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Interview: Aspyr's  Treasure Troves  To Use DS As 'Real-Life Treasure Hunt'

Interview: Aspyr's Treasure Troves To Use DS As 'Real-Life Treasure Hunt' Exclusive

December 10, 2008 | By Chris Remo

December 10, 2008 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

Publisher and developer Aspyr (Call Of Duty 4 for Mac) is creating an original Nintendo DS title that uses each player's DS to create "a real-life treasure hunt," creative director and lead designer Justin Leingang revealed to Gamasutra.

The project, which bears the working title Treasure Troves, is the first non-educational original game to be developed by Austin, TX-based Aspyr's recently-formed internal studio.

Traditionally, Aspyr's own development has revolved around porting existing titles to other platforms, particularly Mac and PC, though it publishes DS games such as Hello Kitty Daily.

One of Treasure Troves' main input mechanics operates by scanning for nearby wi-fi networks and generating items based on each network's unique frequency.

(The game continues to uncover items and and optionally emit aural feedback even when the DS is closed, allowing players to "play" in public without needing to actively monitor the system.)

These items can then be managed and traded with other players to create special item sets, and can be used for a variety of player-customized in-game functions.

"We're creating a real-life treasure hunt, and the DS and this software is acting as your treasure map, your trophy case, and your audiovisual canvas," Leingang, whose art game Glum Buster was an Austin GDC showcase winner, explained.

For example, each item emits a distinct sound, which include musical notes and phonetic noises; the items can then be replicated and arranged on a Mario Paint-like musical grid. Like items and other custom creations, these resultant compositions can be traded with other players.

But Leingang may be most excited about the subtle real-world activities his game might inspire. "We're using the DS' capabilities as a portable device above and beyond just the fact that I can put it in my pocket or sit on the couch or sit in the bathroom and play it. We're taking this thing and really flexing its muscles as being something that can travel anywhere across this globe," he said.

He went on to explain some of the surprising effects the game has had on his own everyday routine in an effort to uncover fresh hotspots.

"It may seem trivial; it may seem insignificant, but...the moment we got this prototype running, just in raw text form, it just blew my mind," he said.

"I take walks frequently -- the same walks every weekend -- and all of a sudden I'm doing stupid things, just laughing at myself because I'm walking ten more feet to the left this time, or turning down this different street, or walking down the opposite side of the road. Even though I'm going down the same street, I'm on a different side now, facing a different direction. It's so funny how much more I do actually see."

Despite the unusual concept behind the game, Leingang is confident that Treasure Troves is well suited to the DS market, which has thrived on nontraditional software that has sometimes blurred the lines of what can be labeled a traditional video game.

He has been fostering the idea for over five years, originally conceiving it for Game Boy Advance, then rethinking it for cell phones. "Then the DS came out," he recalled, "and it was like, 'Oh my God -- we've found it!'"

Gamasutra will publish its complete interview with Leingang in the near future.

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