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Dustcloud Brings a First-Person Shooter Into the Streets, Without the Killing

But first it needs at least $100,000 from Kickstarter.

Courtesy of The Dust Cloud via

I should have had a tech-buzzword bingo card with me when I spoke to Howard Hunt, the CEO of an “urban gaming” startup called The Dustcloud.

If I had had that bingo card, I would’ve won in no time. The buzzwordily accurate way to describe The Dustcloud is that it’s a location-based mobile game seeking crowdfunding, supported by microtransactions while tapping into the Internet of Things and, eventually, wearable computing and augmented reality. Phew!

Here’s the less precise but much more readable way of describing it: Laser tag in the streets. Pew pew pew!

Today, Hunt and his co-founder Ota Fejfar will start asking Kickstarter backers for $100,000. They say that’s enough to finance a production run of its guns, called Dusters, to be used in a game called Geo-Combat. Dusters connect to mobile devices via Bluetooth and “shoot” signals called Speks at one another.

Speks are a stand-in for both health and bullets; a series of lights on top of the Duster indicates how many Speks a player has. When he shoots another Duster, he takes one of its Speks and moves up in the global Dustcloud leaderboards.

The best players can keep moving up in the ranks for free, and the rest? “You pay for new Speks if you’re bad,” Hunt said.

Each new Spek will cost 10 cents, he added, or less when sold in bundles. Dusters will cost $39-$45 for Kickstarter backers, depending on how soon they join in.


Players find each other via a mobile app that shows the locations of other Dusters on a map. But here’s where wearable computing comes into the equation: Over time, Hunt envisions a global geo-game, sharing certain commonalities with Google’s mobile game Ingress, that would be more engaging on smartglasses than on smartphones and tablets.

His pitch is that the form factor of Google Glass or GlassUp, where peripheral screens can offer information about one’s surroundings, would be perfect for a map of potential targets. Meanwhile, Glass’ bone-conductive speakers could bring the volume of game sounds up and down depending on how close other players are.

It’s a neat idea, and Hunt said he has proof it works. An early version of the game, themed as a stealthy spy shooter called Wetworks, debuted in Prague in 2009 and later moved to Berlin, where the CEO said it has attracted 30,000 beta players since February.

My knee-jerk reaction to the idea was that, at least in America, police or the TSA would freak out if they saw people pointing what looked like guns at each other. But Hunt said he and Fejfar have solved this; in addition to rounding some of the angles of the Dusters to make them look less threatening, the whole unit will glow brightly in “Tron blue or Tron green” when it’s on, he said.

(Those of you who know your videogame history might remember that this sounds a bit similar to Nintendo’s NES Zappers, the guns that powered the game Duck Hunt. They started out gray but got their iconic blaze orange accents thanks to federal safety regulations.)

Hunt said the batteries in the latest Duster hardware last for up to 20 hours when powered on continuously, or for three to four days when “asleep.”

Update: And it looks like The Dustcloud isn’t the only one with a real-world first-person shooter in its sights. Hat tip to Kill Screen for alerting me to Overwatch, an Indiegogo project that launched last month that adds “GPS radar, live voice chat and in-game perks and unlocks” to paintball:

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