Digital technology reinventing the art of stacking

 
Fabulous Beasts tower and tablet

Fabulous Beasts is a game of strategy and balance that combines the digital and the physical to produce an accessible and beautiful gaming experience.

Sensible Object, a London based game developer founded by Alex Fleetwood, is the team behind Fabulous Beasts. Although a team of only five people, their aim is to combine physical and screen based digital games to make something new. The ultimate goal is to compete with larger, established games. Alex says that Fabulous Beasts "would not have reached this point without the AHRC".

Playing the game

Fabulous Beasts is a table-top game for up to four players, who take turns in adding creatures and artefacts to build an ever-growing tower. The players place the beasts against the scanner before carefully stacking them onto the tower. The base then links with your tablet or mobile device to keep score and provide music and animation to enhance the experience. As each piece is added to the stack, this affects the digital environment. Each new beast pops into the digital world and continues to evolve as special artefact pieces are played. Players must use all their skill, dexterity and imagination to achieve a high score.

3D printing was used to prototype the pieces players stack onto the structure. The scanning technology is unique and was developed by the Sensible Object team specifically for the game. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is used in recognising the beasts that are stacked and load sensors check that the tower is still standing. This information is then sent to the tablet or mobile device via Bluetooth to allow the tracking and accumulation of scores. It is this scanning and stacking that creates a unique world on the tablet and rich but simple rules allow a different world to be created each time the game is played.

A group of three people playing the game

From Sandbox to Kickstarter

The designers were given a grant to develop their concept through the REACT Play Sandbox funding, which brought together businesses and academics to explore and develop new products or services for children. The Fabulous Beasts project bought together freelance games designer Alex Fleetwood and Dr Elies Dekoninck from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath.

The sandbox offered projects access to a team of 7 -12 years olds who acted as partners in the design process and gave an insight into what matters to young people. Alex continues "Our young coaches gave us incredible feedback on the game we were steadily developing and really helped shape it into the form it is today. We started out with ambitious ideas for how we would sense the tower, and they helped us understand what was necessary to sense and also how to make Fabulous Beasts simple and engaging to play".

REACT is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is one of four Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy. It is a collaboration between Watershed and the Universities of the West of England, Bath, Bristol and Cardiff. Watershed supported Sensible Object (in conjunction with the University of Bath) so that it was able to do the research and development necessary. As a result it was then able to trial the game. Alex Fleetwood stated in Medium "A big part of the success is down to the different kinds of publicy funded support we've been able to access along the way" and "I want to celebrate the organisations that are enabling exciting creative work to happen and offer my thanks for their support".

“Completely reinvents the game of balance.”
LA Times

The team have shown the prototype at the 2015 Toy Fair and have just launched a Kickstarter Campaign to get the product to the next stage. On its 1st day on Kickstarter backers got Fabulous Beasts to a third of its target on its first day. Even though the game is not yet available, it has already picked up awards from around the world and generated positive attention from the press. It was one of The Guardian’s top picks for 2016, stating it was “A fascinating object stacking game”, and featured on the BBC news website.

Winner of the Indiecade Technology Award 2015, Fabulous Beasts is on Kickstarter until 25th February 2016.

(Image credits thanks to Fabulous Beasts)

 

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