Demeo is a tabletop action RPG that puts you with up to three other players in a co-op battle against pint-sized foes of all makes and models. The basement setting and Monster Manual-esque modules suggest a very in-depth D&D style gameplay experience, but it’s more akin to a more casual turn-based strategy game set in randomized dungeons. It offers a good opportunity to get back into playing board games with friends in a time when it’s not always the smartest idea to do so IRL, but I question whether Demeo has gone far enough to really utilize the full gamut of VR’s immersive possibilities.
Demeo offers both an online mode so you can play with up to three friends or strangers, and single player skirmish mode so you can bone up on your strategy. The idea of the game is to pick one of four heroes, traverse three dungeons and defeat the end boss together. You only have two action points at your disposal for each turn, so you need to choose wisely on whether you move or use an ability card to fight, heal, or hide.
At the time of launch, Demeo only comes with a single game module called ‘The Black Sarcophagus’, but as a roguelite strategy game it offers a randomization of dungeon configuration, ability cards, and both entry and exit locations on the map. More modules are coming too, with Resolution Games saying the next module, dubbed ‘The Rat King’, will arrive sometime in Summer 2021. Demeo is also slated to get regular post-launch updates for free, which will include new environments, enemies, and ability cards.
Anyway, if you’re looking for a quick and dirty how-to on actually playing Demeo, Resolution does a very fair job of explaining all of the basics in the short overview video below.
Foremost, Demeo is a competent tabletop game that hits many of the right beats. Although it only offers one particularly unforgiving difficultly mode, its generally impresses with its fine visual polish, well balanced combat mechanics, and not to mention the ability to bring VR players together in a virtual space for a night of safe and fun entertainment—that last one should not to be underestimated. It also offers hours of gameplay thanks to the randomization of ability cards and dungeon layout, and has just enough depth for anyone to pick up and play.
When I say it’s unforgiving, I mean you’ll be bashing at ‘The Black Sarcophagus’ multiple times before you hit the perfect stride of good group communication, understanding all hero abilities, and recognizing the range of enemies crawling around so you know just how to attack and who to gang up on first. To finally break through and defeat the end boss, you’ll also need plenty of luck, patience for restarts, and foresight into which cards make the most sense to save and use. The fastest playthrough I had beating ‘The Black Sarcophagus’ module clocked in just under an hour, which doesn’t account for a few hours of failures beforehand.
Both monster and hero abilities feel well balanced, with the edge going to the monsters for their ability to create enemy-spawning nests, making the onslaught near-infinite if you think you can just stay in one place. Conversely, if you jump ahead too quickly, or someone in your party decides to Leroy Jenkins themselves through a door without checking with everyone else, you may end up with more baddies than you can handle. This makes communication key to surviving and moving on the the next dungeon.
If you can’t tell by now, I’ll just come out and say it. I like Demeo as a board game. It’s a very well executed game that, with only a few niggles, fits right alongside any other board game you might play with buddies on a Friday night. It feels unburdened from unnecessary fluff, but also isn’t terribly revolutionary either for virtual reality. When it comes to its implementation as a native VR game, it left me wanting more. I really wanted to see more VR-specific mechanics that would set it apart from similar games on a traditional monitor, but I’ll talk more about that in the Immersion section below.
Again, I like Demeo for its clear execution and intention as a tabletop game, I just wished there was more reason for it to be in VR and not on a flatscreen. Consequently it’s also going to be on traditional PC monitors at some point too, which may be the biggest clue as to why it’s designed the way it is.
Let me take a step back for a second though. Everything is dripping with style in Demeo, which includes the cool nostalgia-soaked basement for that suitably ’80s feel. If you get down close enough to the action—that can be done by ‘stretching’ the world with both motion controllers—character models and animations can also be really fun to watch too. It certainly evokes a Star Wars-style HoloChess vibe.
Granted, getting that close to inspect enemies and heroes alike is fairly pointless when it comes to actually playing. After settling into the game, you’ll probably end up ignoring most of those rightfully cool things as you toggle the ability to view the world at a 45-degree angle tilt so you don’t strain your neck from constantly looking downward.
Avoiding the inevitable neck strain, at that point it basically becomes a game you might well play on traditional monitors, as your motion controller becomes glorified laser pointers to select and move pieces. Hand models just feel too unnatural in how they grip things to make it feel like the obvious first choice—it’s just too damn fiddly to pick up a single piece from a cluster.
That raises the question: what does Demeo bring to VR that a game on traditional monitors can’t? The answer is very little. I was really hoping to see more VR-specific game mechanics, like skill-based interludes, moments for roleplay, or something that would put me more into the game; being able to shrink down to nearly the size of a character doesn’t really cut it.
I found that playing Demeo is decidedly less dependent on your ability to see your fellow players, and more on your ability to speak to one another without looking and maybe gesture occasionally. Even then, gesturing is abstracted away in multiplayer mode by emphasizing an air drawing tool which you can use to clearly indicate where you want to go next.
Despite avatar accessories (along with different dice and character themes), it’s clear Demeo is putting much less emphasis on face-to-face player interactions. I just wish there was more reason to have that sort of player-to-player connection in Demeo, like being able to pass them something they might need or want.
Neck comfort is no joke. The human neck isn’t made to carry unbalanced loads for very long, and stress injury is a real thing. At the risk of harming immersion, you can thankfully tilt the table by a variable amount if you want to get even a full front-facing bird’s eye view of the action. I highly recommend this if you’re going to play for more than an hour at a time. That advisory even goes for users with the Quest 2’s Elite Battery Strap offsetting the headset’s weight somewhat.
You can remain seated and play with a natural view of the table, however you’ll probably want to move around quite a bit to get better angles. This is done by grabbing the world with one motion controller, which feels entirely comfortable. Resizing the world by ‘stretching’ it with both hands can feel a little jarring to begin with, but provided you’re not flying around and resizing constantly, you should have an exceedingly comfortable gameplay session.
Vertigo Games Shares a Triple VR Update for E3 2021
This weekend was filled with virtual reality (VR) updates as part of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2021 this week, with the likes of A Township Tale coming to Oculus Quest and NERF getting its own VR shooter. Some studio had more than others to share with Vertigo Games making three announcements for After the Fall, Unplugged and Traffic Jams.
After the Fall is Vertigo Games’ next major in-house project, originally revealed back in 2019. A co-op first-person shooter (FPS) set in a frozen LA wasteland, for the E3 2021 announcement the studio released new gameplay footage combined with some of the videogames’ developers discussing the project.
One of the core features the team wanted to get right was the cross-platform gameplay, so it doesn’t matter if you’re on an Oculus Quest, PlayStation VR or PC VR headset, the gameplay remains the same even when the graphics have to be adjusted depending on the platform. Still no release date though, with a summer 2021 window still in place.
Next up is Unplugged by indie team Anotherway, which is being published by Vertigo Games. A rhythm action title which evokes those classic air guitar moves, Unplugged utilises the hand tracking on Oculus Quest and PC VR headsets. This weekend’s announcement saw the reveal of a new track “The Kids Aren’t Alright” by The Offspring as well as features like mini-games and crowd interactions. Unplugged is expected to launch Fall 2021.
Finally there’s some Traffic Jams news. The quirky VR title where you have to manage evermore insane amounts of vehicles, pedestrians and catastrophic events originally launched for Oculus Quest and PC VR headsets in April. Soon it’ll be the turn of PlayStation VR. Created by Little Chicken Game Company, Traffic Jams arrives for PlayStation VR on 26th August 2021, with its solo campaign as well as the asymmetrical multiplayer.
Check out all the new footage below and for further updates from Vertigo Games and E3 2021, keep reading VRFocus.
Team up With the Autobots in AR Game Transformers: Heavy Metal in 2021
Niantic Labs is used to bringing big name IP’s like Pokemon and Harry Potter into augmented reality (AR) and today it’s revealed another. The AR specialist company has announced a collaboration with Hasbro and TOMY on a new AR videogame called Transformers: Heavy Metal.
Built on the Niantic Lightship platform Transformers: Heavy Metal will see players team up with Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and other Autobots as they battle the Decepticons. Seattle-based Very Very Spaceship is leading development creating a narrative where players join the Guardian Network, a group of humans helping the Autobots. As one of these Guardians, players have to discover resources and regions across the world whilst battling Decepticons in turn-based battles, either solo or with friends.
“Transformers is the perfect franchise for AR. Battling and interacting with giant robots in the real world is an amazing experience,” said John Hanke, CEO of Niantic. “We want to live up to the high expectations of Transformers fans around the world and bring them a game unlike anything they’ve played before.”
If you’ve played either Pokemon GO or Harry Potter: Wizards Unite then you’ll know the type of real-world gaming Niantic Labs encourages through its projects, requiring players to get out and about to maximise the experience. This is thanks to the Lightship platform Niantic has developed, providing real-time 3D mapping and multiplayer social experiences which developers can use to build their own AR worlds using the Niantic Lightship ARDK.
Specific gameplay details for Transformers: Heavy Metal have yet to be revealed but there shouldn’t be too long to wait to find out. While a global launch is slated for later in 2021 a soft launch will be taking place in select markets soon.
Transformers: Heavy Metal is in no way the franchises’ first foray into immersive gaming. There’s been Transformers: VR Invasion and Transformers: VR Battle Arena for location-based entertainment (LBE) venues, while back in 2017 saw Cade’s Junkyard AR Experience allowed players to control Bumblebee.
As further details for Transformers: Heavy Metal are released, VRFocus will keep you updated.
Augmented Reality Transforming E-commerce
Nowadays a technology that is undergoing very fast development and application in most industries is Augmented Reality (AR). This technology expands our physical world by adding layers of digital information to it. Although people’s scepticism about the reliability of the benefits that this technology brings, at the same time, its adoption by many businesses is moving at a giant pace. One of the adopters of AR is also e-commerce. Taking into account the situations that the world has faced in recent years, this technology is really providing real benefits for the significant improvement of the services that e-commerce offers.
Given that e-commerce is a large and important part of the economy at the same time it is also the key point for businesses that sell their products or services online. E-commerce gives businesses the ability to reach more customers than they do with traditional retail methods. The increase in the number of people making their purchases online makes this retail market the fastest growing. E-commerce is an ideal way to develop brands from a traditional store in a given location to a brand easily accessible from different countries around the globe. Despite the fact that e-commerce brings development and character to brands, it also has its challenges.
In this article, we will look in detail at how AR technology is being used by e-commerce businesses to expand their businesses, increase sales, and increase customer satisfaction.
Every business is developing experiential marketing strategies which means the interaction between their brand and customers is giving great importance to the successful performance of sales. AR technology develops a closer relationship between the brand and customers thanks to the opportunity for practical product testing. This way customers have the opportunity to try out a product before making the decision to buy it. All of this helps to significantly increase customer engagement because potential customers spend more time on the site. This close relationship that is created in the customer connection between the brand increases the chances that this user will reach faster to the decision of making purchases.
Increase Brand Awareness
Given that businesses operating in e-commerce are numerous, this means that the competition is quite high. Generating high traffic to sites is one of the most important goals that translate into improved SEO. Thanks to the unique experience that AR integrated into the site offers makes it attract new users and bring back old users. In cases, where the user returns, means that the goal to offer something valuable and innovative has been achieved. Herein lies the role of AR that makes the user experience more interesting. At the same time for new users, it becomes possible to achieve the conviction they need to buy a product thanks to its exploration through AR tools.
Provide Unique Shopping Experience
AR technology in e-commerce enhances the shopping experience by making it more unique and interactive. Thanks to this technology, customers have complete control over the products. In this way, customers having control over the products feel closer and more connected to the product making them loyal to the brand. Thanks to AR tools they are also able to personalize their products and this makes it possible to successfully meet their requirements. At the same time, through the introduction of AR in e-commerce, the return of products due to customer dissatisfaction has decreased significantly. This saves companies costs for transportation, refilling, repackaging and ensures a high level of customer satisfaction.
Eliminate Hygiene Issues
Maintaining hygiene in business premises is always a worrying problem, especially during gatherings in showrooms. Nowadays this problem coupled with the pandemic all over the world has brought this problem to another level as an obligation even in the form of maintaining social distance. To avoid all these also from the various restrictions on closing stores have made online sales increase significantly. AR is a perfect solution to improve the online shopping experience which eliminates the need to explore the desired products for purchase in showrooms or stores, thus preserving social distance and eliminating the need for unnecessary visits.
As mentioned above, nowadays when social distance has already become an important part of everyday reality, AR comes to the aid of businesses as a powerful tool to significantly improve e-commerce. The integration of this technology in e-commerce stores provides the most innovative, friendly and enjoyable shopping experiences. AR technology has the potential to ensure a breakthrough in the e-commerce industry by providing rapid growth for businesses thanks to high sales. The ability of this technology to change and improve the way businesses in this industry operate is also an impetus for the leaders of many companies to adopt this technology today.
The AR Space Race, Part VII: Microsoft
As you likely know, one of AR’s foundational principles is to fuse the digital and physical. The real world is a key part of that formula… and real-world relevance is often defined by location. That same relevance and scarcity are what drive real estate value….location, location, location.
Synthesizing these factors, one of AR’s battlegrounds will be in augmenting the world in location-relevant ways. That could be wayfinding with Google Live View, or visual search with Google Lens. Point your phone (or future glasses) at places and objects to contextualize them.
As you can tell from the above examples, Google will have a key stake in this “Internet of Places.” But it’s not alone. Apple signals interest in location-relevant AR through its geo-anchors and Project Gobi. Facebook is building “ Live Maps,” and Snapchat is pushing Local Lenses.
These are a few utilitarian, commerce, and social angles. How else will geospatial AR materialize? What are its active ingredients, including 5G and the AR cloud? This is the theme of our new series, Space Race, where we break down who’s doing what….continuing here with Microsoft.
Among tech giants investing in AR, Microsoft continues to show strong signs as a leading platform for enterprise productivity. That not only includes its best-of-breed hardware in the Hololens 2, but an expanding suite of software (it is Microsoft after all) for enterprise AR.
This ties to Microsoft’s DNA, as enterprise productivity has been its core business for 30 years. In that sense, it embodies our “ follow the money “ principle: tech giants’ XR trajectories can be projected based on their financial motivations — usually to future-proof core businesses.
This pattern holds true for Microsoft’s work in AR, which can be seen in the enterprise-first Hololens 2. But how does it apply to the geolocation theme of this series? The answer is Microsoft Mesh: the company’s new organizing structure for a productivity-enabling AR Cloud.
Mesh represents the culmination of many of the AR puzzle pieces that Microsoft has been assembling for the past few years. These include its AR productivity apps such as Spatial Anchors, 365 Assist, and several other components of its full-stack approach to Enterprise AR.
As further background for Microsoft’s AR moves, CEO Satya Nadella is a verdant cloud proponent. In fact, it was under his watch that Microsoft defied a classic innovator’s dilemma and embraced the cloud, even though it deviated from the structure of its then software business.
It’s within that reborn cloud culture that Microsoft’s AR efforts germinate. And it’s those guiding principles that will drive its AR positioning. As noted, Microsoft is taking a full-stack approach to AR, owning the hardware (Hololens), operating system (WMR) and cloud data (Azure).
In addition to those foundational components, Microsoft is naturally positioning itself at the application layer. Dynamics 365 Assist and Azure Spatial Anchors can be thought of as a sort of Microsoft Office of AR. But with a true platform play, it also welcomes developers to build AR apps.
That’s where Mesh comes in. It’s essentially the culmination of all of the pieces outlined above, with some additional functionality such as collaboration through Microsoft Teams. It formalizes and federates these pieces in one place and is now the center of Microsoft’s AR universe.
With that structural and strategic backdrop, what exactly is Mesh? It’s a software architecture that enables spatially oriented computing interactions. It localizes people and objects in space and provides a framework for the interactions with and between those entities.
In more practical and plain-spoken terms, it lets users envision objects in their immediate space, such as a product design or architectural model. More importantly, it can do this with “holo-portation “and multi-user functionality. This opens up the use case to collaborative work.
All of this of course resonates during a pandemic, as well as post-Covid “hybrid” work environments. Being able to more materially interact with people and work elements will find fertile soil in that world. Those work elements can be everything from a whiteboard to a 3D CAD model.
Mesh will also play a part in geo-located enterprise AR use cases such as bridge inspection (see below). These applications incorporate Azure Digital Twins, a key corollary to Mesh that Microsoft continues to expand, including a recent move into construction and real estate.
As noted, Mesh is a platform on which developers build apps. As platforms go, this could accelerate Mesh’s utility by scaling its experience creation. Microsoft has also intelligently made Mesh cross-platform so it can reach network effect faster through broad end-user compatibility.
This mindset traces back to Nadella’s comments at the recent Ignite event: The last decade has been all about digital consumption, while the next decade will be all about empowering creation. If Microsoft has a part in shaping that future, much of it will be in six dimensions.
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