Live Game Board is a new studio that's looking to bring the disparate worlds of table top board gaming and smartphones together, while providing a new publishing platform that focuses on new products for living room-based multiplayer experiences.
It's a simple idea that primarily makes use of augmented reality (AR) as a way to bring 3D game visuals out into the real world. As simple as it might be, it's an AR concept that's rarely been put to much use, particularly in gaming. And much of Live Game Board's aspirations revolve around bringing other game developers into the fold, and seeing how they can help the concept to evolve.
As part of this effort, the team recently released an SDK for Unity along with a few tutorials that devs can use to begin building their own AR board game concepts.
Building from the board up
At the centre of the Live Game Board system is, naturally, the board. This is used by the players' smartphones and tablets to key on, and fix the virtual game in place in the real world.
There's nothing overly complex about the board, which is available in various sizes and using a couple of different materials. But this isn't where Live Game Board is looking to make its money. Indeed, players are welcome to download and print their own, which will friction between finding a Live Game Board game and starting playing it.
But it all starts with the board, as Live Game Board founder Stan Kuhn explains.
"At the moment it is in its very first version," he explains about the paper and vinyl options that are currently available. "We have already started design process of version two, which will be graphically richer, include more games, offer educational apps, and will include both blended reality and virtual reality movie experiences."
The technology is also still being refined, to ensure a better cohesion between the digital and the real world.
"There are two very important things to ensure great board tracking by the device's camera," Kuhn continues, "and these are print contrast with no reflections and a perfectly flat surface. We're testing textile canvas, hard plastic, and puzzle and premium quality neoprene versions. These are all quite good as they can't be scratched like paper, and always lay perfectly flat."
When one reality isn't enough
The popularity of board gaming has risen significantly once again in recent years, but players have evolved. There's an expectation for a more involved and complex experience than the days of Monopoly or Game of Life, which is a real benefit to video game developers looking to lend their talents to the table top.
"Another big area for us is to constantly bring more games and apps to our platform," says Stan. "We're preparing new games to showcase more concepts like character customisation, games for girls, and even options to 3D print in-game characters."
Augmented reality isn't the only direction Live Game Board is looking in. As a studio Kuhn and team seem to be investigating every new option for blending together games and the world around us, including the anticipated onset of virtual reality gaming.
"Stereoscopic view will give us blended reality," Stan tells us.
"Virtual reality with augmented reality together. We'll port the Monsters multiplayer game we already have by adding a new play mode. We're also preparing a remote controlled plane which you can play in blended reality and literally fly the plane in your backyard using Bluetooth controller.
And we're looking at games supporting stereoscopic views similar to Oculus Rift, using head mounts like the Samsung Gear VR, Google cardboard, Durovis Dive and similar."
Live Game Board's commitment to bringing other game developers into the mix remains solid, even with these new plans in the works. "We're working on next version of the SDK, which will include stereoscopic setup with some special controls for other developers to create their own blended reality games. We're already in contact with some devs to port their games to Live Game Board."
A new version of the SDK is already under way, with support coming soon for iOS devices as well as the existing Android compatibility.
We'll be taking a closer look at the launch line up of games for Live Game Board soon within the Pocket Gamer network, and any developers interested in testing out this augmented reality platform can find out more over on the official website.