To show off the mobile/tablet title Skylanders Battlecast, David Duong, the Product Manager for the game, dropped a Snapshot Skylanders card onto a coffee table beside me. He then pointed the iPad Battlecast app at it. On the iPod screen, Snapshot burst from the table, small waves of water splashing around him, and he stood in 3D as Duong moved the iPad around him, even standing in his hand as he picked up the card.
From here David could register Snapshot to his deck, along with any other cards he might have picked up at retail, identified by the Battlecast app from the small changes in the card's border. This was as far as Battlecast goes with AR, but it's a good intro to the concept of bringing a traditional tabletop game to life.
"I'm just here to do some magic tricks with cards." Duong joked, adding more seriously, "We're bringing Cards-to-Life into this experience to transform what has traditionally been a 2D and tabletop experience, into a fully immersive 3D one."
The goal, he added, is to have "collectablity" of a card game and to let the software do all the work, making it easy for younger members of their target demographic (6-12) to play the game without having to manage hit points and mana. After starting the game, you can build your 30-card deck with three Skylanders, spell cards, gear cards, and relic cards; or using an autofill button that will create the best deck based on all three Skylanders' abilities. Decks can be built in advance, or on-the-fly, when starting a single or competitive match.
While selecting cards, those that haven't been purchased yet will be greyed-out, showing the player what they can look for in Battle Packs (22 cards for $9.99) and Booster packs (8 cards for $4.99) out of a total of 300 cards at launch, which can be purchased physically or in-game. From here they can play either the story mode—where Skylanders' villain KAOS has invaded the 2D Realms, and you battle through the game's eight elemental realms to learn the basics of the game—and the game's primary head-to-head PvP mode.
Battles are turn-based, rendered in 3D, with a single Skylander taking the front position for combat and defense that can be swapped out. Duong suggested balancing the party with a tank to soak up damage, an attacker, and a healer. When attacking, it's a classic turn-based battle, with the 3D characters' attacks being animated, with 3D-rendered backgrounds, instead of classic 2D cards sitting on a digital table.
Matchmaking takes into account collection sizes and card collections, with casual PvP available at launch, with ranked PvP planned for later in the year. Winning in single player grants reward coins, which will allow you to purchase packs in the game, without having to make in-app or physical card purchases. Each card printed is completely individual, so it can only be added to the game once, though friends can still make it pop in the AR mode.
Skylanders Battlecast is currently available as a free-to-play game on iOS, Android, and Amazon phones and tablets.