Other games have tried to tap into location-awareness features to varying degrees of success. A couple of years ago, for example, I tested a mobile iOS game based on the Ghostbusters movie in which you could battle ghosts haunting nearby businesses and points of interest. (The only thing I learned from that game was that busting ghosts wasn't nearly as fun as Ray Parker Jr. made it out to be.) But by creating gameplay that's tied into both your location and your travel time, Microsoft is staking out new territory.
Of course, it's one thing to showcase the game when driving around a heavily populated San Francisco neighborhood. What about road trips that cover more desolate stretches of road--say, the long stretches of farmland on Interstate 5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles? In those cases, Mauro says, Microsoft has created generic points of interest. "We will fill in less dense areas with [virtual] buildings so you can still have quests," he added.
Dragons Adventure isn't just built for car trips, incidentally. There's also an Explore mode, where you can send your dragon to different regions of the world, taking on assorted quests. (Again, these cities incorporate real-world data, as Mauro demonstrated an adventure that had us flying over a Dragon-ified version of the streets of Shanghai.) Complete enough quests, and you unlock more of the dragons featured in DreamWorks's two movies. Mauro says the game uses the exact models of dragons from the How to Train Your Dragon movies optimized for mobile.
Dragons Adventures World Explorer is a free download from either the Windows Phone Store or the Windows Store. There are no in-app purchases--"DreamWorks really wanted to think of new ways to bring games to market," Mauro said--though Microsoft is mulling over ways to turn some of the real-world data featured in the game into branding opportunities such as coupons or offers. That's a ways down the road, however.
In the meantime, Microsoft plans to create an SDK that any Unity developer would be able to leverage into apps of their own. Mauro sees possibilities for everything from first-person shooters to educational offerings.
It's certainly a lot more sophisticated than those invisible ink puzzle books from my youth.
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