3 Things I Learned on Creating an AR/VR Game

I joined a few months ago as part of their business relations team. During my first two weeks, I was introduced to all the teams and got the chance to test and experiment with the products the ICONIC Lab have built. This made me feel like a kid in a playground, taking me back to my first experience with AR & VR at Campus Party Costa Rica back in 2015, where I fell in love with the many possibilities this technology offers.

A woman using a VR Headset.
My first VR Experience at Campus Party Costa Rica 2015

ICONIC Lab’s team shared with me their most recent update for TibbAR, a wacky 360-degree Egg Hunt Battle Augmented Reality arcade game where the goal is to try to survive as long as possible while collecting magic eggs, and avoid touching rotten ones.

Something I genuinely admire from ICONIC’s DNA is that they create digital products as an opportunity to learn and explore new technologies. This is a very clever practice to follow! Since it allows the team to learn through practice, especially with technologies like VR and AR that are still uncharted territories. Doing so is a great strategy to be updated.

Having learned this, I felt encouraged to share three important tips that I identified have been of use to the ICONIC Lab’s Team when developing AR/VR and that we should keep in mind whenever we are looking to create mass consumer digital products.

1. Try new stuff, Be Bold.

“We haven’t been afraid of trying stuff. We try to be smart in our decisions, but we always try, even if it hasn’t been proven to work yet. ” — David Cruz ICONIC Engineer

Never before has technology evolved so fast. Our generations get bored easily, so when creating new products, we must be innovative. And this is when most of us get stuck. Let’s take a step behind and start by asking: How can we do something fun? What is something that should be done differently?

TibbAR is the result of several research and brainstorming sessions where these questions where asked. The team follows a methodology called Design Thinking, which helps to keep in mind that any product we build, is created for human use. Another good practice is Mind Mapping, this will provide you a place where you can visualize every idea said during a brainstorming session so that you can later categorize it and prioritize it. Once you get to the prioritization stage take into consideration if there are any technical challenges, market challenges and if you truly feel passionate and curious about making that idea come to life.

Take in count that curiosity plays an important role at this stage and normally, the more informed you are, the more curious you get. Look for similar products in the market, live the experience personally. Understanding what is feasible, what can you do, learning from users — why they have short sessions or lose interest, love certain characters, or how a particular object can help you figure out what will make the experience exceptional and how to make the players come back to the game. In TibbAR’s case, they payed great attention to the user’s interactions with different eggs and how they should look according to their actions. I know it might sound like a cliche, but be bold enough to try things that break your status quo.

2. Good Ideas need to be materialized.

We build very specific proof of concepts to avoid spending too much time on prototyping. — David Cruz

When developing TibbAR, Rachel Leventhal took on the Creative/Producer role. She was constantly interacting with the content created to get first-hand user experience and worked to make sure everything came out as expected. Rachel knew it was a fun, marketable idea that needed to be materialized. So she took the information gathered from the brainstorming sessions and made her own “early version” of the game using a post-it walk-through. She wanted a game that would be fun to play in augmented reality. The idea was to collect Easter eggs; an overlay game mechanic where the user would be dodging things.

Design process of TibbAR
TibbAR is also read RA.bbiT backward.

With those early post-it mockups, magic started to happen. José took Rachel’s vision and worked on the art, which included concept art, modeling, texturing, animation and UI at the very beginning. He understood rigging, which is a way to set up the model to animate it, and also worked on in-game animation, and promotional animations for the thesplash screen.

By creating this early proof of concept, the team learned that an action in the game will cause a reaction, which will cause another action in the game, causing another reaction from the user, and so on. For José, as well as for the rest of the team, it was important that the character had facial animation to convey emotion giving the character personality. To make this happen, Allan, a former ICONIC team member, who worked on this project, recorded the character’s voice and laughs. This helped to bring the character to life. But … oh oh! They encounter a big challenge, most of the time the character’s facial expressions and the sounds recorded didn’t match the mimic. This is when they realized that audio recordings shouldn’t be left at the end, but should be worked alongside the process.

Isn’t making ideas happen rewarding? You now start to feel that those long brainstorming sessions and initial Proof of Concepts are time-consuming, but at the end of the process they pay off since you can tell from an early stage of the project if there is any technical barrier to overcome. If you like, you can follow the Design Sprint Methodology it will help to validate your work as soon as possible.

3. Process matters. Find one.

Concept art, illustrations, and prototyping for TibbAR were created, and you can see that iteration became a very important keyword for the ICONIC team. As I said in the beginning, they saw this as an opportunity to learn and explore new technologies. Experimenting with Tibb, taught them to organize themselves, learned about rigging, learned to set development standards and to always consider technical aspects of a project in order to make sure the interactions feel right to the user.

Before TibbAR the developers used Unity, and they admit that their folders were a complete mess with no hierarchy and unorganized code. With this experience, they developed a process to avoid issues when merging projects that several developers had collaborated on. Another issue was the game’s audio was left until the end, and Allan didn’t sleep for a couple of days as he worked on the character’s voice and laughs.

‘’It was during this process that we started working in a more optimized way. We created our own AR Framework and set of rules that helped us collaborate with each other better.’’ — ICONIC Lab

Final Thoughts

Making ideas come to life is contagious. There can be times where we feel overwhelmed. I hope these tips on experimenting with new technologies can be of inspiration and useful whenever you plan to bring a new digital product to life. Now that I’m living the process personally every day as part of the company, it’s really exciting to see how their rituals and experience are applied for a product’s evolution.

Don’t miss the chance to play the latest TibbAR version! Download now for iOS and Android

If you want to learn more about ICONIC’s Team members and their ventures you can follow their Instagram account.

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