AR game HoloGrid from Star Wars creature creator teases big May 4th announcement

We reported on HoloGrid: Monster Battle back when it was announced, as the idea of an augmented reality take on the monster chess game from Star Wars sounded like a lot of fun, even if it wasn't an official tie-in. The creature designs in the game are all from visual FX master Phil Tippett, after all, who created the holo-chess sequence for the original film and recreated it for the latest film in the series, The Force Awakens.

Now at PAX East 2016, the developers of HoloGrid are teasing a big reveal for the game that they are hoping will bring a lot of attention to the small title. And that reveal is scheduled for May 4th.

May 4th is Star Wars Day. So...hmmmmmm. 

We'll have to wait and see if HoloGrid transforms into an official adaptation of the game from the movies, if we see Star Wars characters in the mix, or if it's just an incredible cooincidence that they chose that day for their announcement. In the meantime, the early demo of HoloGrid on display at the show was plenty of fun on its own. 

Bite-sized tactics in augmented reality

HoloGrid will eventually ship in a box with physical cards, including 30 creature units with various abilities and a handful of spell effects. The game is played using an Apple or Android device (most modern phones or tablets will work) set up on a stand that's included with the game. The device's camera is pointed at a flat surface in front of the player, and on that surface the game board and units show up on the device screen, as if they were really there. 

The biggest influence cited by Mike Levine, president of developer Happy Giant Games, was Hearthstone, in that HoloGrid will offer quick and tactical matches and a wide variety of interesting interactions between the game's cards. Unlike Hearthstone, however, HoloGrid will offer more visceral combat than simply having animated cards smashing into each other. 

As I saw in action at PAX East, HoloGrid's cards morph into animated units when you hold them up in front of your device's camera. Those units then take their place on the game's virtual board and begin biting, slapping, and firing projectiles at one another. Units have different abilities and attack ranges, and do things like drop med kits and fire random damage at a particular area of the map. 

The animations are fun and satisfying, even at this early stage of the game, and the fact that all the monstrous creatures were adapted via photogrammetry from Phil Tippet's real life creations shows in the little realistic details. In the same way the original holo-chess sequence in the first Star Wars movie still looks impressive all these years later, HoloGrid could offer a fun visual experience without demanding hardware requirements. 

The future of games? 

At launch HoloGrid will be doing its AR thing via tablets and phones, but the developers plan to roll the game out to true AR platforms like Microsoft's HoloLens once they are more widely available. They are also discussing the potential of technologies like Magic Leap and VR headsets, and it isn't hard to imagine a game very much like actual holo-chess being a possibility within the next decade.

For now, HoloGrid looks like it's off to a good start, offering AR that will make you smile and which adds a lot to the grid-based tactical experience we've seen in a lot of other titles over the years. 

Happy Giant and Tippet Studio have big dreams for their game, including the idea of a HoloGrid franchise expanding to things like Space Battle and Zombie Battle. And if the May 4th announcement does turn out to be something that gets the attention of Star Wars fans, well...the sky may be the limit. 

For more HoloGrid info and to sign up to be notified about opportunities to play the game, visit the official website