Monsarrat specializes in a new generation of location-based augmented reality games. We helped the company improve ground detection, user experience, and tracking in a mobile AR game set outdoors.
Founded by Johnny Monsarrat, creator and CEO of Turbine, a video games company acquired for $160 million by Warner Bros., Monsarrat is on a quest to build a highly immersive AR game. Although the project is top secret, the game is based on a $10 billion Hollywood franchise, a cult classic like Harry Potter or Star Wars. Monsarrat wants to set the gameplay outdoors, where users could move around freely, socialize, and play.
Monsarrat believes gaming shouldn’t be confined solely to the indoor space — the company sees augmented reality as a way to encourage people to spend more time outside. Augmented reality enables the user to have an immersive experience where the physical world is infused with the AR storyline.
Taking the gameplay outdoors is a careful act of balancing development skills with the understanding of user experience. In AR games, the user experience is particularly important because it dramatically affects engagement and retention. Issues with stability and the shifting location of virtual objects are at the top of the list of things spoiling AR gaming.
We had to look for solutions that would make the game perform and feel better across a broad range of iOS and Android phones, regardless of their AR processing capabilities.
To find solutions that would improve the requirements for an outdoor augmented reality game, we chiseled out the core aspects of the experience. This way we would learn which solutions to implement and how to implement them to make a positive impact on performance and the user experience.
Monsarrat’s AR game is designed for a broad audience — the idea is to let anyone play. The rendered objects should be visible to everyone with the same level of accuracy, regardless of their device or physique. We used plane detection for placing the objects on the ground in the physical space.
Players expect a smooth gaming experience where load times of different objects are kept to a minimum, without distractions or frustrations with sudden displacement. We found a way to eliminate load times between specific in-game actions that were affecting the player’s experience.
As location-based AR experiences rely heavily on GPS data, we utilized Mapbox's Maps for Unity SDK to efficiently represent the user's and objects' position and orientation on the map on a wide range of devices.
“Despite having other clients, Nomtek was available for us and we even began to use their expertise for other projects outside the original scope,” Johnny Monsarrat.
When creating AR experiences, it’s not about implementing creative or innovative solutions — while exciting, these can often spoil the game in other areas, for example, drain the battery fast. Building good AR experiences is about picking solutions with the awareness of how they affect performance, user experience, and the phone’s resources.
So we started by defining what’s the most characteristic about the experience and then building improvements around it. For example, to improve responsiveness and stability of the AR experience, we balanced the tradeoff between the battery usage and the user experience by leaving the AR session running even when the AR view was not visible, as long as there was a chance that it would be used soon.
We communicated with Monsarrat daily to include the client in the process and ensure maximum transparency. This let us nimbly talk through a variety of solutions and options to consider for the AR game.
We improved the player’s experience by eliminating friction points during gameplay. Players can now interact and engage with AR objects more accurately. The augmented reality objects blend with and respond to the physical world better, compounding immersiveness.
To further support the company’s mission, we outlined possible improvements for future development, drawing on our extensive experience as gamers. Our adjustments also helped Monsarrat showcase the game’s potential to investors.
“I am hard to please and tough on consultants, but Nomtek simply is the best and has my enthusiastic, total, highest recommendation,” Johnny Monsarrat.