Torch Tanked, The Future of Board/Bar Games?
Tucked in a corner of Intel’s mini city of a booth at CES sits a giant box of sand. Kinda strange until a projector turns on and the sand becomes a virtual battlefield for tiny tanks.
Torch partnered with Intel’s RealSense technology to make one of the most original physics games around. RealSense scans the very real sand in the box and creates a topographical map based on the peaks and valleys you’ve created in the "map" aka sandbox. You do the creating with your meat paws by moving the sand around. Then, a projector shoots the virtual map on top of the sand and the battle begins.
Theoretically, you can build your sand map to give you a tactical advantage against your opponent. Higher mountains give your tank farther range while valleys can provide protection against income fire.
After the map is created (instantly, I might add), the fun begins as you control a little tank and drive it around the map to fight your opponent. There’s also a mini game where you, one again, use your hands to manually dig through the sand to find buried virtual mines. Unless you have cats then they're real mines of a different kind.
As for the game, I got crushed by the Torch employee who plays the game all day every day. And his sneak attacks when I try to ask questions. I started to figure out the controls after a few rounds but this is clearly closer to a tech demo than a title ready for release. The tanks need to be faster with a more logical control scheme. But it's a start and if there wasn't a line of people waiting to get their hands covered in sand, I would have kept playing.
Torch also showed their attractive but far less effective version of air hockey played with your hands. The lag was unfortunate, forcing the player to really plan ahead to hit the puck.
Personally, I think the tank game would be a fantastic bar experience or board game. It's clearly not a board game in a traditional sense, but any of you get into tiny figurine games like Warhammer know what I'm thinking. Instant topo map? Distance calculation? Updates and more? Heck yeah. The only thing it's missing are tiny flocked trees.
That said, the tech seems to be there, some more work needs to be done to get the actual gameplay to live up to its potential. I'd love to see Games Workshop leverage their skills to make this an absolutely killer game.
I think I need one of these sandboxes for review.