When Pokémon Go launched last week, we theorized that Microsoft’s HoloLens could be a huge platform for the game. While HoloLens’ high price makes any kind of official port extremely unlikely, that hasn’t stopped HoloLens developers from creating mock-ups of how the game might play when paired with Microsoft’s headset.
First up, there’s CapitolaVR and a video created by David Robustelli. This build was created in Unity with the HoloLens SDK. It shows Pokémon being randomly generated in the environment before being captured by Pokéballs.
“For now the Pokémon are randomly generated within a mapped environment,” Robustelli told UploadVR. “We are now focusing on how to use different gestures for specific interactions. For example, like opening your inventory or activating your map and zooming in and tilting your map. The thing is there is a huge amount of possibilities that are unexplored and which could work for games like these. A more challenging thing is how to access the Google Maps API and enabling it within a running app. But I’m sure that in the upcoming years when more and more people are developing for this hardware also more things will be standard to use in tools and apps.”
The other prototype video was put together by Koder, a “developers-as-a-service” coding business. It includes shots of a potential UI — along with Pokémon that dance along to the included soundtrack — plus real-world Pokéballs. The idea of an incorporated AR toy that the user had to interact with is somewhat interesting, but the practical implementation would undoubtedly be problematic (imagine hundreds of people throwing Pokéballs around in the same relatively small area).
Both videos illustrate the potential ways that HoloLens or its eventual successor could be used to improve AR games in the future, and the smash success of Pokémon Go. At the same time, after watching both videos, I’m left wondering — what the heck is playing this game supposed to accomplish?
I mean, seriously. It’s really cool, for the first few minutes, to see little Pokémon superimposed over the real world and I like the concept of a real-world Pokéball, even if the practical implementation at scale would never work for an open-world social game. The actual gameplay mechanisms seem to be lacking, however. There’s no robust battle system beyond challenging other people to control gyms. The fighting mechanics at the heart of other Pokémon titles seem absent here and reviewers that focus on Pokémon Go’s actual gameplay rather than its novelty seem to agree that there’s not a lot of depth to this title.
Polygon’s review goes into some detail on this topic and I think it’s an understandable issue — and in some respects, even a desirable one. It’s easy to forget that the games we enjoy today evolved over time and with no small amount of trial and error. The ability to store larger amounts of data on floppy disks allowed developers to create text adventure games, while the ability to display graphics on the Apple II led to the creation of the first graphical adventure game, Mystery House. The FPS genre was kickstarted by games like Ultima Underworld, which ran on an engine significantly more powerful than the one powering the first FPS title most people have heard of — Wolfenstein 3D.
With VR and AR both still in their infancy, we’re at the very beginning of what will eventually be done with both mediums. In the long run, even popular games like Pokémon Go will look quaint — the same way that Wolfenstein 3D and Quake do today.