Mirrorscape has announced the open beta launch of its augmented reality (AR) tabletop gaming platform for mobile devices and Apple Vision Pro.
In an interview with GamesBeat, the company’s leaders said it’s ideal for role-playing games and digital tabletop experiences, and its design is being adapted for the Vision Pro, Apple’s XR device that will debut in 2024.
Mirrorscape has ben working on this for years. In addition to mobile devices, Mirrorscape is developing its platform to be compatible with a wide variety of AR glasses and headsets, including Apple’s new Vision Pro, devices on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces platform, and others that are anticipated to be released in 2023.
And in doing so, the developers at Mirrorscape are showing that someone with the inside track on upcoming XR devices has been paying attention to what the Apple platform could do for different kinds of games.
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“Mirrorscape is a platform built by and for tabletop RPG players, and we are ecstatic to show our community what we’ve been working to develop,” said Mirrorscape CEO Grant Anderson. “The support Mirrorscape has received in building our platform has been thrilling to see, and we thank every one of our users, backers, developers, and partners for their contributions to the future of tabletop gaming.”
Mobile, AR and VR
Mirrorscape’s glasses and headset functionality will launch later this year, enabling heightened immersion and advanced hand tracking and gesture technology. It’s easy, for instance, to pick up a gaming piece from a digital tabletop and place it somewhere.
The Los Angeles XR game studio said its platform is available for free on iOS and Android and integrates cutting-edge AR functionality with traditional tabletop game features to provide an immersive virtual platform for roleplay gaming.
“What’s great about this solution is you can play around the table with everybody, and it’s literally on the device that you own,” Anderson said. “Apple is coming out with this device. We’re building it from the ground up so that it will work in specialized computing devices like Apple’s. But we also knew that they were going to be expensive. And there’s still going to be several years until mass adoption, right. So we’re releasing initially on iOS and Android phones and tablets, with the PC version shortly behind.”
The Mirrorscape platform supports open play of popular games like Dungeons & Dragons, Paizo’s Starfinder, and Pathfinder, allowing users to build and interact with game pieces, terrain, and other players as they do in a physical setting.
The platform is built as an open gaming platform for RPGs, modular to different rulesets and game systems, encouraging creative development of user-generated homebrew campaigns.
Anderson was an engineer at Apple working on QuickTime VR back in the 1990s. He worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation — Technical Manual, which was a VR interactive walkthrough of the Starship Enterprise. Then he went on to work in Los Angeles on visual effects for films like Titanic, Spider-Man, and The Matrix.
He became head of Sony Pictures 3D, but 3D TVs fizzled. In the Oculus era, he went to work at Jaunt VR and also made interactive VR for Marvel and made a Dreamscape Immersive experience based on How to Train Your Dragon.
“We’ve been working in AR and VR now for about nine years, which is insane,” Anderson said. “And all the while I was thinking, in the back of my head, I was also an avid tabletop game player. So I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons since I was seven.”
During COVID, he saw the difficulty of getting together to play and started playing remotely. Anderson was offered a chance to return to Apple for a time to work on its headset, but he decided not to return and didn’t wind up working on the project.
“I knew that we wanted to start and be there day one for this device,” Anderson said. “A few years ago, I started just programming this in Unity to make a more authentic way to be able to play tabletop games” in a digital way.
Long development cycle
Mirrorscape has built the platform over the course of four years and has received good fan support throughout its testing stage.
As of June 2023, Mirrorscape had more than 4,000 active users in beta, having raised eight times its funding goal from more than 3,700 contributors on Kickstarter. This support will be translated into Mirrorscape’s long-term growth plans as an overarching gaming and XR development powerhouse.
“Tabletop gaming is in the midst of a renaissance, with interest in games like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder at a high point in public engagement,” said Mirrorscape COO Donald Bland. “We’re offering the first open, immersive platform for players of all experience levels, and this technology can revolutionize how longtime players engage with their favorite games while ushering in a new generation of young players.”
The Mirrorscape platform is the first of its kind in the tabletop gaming space, providing users with a unique and immersive gaming experience that can be enjoyed anywhere and at any time.
Devices beyond Apple
And aside from Apple, it makes sense for Mirrorscape to make its platform work on Qualcomm and it’s Snapdragon Spaces AR platform. One Mirrorscape prototype is working on Lenovo smart glasses. The team is working on making devices work with miniatures and creating digital twins of the miniatures like a hand-painted Dwarven forge, scanned into high resolution digital form.
Qualcomm is working with an open platform on the Spaces platform, and so they’re working with a variety of headset manufacturers like Lenovo and Xreal, and all these other devices.
“You get this authentic experience,” Anderson said. “It looks absolutely real. You can make everybody can see it, whether they’re around the table or not. You can all play together, you can all play remotely.”
The company has about 1,500 members on its Discord community, and they’re creating big maps of the adventures.
“The whole idea is is this is a user creativity user creation tool,” Anderson said. “They’re building maps now. So they’ll be able to paint their miniatures.”
One of the interesting things about digital tabletop gameplay is that D&D is played around a table with a top-down view. But the app lets you experience the adventure through the eyes of your character, Anderson said.
“If you’re wearing the Apple glasses, Vision Pro, and you tap on your character, you can enter a mode where you’re looking through their eyes when you look around your room. Or if you’re outside you look around and you can actually see the entire digital build that has been created so you can walk through your world.”
Bland said there are digital tabletop versions of traditional tabletop games coming that gamers are probably going to love.
“We’re going to take a lot of the, the creature comforts of video gaming, like the lobbies, ranks, tutorials, and we’re going to bring those over to tabletop games where they don’t currently exist,” Bland said. “I think that will help the market grow and help independent gamers publish some of their works.”
How much gaming will we see on the Apple Vision Pro?
One feature that Mirrorscape loves on the Vision Pro is the self-facing camera that projects your face on the outside of the device so others can see your face and eyes, said Bland. You can present avatars of your face to the world if you wish, something that is very game-like.
Anderson believes that Qualcomm is behind Apple on the tech of picking up objects with two fingers, but he sees all of the tech advancing. But it will be easy to have applications flow between the different platforms, he believes.
“The hardware capabilities of the Vision Pro are second to none,” he said. “It has rock-solid hand tracking, recognition, eye-tracking, which is going to be a really fantastic experience. Apple’s secret sauce always is the tight integration of hardware and software so they can completely control the ecosystem.”
Anderson worries that Apple’s mixed feelings about games will affect its decisions on whether to support games as fully as it can or cater to what the developers need. Apple has a history of failing to realize the power of games on its devices, even though gamers make those devices so successful. Bland doesn’t think that Apple will make its own controllers and will rely instead on reliable hand tracking.
Bland considers it important to be one of the first movers to put games front and center and to help everyone see how gaming is important to the platform and how the platform is important for gaming. Anderson said it seemed like Apple was nervous about it and it finally coalesced into a product that Apple could announce. Rather than have developers work on something for years and have the platform change, it now may make sense for everyone to start work after the platform has been revealed.
Anderson said he knows that the Apple device at $3,500 is going to appeal to rich Apple early adopters at first and it will take time for the devices to penetrate the mass market. It will probably be another future version before it’s affordable. But Anderson wants to get people started with mobile and teach them how to play tabletop games so they’re not intimidated by it.
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