Shadow River Augmented Reality Game

The current game I am developing is provisionally titled Shadow River. So far I have developed a prototype level of it in Unity and paper prototyped its game mechanics and level progression. This will be a “tabletop” augmented game using markers and mobile devices like tablets or phones. After a detour into the history of Mesoamerican cosmic architecture, diagrams of ancient observatories and serpentine pyramid shadows documented in my sketchbook for the game, inspiration for the game came back to my initial, environmental focus, in this case the binary extremes of climate change: drought and storm. In this game, the player rotates cosmic blocks (sort of like Minimalist landscape sculptures) that cast long shadows when the sun reaches just the right position. The shadows fill dry river beds, creating shadow rivers that feed into a central moon lake. When the player successfully creates a shadow river in the dry terrain, a paper boat rides the river to the lake and harbors in safety.

But a great storm approaches and the player must protect their collection of paper boats with their blocks, from attacking monstrous spheres of hail,(an element of tower defense game mechanic). Each level is represented as a topographic landscape map (also intended to serve as an augmented reality paper marker for the player’s mobile device to fix on) and the player will use simple button controls in Vuforia to adjust the rotation of their shadow casting blocks in the game.

So far I have sketched out 3 levels symmetrically aligned around the central moon lake. I wonder if I should base these levels on actual topographic maps from drought stricken regions? ( But I would need a dry river bed to fill in each one) Or maintain more fictional distance…and game mechanics will dictate a certain level design… the first level will be the most simple, with just 2 blocks to manipulate, followed by difficulty scaling with more blocks and more complex layouts. (an option for increased difficulty would be for the boats to get stranded in the desert if the river drys up, and a final apocalyptic level could be of pure shadows minus 3-D components)

I am developing this game at the Davis Makerspace, a locally run Makerspace in downtown Davis, California, where in the future I plan to give some workshops on AR game development with Unity and Vuforia. Or on using games for political and environmental purposes. Or on artist approaches to game development.

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