Coming just in time for Halloween, Majesco Entertainment's The Hidden is a ghost hunting game with an AR twist. Not unlike Face Raiders, the game uses the real-life environment you're playing in as an in-game level where you use your 3DS to seek out and capture ghosts. I caught up with 1st Playable Productions Producer Elizabeth McLaren to talk about the game.
Hit the break for the full scoop and for some screenshots!
GayGamer:Tell us about the gameplay in The Hidden. AR games are becoming popular, especially on the 3DS.
Elizabeth McLaren: The idea of blending the real and virtual worlds brings a new level of game customization, as each player gets a unique and personal experience. The Hidden takes the AR technique of adding characters into your real-world surroundings, and adds location awareness to map game locations onto real-world locations in your everyday travels. Other than making that trip to the grocery store a whole lot more interesting, this encourages the player to take another look at the locations they encounter every day in search of malicious entities that have infested their geographic area. As field agents, depending on what they find, they may need to clear an area or to explore deeper by using the tool set that they have been assigned - the 3DS itself. As they look more and more around their territory, the game warns them when places they know may be under attack and need to be cleared again.
GG: What's the story in The Hidden? Early information has indicated that the story unfolds as the player explores new real-world environments.
EM:: The main story premise is that there are malevolent spirits hidden in your everyday familiar surroundings, which can only be seen and eliminated by using the special capabilities of your 3DS. The player finds themselves recruited as a field agent for an organization (GEIST), whose mission it is to investigate encounters with these supernatural creatures. With your team's backing, you learn how to clean up your own patrol area, and together you will all help to uncover what is going on and why.
GG: What's the target audience for the game? Is this a straightforward horror title, or more akin to something like the Ghostbusters?
EM: This game is intended for active people that want an adventure, and want to explore a new genre that uses technology to create an entirely new experience. It's not a game you can play from your chair!
We decided to not focus on the 'horror' genre specifically because of the realities of AR gameplay: we just couldn't count on creating a true horror experience and frightening people when they might be waiting at a bus stop, surrounded by other passengers or at an airport or walking around their neighborhood. Because of that, it's actually more adrenalin-oriented, intended to be played in smaller exciting 'missions' over days, rather than to be tackled at a lengthy sitting. Though it does have some humor, it's darker than people would expect from Ghostbusters.
GG: Aside from the AR capabilities, what other features of the 3DS does the The Hidden take advantage of?
EM: Aside from using the camera video feed to create the environment you see the entities in, The Hidden also uses the gyroscope and accelerometer to track player movements, and photo-taking to help the player log their conquests (and know where to return). The most novel feature is how it uses the Wi-Fi scanner input as a signal "fingerprint" to recognize locations without the need for GPS.
GG: How challenging has it been to develop a new IP in this gaming climate?
EM: The Hidden isn't just a new IP; it's a new genre. Platform transitions are an exciting time as new features become available to game designers, the status quo is disrupted, and the opportunity arises to do something truly new. There is a window of opportunity where innovation can be more important than a proven brand. The big challenge with a new genre is that much of what you're trying to do hasn't necessarily been done before, so players are going to come into the game with extremely diverse expectations - and the game has to handle them all. An AR game takes this one step further because as a designer you have given control of the environment entirely to the player, so need to have an adaptable design that can deal with where the player goes with it. This Hidden is a third iteration on the original idea.
Overall, we're really glad everyone was willing to take the risks and believed in the game enough to see it get to this point.
Thanks to Majesco and Elizabeth for this interview! The Hidden is set for release this October.