditions. As our lead engineer worked out the first new prototypes and started passing them around, they worked on literally no machine other than his. Given the time and talent available to us, even if we threw everything we had at AR alone, I honestly don’t think we could’ve got it working well enough to have a IGF-worthy game.

Scope: The new ideas that became Maui were simple, but big. So big, in fact, that it was really hard to even pitch the game because mentioning Hawaiian culture, explaining the stat grid, and explaining AR in a pitch was getting really difficult for me, and also really difficult to demo or justify in a way that made the game seem like a cohesive, interesting experience. On top of all that, even assuming we could work out those problems, we simply didn’t have the resources at our disposal to make it happen in terms of time, talent, and necessary software/hardware. It came to the point where we had to decide to cut back on something or we weren’t going to hit our deadline, so we went with what was most fun and sold the most people on our game – Hawaii and stat grid. AR had to go.

Fun: Okay, so let’s assume that all the problems mentioned above were solved by our grit and willpower, then we hit the problem of it’s still not nearly as fun as any of us envisioned to hold up a card to control a videogame. Lots of practical problems started happening: your arm got tired, the card was blocking your view of the screen, the cards had to be printed in a very specific way, and more. It just wasn’t fun even at it’s best. And that means no one had any motivation to keep making it. And that killed it more quickly than any of the other problems listed above.

Originally, we cut AR “just for IGF”, but as I look toward the future I don’t see us ever having the time or budget to get it back in. At this point it’s safe to say it’s gone forever.

PS Someone else has actually fixed all of the problems we had and made a game with a very similar mechanic to my original pitch from early 2015, and looking at all they’ve done to solve all the problem, I’m even more glad we got out while we could. Check out Osmo here.

Leave a Reply