Return of Aetheria is a yearly project that is created by students at The School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI. Only the best and hardest working students are selected for this project. Return of Aetheria: War of Realms is an ARG (augmented reality game) that was designed from the ground-up to be a massive-multiplayer game played during Indy Pop Con 2014. Over 250 unique players played this game when it was presented.
The game has players join one of two sides. In the story of this game, two of the story characters from the previous game, Roxxy and Nereida, are battle against each other over the ability to use magic in our world. Roxxy wants everyone to use magic, and Nereida thinks it’s dangerous and wants to seal magic. When players complete quests while playing the game, they earn points. Individual scores are used to keep track of the top players, and overall team scores are kept track for which faction will triumph in the story.
HOW IT IS PLAYED
Every player was given one of these RFID cards. The card is scanned at the reader that’s placed next to the table. This is the method used for the player to log-in to select a quest.
The player’s user-interface display area appears on the outside rim of the table. Note: This image is not the same table used at Indy Pop Con, it’s about 1/4 the size of that table.
The player can touch and drag the icon to city on the map to select a quest.
The booth was located within the exhibit hall in the Indianapolis Convention Center for Indy Pop Con.
Players come to the table to get their quests. Quests include: playing games at the booth, crafts, riddles, puzzles, visiting the research board to answer story related questions, monster battles, and visiting the booths of sponsors and partners at the convention.
Some of the quests involved visiting the arts and crafts table.
There was an area for games and puzzles.
Other booths at the convention, such as my booth for Out of Continues, had Monster Battle Posters. There are two located at my booth. One in the center and one next to me. There is a code on the bottom of those posters, which the players use to obtain the Monster Battle.
Players come to the main game area of the booth to play additional games that involve ping pong balls, paper footballs, dice, or other simple items. They also come to this area to verify the answers to their riddles and trivia questions. If correct, the staff member at the booth will give them the code.
When a player is given a code for completing a quest, they come to these kiosks, log in with a username and password that they created when signing up, and enter the code to earn points. After doing so, they can return to the touch-screen table to obtain a new quest.
At the end, we had a grand finale.
Staff members dressed up to do a live-performance of the ending for the game’s story.
The top players celebrated along-side the staff who worked hard on this game.
During 2013, I was in a team with three other game designers to come up with the fundamental game mechanics of this new game which will use a large, 90″ touch screen table. This touch screen table was used as the primary game hub for players to select quests and travel through the world of Aetheria.
I worked with the three other Game Designers during the fall semester of 2013 to come up with the user interface of the table and the UX design of the table functions.
We constructed a paper-prototype of the UI to scale with the touch screen table. After playtesting and making adjustments to the paper-prototype, we made a digital version.
We were tasked to place four cities on the map that will hold the quest markers for the players. Each player gets an RFID card, so we decided to have players log-in at the card scanners to be assigned a place on the table. We designated eight areas on the table for players so the table will not be too crowded. Each city is connected by the “Wilds” areas, which have more difficult quests, and there is a mysterious fog in the center of the table, which will reveal a fifth city on the final day of the convention.
After we got a design for the table layout, we started working on the individual user interface displays for the player.
Each member of the Design Team was assigned to come up with a mock-up of the players’ UI. Above is the design I came up with, which initially has the player’s name, rank, score, a player avatar, the faction (in this case it’s Nereida) and a large icon that the player will drag from their individual display, onto the world map to obtain a quest. Due to the table being a touch screen, I decided that having the icon for quest selecting to be as big as possible so that it can attract that player’s attention.
After the player drags the icon from their display onto the world map and selects a quest-giver marker, the icon gets replaced by a list of quests to select.
After the player clicks on a quest name, they are given the quest description and the option to accept or decline that quest.
The Game Design team all presented our mock-ups, and combined our best ideas together to create this finale mock-up before passing it along to the art team. We used all of my ideas, as well as some of the other team members’ ideas, such as adding a timer to show when they get logged off, a banner for what faction the player is in, and badges for an achievement system.
The Art and 3D team worked together to create this map for the table. Each city has ten buildings and each building has three quests. The purple crystals in the “wilds” areas are the quest markers for the wilds. The purple border is where the players’ user display are placed.
On the final day of the convention, the map changes to the fifth city, the Spirit City. There are only 30 difficult quests on this map and only the top players are able to play on this map.
During the spring semester of 2014, I was promoted to Team Leader of the Game Design team. I had four new team members below me. The five of us were tasked to work on the content design of this game. We were required to meet once a week, but I scheduled our team to meet multiple times a week. Sometimes we met in person, sometimes we met online via Skype. We set up over 200 quests for the game, story, background for the characters, the research board, and way for players to win prizes. Throughout the semester, we conducted multiple play sessions, and used the feedback to adjust game balance and the mechanics of the quests. The game economy was based on difficulty and time consumption. The more difficult or time consuming a quest is, the more points it is worth.