Mar. 17, 2015 | By Alec

We’ve already known for a while that 3D printing technology is a great option for board games and miniatures. Miniatures, table top scenery, even dice: all of your own fantastical creations can be easily 3D printed. But a French-made Japanese game entitled Hikari no Sumi takes things to an entirely different level by even incorporating elements from video games as well.

While the name suggests otherwise, Hikari no Sumi was developed by three French multimedia engineering students – Nicolas Bertrand, Gaétan Guerrero and Matthieu Lefebvre – during a student exchange program in Japan. They designed this mixture of video and board games under the supervision of professor Kuazushi Mukaiyama of the Future University Hakodate. Together, they developed a very clever new dimension for board gaming that essentially revolves around a projected interactive board, complete with maps, enemies, visual effects that change depending on your own moves.

In fact, the only thing that isn’t projected are your own 3D printed figurines that you play with. These represent three painters, each operating under the protection of one of three famous Japanese deities: Amaterasu, Tsukuyomi or Susanoo. The game itself is a turn-based rpg in which the painters draw creations that will help them survive, combat monsters and reach the special tile to win the game.

While that already sounds like an interesting concept for a board game, Hikari no Sumi doesn’t need boxes full of monsters and cardboard pieces representing walls and traps. Instead, the game relies on a Xtion Pro Live motion sensor and projector. The grid, complete with monsters and scenery, are projected, while the motion sensor detects movements, figurines and even your hand movements. "This information is sent in real-time to the game engine, and the game then progresses as the figurines are moved and set on the table automatically and instantly," Gaétan explains to "When it is the player's turn, he has to move one of the 3 figurines to get closer to monsters in order to defeat them, while trying to lower causalities and to reach a special tile to win the game."

Even the 3D printed tokens have a NFC chip inside them, which works with the SFML and Open GL that runs the game. Their models have been designed in 3ds Max and 3D printed on the university’s MakerBot Replicator 2x in white plastic. "It was our first time using a 3D printer, so we had have to try with various printer's configurations (temperature settings in particular) and different designs to finally get appropriate figurines," but the results look good.

The 3D printed figurines and their concept art.

As Gaétan explained, the trio build this interesting game as their last student project. The goal? To create a new board gaming experience. "Our aim was that when people play our game, they feel like kids imaging stories while playing with toys, like we did when we were younger," he says. "Some members of our team are Warhammer players and we felt that strategy-oriented games would be a good option. As we were exchange students in Japan, we also considered our local audience and considered which popular video game genre in Japan involved strategy: tactical role playing games."

The gaming board setup. Could this be the future of board games?

And with the help of their supervisor, they settled on a style inspired by Japanese culture and history, which also shaped their story line. The result is a beautifully themed that looks like a lot of fun to play, though their projection-concept could add very interesting dimensions to a lot of existing games as well. Really there’s just one problem with Hikari no Sumi, and that is that there’s currently only one existing version of the game and no commercial plans so far. While the cost of the projector will likely prevent a marketable version of the game from being developed, the extra dimension it creates certainly has a lot of potential. Maybe we’ll all be playing this way in a few years’ time?


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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