Encrypted information has been transferred to your phone regarding the location of a missing young woman. The perpatrator has left pieces of a twisted puzzle spread out across Malmö. Together, these riddles can reveal the perpatrator´s sinister plan.
Brief: Create a new form of entertainment with an innovative interaction
Target group: Tourists and locals that enjoy storytelling media Team: Robin Harnesk, Johan Hultman, Martin Lindberg, Nathalie Strindlund (Anton Brottare, Albin Nilsson) My roles: concept development, UX design, visual design, music production Duration: 6 weeks at Malmö University + independent work Methods/tools: Unity, Photoshop, Logic Pro X, physical props
What Lies Ahead is a location-based interactive experience that makes you the central part of a fictional crime story. By solving connected riddles in various locations around Malmö, you unfold the narrative and experience the city in a new way. In addition to this, it could support local tourism and small business by drawing people to certain locations in the city. What Lies Ahead started out as a school project but was continued after our graduation. It resulted in winning the Crowd award in Venture Cup 2019 and Leapfrogs 2019 as well as the opportunity to further develop it at Minc Startup Labs.
Our aim was to translate the feeling of reading a thrilling book into the real world. What is significant about What Lies Ahead is how it utilizes the multimodality of technology to enhance the locality of a physical city in a narrated form of user-centered entertainment. In contrast to similar concepts such as Pokémon Go and Storytourist, it aims to minimize screen use and instead steer attention to details in the physical surroundings in which you are the main character in a new story.
What Lies Ahead relies heavily on sound for encouraging user actions as well as immersion and aesthetic. We recorded the narrative with a voice actor that speaks to you in first person and guides you through the story. A soundtrack was also produced by us in which I created three songs conveying mystery, excitement and empowerment.
During our course Games & Play, all students individually came up with one idea for a game with an innovative interaction whereafter eight of those were chosen to be further developed in groups. One of the chosen ideas was my concept called Incognito; a GPS-based pervasive game about stealth where the goal was to eliminate all the other players by entering their physical space while staying undetected.
The players´ phones were used as an interface to keep track of game events and their physical surroundings was used as the game area. What was significant about this game was the paranoid feeling in seeing many people around you but not knowing who else was playing the game unless looking at your phone.
For What Lies Ahead, we wanted to change the core gameplay to a single-player interactive experience but keep the feeling of paranoia. So, with inspiration from geocaching and interactive entertainment such as Netflix's Bandersnatch, we envisioned an interactive experience that would entangle the user in a thrilling crime story by making them the central part of it. We started working with the narrative by searching for key locations in Malmö, using real objects that are crucial for the user to interact with to progress within the story.
Parallel to creating the graphical profile and recording a first version of the narrative, a lo-fi technical prototype was made to be able to test the locality-based concept. Instead of hard code, some basic functionality was coded in Unity and then combined with pre-made images and animations displayed on the screen to be able to quickly test ideas and iterate on them.
All riddles were specifically designed to each location and their solution written into the narrative. We took a lot of pictures of the locations and looked for details that would be believable to be a part of the story while also having the right amount of challenge to keep users´ interest in solving them.
Many internal and some external playtests were made during various conditions to check the functionality and that the user experience was matching our vision at all times. We realized that creating an outdoor experience is greatly affected by physical circumstances such as weather and lighting. We also saw that it was crucial for the navigation to work seamlessly within the application for the experience to stay immersive and exciting which resulted in many iterations of this particular functionality.
When the school course ended, we weren't ready to let What Lies Ahead go just yet. Instead, we decided to apply for two competitions for innovative ideas where we pitched the idea for business developers and investors. We ended up winning the Crowd Award in Venture Cup region South and a scholarship from Leapfrogs. By this, we got the opportunity to work at Minc Start up Labs and get professional aid in the business and strategy behind product development.
Following this, we wanted to advance from the early prototyping stage and develop the actual functionality behind the application. So we interviewed back end programmers and reqruited a student graduate from The Game Assembly who helped us finish the product as well as rerecorded the narrative with a voice actor.
What I think is significant about What Lies Ahead is how it adds a new layer to reality, making you perceive your surroundings in a whole new way. Even though you walk amongst other people it makes you feel like you are alone in an alternate world that no one else knows about. This project has made me grow a lot both professionally and personally. I have developed software skills such as music production and moving images that I learned can be useful to create simple yet effective prototypes. It also brought me new challenges. I saw the inherited problems of doing a location-based concept as, for example, we were forced to rewrite the narrative due to one of our locations turning into a construction site. I was also introduced to a whole new world when competing with other entrepreneurs which forced me to quickly learn about the business behind design which was greatly valuable since we are not taught this in school. It helped me expand my network and, perhaps most significant of all, it made me experience the importance of trusting your own ideas and daring to step into the spotlight with them. If I would expand on What Lies Ahead, I want to explore with how the social factor from a multiplayer context would affect its experience as I am curious in whether that new dimension could enhance its level of entertainment.