Having originally encountered the team behind Merge at Silicon Valley’s AWE (Augmented World Expo), Draw & Code were initially commissioned to produce two augmented reality games as launch titles for this deceptively simple piece of hardware. The Merge Cube acts as both a display surface and a controller that sits in the palm of your hands and the brief was to produce games that were instantly playable but exploited this new medium to the fullest.
Draw & Code’s experience producing SwapBots, the augmented reality toy and game, certainly stood us in good stead for designing for Merge. Like SwapBots, this was a cuboid toy aimed at a younger and wider audience than most immersive tech currently on the market. It also followed similar principles of mating physical and digital play by way of using marker-based augmented reality.
After experimenting with the platform and exploring several game concepts, the team settled on two puzzle-based games with roots in familiar gaming mechanics. Snake Attack sees the classic mobile game Snake reinvented for the six-sided Merge Cube. The second title, Defused, puts a ticking time-bomb into the hands of the player who has to navigate around the object solving micro-puzzles to buy more time.
Both augmented reality games would be relatively simple to produce using conventional control methods, but extensive research and play-testing was required to make the most of the Cube’s unique properties. Using a combination of Unity and Merge’s own SDK, the developers relished working on such an inventive new mobile game platform.
The Merge Cube went on sale in Walmart stores and online in the US with both Snake Attack and Defused featuring in the Merge Miniverse app store at launch.
These two augmented reality games were a hit, so Merge returned to Draw & Code with new and more challenging briefs, resulting in three more titles being designed and developed. This included the first local-multiplayer game for Merge Cube. Another hit game was Tricky Temple – this reinvented the tower defence genre for the unusual Merge Cube format. This game was later featured in Merge Cube advertisements and was showcased by the company at trade shows including CES.