Incantor Kickstarter Brings Magic to Smartphones

Incantor Kickstarter Brings Magic to Smartphones

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A new alternate-reality MMO makes magic (almost) real.

Whether it was Gandalf the Grey, Harry Potter, or even the hopeless, long-suffering Rincewind, chances are a wizard has caught your attention at some point. When they raise their wands and bellow incantations, you just know that someone's day is about to get ruined. If you find yourself sadly unable to use magic in everyday life, however, you are not alone. Startup developer MoveableCode has just Kickstarted Incantor, a peripheral-based game that works in conjunction with smartphones that allows users to battle, quest, and cast all manner of magic spells in the real world.

The game's unique selling point is a physical wand that works as a player's gateway into the world of Incantor. "The Incantor magic wand is a sophisticated motion controller, paired via bluetooth with your smartphone," says Nicholas Napp, CEO of MoveableCode. "The system can identify what spells have been cast and who the spell targets, enabling magical battles and quests to take place in the real world." The game's Kickstarter site is quick to reiterate that the wand is a play apparatus, but definitely not a toy. The wand possesses haptic feedback, can lock onto targets to cast a variety of spells, and requires the user to master "magical martial arts" to get the most out of it. Multiple wands representing ten distinct classes will be available.

While the players and their wands do most of the legwork, their phones can take care of the clerical details. Each player's phone will assign quests, track stats, spawn enemies, and allow players to customize their characters. The game also promises to be intensely social, as aspiring wizards can band together with anywhere from one to dozens of other players in magical guilds called "Bindings." MoveableCode hopes to add one-on-one PVP later.

MoveableCode wants $100,000 to get the game off the ground, which is really not a whole lot, considering what a AAA title with similar features would cost to make. If you want to reserve your very own wand, you'll need to pledge at least $100 for an exclusive design (a normal one will cost about $60 at launch), but there are cheaper alternatives for people who simply want to get a sneak peek at the lore or set up their profiles early. The game could be up and running as early as December 2012, but only if it gets the requisite funding. You may need to cast a good old-fashioned Invoke Wallet, but it's probably cheaper than training to become a real wizard, not to mention much more feasible.

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I cant think of anything wrong with the concept itself, but what would someone think if they saw two people duelling and they didnt know about this?

Anyway, it might become a schoolyard thing.

Sounds legit. Only $100,000 to R&D a motion controller from scratch, by a company with no experience in motion control hardware. Yes. This can only be good.

gigastar:
I cant think of anything wrong with the concept itself, but what would someone think if they saw two people duelling and they didnt know about this?

I've seen stranger things on a daily basis walking around a town centre. Hell, I've seen people 'dueling' when there was no game attached to it, generally coinciding with Harry Potter releases.

Thanks for the great article. If you want to know more about the team behind the game check us out on Kickstarter. We are 18 months in on development- Kickstarter is to get us over the finish line, not to start the race

Hookah:
Sounds legit. Only $100,000 to R&D a motion controller from scratch, by a company with no experience in motion control hardware. Yes. This can only be good.

@Hookah: I'd agree with you except that the motion controller is already built and is demonstrated live in front of an audience in the Kickstarter video. I spent 3 years as an external technology scout for Sony Ericsson looking at a broad range of tech, including gestural interfaces and motion sensors. The guts of the controller were designed by a team with many years of experience building motion driven hardware and related interfaces. The $100k we are asking for on Kickstarter is to finish up the UI and initial modes of play. We have stable, gesture sensing wands up and running today. We will show them in more detail in one of our next Kickstarter updates.

MoveableCode:

Hookah:
Sounds legit. Only $100,000 to R&D a motion controller from scratch, by a company with no experience in motion control hardware. Yes. This can only be good.

@Hookah: I'd agree with you except that the motion controller is already built and is demonstrated live in front of an audience in the Kickstarter video. I spent 3 years as an external technology scout for Sony Ericsson looking at a broad range of tech, including gestural interfaces and motion sensors. The guts of the controller were designed by a team with many years of experience building motion driven hardware and related interfaces. The $100k we are asking for on Kickstarter is to finish up the UI and initial modes of play. We have stable, gesture sensing wands up and running today. We will show them in more detail in one of our next Kickstarter updates.

Alchem-ye haven't posted this video on YouTube so we could embed it here? Would go a great way to inspiring the confidence of potential investors.

My only problem with this (well, besides the fact I dont, nor really care to, own a smartphone) is the motion control aspect. One of the reasons I dont care for Motion controls is the fact that Im reqiured to use actual body movement. If im playing a hand-held in public, people will look at my hands and go, "Oh, he's playing on a gameboy." and continue with their day. If Im playing this, people will most likely think im some uber harry potter nerd.

That's a great idea. I will post the YouTube link here when it's up.

WanderingFool:
My only problem with this (well, besides the fact I dont, nor really care to, own a smartphone) is the motion control aspect. One of the reasons I dont care for Motion controls is the fact that Im reqiured to use actual body movement. If im playing a hand-held in public, people will look at my hands and go, "Oh, he's playing on a gameboy." and continue with their day. If Im playing this, people will most likely think im some uber harry potter nerd.

That's kind of the point...

If it ends up becoming a huge fad later, you'll miss out on a lot of fun. Think of all of the ironically not cool videos you could take of your fights.

anyway these things better make noises when you swish them around like the fx lightsabers :P

weirdguy:

WanderingFool:
My only problem with this (well, besides the fact I dont, nor really care to, own a smartphone) is the motion control aspect. One of the reasons I dont care for Motion controls is the fact that Im reqiured to use actual body movement. If im playing a hand-held in public, people will look at my hands and go, "Oh, he's playing on a gameboy." and continue with their day. If Im playing this, people will most likely think im some uber harry potter nerd.

That's kind of the point...

If it ends up becoming a huge fad later, you'll miss out on a lot of fun. Think of all of the ironically not cool videos you could take of your fights.

anyway these things better make noises when you swish them around like the fx lightsabers :P

Is it a bad thing that I cant tell whether you're being sarcastic or serious?

I could see this giving rise to a much better way of LARPing magic than throwing bean bags at people. Not really into that myself, but certainly an intersting idea.

I saw the title and thought you were talking about a smartphone edition of the might and magic games.

Needless to say i was very disappointed:(

gigastar:
I cant think of anything wrong with the concept itself, but what would someone think if they saw two people duelling and they didnt know about this?

Anyway, it might become a schoolyard thing.

But with magic :P

Vrach:

gigastar:
I cant think of anything wrong with the concept itself, but what would someone think if they saw two people duelling and they didnt know about this?

Anyway, it might become a schoolyard thing.

But with magic :P

Holy crap, now I want to make a kickstarter with a toy gun controller!

there is no way THAT can go wrong! :P

Hm.. Could be pretty cool. I'd like to see how it turns out.

gigastar:
I cant think of anything wrong with the concept itself, but what would someone think if they saw two people duelling and they didnt know about this?

Anyway, it might become a schoolyard thing.

Excellent point. It would be a killer feature if other people could watch it on THEIR smartphones.

Okay, I'm pretty sure this came straight from a Cracked.com article. "5 awesome games we'll never get to play" to be specific.

Okay, it's not the EXACT same concept as there Kinect wizard battle game, but it's similar. Too similar.

while my stance on AR wands remains unclear, i am a firm believer that such implements will not be complete with sound effects and maybe rumble packs which will make their purpose more ambiguous to bystanders

also perhaps special tricolor leds which, while looking fancy, would give you away during a covert operation unless you were specifically sticking to their undefined "stealth" class of magic

We were thinking audio through your phone + earbuds, but open to suggestions. And yes on the haptic feedback like a rumble controller. Jury is out on LEDs at present - we have equal votes for and against.

Vrach:

gigastar:
I cant think of anything wrong with the concept itself, but what would someone think if they saw two people duelling and they didnt know about this?

Anyway, it might become a schoolyard thing.

But with magic :P

AWESOME. Thanks for reminding me of that commercial. Exactly what we had in mind... but with magic :P

Cheesepower5:
Okay, I'm pretty sure this came straight from a Cracked.com article. "5 awesome games we'll never get to play" to be specific.

Okay, it's not the EXACT same concept as there Kinect wizard battle game, but it's similar. Too similar.

Sorry to disappoint, but no. The concept was built on a conversation that started around one of those magic wand TV remotes and using that as a WoW controller...

MoveableCode:
AWESOME. Thanks for reminding me of that commercial. Exactly what we had in mind... but with magic :P

Well all the best with the project, it sounds like a development lovechild rather than a money grab, which is always good to see in the business :)

Two big questions though:
1) What kind of smartphones are we talking about here? The likes of iPhone, Samsung Galaxy II and such, or will any phone do? In other words, how much processing power would the game require?
2) What would be the price on the final product? From the looks of the article, it's 60$ for the peripheral and then some for the game. You do realise the implications of trying to sell a motion control smartphone game for more than the price of a triple A game (hate to sound discouraging, but I don't know which part of that sentence sounds less marketable :P )? It's not like the peripheral you're making is something widely used, unless you're planning to throw some more functions onto it.

Vrach:

MoveableCode:
AWESOME. Thanks for reminding me of that commercial. Exactly what we had in mind... but with magic :P

Well all the best with the project, it sounds like a development lovechild rather than a money grab, which is always good to see in the business :)

Two big questions though:
1) What kind of smartphones are we talking about here? The likes of iPhone, Samsung Galaxy II and such, or will any phone do? In other words, how much processing power would the game require?
2) What would be the price on the final product? From the looks of the article, it's 60$ for the peripheral and then some for the game. You do realise the implications of trying to sell a motion control smartphone game for more than the price of a triple A game (hate to sound discouraging, but I don't know which part of that sentence sounds less marketable :P )? It's not like the peripheral you're making is something widely used, unless you're planning to throw some more functions onto it.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. And you're right, it's totally a passion project for us.

1) Mid-range and up, iOS and Android. Since we aren't doing augmented reality with realtime 3D graphics overlays, the processor load shouldn't be too bad. I'm not sure what the base device will be, but we are aiming for any device released in the past couple of years to be enough.

2) The game is free to play. There are in-game items you can choose to buy, but you don't have to buy them to play the game. And yes, the peripheral will have some very cool uses outside the game, but we're not talking about that just yet :-)

MoveableCode:

Cheesepower5:
Okay, I'm pretty sure this came straight from a Cracked.com article. "5 awesome games we'll never get to play" to be specific.

Okay, it's not the EXACT same concept as there Kinect wizard battle game, but it's similar. Too similar.

Sorry to disappoint, but no. The concept was built on a conversation that started around one of those magic wand TV remotes and using that as a WoW controller...

Hmmm... That is disappointing. Still, not a bad idea. Could be pulled off well.

Cheesepower5:

MoveableCode:

Cheesepower5:
Okay, I'm pretty sure this came straight from a Cracked.com article. "5 awesome games we'll never get to play" to be specific.

Okay, it's not the EXACT same concept as there Kinect wizard battle game, but it's similar. Too similar.

Sorry to disappoint, but no. The concept was built on a conversation that started around one of those magic wand TV remotes and using that as a WoW controller...

Hmmm... That is disappointing. Still, not a bad idea. Could be pulled off well.

We are trying very hard to land on the side of not sucking :-)

Okay, the other thing I have to comment about is that if you REALLY want people to know about this, you need to make a video in the style of say, Harry Potter seventh book part two - a dramatic mass battle/one on one duel using your product with expensive looking production values (not necessarily actually expensive) and costumes, kind of like that one group that made those "realistic" street fighter videos with the choreography, not that you actually need that level of professionalism, just the impact. You ideally want something that potential backers could IMAGINE when looking at your product. Well, actually what you ideally want is a group that plays in public with video documentation and blogs in order to draw other people into the spectacle and get them engaged in thinking about your game, just demonstrating the actual systems and juicy bits in general. But, lacking that, you still need one GOOD video that cuts out the business chat and just straight up appeals to the heart of the matter.

With 21 days left on your project, you don't really have time to spare because the price to buy in is pretty steep, and isn't as well documented as the epaper watch which everybody seems to be in love with. You need to let people into your world and demonstrate what your idea means past a dispassionate youtube speech, especially because of that pricing.

On that note, it wouldn't really....hurt if you were able to start at a lower point of entry, like say, cheaper wands with more limited capabilities which are synced with the more expensive ones (they would interact through the same smartphone with the main wand acting as a hub, which means the lesser wands wouldn't have a display) which would allow groups to form with one person able to afford the full wand which the cheaper wands are allied with, enabling greater amounts of people to participate without forcing them to buy the whole thing right away.

As for audio, the problem with earphones is that they separate you from the actual experience. When you're being an "actual magic" user, that sound when you fire off or just make any kind of motions with your wand should be immediately accompanied by threatening or awe inspiring sound COMING FROM THE SOURCE, and not the phone. (I also noticed that your prototype only makes noise once the spell has absorbed the cue and triggers in a noticeable delay, instead of pulling forth like a bullet from a gun charged with otherworldly powers.) When you are holding an instrument of power, you want everybody to know who is in control (except for the silent casters, of course). In addition, it's also important for people in real time combat to be able to hear environmental sounds in general, both for the immersion, and to be able to perhaps pick up on some additional cue that their opponent is nearby. The only alternative I can see to that is generating simulated cues from the presence and direction of opponents, but that feels too....artificial compared to what you could be cribbing from real life for free.

On the colored LED thing....while it is one thing to hear magic, the other benchmark for magic is bright lights and flashes. Without it, you look like you're waving funny sticks at each other that make sound effects. The distinction here is that you have pretty good control over how the lights are operated, so you aren't just making it flash like a neon sign or a cheap mass produced toy, the lights will actually show stuff like energy converging into a single point, and then letting loose in a pulse.

@weirdguy: Thanks for the detailed post.

We went back and forth on the video. We didn't want to over produce it because we are not a huge studio (yet!) - this really is a passion project that we are building a business excuse for. We also didn't have the budget, but that's probably not a surprise.

The price point is tricky as the first run wands will be made in limited quantities which drives the cost of the electronics waaaay up. We have a lot of tech crammed in there to make it all work, but we plan on selling the wand at close to our cost. However, just the bluetooth radio in low volume is $3-5, so you can see how a low end wand would basically have to have nothing in it to be appreciably cheaper than the final production wand.

I agree with you about earphones. It's been an ongoing debate within the team with a fairly even split between earphones versus speakers in the wand. The issue with the latter choice is that the quality of sound is lousy unless the cost goes up dramatically. We do have some ideas we are working on to solve that though.

Please keep in mind that everything you see in the video is _early_ prototype. We are showing it in a single cut, no edits, so you can tell it's not faked. Some people (see Hookah at the top of this thread) were pretty sure we couldn't R&D a motion controller from scratch for $100k, so we wanted to be very clear that the work on that part has already been done. The Kickstarter raise is for software development around the hardware we've already put together.

But this is alpha hardware and not even the beginnings of the final game app itself. It is a technical demo showing that the wand transmits motion data that gets recognized and triggers a response. The on screen graphics, wand gestures, sounds etc are all placeholders.

Not to get in to too much technical detail, but the principle reason for the lag you see is the Bluetooth profile we are using. We are using a standard profile that has a relatively low data rate, so it takes a while to transmit to the phone. The production wand would use a profile with a higher data rate thereby reducing lag.

Totally agree that the sound should be synchronous with the casting (and the inflicting for the recipient). The wand will also have haptic feedback, so it will vibrate like a dualshock to give you clues about being targeted, the state of your wand, cooldowns etc.

Also agree on the LED. Done right it could be cool. Our principle concern is that it needs to be visible in daylight though and that gets tough from a cost and power consumption point of view. Superbright LEDs are relatively expensive and they'll drain the batteries pretty quickly.

We'll be doing a more detailed post on how to play the game and the tech in the next few days. We'll put it on YouTube as well as Kickstarter...

 

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