Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Quick Look of MIT's New AR Engine

To sum up, the new MIT AR game engine is a dream that I dreamed of since I designed my first AR game. Now it is possible to create a history game (or many other narrative-based games, inquiry-based games, science games or even second language acquisition games) with the affordances built into this new game engine.A brief introduction of the new game engine would tell you why I tell you this is my dream (I shall have another dream after this, no doubt!) I am not going to tell everything about the game. What I want to mention here is what matters most to me as a designer.

1. Editor: The editor is not a notepad or XML editor any longer. Now the designer actually has a more user friendly interface to work on (it is not yet a spontaneous design, but surely a big step toward that). If the designer already has a scenario for the game, she can literally input (copy/paste) necessary information in the editor and creates an AR game within one day (including some debugging, trouble-shooting...etc.) The new designer interface makes the work a lot easier. Moreover, the new engine is way more flexible than the previous one. The flexibility begins with the possibility to create any roles I want.

2. Roles: With the new AR engine, you can create as many roles as you desire. This is, simply, fantastic, period. Imagine a story which is told with the perspectives of five different people (which makes it five stories, if not ten). Five different kids, by playing five different roles, will take adventures of the game with five different perspectives. These stories may be relevant in some way or superficially irreverent, but the five stories together make a "grand narrative." Don't know what I am talking about? Ok, let me tell you in another way. A history game. History is a good example of perspectives and narratives. History is not just facts told by historians in a narration/fiction. History are stories shared by different people with different point of views. What make good history is that we don't have a "history." We have herstory, monstory, dadstory, kidstory at the same time. These stories are all valid and should be shared to inform our understanding of a family. Like familystory, we need to understand different perspectives in order to understand history or herstory. The new engine affords the designer to create as many ROLES, NPCs, GAME ITEMS in different time chunks in a flexible way, and thus enable the possibility to create far more scenarios than the previous AR game engine could (In the MadCity Murder, my imagination is confined by the hard-coded roles the player may play). The previous game engine is a good "pilot engine" and a great example of rapid prototyping. The current game engine, on the other hand, is a big step to a full-fledged AR design tool.

3. Gateway to the indoor world. Somehow I don't feel I fully comprehend this function, but I know the current engine will be able to make the indoor world relevant to the outdoor world in the game. For example, the designer can designate a spot in the Wisconsin Historical Society and have the players go to that spot to get the information needed to proceed the game. S ay, as a player in the game, I need to find the diary of A. Lincoln, stored on a book shelf in the 2nd floor in the Historical Society, in order to continue the game. I will have to enter the Historical Society when playing the game, retrieve the information the designer wants me to find, and then input the relevant information in order to continue the outdoor game. The gateway is not only a gateway of the indoor and outdoor world, it is also a gateway between the virtual/real, present/past world. Now everything indoor could be revelent to the outdoor and any historical artifacts in a museum can provide information for an inquiry-based game.

4. Time, Triggers and NPCs. Imagine that three kids are playing a history game. The three kids, a historian, a MPD police and an archaeologist, have to find five missing artifacts lost 100 years ago and then they have to reinterpret history based on what is found in order to discover a lost national treasure in Memorial Union. They need to interview people and get the key information, but not all of them could talk to anyone or get anything important. They will have to get at a place at a critical time period because time is critical. In the meanwhile, talking to someone will make them find something which is not available or irrevelent before. This engine can afford the scenario. Imagine what I can do with a history game with the affordances mentioned here.

More functions: There are some functions I did not mention here, not because they are not important, but because I don't fully understand their affordances. I can create chemical spills, designate the radius of that spill in time. I can click on the map to designate the location of NPCs or game items. I can...there are so many things I can do and I will not be able to mention all of them here until a game is designed with the engine.


Blogger Ori Inbar said...

Cool blog. I have linked to it from my blog
the pursuit of the ultimate AR game. See my latest post: "Top 10 augmented reality demos that will revolutionize video games"

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