L.A.R.G.E. Location-based AR Gaming Engine

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What is L.A.R.G.E.?

L.A.R.G.E.  is an acronym for Location-based Augmented Reality (AR) Gaming Engine.

L.A.R.G.E. is a flexible tool-kit that will enable anyone, from teenagers, to game designers, businesses/brands and educators, to create location-based and AR projects. From simple audio or video tours, to timed scavenger hunts with AR  elements, to multi-player  real world fantasy RPGs, L.A.R.G.E. is a flexible and adaptable system that turns the world into a canvas for users to create an unlimited number of experiences.

Users build experiences through a simple web interface, and share their projects with friends (or the entire L.A.R.G.E. userbase)  who can access  various projects through the L.A.R.G.E. mobile client which they can install on their smartphones. Although initially L.A.R.G.E. projects will be played on smartphones, we anticipate a time when our platform will power numerous applications that will be played on heads-up displays such as Google Glass.

The tool-kit has been designed for ease of use and simplicity, allowing users to select a location(s) and drag and drop various elements to the map, assigning them to geo-coordinates.  Users can select elements from various libraries or they can upload their own media assets (songs, photos, videos). There will also be themed modules available allowing the user to select from various project types, and providing them with appropriate content and game parameters.For example, this could include elements required to create an RPG (monsters, a player character profile, a combat system, items, treasure etc.) or a zombie hunter first-person shooter (zombies, a weapon system, creepy effects, etc.).

Figure 1: L.A.R.G.E. Web Tool-Kit Mockup

How do you make a L.A.R.G.E project?

 A user first names their project, writes a brief description, chooses a cover image and genre. Users then choose a location for their project, and assign various assets to specific or general locations (by selecting range.) Users  set various game parameters and the overall objectives, and tweak each individual component. Projects can be open ended or timed, they could require players to hit each check-point in a specified order or they could be more free form.  Users can also print up physical AR markers they can physically affix to real-world locations in order to fine tune their experiences. For example, if a player creates a dungeon crawl project in a local cemetery for their friends to play, they can use the L.A.R.G.E. tool-kit to create the game, share the project with the friends they want to play it, print up the tags and affix them to various positions in the cemetery before the game is physically played. AR Markers help fine-tune the experience, but advances in AR technology make them less necessary than they have been in past AR applications. In order to trigger various project assets a users location can be confirmed by the use of GPS and by identifying visual landmarks.

Figure 2: L.A.R.G.E. Mobile Client: The left screen shows the main menu which includes a map view, ar view, suggestions, search, messaging and settings options. The middle screen shows a map view of local projects. The right screen shows a project description.

The L.A.R.G.E. mobile client will be built using Unity3D. Once a user downloads the application and sets up an account, they will have access to various projects whether they be open or private (shared with them specifically by friends). Users can also browse local projects by proximity using a map interface, or they can browse projects by genre and rating. Once a user selects a project they load it and play. Figure 3: Meshimon - a location-based RPG with AR elements. The screens below show (on the left) a map view with various icons representing nearby monsters. The middle screen shows an AR view with a monster. The screen on the right shows an attempt to capture the creature.

We anticipate people will use L.A.R.G.E. in unforeseen ways, using the tool-kit to create innovative  real-world experiences that take advantage of the unique narrative opportunities the platform presents. L.A.R.G.E. represents the culmination of 7 years of research and development in the creation of location-based gaming, and the core back-end was developed in 2011-2012 while Albedo Informatics Inc. was working on a game called Mytoshi (which evolved into Battletoshi below). Mytoshi was a game designed to encourage people to explore the real world and adopt positive lifestyle behaviour by connecting their real world actions to a virtual pet. Although the game itself was on the surface quite simple, we created a robust and flexible back-end that could handle virtually any game parameters we could conceive, from simple location-based actions and effects to complex multi-part missions with timed objectives. Mytoshi evolved into Battletoshi, a location-based AR game which required users to exercise (by tracking their physical activity through check-ins and  a pedometer/odometer) in order to train and keep their creature in top fighting shape.  L.A.R.G.E. will expand and flesh out this back-end, and skin it with an intuitive UI.  Figure 4: Battletoshi screens.

L.A.R.G.E is a powerful tool that will usher in a new era of location-based and augmented reality narrative experiences. We are excited about the prospect of being part of IdeaBoost and our team is confident that with your support, we can make L.A.R.G.E. a groundbreaking success.

by Robert Kori Golding