Electronic Arts is inviting players of The Sims Freeplay and their friends to visit the homes of their Sims in augmented reality with a new AR mode that supports multiplayer and persistent content using ARKit 2.0.
Available in the Brilliant Backyards update for ARKit-compatible iPhones and iPads, the new AR feature lets players see their Sims' home in their physical space and view the dollhouse model from various angles that are not available through the usual touchscreen mode. With ARKit 2.0, players can also invite friends to help build upon the house, and save the AR environment for play at a later time.
To get started, players activate AR mode via the green button on their home screen and start a new AR house lot. After scanning for a space to anchor the home and placing the virtual structure, players then tap "Save AR Space" to set the location.
From there, players can customize the home in Build Mode, with any items unlocked in the app available to place at no cost. Similarly, any available Sims or pets can be invited into the house to do the things they would usually do in the game.
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To return to a saved house location, players select the virtual home from the AR Spaces menu and then point the camera to the real-world space that matches the saved snapshot for the saved state.
For multiplayer mode, the game's host initiates the session by tapping the Multiplayer button, with guests joining via the Search button at the end of the AR Spaces menu. To merge sessions, the guest must first stand near the host. Once the host appears among the available spaces, guests tap "Connect" and align their camera view with the host's virtual house location, with a snapshot of the space providing assistance.
There are a couple of caveats to the AR mode and multiplayer sessions. Players can't sell AR mode items or bring them back to the standard game mode, and players can't collect resources, earn experience points, or progress in active quests via AR interactions. Also, guests can't interact with host Sims or bring their own Sims to the party, and certain Ultimate Makeover and Have a Birthday gameplay are not available in the AR mode.
Adoption of the latest ARKit features, namely its multiplayer support, persistent content, and object recognition features, has been somewhat sluggish since its launch, so having a major publisher like EA update a title from one its major franchises for the latest features of the toolkit is a welcome development for Apple.
On the other hand, EA opting for Apple's closed garden multiplayer AR is a blow to Cloud Anchors, Google's cross-platform flavor of multiplayer available through ARCore.
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