Darkling Plain: an Augmented Reality Miniatures Board Game
This fantasy board game comes alive when your pieces transform into 3D heroes and beasts battling on a magical, living landscape.
We are making great progress on the example of play video. We are meeting on Friday July 19th to hammer out the final details so we can then complete the production of the video. It will be posted next week, so stay tuned! If you're interested in Darkling Plain, then please consider even a $1 tip jar pledge so that you will be notified when the example of play video is posted.
For something new, here's a video by FuelFX, the Houston-based sister company to Nocturnal Media. It shows off some very simple yet still quite cool augmented reality effects. Enjoy!
Welcome to our Kickstarter project! Darkling Plain is a miniatures board game that is powered by augmented reality (AR). Darkling Plain combines all the best aspects of a traditional board game such as Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride and a video game such as Final Fantasy or World of Warcraft. Board games offer a social experience and depth of play, while video games offer immersion, glorious eye-candy, and computational wizardry.
Hopefully we answer your questions here, but feel free to ask questions. More information is also available from game designer Stewart Wieck on Twitter. Follow him @stewartwieck.
There are no actual miniatures in Darkling Plain. You place cards that represent your units and other features, like a ring of standing stones or a village, upon a full-color game board. When the cards or board are viewed through the camera of a smart device or computer, the game comes to life like a video game. Spectacular special effects abound as a fantasy battle bursting with the magical and the medieval consumes your tabletop.
Importantly, the AR component of the game is not simply window-dressing. We are treating augmented reality as an important tool in the play of the game. It communicates vital visual clues to players, such as a unit’s readiness. It also allows features like truly invisible movement, real-time play, and airborne forces that are actually above the playing surface.
A game of Darkling Plain begins by selecting a region depicted on the full-color game board. While viewing the map through your smart device, you simply select the region and it will come alive in AR. The region surrounding Aezogoth’s Pyre will be the first battlefield developed, but others will eventually be offered and might even be unlocked with stretch goals in this Kickstarter project.
Once the battlefield is selected, the game board transforms with augmented reality to display what we call the Strategic Map. Play on this map unfolds with your physical pieces (cards) and is reflected in 3D with the help of your smart device.
When opposing forces move into close proximity on the Strategic Map (or otherwise force conflict through use of special abilities), play moves instantly to the Tactical Map. The Tactical Map exists solely within the realm of your smart device and the battle there takes place in real time. You select units and issue commands for them. Once you and your opponent have issued all the desired orders (you gain an advantage when completing yours first!), the action resolves and surviving units may receive new orders. Victors of a tactical battle emerge to rejoin their allies on the Strategic Map.
Depth of play results not only because of the interaction between opposing units as they receive commands and use their special abilities, but also from the interface of the physical board and the augmented reality elements.
Many people ask: do I need to hold my [insert your device name] up in the air the entire time I play Darkling Plain?
It's a fair question, and the answer is "no!". You will use your device to view game elements in augmented reality, but don't worry, the game design overall is more elegant and interesting than one that requires you to constantly hold up your device. The game involves examining the battlefield with your device, and you'll look for visual clues that hint at your opponent's plan, but plenty of game play does not require you to hold up your device. But when you do...! We promise you'll be awed by the animations and stunning particle effects!
Darkling Plain is the name of both our game and the region of our fantasy world from which dark powers emanate. Eventually, the game will expand to offer any region of the world as a battleground (including the Darkling Plain itself), but play begins in the northern part of the world among the Viking-like people called the Jotnar.
Twin brothers who ventured forth from these lands on a shared vision quest that the Jotnar believed would guide their people into the future. Instead, when all the sacred animal totems visited only one brother and ignored the other, the twins became enemies. Aezogoth, the foul god who dwells in the Darkling Plain, answered the unsavory prayers of the misbegotten twin and the Jotnar were divided.
Some Jotnar stand with the ancient ways and worship the primordial forces of nature: Earth, Water, Air and Fire. But others have been seduced by the power of Aezogoth. His will offers other means to power: Destruction, Darkness, Death and Chaos. All eight of these powers can empower Jotnar who already have the form of a Werevym, a likeness of their totem animal, to create mighty champions of the elements or darkness — a Jorundimar.
When you play Darkling Plain you command one of these two armies: the Elementals or the Dark. Jotnar warriors rally to both causes. Each warrior is sworn to an animal spirit revealed to him during his vision quest and when a shaman taps the ley lines that crisscross the lands (and the battlefield where the game is played) the shaman can transform the warrior into an incarnation of his totem animal: ape, bird, cat, fish, serpent and wolf. The warrior gains tremendous powers in any of these forms collectively known as Werevym.
The most powerful shaman, known as Braka, can in turn empower a Werevym. Awesome beasts called Jorundimar are the result. Jorundimar are the titans of legend: dragons, manticores, hellhounds and more. Where once there were twelve Jorundimar fashioned from traditional combinations of the elements and animals sacred to the Jotnar, there are now twenty-four. Aezogoth’s foul might has created new beasts from the sacred animals. More may become known as the battle continues.
Three pieces are required to play Darkling Plain. You’ll need our full-color game board, cards that represent characters and environmental features, and a smart device. However, to simply have a bit of fun with our gorgeous models and enjoy their animations and sound effects, all you need is your smart device and a card. The cards can be placed anywhere (a hand, a shoulder, standing guard beside your favorite dice) and viewed in AR.
The cards are available as pledge rewards in various character combinations and formats (high-quality printed or quick-delivery PDF). The game board is available starting at the $50 Dark Lord or Nature God pledge levels. The smart device you have to provide for yourself!
What smart devices can you use?
Almost any device with a built-in camera will work. Android, Windows and Apple devices will all be supported. Computers with external cameras will also work. Through combination of moving your physical pieces on the game board and making selections in the AR environment, you position your forces to lead your army to victory.
Your device will operate one of two different apps. One app — an AR Reader — is for supporters who wish to simply enjoy our models in augmented reality. The other app is for supporters at the $50 level and above. It’s the complete game. Both apps will be available through Google Play, the Windows Store and the Apple Store.
Why do we need the Kickstarter community’s help to create Darkling Plain? We’ve already made a substantial investment of time and resources in the creation of the many assets you see here. Our core team is in place. We have office space. We have most of the equipment. Still, to complete the game, we need more time and more programmers. If Darkling Plain is funded with your help on Kickstarter, then we’ll have the funds to concentrate on making the game we envision.
Please note that none of the assets you see here are final versions. Everything is a work in progress. The characters, landscapes, maps, interfaces... everything is still evolving. We hope that what we are showing you gives you a strong indication of the direction we're heading. With your support, we'll create a truly gorgeous and elegant game.
There are a host of rewards available to those who back our project. We’ve conceived Darkling Plain as a grand game with lots of moving parts and exciting depth of play, but the various animated models can be enjoyed in their own right. You don’t need to play the complete game to be entertained by fantasy warriors and monsters roaring and posing on your tabletop.
All the specifics of our pledge rewards are found to the right where you choose the level at which you’d like to help support the creation of Darkling Plain, but a general overview follows.
Pledging at $1 gives us a little piece of your soul! Perhaps not, but it allows us to keep you informed of our progress through project updates.
Pledging at $5-$30 rewards you with the app that is an AR reader and some combination of cards to view in augmented reality. All of the characters have multiple animations, from attacks to movement to dramatic taunts and often one that’s simply for fun (you’ll find many amusing ways to use these animations...!).
Pledging at $50 and above is when the your rewards really start to accumulate. At this level you’ll receive the full game app plus all of the Elemental characters or all the Dark characters. Or all of the characters in total! Some of the pledge levels also earn you exclusive characters and/or character customizations.
For those who want to create their own animations or even their own characters, we offer several rewards at even higher levels. We appreciate support and any level, but we look forward to working one-on-one with supporters who wish to take a more active role in Darkling Plain.
Knowledge of some of the terminology of Darkling Plain will aid your understanding of the pledge rewards. Here are some keys terms:
Braka: female offspring of Sigla, “woman who cannot bear child”, they are born with the knowledge of their animal totem and so are shamans at birth. They develop even greater powers, including the ability to transform Kalder into Jorundimar.
Draum: the serpent totem.
Geig: the ape totem.
Hahnt: the fish totem.
Jorundimar: the most powerful incarnation of a Jotnar hero when imbued by a shaman with energy from a ligara.
Jotnar: name the northern people give to themselves.
Kalder: male offspring of Sigla, imbued at birth with a heightened affinity for one of the Orta.
Ligara: the “ley lines” of energy that Jotnar shamans tap to empower their magic.
Narava: vision quest where a Jotnar discovers his Orta.
Orta: the six animal totems of the Jotnar; ape, bird, cat, fish, serpent and wolf.
Ragur: the cat totem.
Shaman: Jotnar women who serve as links between the people and the animals and elements the people hold sacred.
Sigla: a shaman who gives up her status because she’s found a husband and has been accepted back among the people.
Skaren: the bird totem.
Vargal: the wolf totem.
Werevym: the were-form incarnation a Jotnar warrior achieves after being imbued with energy from a ligara.
Our initial goal is to raise $120k to produce a full version of Darkling Plain. The game will allow players to clash with complete armies of Dark or Elemental forces that consist of Jotnar warriors (as archers, spearman or swordsman), heroic Jotnar called Kalder (also as archers, spearman or swordsman), shaman and Braka, two of the Werevym (crosses between man and animal, here cat and serpent), and one Jorundimar (the mightiest titan-like beasts of myth and legend) for each army. The manticore represents the Elemental army and the void dragon is the Dark Jorundimar.
Should our project receive enough support, we will be very happy to offer stretch goals. The core of these goals will be to offer additional Jorundimar. As some of the Jorundimar are empowered versions of animal totems other than the Draum or Ragur, additional Orta will automatically be a part of the stretch goals that create such a Jorundimar.
Similarly, some of the reward levels include characters that are not a part of the base full game set, such as the Vargal, or wolf totem. However, if any backer selects a pledge level that involves one of these characters (e.g. Ode to White Wolf, which offers a white-furred Vargal!), then the character in question will be created and it will be added to all pledge levels starting at 'Augmented Advocate'. Similarly, even a single backer selecting ‘Deep Liege’ will unlock the Hahnt character.
Our main goal will always be to create a game that merges the best of traditional board games and video games, but there are a host of other great creations that we will reveal if Darkling Plain receives substantial support. We hope you will help make our project and these exciting stretch goals a reality!
We’re only revealing a first stretch goal because we’re primarily focusing on the initial game, but once we enough support to ensure the essential game is covered, then we’d love to share some expansions ideas with you.
$150k = Two new Jorundimar will be added to the full game reward levels of Dark Lord and Nature God. Elemental players will receive the fiery Salamander (Draum + Fire) and Dark players will receive the stealthy Twilight Stalker (Ragur + Darkness). Augmented Apostles receive both!
We did our best to structure reward levels to maximize your options while ensuring that the great rewards of the lower levels were also available in higher pledge levels. It becomes muddled at some point, though, so we decided it was easier to offer some options as Add-Ons. You may select any of these Add-Ons in addition to the rewards included in the pledge level you choose.
For instance, if you want the Phoenix that’s offered as part of the 'Explosive Elements' pledge level, but also want all the appearance customizations offered in the “Wolf Prince” pledge, then you may choose 'Explosive Elements' but instead of indicating a $250 donation, indicate a pledge amount of $280. The additional $30 is for the Add-On of “Wolf Prince”. Be sure to include a note so we know what reward you would like added to your base pledge. If you forget, then don't worry. We'll check with you after the funding period.
Here is the menu of available Add-Ons. We may well expand this list based on feedback we receive from you, so please share your ideas and make requests.
$10 = Vargal + white fur customization (from ‘Ode to White Wolf’)
$30 = Cat Lord
$30 = Deep Liege
$30 = Monkey King
$30 = Raven God
$30 = Serpent Master
$30 = Wolf Prince
$180 = Basilisk Jorundimar
$180 = Phoenix Jorundimar
Risks and challenges
At the outset of this project, we decided to produce a game that was an artful combination of technology and traditional board games. There are a lot of “low-hanging branches” for which we could use AR, such as virtual pets, but we do not want the AR component of Darkling Plain to be a gimmick or simply eye-candy. It must be integral to the game-play.
It’s a great theory, but difficult in practice. We’re pleased that we have already overcome a number of technological hurdles, such as designing patterns that AR readers can quickly and continuously recognize in order to generate an AR image. We're also using motion capture technology to produce more realistic character animations more quickly, but other prickly problems remain. We are confident that we will solve these issues or find elegant workarounds with the proceeds of this project to boost us, but there are a few tough nuts to crack. For instance, the size of the cards needed for an AR reader are currently larger than we’d like. We’d love to get the image size down to coin-sized, but that might be too small to work well. In this case, we’ll simply scale the board game aspect of Darkling Plain to compensate!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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