Facebook Is Developing Multiplayer AR Games for Messenger

Facebook is moving into augmented reality multiplayer games on Messenger, and some journalists have had a chance to visit the company’s Real Time Communication team in Seattle and experience these unreleased AR games firsthand. Messenger already has 1.3 billion monthly active users, making it the second most used messaging service after WhatsApp, with 1.5 billion users. Facebook owns both apps. One AR game, to be released before year’s end, is “Kitten Craze,” which lets up to six Messenger players dodge flying felines.

Engadget reports that, “to make things sillier, those flying cats are either making weird faces or have cool curly hair,” comparing “Kitten Craze” to “the classic arcade title ‘Galaga,’ except no one is shooting at you and instead of airships, there are kittens coming at you.” Another AR game is “Just Beachy,” which lets the user — who can add sunglasses and hat filters to her face — bounce a beach ball back and forth with people in the video chat.

Three AR games available today include “Don’t Blink,” “Don’t Smile” and “Asteroids Attack,” “all of which have augmented reality features and can be played with up to six of your friends simultaneously.” The first two challenge the user to “not be the first one to blink or smile, which is hard to do when you’re staring directly into someone’s eyes and they’re making funny faces.” The winner is “rewarded with an AR golden sun on your forehead.”

“Asteroids Attack” features “an airship attached to your nose and you have to fend off the asteroids dropping from the top of the screen, either by rocking your head or shooting them with a laser.”

Real Time Communication software engineer Shyam Pather revealed that the challenges of building AR games is to “ensure there’s no lag time between the virtual artifacts and your interaction with them,” and that the game isn’t draining the phone’s battery. For that reason, Facebook limits the number of graphics on the screen at any given time and doesn’t send too many notifications “when there’s a game with a scoreboard being played.”

“We know it’s just the beginning, and we’re excited to learn over the coming months what resonates with people and what they would like more of,” said Real Time Communication product manager Nora Micheva. “There’s potential for collaborative games, where we all sort of band together for a common goal and we build something together, for instance. But right now we’re definitely in learning mode and being open-minded about what this could do.”