I’ve had the pleasure to talk with developers at Luden.io about their upcoming project ARrived. Luden is an indie AR/VR game studio that I know very well because they are the creators of the game InCell VR, one of the first games I’ve played with my Oculus CV1.
So I was quite excited of being contacted by the content creators of one of those games I tried when I wasn’t a blogger yet and I didn’t miss the opportunity to interview them. They’ve told me that now they’ve jumped on the ARKit train and are making a game with it called ARrived, with a public Trello board so people can choose the specifications for the game. Wow, super-interesting. I was both curious about the game and about how it is developing with the ARKit framework, so I made them quite a lot of questions…
Who are you?
Luden.io was initially started as a Research and Development group at Nival. Nival’s track record includes best-selling PC strategy games like Blitzkrieg, Heroes of Might and Magic V, Silent Storm and Etherlords.
Our mission is to satisfy curiosity and enlighten people, using the best achievements of the gaming industry. VR experiments were started in 2013 with the very first dev kit from Oculus. Free games InMind and InCell were published in 2015 for all major platforms. In first year games reached over 1 million installs. In 2016 we published InMind 2 for Google Daydream.
Next game VRobot was just an experiment, but players were so impressed by it that we made a game that was released on Steam in 2017. Now, the company is concentrated on AI, AR/VR possibilities for games. We already published AIDraw, where a neural network tries to guess what you’ve just drawn.
Our next flagman is an AR god-simulator game made with ARKit technology from Apple – ARrived (previous working title AR Tribe).
Tell me more about ARrived!
This is a god simulator where players have to look after and guide their tribe, just this time it’s using AR, so these digital folks are in the real-world as well. Still in its early stages, the videogame will allow players to choose from a range of options to improve the prosperity of their tribe whilst at the same time the tribe comes to them for advice. But if you look deeper, this game is about how to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, and how to help others to adapt. Even if you are not a patron with your tribe.
Initially, like real fans, we were inspired by such series of games like Black & White, Creatures, Populous and Dungeon Keeper. But in the process of development, they rethought the very understanding of what first AR users of Apple will want and decided to go on their own, simplified way – casual gameplay, more animations. We believe that this solution will allow players to explore all the features and strengths of ARKit entirely, and at the same time give them a maximum of fun and pleasure from interacting interactively with their pocket tribe.
I’m intrigued by the openness of your product (public Trello, etc…). Why did you choose to go this way?
In our opinion, public development helps to understand the mood and desires of the audience even before the release of the project. Often developers are so deep in their product that they do not see the obvious things on the surface – that it would be good to add, and what is better to remove. With our comments, likes, and feedbacks, our potential audience can sometimes open our eyes to what they are interested in, helping us thereby focus on what is important, and not on what we are accustomed to considering important from the professional point of view. As a result, at the output, we get a more client-oriented product, the backbone of the players who feel their involvement and share with us its success (*joke* or failure). Plus, it increases the loyalty of the audience and helps to form the first wave of players to release the project. Nevertheless, for us, this is a more experimental format. We hope that Apple users will show themselves as concerned persons.
Game uses ARKit. What led you to choose this framework? What are the things you loved the most about it?
First of all – this is Apple. You can’t just ignore when Apple releases something from your area of interest (AR in this case). You have to try it. So we tried it and we loved it.
Most of all we loved:
Audience. The technology will be available on all devices with iOS 11 and with A9 or A10 processors (iPhone 6S and above), which will automatically make Apple the largest AR platform in the world.
Understanding the scene. The main technological achievement of Apple in the framework of ARKit is what accuracy they managed to achieve in determining the position of a virtual object in real space.
Here and now. ARKit is a very young technology, but unlike its older competitors (such as Google Tango), it offers a simple, ready-made solution out of the box, including rendering objects.
New user experience. Even the example of Pokemon Go showed how much users feel involved in a product that combines virtual objects and real life. The technology gives a new level of emotional involvement, allows the user to live exciting projects and a new experience, which under other conditions would just not be implemented.
Space for creativity and imagination. ARKit gave developers a “space for maneuver”, through which they deal not only with games and entertainment applications, but with solutions for business, education, and even home use.
How is programming with ARKit?
Even though iOS 11 and Xcode 9 are still in the beta stage, ARKit does not create any serious obstacles for developers. On the contrary, many things and decisions it takes on (for example, rendering of objects), release the developers’ heads for more important and pressing issues. In many ways, thanks to this, we observe so many amateur prototypes from students and other enthusiasts.
Don’t you think that there is too much hype on ARKit? I’ve seen a lot of wonderful prototypes, but not even one useful product, one “killer app”
Serious projects require a lot of time for development. Of course, a simple prototype with an interesting idea seems to be a piece of cake. But full-fledged games and applications for business, as they say in our country, do not grow like mushrooms after rain. That is a much more complicated process that requires the development of design, visual style, code architecture, and coordinated work of specialists of different profiles. All of this takes time, and it’s not surprising that after only one and a half months after the announcement of ARKit, we still have not seen a single “killer app”. The time will come and the “killer app’s” will be mushrooming (after all, their development cycles may coincide).
Of course, as well as after the announcement of any new technology, ARKit is now experiencing the stage of the hype, but it’s good – any locomotive at the start should throw more droves to get it overclocked properly. This does not mean that when the hype passes, then after it nothing will remain and the technology will fade.
Have you ever used Vuforia before? How can you compare it with ARKit? Why all people jumped on ARKit train and ignored completely Vuforia?
Vuforia is a good old technology. We experimented with it, and one of our programmers even released on its basis a small game about Santa Claus a few years ago. When Vuforia appeared, it worked only with the help of markers. Now Vuforia knows how to perform well without them (markers, as we all know, turned out to be a dead venture because of the difficulties with their printing) and does not yield much to ARKit. The main merit of ARKit in comparison with Vuforia is that it is supported by Apple, which means a massive influx of the audience. Nevertheless, we love Vuforia and believe that they brought the world exactly the competition that was necessary for the development of AR technology.
What about Hololens? Isn’t glasses’ AR better than phone AR? And… will you port your game to Hololens, too?
Some people believe, and it is not unreasonable that the glasses make AR more immersive. But, unfortunately, things are going so that technological progress has not yet reached the point where companies can offer users acceptable prices and quality images of AR glasses. Hololens gives a good picture but costs almost $ 5000. Very few people can afford such a “toy” for such money. If you buy this expensive toy, i think, your wife will kill you or drive out of the house. We have already experimented with Hololens and, perhaps, we will return to it again, but we do not plan this within the framework of the ARrived project. But who knows.
Every year more and more startups are opening, which offer the world new variations of AR points. Undoubtedly, sooner or later one of them will be able to release a product with a decent price/quality ratio that people will love. We look forward to it in the first line.
Let’s get back to ARrived ! When will it be released?
It is difficult to say the exact dates, but at the moment we plan to start Early Access at the end of the summer (link to subscribe). Also, we will be glad to see all your readers in our social media accounts. Guys, if you want to follow the news about the project ARrived and ARKit technology at all, you are welcome on our social media accounts: Twitter, Facebook. We want to make your first app, which will help you to get acquainted with ARKit technology and have a lot of fun.
And that’s it for this interview. Haven’t you loved it? If this is the case, then follow the Luden.io guys-and-gals and register for their beta!
I’m used to write commentaries to interviews but in this case there’s not that much to add: Luden staff has already said things very clearly and also in a very nice way (I smiled more than once while reading their answers). There are just three things I want to underline:
- While making a product it is fundamental to ask for feedback of potential users, as I’ve described in my post about how to go from the VR startup idea to its success. Luden is doing this very well with its open Trello board;
- ARKit is a well-crafted product and is very appealing for developers. On the programming side, it is easy to be used; on the commercial side, it opens the possibility to distribute the developed application to millions of devices. Apple is going to become the biggest AR platform out there, since any app developed with ARKit can be used out-of-the-box by any iOS device owner. This is huge;
- ARKit from a technology standpoint is not that incredible wrt to the competition (like Vuforia or Google Tango). But it’s Apple, and Apple has a huge market and knows how to market stuff, so developers are becoming interested in it;
- ARKit ecosystem is now all composed by dirty experiments only because we’re just at the beginning. We have to wait until we’ll see amazing Apple AR apps;
Let’s see what will happen in the next times. In the meantime have a nice day and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter!