“Trapmaster” is an 80’s-themed 2-player AR tabletop game where one player lays down trap cards that can only be seen through their phone, while the other acts as a Player, trying to escape an arcade game and avoiding the traps set by their opponent.
Creating an AR tabletop game was a difficult challenge for both of us; not only did we have limited experience in creating a balanced, working game, but we were also unfamiliar with the technology. Because of this, we divided up the work between us: Jared has created a card game for a previous project, so he headed up the game design, and Marcus led the research on the AR tech that was available for us to use.
From the very beginning, we knew we wanted to create something that would really take advantage of AR technology, and ideally would be something that could only be played in that medium. One of our early ideas was that, since AR cards could display information visible only through your phone, we could make a game that involved hiding your true intentions from your opponent. This evolved into some early concepts about laying traps for each other, which ultimately led us to want to make an asymmetric game where one person’s job is to lay down unidentifiable trap cards, and the other person to scan and reveal them as they try to avoid them. We felt that an AR game was at its best when there are physical objects that can be interacted with and moved around, as well as some aspect of using technology to reveal things that can’t be seen otherwise, leading to simple but fun “mind games” with your opponent. While our playtesting revealed that a similar type of game could be made with double-sided trap cards that you place face-down, it’s hard to argue the “coolness” of the AR gimmick, which Marcus went to great lengths to pull off.
Creating physical game pieces and developing the AR tech to suit our needs proved to be even more challenging than the game design itself. One of the few free AR design applications available was Zappar. We designed the 3D models within Blender and exported them into Zapworks Studio, Zappar’s accompanying design application. We then linked them to target images with “zapcodes”, small symbols identifiable to the Zappar app. The program has a few limitations, including only being able to scan and view one image at a time. For the purposes of this project, that is acceptable, but for a more fleshed-out version of this game, multiple image-viewing would be preferred. The app also has a strange glitch in how it views the depth of some of the 3D models, which is again undesirable but sufficient for our needs. Printing out the board and cards required visiting several print and craft shops, and while we would prefer to use more expensive materials in our final product, what we managed to make was definitely sufficient for the confines of this project.
What really enhanced the project was our choice of a retro-80’s aesthetic: Using the phone to see three-dimensional objects evoked the old school 3D-glasses of yesteryear, and the silly parody traps and puns fit in quite nicely with their purple wireframe appearances. Overall, we are pleased that we created a working model that could potentially be expanded upon in a fully-developed, balanced, and fun game. With a team of artists, designers, techs, and 3D modelers, we think further working on this project in the future would be both feasible and rewarding.