Dev Report: These College Students' AR Game Had Their School LARPing a Cyberpunk 'Humans vs. Zombies' in AR

These College Students' AR Game Had Their School LARPing a Cyberpunk 'Humans vs. Zombies' in AR

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I am a cyberpunk junkie. The conflict between lowlifes, corporations, and the government, flavored with dystopian future, high technology, transhumanism, artificial intelligence, and noir storytelling, just does something for me.

Since I have loved cyberpunk for most of my life, it is likely the influence that led me to work in the industry I work in today, as AR/VR is by far the most cyberpunk technology that exists.

This past weekend a documentary hit YouTube called DAEMON: Game & Gallery Show Documentary (not to be confused with my favorite post-cyberpunk novel, Daemon by Daniel Suarez). The film documents the creation of a cyberpunk-themed augmented reality live-action role-playing game (AR-LARP), showing off how they used Google Cardboard and Vuforia to produce the AR elements and culminating in the event itself.

For more than a year, a group of students, lead by Daniel Pomidor from Savannah College of Art and Design, created this event, an offshoot of a yearly campus-wide game of tag held at the college called Humans Vs. Zombies.

As children on the playground, we have likely all played tag, a simple game where we run around, touch each other, scream "you're it," and retreat. While Humans Vs. Zombies is very much that game on a base level, it is also something else altogether. Though many use this simile to simplify its explanation, likening the event to tag does not really present a real picture of what it is.

If you are lucky enough to have seen the TV show Community, you might know where I am going with this.

Think five-day-long, college-wide games of Paintball Assasin, except paintballs guns are replaced with the Nerf variety, which results in a far less messy experience.

Now take that idea, add cool AR technology and narrative elements to drive a story, and surround it with a great deal of artwork to give the ideas represented a real presence in the world. Populate this vision with a collection of 80 to 100 or so college students running around shooting each other with Nerf guns, and you will begin to form an idea of what Daemon turned into.

A couple of great representations of the artwork are shown in the teaser trailer (below) and instructional video (further below) the students created to generate interest and help with the Kickstarter campaign they conducted just before the event.

Often these type of events are really a one-time, one-place, "you had to be there" kind of events. In a short conversation with Daniel Pomidor, after confirming that Vuforia was indeed the tool they used to create the AR elements for Daemon, I learned that maybe one day we could see a repeat or possibly even more.

It is something we've definitely thought about as a team. Currently, the group is spread out across the country. I live in LA now, but it's an idea and a concept we want to expand upon and potentially do again.

We've also thought about growing it beyond just the LARP to potentially be a persistent game like Pokémon Go, but it's something that exists purely in sketchbooks and hypotheticals. But, short answer — yeah, we'd like to do it again, we just don't know when.

— Daniel Pomidor

If you have never had an opportunity to LARP, getting lost for a weekend in the role of a character and the stories of a different world with 100 to 150 other people can be a great deal of fun. AR can bring a greater level of organization, a cohesion of design and execution, and greater immersion, among other potential effects, to such an event.

While, as developers, we all look at AR and try to find the killer apps and use cases, maybe we can draw a little inspiration from what a group of 9 college students did to entertain their campus for a weekend.

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Cover image via Forward Instinct/ YouTube

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