Niantic May Be Developing Real-World Metaverse Mobile Game

Niantic Organizational Update | Source: Niantic Labs
  • Niantic was recently awarded a rather intriguing patent for a parallel-reality video game concept for mobile platforms.
  • The patent describes a feature that allows players to send virtual characters to remote locations in the video game world without physically going there.
  • Players can select virtual locations for their characters to visit, and the video game system determines a travel time and path for the character to follow.
  • The virtual character can interact with other players near the remote location, collect virtual items, and stay there for a designated period of time before returning to the player.
  • The patent also introduces the idea of modifying the character’s appearance based on real-world conditions and includes mechanisms for determining paths and collecting virtual items along the way.

Earlier today, we came across a recently published patent from Niantic titled, “Travel of Virtual Characters,” filed in January under the name of Niantic, Inc. The patent, published earlier this month, describes a concept for a parallel-reality video game where players can send virtual characters to travel to remote locations in the video game world without physically going to those locations themselves.

Representation of a virtual world having a geography that parallels the real world, according to one embodiment. | Source: Patent Public Search

“A player may send virtual characters to travel to remote locations in a parallel-reality game. The remote locations are virtual locations corresponding to real-world locations other than where the player is located. The player can therefore send a virtual character to a virtual location without traveling to the corresponding real-world location themselves,” reads the abstract for the patent.

“Once the virtual character has reached the remote location, it stays there for a duration of time. Client devices of players near the remote location may display a visual representation of the virtual character. The virtual character may collect virtual items and interact with other players and return to the player with any virtual items it has collected or been given.”

In this video game, the virtual world mirrors the real world to some extent. Normally, players’ characters are represented in the video game based on their real-world location. However, with this new system, players can choose a virtual location they want their character to visit, even if it’s far away from where they are physically.

When a player selects a virtual location, the video game system determines a travel time and a path for the virtual character to follow in the video game world to reach that location. The character will then travel along that path until it arrives at the virtual destination. During this journey, the virtual character can interact with other players who are physically located near the virtual destination.

Exemplary game interface of a parallel-reality game, according to one embodiment. | Source: Patent Public Search

For example, these players can give virtual items or gifts to the travelling character. Once the virtual character reaches the remote location, it stays there for a certain period of time. During this time, players who are physically near the virtual location can see a visual representation of the virtual character on their devices.

The virtual character can also collect virtual items while at the remote location or along its travel path. After spending the designated time at the remote location, the virtual character can return to the player who sent it on the journey, bringing back any virtual items it obtained during its travels.

According to Niantic’s claims, a server hosts a parallel reality video game. The server receives a request from a player’s device to send a virtual character to a specific remote location, determines the travel time for the character to reach that location based on real-world information, and updates the video game database when the character arrives at the remote location.

Flowchart illustrating a method for virtual character travel to remote virtual locations. | Source: Patent Public Search

Furthermore, the system involves determining a path for the virtual character to follow in the real world, updating the video game database with the path information, and determining the travel velocity of the character based on the path’s characteristics. The character travels along the path to the remote location at the determined velocity.

The patent introduces the concept of modifying the virtual character’s representation based on real-world conditions along its path. For example, if there is a real-world business near the character’s path, the character’s appearance may change to include an item associated with that business.

In addition, determining the real-world condition involves querying a business database to identify nearby businesses along the character’s path. If a business is found, the character’s appearance is modified to include an item related to that business. The character’s travel path can be a straight line from its current location to the remote location, and the travel velocity is determined based on the terrain type along that path.

After spending a determined period of time at the remote location, the virtual character returns to the player who sent it on the journey. The determined period of time the virtual character stays at the remote location can be set by the player, random, or based on the number of interactions the character has with other players at the remote location.

The system can also receive location data from players’ devices over time and determine traversable trails through the real world based on that data. The virtual character’s path is identified by selecting a route that crosses different trails at intersection points. The virtual character can collect virtual items while travelling along its path.

If a virtual item is found within a certain distance of the path, it is added to the character’s inventory in the video game database. When the virtual character arrives at the remote location, a second player who is physically located there can see a representation of the character in an augmented reality environment on their device.

The second player can interact with the virtual character by sending input from their device, which is then updated in the video game database to indicate the interaction. An interaction with the virtual character may involve the second player giving a virtual item to the character, which the character can then return to the first player who sent it on the journey.

Yesterday, Niantic made an announcement about laying off 230 employees while also closing its Los Angeles studio and discontinuing certain video games such as NBA All-World and the previously in-development MARVEL World of Heroes. This strategic decision aims to prioritise the company’s efforts on the development and upkeep of its highly successful game, Pokémon GO.

The decision regarding the pursuit of the proposed video game by Niantic remains uncertain. Nevertheless, the publication of this patent signifies a notable milestone in the advancement of parallel-reality gaming. This innovation eradicates the limitations tied to virtual exploration, enabling players to delve further into captivating virtual realms and uncover fresh adventures while staying within their physical surroundings.

This aligns perfectly with the company’s core objectives. It is, however, crucial to recognise that the current state of the matter is limited to a patent, which does not guarantee the release or development of the proposed parallel-reality video game. Only time will reveal whether Niantic will ultimately transform the concept into a tangible reality.

What do you think about this? Do tell us your opinions in the comments below!

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