One of the highlights of attending PAX East last week in Boston was having the opportunity to play-test HoloGrid: Monster Battle, a new game from Phil Tippett and HappyGiant. Today, in an unofficial nod to #StarWarsDay (May the Fourth be with you all), Tippett Studio and HappyGiant have launched the game’s official Kickstarter campaign.
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For diehard Star Wars fans and special effects nerds like myself, Phil Tippett is a legend. Throughout his career, Tippett, a 2-time Academy Award winning visual effects supervisor, animator and director has managed to create some of the most memorable effects in film, lead the Lucasfilm creature shop and revolutionize the stop-motion animation industry by developing his go motion technique. His legendary career took off in 1975, when hired by George Lucas and Industrial Light & Magic to create and animate a scene of stop-motion miniature monsters for a little film called Star Wars. That scene, the “Holo Chess” game, is now a classic – one that Tippett himself recently recreated for The Force Awakens.
“Holo Chess” is very much the inspiration for HoloGrid. When I first read about the game’s development a few weeks back, my initial thoughts we’re muted. When I walked up to the unassuming HappyGiant booth at PAX however, my praise turned loud. The official description of the game technology, dubbed a digital augmented reality experience, is missing a few key adjectives. I’d call HoloGrid groundbreaking, uniquely immersive and downright awesome. At an event packed with the spectacle of big game developers like Blizzard, Sony and Nintendo, this under the radar, indie game left the biggest impression.
Let’s dive into the gameplay and effect of HoloGrid. Tippett Studio and HappyGiant are calling this a “hybrid CCG/turn-based tactical strategy game.” I’d call it a truly unique augmented reality experience which combines tangible and collectible card games like Magic with a digital board game interface that ties together the real and digital worlds. In this virtual reality renaissance, HoloGrid manages to create an entirely new gaming experience, more seamlessly merging virtual gaming into real life than what I’ve seen with the Oculus Rift thus far.
The turn-based, battle gaming employs strategy through the use of unique abilities, various character classes and spells which combine to create thousands of team and combination variables. Each match is fast-paced, lasting between 10-15 minutes. Local multiplayer will be included in the game’s initial launch, with remote multiplayer play as a stretch goal.
What most distinguishes HoloGrid from other mobile CCG games like Hearthstone is the physical elements of the game itself. Upon its release, HoloGrid will be a one-time-fixed price purchase that will include the game app (initially for iOS and Android), a tablet/phone stand and two packs of physical game cards featuring two champion characters, six minions, five spells and one board card. The cards themselves are the unique feature. When you hold a card in front of the tablet or phone, the game app, using your device’s camera, brings the character to life in real time augmented reality. That means, the character and game board become virtual implants to your physical environment as viewed through your camera.
It’s pretty tough to explain this and much easier to understand visually. Check out the HoloGrid trailer for a better idea of what I’m trying, but likely failing to adequately explain…
Phil Tippett created each of the game’s characters using Photogrammetry, a method of scanning his real life physical monsters into 3D digital assets for the game. This combination of the practical and digital worlds of visual effects plays very much into the spirit of the game itself. HoloGrid‘s combination of tangible and digital gameplay seamlessly melds the schools of tabletop and video gaming together into one unique and immersive gaming experience.
For more information, check out the Kickstarter page.