Virtual Reality may be all the talk right now, but Microsoft took things in a decidedly different direction with the announcement of HoloLens, an Augmented Reality headset that paints virtual reality on top of the real world. Here are the games that are either available now or soon that could best make use of this technology.
Few games would lend themselves so perfectly to the benefits of an augmented reality headset quite like The Sims. The Sim Creator from The Sims 4 is a perfect example. Imagine having a small 3D hologram of your Sim standing atop your desk as you use your hands to pull on arrows to manipulate its proportons. It would be like creating a virtual sculpture, with the added fun of it coming to life once it’s done. Houses and buildings could be manipulated in the same way, and treated like animated dollhouses sitting on top of your coffee table.
However, the interactivity doesn’t have to stop there. If you happen to like piece of decoration, like the 3D holographic gaming console, then you could use HoloLens to bring it into your world. No, you wouldn’t be able to use it - things would become far too meta - but you’d have it as a decoration. Like fake flowers, which you could also import from The Sims. Maybe overlay a better looking coffee table on top of your real one. Or hang an augmented reality verson of the painting your favorite Sim completed on your own wall. The possibilities go on.
Viewers are briefly shown a Minecraft-like game in the HoloLens’ promotional video. Given that the HoloLens isn’t making itself out to be a full virtual reality device, it might be unlikely that you’ll need to equip yourself with a fake pickaxe and build massive constructs that would put the Pyramids of Gyza to shame, using your bare hands. Instead, I suspect the size of the world would be a little bit more manageable, and you’d piece it together like a massive Lego set. Then, maybe, after putting together a smaller version of it, you could have it grow into the proportions you want.
What I’ve described wouldn’t be a full or authentic Minecraft experience, but since Microsoft owns the rights to the game, it would be a mistake not to somehow include it to show off what HoloLens can do.
We already know that the Alien Isolation Demo for Oculus Rift is wonderfully scary. Being trapped in a darkened, claustrophobic, maze of corridors is bound to get your heart thumping and your stress hormones up. But how does that translate into Augmented Reality? We ask the question: Could you survive in your own house against a killer alien?
It would be the special home edition of Alien Isolation. You could use the HoloLens to scan through your house and its furniture. Then you would set the starting point and exit, place bystanders, enemies, and gadget parts in different rooms, and pretend (for the sake of the experience) that all other doors and windows don’t work. Then see how far you get, adjusting your diffuculty with each run. It would be the ultimate game of solo hide-and-seek.
One of the main problems would be mood, since houses are generally better lit than derelict space stations. You could turn off some of the lights and play at night (what's wrong? Scared?). Or the light could work to the enemy’s benefit, since it makes you much easier to spot.
Total War Series
The great thing about the Total War series is that it gives you a god’s eye view of the battefield as soldiers from history clash. But what if you really could be like a giant, invisible, and intangible god standing over the land? You could direct your forces using your hands, keep an on on the battlefield by turning your head, and call in reinforcements with a gesture. It would be an all-new and potentially deep way to experience historical battles. Players just need to resist the urge to crush the little soldiers with their bare hands, because we’re not talking about Black and White here.
Black & White
If there were ever a game series that positively screams Perfect Fit for an Augmented Reality experience, it’s Black & White. The games already have you playing as the disembodied hand of a diety. Developers could even bring back the pattern-based controls for spell-casting. Players can use their fingers to pick up their creature’s leash and lead them around the world. However, depending on how good the graphics care, they might be a little more reluctant to pick up after them.
I realize the game series has pretty much been buried and forgotten, much like other fallen gods. But I believe that with an interface like HoloLens, the game could make a very powerful comeback.
Rainbow Six: Siege and The Division
First-person shooters lend themselves to some very exciting virtual reality experiences. However, the HoloLens is not a virtual reality headset. Instead, I imagine that the device could be better used to operate a companion app, that could show levels in full 3D. Teams could use it to coordinate their strategy, mark points where snipers should go, and fully plan a powerful breach or defense.
The app would be like a 3D playbook that could be adapted to other Tom Clancy games like The Division, which happens to have feature an in-game holographic map of the city to work from. Imagine if you could project that onto your own floor.
The Warhammer/40K Tabletop Games
There have been numerous computer and console adaptations of the Warhammer series, ranging from action shooters to real-time strategy games. These games often work only with the lore and setting, and usually bear little resemblance to the tabletop game that inspired them. Using augmented reality, that could change. Any flat surface can can become a game board, decorated with a virtual landscape and 3D scenery. Blank pieces, if players need something tactile to work work with, can be overlaid with animated virtual skins. Yes, this takes away some of the game’s charm, which traditionally includes painting the pieces and constructing the set, but it would also make the game accessible to a new audience.
Warhammer is just one example. There are a multitude of tabletop games that are could make the jump to Augmented Reality.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
The list would be incomplete if we didn’t mention Halo. After all, the HoloLens looks like it could make up 1/3rd of a Spartan helmet. Plus, let’s not forget that Cortana is your virtual assistant. Then there’s how the new web browser is being called Project Spartan. Microsoft may be dropping Halo references all over the place, but that doesn’t mean that it all leads to Halo HoloLens port, because of one clear reason. HoloLens operates using Windows 10. A HoloLens port of Halo: The Master Chief Collection would mean it’s possible, with some more effort, to also have straight PC port. Our sense is the Microsoft likes to toss words around, but will ultimately wants to keep the series exclusive to Xbox consoles, but we'd love to be proven wrong.
However, one of the big benefits of Windows 10 is that it can stream games from an Xbox One. This opens up the opportunity for a companion app to help augment the experience. Perhaps it could heighten the experience by allowing players to see more from their periphery. It could paint the floor and walls of your room with matching environment tiles, so it feels like you’re playing the game from wherever you are in the game. Lastly, if you get stuck or lost on a level, you could ask Cortana where you should go.
Holochess, Dejarik and other Star Wars activities
The world of Star Wars can be brought into our world. These include virtual reality lightsabers, you can shoot lightning from your hands like a Sith, or move around computer generated objects using the power of your gesture commands - er, mind. Best of all, other activities like the Jedi training orb droid can be summoned, and it might not hurt when it zaps you. Try not to wreck any furniture trying to swat it. Holographic tabletop games like Holochess and Dejarik are made possible using HoloLens, so you can finally play it for yourself and watch little alien creatures pummel each other. Just remember to always let the Wookie win.
Steven Wong posted a new article, 9 Games Ready for Microsoft HoloLens Augmentation
HoloLens is still a long way out. The working prototype shown behind closed doors in a highly controlled environment (no pictures/video) requires you to wear a 5 pound computer around your neck exhausting hot air all over you. This computer had a wired connection to other equipment in the room as well as 4+ kinect cameras in the room aimed at you. The prototype has a roughly 40 degree field of view (by comparison the rift has a 100 degree field of view). Shiny or brightly lit objects bleed horribly through the holograms.
The onstage demo was created with tracking sensors in the mocked up headset and camera. A computer behind the curtains rendered everything and that was overlaid on top of the "live" video feed.
When Peter Molyneux is telling you to temper your expectations, that is really quite an achievement.
It's still real fucking magic. Can't believe that shit. It doesn't really matter what the prototypes were designed like, because they are just that. They said it would be available "in the windows 10 timeframe", which is obviously vague, but I think you can certainly narrow that to within the next two years. I'd lean towards within a year.