Interview

Wearable gaming could outpace the rise of mobile, says Will Luton

Wearable gaming could outpace the rise of mobile, says Will Luton

Where will the future of games take us? Every technological step forward giving us a tantalising taste of the leaps and bounds that are still to come.

The future, however, might be closer than we think. The future might very well be strapped to your wrist.

Whether the gaming potential of wearables will ever be realised is up for debate, but it's that potential that's attracting developer attention- developers such as game designer, author, and former TinyCo man Will Luton.

"I've always been attracted to the future of games – trying to predict trends and understand technology use," explains Luton.

"Right now smartwatches are right on the verge of becoming a major ubiquitous piece of technology, and while there's a lot of discussion around fitness, games will inevitably dominate. So it was exciting for me to take on the design challenge of making something for these devices."

Less is more

Luton's new game, Pixel Miner, was designed from the ground up for the Pebble smartwatch, a platform that's perfect for short session gaming, and surprisingly versatile if you're willing to embrace its limitations.

Games that require short yet frequent low agency sessions are perfect for smartwatch.
Will Luton

"Early in mobile everyone wanted to replicate console games, I knew I had to think first: How will people use a smartwatch? How is it controlled?" says Luton.

"At the same time I'd spent a lot of time thinking about this game genre which is becoming known as Incremental, of the back of Candy Box and Cookie Clicker.

"The two things just kind of meshed – these games that require short yet frequent low agency sessions are perfect for smartwatch.

"So, Pixel Miner, embracing the limitations of the monochrome pixel screen of the Pebble, is a game where you have this little guy who starts out digging pixels with his hands and you spend those pixels on upgrades so he can dig quicker or deeper with new equipment.

"I could really push the boat on silliness, so you can have him riding on the back of a mutant mole at one point. There's also a couple of cult movie references in there."

A pure vision

Pixel Miner's journey from idea to reality was a relativetly smooth one, and although Luton did encounter a few speedbumps along the way, they did nothing to stifle his vision.

"It was a pretty smooth project in all," reveals Luton, "because the Pebble hardware is so power efficient and affordable we ran in to a bunch of limitations that did mean a few optimisations and work arounds were required, but nothing that impacted my vision for the game.

"You certainly can't be as wasteful as you can be on mobile."

Pixel Miner in action

With one eye firmly on the future, Luton believes that wearable gaming will evolve faster than anyone can possible imagine, even outshining the astronomical rise of mobile gaming.

"I think it will be even more accelerated. Mobile was such a big shift for the industry that it caught a lot of people off guard. However, as that's so in recent memory we'll see a lot less complacency around the device category I'm sure," offers Luton.

The idea of wearing just a dumb watch versus something that has more utility is just a no brainer for me.
Will Luton

"However, as we saw people just wholesale try to apply console design ideology to mobile so we'll see mobile design ideology forced on to smartwatch. It's not the platform for a match 3 or a Clash of Clans clone."

The age of the smartwatch is well and truly upon us, suggests Luton. It isn't a matter of 'when' or 'if', because logic guarantees that smartwatch adoption will continue to rise. The device just makes sense.

"I'm more bullish about smartwatches than VR in the short term. Right now we're in generation one of smartwatch tech and you can see where companies like Pebble will go and where Google has said they'll go," says Luton.

"The idea of wearing just a dumb watch versus something that has more utility is just a no brainer for me. After spending time working on the platform I'm bubbling over with ideas on what the tech could do next, especially in games. It's going to be an exciting time."

"I think we're right at moving beyond early adopters and in to mass market really rapidly, especially as the devices are showing more and more utility.

"I'm confident that smartwatches will be one of the top 10 most gifted items this Christmas, if not number 1."

Thanks to Will for his time, and don't forget to check out Pixel Miner right here

Staff Writer

What do you call someone who has an unhealthy obsession with video games and Sean Bean? That'd be a 'Chris Kerr'. Chris is one of those deluded souls who actually believes that one day Sean Bean will survive a movie. Poor guy.

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