News / Winnipeg

Winnipeg-made augmented reality game riding Pokemon GO wave

Pokemon GO may have proven the augmented reality market globally, but it's doing so in a gaming sector pioneered in Winnipeg, right on Innovation Alley.

Augmented reality might be a fun way to find cute Pokemon creatures, but a Winnipeg company's use of the technology makes you the last line of defence against an alien invasion.

Supplied Photo/ Clandestine: Anomaly

Augmented reality might be a fun way to find cute Pokemon creatures, but a Winnipeg company's use of the technology makes you the last line of defence against an alien invasion.

Heavily-armed aliens are descending on your home from above, barely missing that tree in your yard as others approach on the ground.

You can see all of this happen in real time on your smartphone screen, as the digital attackers are superimposed onto its camera’s live view.

That’s the basis of “Clandestine: Anomaly,” a location-based augmented reality (AR) game developed by ZenFri Inc in Winnipeg. If how it works seems familiar, that’s because it’s “basically like Pokemon GO.”

Corey King of ZenFri said when he started developing

Braeden Jones/ Metro

Corey King of ZenFri said when he started developing "Clandestine" four years ago, he imagined even then that Pokemon hunting would be the "holy grail" for GPS-based AR gaming.

Corey King of ZenFri said the global sensation has shone a major spotlight onto other games like his, which was actually released one year ago as one of the first GPS-based AR games ever.

“Before Pokemon GO, when I said, ‘our app is a location-based augmented reality game,’ (people) had no idea, because you’re trying to present something they’ve never heard of,” King said. “Now that Pokemon GO exists, you say, ‘it’s like Pokemon GO,’ and it makes it so much easier to understand.”

King admits he doesn’t have the brand recognition or advertising budget to ever compete with the new AR game on the block—already the most downloaded app of all-time—but its very existence could help give his app “a second honey moon.”

“The game did get some international attention,” King said, noting he’s done speaking engagements as an early AR app expert and won awards for his work, including a Future Leaders of Manitoba Award.

“(Clandestine) had a certain amount of acclaim and success in the industry… but it didn’t break the main-stream celing,” King said. “Now it’s heating up again.”

While the similarities with the world’s most popular app are helping the local developer, he notes there are also differences that set his game apart.

“It’s a richer AR experience,” he said. “It’s way more graphically intense and immersive—Pokemon GO shows one Pokemon (in AR), our game can show 50 aliens flying on screen at the same time.”

It also has a complex storyline in its 8-hour campaign mode, with the story written in collaboration with Joshua Ortega, who helped write the mega-popular Gears of War 2 script.

Supplied Photo

Also, while Pokemon GO is about searching far-and-wide to collect and battle creatures, Clandestine—a tower defence game at its core—is about defending a small two-kilometre radius around a predetermined location, like home.

King thinks that for some people, like parents, that pre-determined proximity makes Clandestine a safer, more controlled experience.

Pokemon GO also generates all of the augmented reality elements for gamers to engage with, and Clandestine allows gamers to place things like missile turrets in their back yard and then look at it through the AR feature.

“In our game you can control the environment, you add to the map,” King said. “It’s more accurate as well, scale-wise…

Clandestine also works offline, which means it doesn’t require cellular data once downloaded.

But King said the best part, if anyone is on the fence about which AR game to download, is that Clandestine was “made by a team of artists and developers right here in Winnipeg.” 

The Winnipeg-made game has had its fair-share of international attention, but King is hoping for more now that Pokemon GO helped make augmented reality a main stream hit.

The Winnipeg-made game has had its fair-share of international attention, but King is hoping for more now that Pokemon GO helped make augmented reality a main stream hit.

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