Interview with Matt Daly (Special Projects Lead @Wargaming)

Matt Daly is a multi-disciplinary creative with a focus on new media and international project management. At Wargaming Special Projects his team partners with major museums and tech companies like Google and Microsoft to build experiences that bridge new media and heritage storytelling for millions, based around genre-defining games like World of Tanks. Matt’s virtual worlds have been featured on Google Arts & Culture, Fortune, BBC, CNET, Ars Technica, and Gizmodo.

You have worked with AR before can you tell us about that?

One of the most interesting things we’ve heard at Wargaming is that some museums have said their number of visitors doubled or even tripled since the launch of World of Tanks, our flagship title dedicated to fierce tank warfare of the mid-20th century. We believe this proves the power of tech and that it can hugely contribute to promoting (or sparking) interest in history and museums as places where they can visit another time and place.

Naturally, we started actively exploring and exploiting cutting-edge technology.

During spring 2016, we joined forces with the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, the greatest sea battle of World War I.

We found it unfair that the battle’s last hero, the HMS Caroline, was doomed to stay out of the festivities, being anchored in Alexandra Dock (Belfast, Northern Ireland) for good. We decided to devise an AR-application recreating the legendary cruiser so that it could join the celebration and complement the museum’s exhibition.

An army of artists at Wargaming painstakingly modelled the ship from the original blueprints and printed images. As soon as the finishing touch was applied, developers from Ballista Digital, our partner, created the HMS Caroline AR Experience Application which allows visitors to see a 3D model of the ship in close detail.

Matt Daly on stage

Later, in 2017 was the “transportation” of Sturmtiger, a legendary and extremely rare vehicle, to the Bovington Tank Museum. Using AR. The Bovington Tank Museum planned to show off its new Tiger tank collection at the Tankfest 2017 event. The only trouble was that the Sturmtiger would be missing from the exhibition. Using Microsoft HoloLens and Google Tango next-gen mixed-reality technology, Wargaming recreated every detail of this monster and brought it storming through the museum wall.   Visitors could walk around the tank and venture inside the crew compartment.

The huge interest to the project from both media and audience encouraged us to explore the virtual exhibit field even further. That very year, we’ve created a virtual battle starring the T-44-100 (P) (an extinct class of vehicles), which was presented at the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students in Sochi, Russia.

Late 2017, we decided to “go global” with tanks in augmented reality and came up with a World of Tanks AR Experience app based on a new AR platform for iOS devices ARKit.

This year, to celebrate the biggest update of Wargaming’s flagship title, World of Tanks, we’ve released World of Tanks AR Experience app based on the ARCore platform in collaboration with Google.

What is this project about?

World of Tanks AR Spectate is a new experimental platform that uses cutting-edge augmented reality technology to show World of Tanks 1.0 PC game battles on any surface, with tanks battling it out in front of the viewer in miniature. World of Tanks AR Spectate uses proprietary local streaming technology to achieve World of Tanks highest-end PC graphics on an iPad, using Apple’s ARKit to keep the AR 3D content rock-solid, stable and believable. The experience will be available to the World of Tanks community at industry events like Gamescom.

Wargaming Sydney has been working with World of Tanks team, The Agency / Special Projects, MCS and IDEA on turning World of Tanks replays into an immersive augmented reality experience.

Watch tanks roll out across your desk, or cause carnage in the break room. Viewed through an iPad, replays come to life. You direct the action. Step closer to zoom-in or walk around to view the battle from any angle.

Until now, fidelity in AR projects was bound by GPU power on mobile devices. To redefine the AR experience for spectators, Sydney devised a new technique, which dynamically generates video footage on a PC and streams it to the device in real time. This new direction for AR technology allows spectators to experience high-end PC-quality rendering while interacting with the scene. And the technique isn’t limited to World of Tanks replays. With a small modification to the graphics pipeline this technology could be dropped into any Wargaming title.

We will showcase the new World of Tanks AR experience, WoT AR Spectate, at Gamescom 2018 in Cologne. At this stage the experience is a prototype and not available for autonomous use outside of WG events or studios.

How does this actually work?

The technology uses “local cloud rendering” by connecting the iPad to a PC like a 3D mouse. All the rendering is done by the PC and sends that back to iPad as video. Meanwhile the iOS device uses an ARKit that sends the PC its constant position/orientation to PC.

The in-game camera in World of Tanks on PC matches the iPad’s position/orientation and sends what it sees back to iPad as video. The Skybox is made transparent, so we can control what “slice” of the map in a replay the visitor is seeing at any time.

The result is a super stable World of Tanks 1.0 PC graphics on a table in AR.

Why is this better than the other AR projects?

Up till now, nobody has achieved 60fps HD high-end PC graphics on a mobile device using local cloud streaming. This approach allows us to achieve insane visual fidelity and object presence, using an offloaded rendering architecture that will eventually dominate and become the main way that interactive media is rendered onto your screen. It’s a totally unexplored new level of visual fidelity on an iPad. World of Tanks is the perfect demonstration platform for this, given its combination of game design and heritage.

What potential does it have for the future?

This is a bit of a time-travel exercise, showing you an actual glimpse into what will eventually become super standard functionality of bringing content off the 16:9 screen and into the world around you. It’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of when, and we’ve built this to be first on the field when it’s ready. Applications will include several elements.

First of all it contains “second screen” content in the form of AR spectate, always on, on any surface, like a volumetric AR twitch that’s sitting on the nearest available surface (or mid-air) showing custom-curated highlight reels, live matches, with algorithmically-derived camera positioning/scale/zoom at any given moment, curated based off of your viewing patterns.

Artillery targeting on your desk next to you instead of on screen. Actual gameplay (this is first step in proving it out). Turn your living room into a virtual hangout and battle planning area with your clanmates & friends. Share your gameplay highlights on the pub table for all your friends. It also could contain additional gameplay functionality like supply drops, drones, recon, spotting, painting etc.

There’s huge potential for a communal co-present match review option (physically or virtually co-present) for clans & eSports teams. What could not only be a huge deal for eSports but also for sports. And thanks to extremely intuitive machinima creation toolset (much more akin to the multi-million$ kind of toolset Peter Jackson has been using for years, where your hands literally control camera perspective.

For history- loving audience there’s a lot of opportunity for historical visualization (we’ve already signed deal with History Channel to use this platform for multi-episodic kursk tank series for social media)

Would it be possible to play AAA games like this instead of on a screen in the nearby future?

Cloud rendering will be the main way that interactive media is rendered onto your screen.

What is the collaboration you have with the History Channel?

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Kursk, World of Tanks has partnered with History Channel to recreate portions of one of the greatest tank battles in history using augmented reality. Richard Cutland, Wargaming’s Head of Military Relations, will narrate the “The Tanks of Kursk” in a series of videos where viewers can watch German and Soviet tanks refight the battle in tabletop volumetric augmented reality, using the World of Tanks AR Spectate (replays on prokhorovka map from the actual WoT 1.0 PC game engine, on a tabletop in super stable AR).

Do you have something extra to share with our audience?

Playing with World of Tanks AR Spectate will likely be the first time anyone outside of a lab will be able to play with the future of augmented reality + “cloud” rendering combined to form an entirely new mobile medium that will entirely reshape the way we think about the border between ourselves and the media content we consume & interact with. World of Tanks is both a game as well as a massive collection of interactive digital battlefields and tanks based on the historical real deal, so being able to show the game and its new WoT1.0 HD content is a dream come true for any gamer, geek, historical enthusiast, admirer of the arts, and so forth.

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