You enter a dimly lit room. As you cross the threshold, you’re handed a mobile device and directed to stand over a luminescent circle on the floor, facing the curved video screen taking up an entire wall. Colored lights stream down from overhead, dividing you and your fellow players into teams. After keying in your location to your controller, you’re ready to dive into a moderately massive multiplayer game. You’re ready for Eddie’s Social Committee.
Created by Edwin Schlossberg and ESI Design, Eddie’s Social Committee (ESC) is a platform for highly immersive multiplayer gaming that delivers social gaming writ large, synchronizing large screen gameplay with dynamic lighting and haptic feedback for a surround-sound experience. Souped-up iPod Touch controllers drive the experience, allowing players to tap, swipe, and tilt their avatars through a series of mini-games, with the room’s lighting programmed to literally shine a spotlight on each game’s top performers.
At the Philadelphia launch, I gave Robot Basketball, one of ESC’s nine launch titles, a try. In the game of virtual hoops, players take control of robots progressing along a track, scooping up basketballs liberally covering the screen. Tilting the mobile controller aims the robot, while tapping on the screen lets players shoot the ball at one of the game’s multiple hoops to score points. While it’s possible to play the game solo, passing the ball to teammates increases the points scored after a successful basket, making inter-team communication and coordination essential for success.
Eddie’s Social Committee is currently rolling out its pilot at Buffalo Wild Wings locations in the Philadelphia PA, Brookfield WI, and Riverside CA test markets. But it’s easy to imagine similar locations popping up at arcades and at larger conferences, as the immersive experience adds a sense of physical presence to multiplayer gaming that’s difficult to replicate in peoples’ homes. And while there are relatively few launch titles, the games are built out in Unity, which helps ease the learning curve for developers looking to enter the immersive arena. Astro Beams, another one of the platform’s launch titles, was developed in partnership with Warner Bros Games and Sarbakan. The developers of the 10-player arcade game Killer Queen are already working on their own take on how the ESC platform can be leveraged for future releases.
With consumer-grade electronics advancing far enough that virtual reality can be experienced in the comfort of your own home with relative ease, it’s refreshing to see developers craft destination-based experiences that force people to come together in one place, whether it be through outdoor games, augmented reality, or immersive experiences confined to a single room. Eddie’s Social Committee provides another option for destination gaming, and it will be fascinating to see how the platform evolves over time.
– Michael Andersen, Director, Strategy & Analysis