There is something appealing about being able to touch things; human being are tactile creatures after all and no matter how digitally sophisticated our world becomes, it will never entirely supplant physical interactions. Those who feared that the printed book would disappear when the Kindle appeared were relieved to find that rather than signaling the end of the physical object it simply created an additional means for distribution of content.
The same can be said for those who relish the experience of physical objects as part of game play. The development of digital technologies for gaming has not destroyed the art or experience of object based games. Instead, it has created additional opportunities. There is the more traditional physical/digital dichotomy in game playing for simple board games such as Monopoly which can be played on a table with a board and the nostalgic metal figurines or with an iPad that is passed around from player to player (although even this had a transitional state as well in which a credit card reader removed the necessity for paper money).
Then, there is a more in depth shift in gaming that has allowed not just the translation of old games into their digital versions, but also for the creation of games that were possible only because of digital technologies. Still, however, there has not been an abandonment of the physical and more gamers are finding themselves engaging in what are called “interactive figurine-based” digital games. In these games, the ‘board’ is a digital interface but the figurines and some additional accessories exist in space.
A pioneering example from 2012 was the release of the ePawn Arena digital board game tabletop that worked with figurines containing a patented magnetic technology. This game board could be hooked up to a PC, Android, or iOS device and the board’s surface responded to input from the physical figurines. Dungeons and Dragons players would still be able to enjoy their hand painted figurines and the social aspect of getting together in a single place, for example, while still taking advantage of the possibilities present in digital gaming.
The key to these digital boards lies in these figurines; a major obstacle to anyone who doesn’t have the funding or infrastructure to engage in the mass production that would be necessary in order to be profitable. All that changes, however, when 3D printing technology is thrown into the mix.
Joe Wee and Chris Byatte, who have had a major presence in the digital world as founders of Chillingo, have addressed one of the fundamental barriers that had been preventing 3D printed figurines from democratizing game development. Up until this point, the figurines that could be created with 3D printing were ‘dumb’ objects that lacked the engagement mechanics of the pieces that could be developed by companies with budgets and ready clientele. Wee and Bayette created a platform that will allow all levels of mobile game developers to create ‘smart’ figurines that can be 3D printed and used to interact with mobile games. They are working to release their developer program through Things3D, which has launched today.
Wee explained what they are contributing to the market:
“The Things3D SDK provides developers with a multitude of ways to create new engagement mechanics during gameplay via the physical ‘Smart’ 3D prints. This is a step-change in thinking for game developers when designing games. Things3D will tap into the creative power of the app developers to create new exciting physical-digital experiences for their fans.”
The platform is the result of over a year of development work and four international patents pending, including the unique OwnerChip® technology and its T3DSECURE® platform. As of now, the Things3D’s SDK is compatible with Android and iOS but the developers hope to be able to add more gaming platforms to their list in the near future. Byatte discussed the platform’s potential for enhanced gaming experience without losing the enjoyment of the physical interactions:
“This platform creates a 360° digital-to-physical bridge for game developers to engage with their fans. It taps into the propensity for gamers to create collections of characters in which they have an emotional tie-in. Through the Things3D platform, both digital and physical manifestation of the characters are inherently tied via smartphone imagine and scanning technology.”
This is good news no matter how digitally adept you are – the democratization of creativity is always interesting! Let’s here your thoughts on this new use of 3D printing within gaming, in the Things3D forum thread on 3DPB.com.
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