a motion-controlled table-top augmented reality puzzle game

May 15, 2013

About a 2 min. read

NerdHerder is a motion-based puzzle game that leverages handheld Augmented Reality (AR) interfaces. Nerderher was first developed as part of on ongoing exploration of interaction mechanics in AR games, that started withNerdFerno.. The current game’s premise is that you are hired as an IT manager, and your job is to use “management skills” to get the nerd employees back to work in their cubicles. The game description and video can be found on

Many handheld AR games at the time focused on action game mechanics, especially shooting games. With NerdHerder, we opted instead to experiment with a different genre of gameplay that closely combines the cognitive skills of puzzle solving with dexterity and fine-motor skills.

During the final year of the AR Game Studio, the team focused on taking the original concept and demonstration, and refining it to the point it could be published by rethinking the core game mechanics and physical actions, and developing engaging puzzles and environments.  Nerdherder demonstrates new game mechanics that fit better with the handheld AR (HAR) interface and game theme, and shows one compelling way to integrate puzzle-solving mechanics into a HAR game.

Through the process of fast iteration and playtesting, we tried out three major mechanics of using a HAR interface and several variations of these mechanics as well. These game mechanics include a push-and-pull mechanic (where the nerds are controlled based on their proximity to the phone), a remote-control character mechanic (where a virtual nerd is controlled indirectly, and used to scare or attract the other nerds), and the final virtual fishing pole mechanic that is in the released game. Each of these game mechanics has its own pros and cons, but the fishing pole mechanic had the best balance of precise control (that is possible to master) while still making the player feel as if the phone (and thus by extension, them) are part of the game world.

The game was released on the iOS and Android stores in the spring of 2012.

Here’s a short promo video:

And a longer gameplay video:

Nerdherder - May 15, 2013 - Blair MacIntyre