The cameras in the PlayStation Vita open the doors for augmented reality games, where the virtual is imposed on top of the actual. At E3 last week, Angus had a chin-wag to John McLaughlin of Sony Computer Entertainment about the one such game - Reality Fighters.
Angus: So John, what exactly am I looking at here?
John: The game’s called Reality Fighters, it’s an online fighting game that uses augmented realities, so it’s the first beat ‘em up that essentially takes place in the real world. We’ve seen all these fighting games, they’ve been going for years and years, but we wanted to put the player in the game. We can do that now with the Vita’s camera.
John fiddles around to take a quick photo of his face and then selects “create”. In seconds a 3d virtual version of himself appears on screen, complete with a super hero costume on.
See here’s me, I’ve created myself. Although I’ve lost my hair, so I’ll put my hair back on. Once you’ve created your fighter you can customise it fully, I can make myself skinny, fat, or big and strong. Now we can play around with his clothes and suit him up…We’ve got three hundred clothing pieces. You can dress yourself up normally, you can dress yourself in jeans and t-shirt, martial arts kind of clobber, or you can make yourself totally weird. Here’s a full bunny outfit there, I could turn myself into a ninja turtle, or a big banana - there’s a full range of customisation. At the moment I’m a dirty disco dancer so I’ll use that.
A disturbing similar clone of John appears on screen, dressed in silver flares and a tight disco fever shirt. He then sets up a quick fight against a ballerina. The arena background, or fighting environment is literally a section of the floor in front of us that the back camera of the Vita captures. It’s used to create an augmented reality that the two opponents are standing in and as John moves the PS Vita around, the camera viewpoint of the two characters changes. Moving it too far to the left or right will even cause the action to leave the screen completely. It looks like two tiny minatures are going at it just a couple of meters in front of where we’re standing.
So each fight style, there’s sixteen in all and we’ve got five here to show, have about eighty-plus moves with it. On top of that, we’ve got traditional weapons, like nunchucks and swords and stuff like that, but then we’ve got weird and wonderful weapons. Like, here we’ve got a toilet plunger; you can imagine what I could do with that! Here’s a tennis racquet and you can pick up a tennis ball and whack it at your opponent. There’s going to be about thirty in the final version. Then we also have vehicle based weapons that use use augmented reality in some way – such as this surf board here. We can ride that and we can literally morph the world…
John’s character on screen grabs a surf-board and we watch as the ground in front of us warps and twists like a wave that his character literally rides across on in order to launch a devastating attack on his opponent.
…Reality Fighters will have two different types of augmented reality (AR) options. You’ve got your marker based AR – so for example this mode is perfect for table top gaming. You can put it on your table, and you can move around it in full 360 degrees and get every viewpoint of your fight, letting you get the right angle that suits as it you’re watching it in a helicopter. The other one is gyro-based. So let’s say you’re out at the beach or out at the park, you can just use the gyro to place the fighters in the world but you can’t move around them. It’s great for people with limited space or say if you’re on a bus or train.
Angus: So the gameplay style, how would you compare it? Does it play like Street Fighter, or Tekken, or is it something altogether new?
John: It’s closer to Street Fighter in terms of your half-rolls and your full-rolls and things like that. The way you hold the buttons, like two buttons will be a grab and we’ve got your block on a button. But then, we’ve got to remind you, we haven’t got the controls like we want. What we’re planning on doing is getting a mix of a solid fighter and also a casual-friendly game, one where everyone can just pick it up and play. Not just the hardcore, Street Fighter-type guys, who would come along and own you at it. To make the controls more intuitive we have touch controls too, so a quick swipe of the back touch pad and you’ll be able to do a combo.
Angus: So apart from the old ‘versus’ and multiplayer, is there a story mode to be had?
John: Yes, it’s not in yet, but it’s going to be a single player story where you create yourself, and you’re going to be taken through the game by a Sensei, and he’s going to be teaching you how to fight. There will be sixteen full characters that are going to be in the game and as progress through the story mode, you get to unlock new fight styles, new weapons, so there is a good element of progression. You don’t get everything at once.
Angus: Excellent stuff, so when’s Reality Fighters going to be available?
John: It’s due for launch at this stage (so end of 2011)
Angus: How have you found the experience working with the Vita?
It’s... it’s hard, you know, working on a launch game, because there’s a lot of nondisclosure issues and pressure. But as a device, it’s so cool - the cameras give us options, the touch screen, the rear touch as well… there are a lot of different applications that we can use. And you’re going to get games that you wouldn’t have thought would need the rear touch, and then you think ‘Well, how did I ever live without it?’. And of course, the dual sticks are great. They are going to be perfect for first person shooters – I can’t wait.