“The Woods” is a mixed-reality, two-player cooperative game that addresses the perils of social isolation by promoting connections between people and actively engaging them in collaborative play. Through our unique design of AR and audio spatialization, “The Woods” further expands this by promoting real-world, physical interactions over screen-based interactions. Highlighting the importance of physical interaction and collaborative play, our design intent is to provide positive social impact by illuminating our human connections to one another by prompting our players to coordinate their efforts, discover what connects them, and work together in pursuit of shared goals.
As a two-player game, “The Woods” is unique in how it enables players to physically collaborate with their whole bodies. A client-server model exists between the players’ phones and the Photon Unity Network where each client renders the game based on its shared positional data. We accomplish this by tracking the positions of each phone relative to an AR marker located on the floor as players move about the 12-foot diameter game space with their positions synched over the network. Based on the calculated positions of each client, we connect the players together by placing a virtual branch at their midpoint. As players move their phones through physical space, the branch simultaneously moves accordingly in virtual space. Thus, players must choreograph their movement and, by extension, the branch to provide a perch for virtual birds to land on. The game checks for collisions between the branch and two other virtual objects. If a collision occurs between the branch and a bird, then the bird will land on the branch and reveal additional story narrative through the phones' speakers. Alternatively, if a collision occurs between the branch and a storm cloud, then a crash of thunder erupts, and any birds that had been caught scatter and fly away.
I designed these rules and game mechanics such that it is not enough for one player to do all the work. Because each player controls only one end of the branch, success requires their combined effort to reach the win-state of having four birds perched on it. The mechanics were also designed to parallel the game's narrative of isolated siblings navigating their own obstacles while attempting to reconnect with one another.
As a cooperative AR game, “The Woods” promotes face-to-face interactions over screen-based interactions. It can only be played in person because the game is built upon the players’ adjacency to one another. Furthermore, the phone as an AR device is not the focus of interaction with the other player. After the start of the game, there is no direct interaction with the phone other than holding it and using it as a viewport. Here its primary purpose is to provide the players with feedback and encourage verbal and physical collaboration as they negotiate the game environment together, locating birds in flight, moving the branch toward birds to provide a perch for them to land on, and evading storm clouds. In “The Woods,” the player’s interaction with the other player extends beyond the phone and into the space in which they are playing together.
Voice Acting and Improvisation
Narrative Design Consulting
Sound Design Consulting
App Development Consulting
Playing "The Woods" at the Urban Arts Space, Columbus. OH. Players appear to be ducking beneath a virtual cloud passing overhead.
Players looking at one another through their phones as they navigate a virtual space together.
Player watching the intro animation that visually describes the goal of the game as well as the obstacles to avoid.
Players focusing on a virtual bird flying low to the ground as they collaborate to move the virtual branch beneath it.