Beyond One’s Project Apogee Shakes up AR Gaming Scene
Beyond One, an augmented reality startup, is redefining AR games and the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) industry. Overlaying virtual monsters and environments with the user’s real world, Project Apogee is the latest project of Beyond One. Project Apogee is the internal code name for this yet to be named AR MMORPG. Beyond One is backed by Sequoia, Amino, and General Catalyst, and has launched CurioPets and DIVR Edu with a pre-seed budget of $300k.
Beyond One demonstrated a closed alpha version of Project Apogee at TreeHacks, Stanford University’s large-scale collegiate hackathon, on February 16, 2018. Subsequently, Beyond One will conduct open beta testing to gather initial feedback from its users.
Cofounders Nathan Kong, a Stanford sophomore, and Xiaohan Gao are determined to lead the emerging world of augmented reality gaming. At the heart of Beyond One, Kong and Gao share a persistent vision to use technology to bring people together and make shared experiences universally accessible.
Beyond One co-founders Xiaohan Gao (left) and Nathan Kong (right)
The user experience is at the forefront of Beyond One’s game design. Kong and Gao believe that today’s users crave more innovative games where players can create their own worlds and interact within the dynamic user-created environment. In Project Apogee, players can connect using Beyond One’s Multiplayer system, and battle together against a massive fire breathing dragon that flies over head. They can collect the eggs that it drops and hatch their own monsters to help them in battle. Kong says:
“Users want new things to do instead of the same old grinding on monsters to unlock equipment and attacks. There’s so much more in our combat mechanic. It’s interactive, it’s social, it’s designed to be played with other people in the same room. We envision players excitedly yelling to coordinate attacks against huge monsters and come up with strategic battles positions for raids.”
Edging out the Augmented Reality Market
Failing to keep up with what users want is one reason Beyond One attributes to other games falling flat in the augmented reality market. Despite the overwhelming popularity of flagship MMORPG games such as World of Warcraft, the genre is currently experiencing a recession due to a lack of innovation and attention from AAA titles.
Kong believes Beyond One can optimally respond to its user base. He, for instance, plans to incorporate multiplayer battling, an element many players lamented was not available in Pokémon Go, a flash-hit, location-based augmented reality game Beyond One’s subsidiaries have been compared to.
As an AR game, Project Apogee overlays gaming visuals with reality, personalizing and bringing newfangled meaning to the gaming experience. Kong and Gao envision their players traveling through dimensional portals in the real world into virtual environments using augmented and mixed reality technologies.
“Our goal is to make it feel like you’re walking through a parallel universe using your phone,” says Kong.
Beyond One’s Inspiration
Kong seeks users to direct Beyond One’s design. Beyond One heavily employs quantitative user data collected from its players and actively seeks out students to become school ambassadors, who have the power to set up communities in game events and are even given prizes to distribute to players for the events. Their goal is to create communities in schools that enable players to easily communicate with one another and to participate in boss battles or other in-game events. In addition to student population feedback, Kong and Gao solicit opinions, reach out to gaming communities, scour online MMO forums, and ping their gaming peers for a constant cycle of feedback.
Beyond One’s cofounders could even ask themselves.
Longtime gamers, cofounders Kong and Gao met as high school classmates in Texas and quickly became friends. They soon discovered a shared passion for how games worked under the hood. They performed analytics to satisfy their curiosity. An encounter with an Oculus Rift at a tech conference in Dallas motivated Kong and Gao’s passion for helping under-resourced classrooms receive the same academic experience they had been fortunate to have.
Kong and Gao’s education-driven focus drove Beyond One’s previously publicized, highly successful projects, DIVR EDU and CurioPets. DIVR EDU teaches high school and college users to build education worlds for free use. CurioPets is an augmented reality game that allows users to play and explore with a virtual pet.
These initial projects provided a strong platform for user experience research, which Beyond One is using to develop Project Apogee. When resources permit, Kong intends to continue building DIVR Edu as Beyond One’s non-profit educational arm.
To apply to be a student game ambassador or to learn more, email Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org.