Known for their popular games Ingress and Pokémon GO, Niantic is also developing Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. They recently shared a blog post giving fans a preview of what they are calling the “Niantic Real World Platform.” The blog post opens with:
When we built Niantic, we structured the company’s mission around three core values: exploration, exercise, and real-world social interaction. But not in our wildest dreams did we imagine the kind of positive impact our Augmented Reality (AR) experiences would have on our players and the communities where they live.
If you are new to Augmented Reality (AR), consider reading our previous article summarizing AR technologies first.
Niantic’s blog post reveals new AR technologies that could be used in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. I will focus on two of these, Codename: Tonehenge and Codename: Neon. These are both ways for users to share the same Augmented Reality and interact with one another.
Shared AR experiences
In Pokémon GO, players can work together to battle Pokémon in raids and in gyms. As of yet, however, Pokémon GO does not offer a way for players to see the same Augmented Reality. Once your camera is on and you are interacting with the creature you want to capture, your friend will not be able to see this interaction through their own game, nor can they impact your interaction. Your friend can neither help you capture the Pokémon nor hinder your attempts.
Codename: Neon and Codename: Tonehenge are ways for players to:
- view and interact with the same Augmented Reality at the same time, and
- take actions within this Augmented Reality that impact each others’ games
This is more complicated than it sounds. The AR feature must understand that if two people (or phones) are facing each other, then for the image to make sense, a creature they both see cannot face both of them. This means that if the creature is facing one player, the other player should see the creature from behind. If the creature attacks, it should not be able to attack both a player behind them and in front of them at the same time, unless it has a useful tail. The creature should also appear less aware of the player that is standing behind it.
These are all things we take for granted in the real world, but it is complicated to get a computer program to understand. This is part of what Niantic are working to achieve.
Tonehenge is introduced to us as a multiplayer puzzle game in which each player can see the AR rendered statues or rocks move, and can “grab” them to make the objects move wherever they want. Players must work together to do this in certain way which then unlocks a jigsaw puzzle. Again, the players need to solve the puzzle together.
Could this be used to allow us to play Wizard Chess, as we see the golden trio do in Philosopher’s Stone? Move the chess pieces to their proper places and then watch them literally crush each other?
Or could this be used to open secret locations, or to unlock certain mysteries? The possibilities are endless.
Either way, it is a wonderful opportunity for multiplayer aspects, and it gives hope to anyone who was intrigued by the prospect of “team[ing] up with others to take down powerful enemies.”
In the video showcasing Codename: Neon, it looks suspiciously like the players are casting spells at each other.
The fact that Wizards Unite would feature spells was made clear in the very first announcements of the game. The announcements from Pottermore, Niantic, and the official Wizards Unite website all let us know that we will be able to learn to cast spells. Which is no less than what we should expect from a Harry Potter game, of course.
Codename: Neon might very well be giving us the first glimpse of what this feature could look like.
In the video, we see a number of players in a room, shooting colored rays of light at each other. Through the camera phone, we see their usernames, presumably (d0rkus_15, ro_gue, pneutrix, hunter2 and so on) as well as some numbers (05/01, 02/02, 22/21). The numbers seem to rise as the player hits someone or gets hit themselves. The lights are shot by clicking on the other person on your screen.
It seems safe to assume that this feature will be the base of the spell system in Wizards Unite. As we battle our enemies, we may be able to cast the scarlet ray of the Expelliarmus charm against an enemy, potentially stopping the green streak of an Avada Kedavra before it hits!
Final thoughts on AR features in Wizards Unite
Exactly how these new AR features will be implemented in Wizards Unite remains to be seen, but it is clear that there are many opportunities for multiplayer features and player-vs-player (PVP) abilities, potentially making Wizards Unite a very social game.
Once Wizards Unite actually launches, these exciting AR features will certainly encourage Harry Potter fans to go out into the real world and «team up with others to take down powerful enemies.»
Or just practice dueling with other Harry Potter fans!
What game features do you want to see in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite?