VARdragons Invade the Skies at PAX East
Augmented reality and virtual reality are having a baby, and it's a dragon! Well, technically, a lot of dragons. VARdragons is being developed for mobile platforms where you catch, train and battle pet dragons. The interesting factor about this is that real life airplanes and aircraft are the dragons that you catch. When you see an airplane flying overhead or if you are at an airport, watch them through your phone and you will see all different types of dragons you can catch for your team or "horde," as it's called in the game.
VARdragons' unique AR engine is powered by access to live in-flight aircraft tracking data from the FAA. Each dragon's unique features and design are distinguished by plane model, airline and other flight features. Multiple players can capture the same dragon, with the stats of each creature randomly generated within its perimeters. Once you have a dragon in your care, you must train, play and feed it to help your dragon grow stronger. This is done by playing mini-games with them or, if you have the equipment, spending time with them in virtual reality.
On top of capturing different dragons to train, you will be able to find geocaches that offer treasure and gear you can use to power your dragon in duels. Duels can happen anywhere and anytime if you accept the challenge. Players will have the option of searching for specific opponents or randomly challenge a dragon that is flying overhead. Battles take place in five turns. During each turn, a player must choose an attack move and defense move and the battle algorithm will have a rock-paper-scissor type of effect to determine the winner of each round. After five rounds, a winner will be determined and loot will be found.
The most interesting factor in this game is a piece of hardware dubbed the "Magic Talon" (an actual aircraft-tracking antenna designed to look very dragonlike). Estimated to be around $60, this device will not only increase your effective range to find dragons, but essentially allow the player to become his or her own in-game shopkeeper. Other players will be able to come to your shop and buy any items you may have on sale to generate in-game currency. This even includes player-designed skins for dragons.
VARdragons is still looking for people to sign up to reach their 5,000 Kickstarter goal. PAX East is their first big show and when I visited the booth, they were close to 4,000 signatures by the end of the first day. Once they reach 5,000 subscriptions, the beta will take place. VARdragons is shaping up to be a fun, but also in-depth, mixed-reality game -- a pleasant surprise for the genre and, hopefully, a growing trend as the technology grows and evolves.