Brick is a two-player shared-world AR game that designed to enrich human relationships.


2 Design Researchers
1 Product Manager
1 Gamer Developer


Design Researcher 


How might we use augmented reality gameplay to explore, enhance, and test the bonds we share with others?

Augmented Reality (AR) provides the opportunity for people to explore their environments by placing digital objects in their physical surroundings. However, current AR games offer limited opportunities for a multi-player experience. Verizon approached our team with the challenge of exploring how AR can be a social experience, enhancing human relationships. 


A Shared-World Augmented Reality Game for Two Players

Brick is a social game experience that promotes collaboration, problem-solving, and mutual discovery. 

During gameplay, players race against the clock to complete a pattern. In each level, the players have individual and joint objectives. The better the collaboration, the better the game!

Playing Brick: Five Simple Rules


Start by spawning wall and pieces

To start, both players hold up their phones together to spawn the pattern and game pieces. Time begins! 


Take note of color assignments

Each player is assigned two colors. These are the colors they are individually responsible for finding and placing in the pattern. You cannot pick up other colors! 


Find and place your colored bricks

To collect your bricks, find a piece, and hold down your finger to carry it to the wall. Move it towards its spot and release your finger to place it! 


Collaborate with your partner to place tandem bricks

Some pieces require you and your partner to place. Find and pick up your side of the brick, connect it with your partner's hand, and place it in the pattern together.


Defuse bombs that can disrupt your progress on the pattern

When you're not expected it, a bomb will appear in the pattern. Both players must find the defuser pieces and defuse the bomb together. If it goes off, the bomb will knock off placed blocks. 

Brick has four goals to enrich relationships



Induce Laughter: a playful, light-hearted environment fosters intimacy in the face of challenge. 

Induce Laughter: a playful, light-hearted environment fosters intimacy in the face of challenge. 



Encourage Communication: open, timely communication leads to stronger and deeper bonds.



Promote Collaboration: Working together to solve problems helps form trust with others.



Spike Heart Rates: Increasing heart rate has been shown to increase partners' perceived attraction. 


Tandem Transformational Game Design Process: From Game Concepts to an Interactive Build to Play

Landscape Analysis
Playtest Sessions
User Interviews
Coding Synthesis

Landscape Analysis
Playtest Sessions
User Interviews
Coding Synthesis

Landscape Analysis
Playtest Sessions
User Interviews
Coding Synthesis

Concept Generation
Paper Prototypes
Game Interaction Design 
Interactive Design Prototypes


Concept Generation
Paper Prototypes
Game Interaction Design 
Interactive Design Prototypes

Concept Generation
Paper Prototypes
Game Interaction Design 
Interactive Design Prototypes



Scoping the Project Goals & Focus Setting

Scoping the Project Goals & Focus Setting

To familiarize ourselves with current AR multi-player games, we conducted landscape research. After having a better feel for the space, we narrowed in on the game's core goals through a round-robin exercise, collaborative brainstorming, and quick affinity mapping to come to a shared understanding

Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 1.38.41 AM

[Landscape Research] Exploring precedents in shared-world AR Games


 [Round Robin] One of our collaborative brainstorming exercises.


[Goal Affinity Mapping] Deciding on our game's goals. 

Evaluating Concepts and Paper Prototyping for AR

With our goals in mind, we came up with several initial game concepts. We evaluated each idea using criteria and landed on 3 different viable concepts. To test our game concepts, we had the interesting challenge of creating paper prototypes to understand which idea had the best game mechanics. 


[Playtest 1] Creating/testing prototypes


[Proto 1] Brick: Players have to complete the pattern together in a limited time 


[Proto 2] Ice Cream Truck: Serve up orders relying on your partner for info.


[Proto 3] Leaky Faucet: Solving problems where communication is limited. 


✔️ 1: Goals

Does it accomplish at least two of the game's goals we set out at the beginning of the project?

✔️ 2: Feasibility

Do we have resources to build it within the four months of the project? 

✔️ 3: Business Narrative

Is it flexible enough to overlay a narrative to give Verizon a way to appeal to their audience? 

✔️ 4: Playability

Does it have intriguing game mechanics? 

Defining Game Mechanics and Early Play Testing

We ran "Wizard of Oz" playtesting with the team, faculty, and students to gather early feedback. Knowing that paper prototyping has its limitations, we had to consider how to imitate the actual gameplay. While testing, we mapped a game mechanics diagram to get a better idea for development.


[Playtest 2] Brick: Running a playtest with paper protos


[Diagram 1] Brick: Game Mechanics Diagram


💣  Surprises were Fun!

Bomb surprises were highly entertaining and satisfying.
When bombs appeared there was laughter, and defusing bombs felt like a success. Some players wanted more.

💬  More Collaboration

Players wanted more collaboration and communication.
Some suggested more co-op goals and different types of pieces that required both players.

🌟  Improve Micro-interactions

Players wanted more satisfying micro-interactions, fun animations, or even sounds when there's something good or bad happening during the game.

Interactive Prototyping to Examine Interactions

Our developer created mid-fidelity prototypes so we could perfect the gameplay. In this phase, we went through rapid iterations to address the game interactions we could only address in AR. 

  • Control Interactions: How do users find, pick up, and place their pieces on the wall?
  • Micro Interaction: What affordances, feedforward, and feedback work best in AR?
  • Sound and Haptics: Besides visual, what are other ways we can augment gameplay?

[Playtest 3] Wall Pattern and Pieces


[Playtest 3] Approach to Pick Up Interaction

Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 3.21.12 AM

[Playtest 3] Observing a playtester's interactions


👆 Need Screen Interaction

Approaching a piece to pick up was not obvious. We observed players consistently interacting with the screen to move pieces. We redesigned the game controls to include touch interaction.

🔊 Too Much Sound Feedback

We had error sounds, releasing sounds, and confirmation sounds. All the sound feedback was confusing and distracting. We decided to simplify these in the next iteration.

📏 "Too Far" and "Too High"

Some blocks were too far or too high for a player to pick up which led to frustration. We accounted for this by defining where and how far game pieces could spawn from the wall. 

Finalizing the the Game

To improve the main interaction of placing pieces, we landed on a simple "tap and hold". We simplified our sound design by replacing some of them with more subtle cues, like glowing and haptics. 


[Single Player Interaction] (A) Picking up a piece, (B) carrying and piece, and (C) releasing a piece. 


[Two Player Interaction] (A/B) Both players pick up their side of the piece and linked together, then (C) carry to wall. 


[Interaction] Player picking up a piece.


[Interaction] Carrying and placing.


[Interaction] Player releasing a piece.

Supporting with a Minimal Screen Design

The phone UI design before and during the gameplay were kept intentionally simple. The goal of the screens is to communicate the required information without taking away focus from the game. 

game start

Things I Learned about Augmented Reality on Screens

Keeping it simple is key. 

Augmented reality can quickly become overwhelming for the user. It's important to consider the space the user will be in and keeping the amount of augmentation simple. 

Manipulate all AR elements, mindfully.

True reality stimulates all senses, and AR adds to the user's environment through sound, visuals, and feel. Use these elements to your benefit! It will take some tweaking to get it right. 

Use familiar 2D interaction patterns.

When presented with a screen, people's mental models still heavily rely on touch gestures to perform actions. Consider using 2D interactions when designing for AR on phones. 

© 2021 Radha Nath. All rights reserved.