A multiplayer science-meets-fantasy interactive experience that allows visitors to create their own spacecraft and embark on a virtual journey through the solar system
Year: May 2016 - Aug 2016
Team: E-Go Studio, Beijing
Client: China Science and Technology Museum
Role: Interactive Developer
Deliverable: Interactive installation
China Science and Technology Museum enlisted E-Go Studio to create a multiplayer interactive for the Hall of Information Technology on the Science & Technology floor. Positioned as the culminating experiential play zone in the exhibit, this touchpoint is devoted to exploratory play, whimsical fun, and collaborative storytelling with implicit educational components embedded in the narrative.
E-Go Studio designed and developed a science-meets-fantasy experience that allows visitors to create their own spacecraft and embark on a virtual journey through the solar system. Visitors begin at a multi-station interactive touch table, selecting their favored spacecraft design and giving it a customized outlook. After they are finished, they can upload their creations onto a digital solar system, shown on a large monitor wall nearby the touch tables. Visitors can see their personalized spacecraft coming into the screen and being stationed on Earth, ready to be launched. Next, they can hit the virtual launch button and send their spacecraft on a whirlwind tour of the solar system, traveling to different planets and encountering various cosmic events including meeting alien creatures.
The narratives are presented as a fantastical journey but still grounded on an honest abstraction of real astronomy, affording visitors the ability to wander the solar system in a friendly, playful, social, and storytelling-driven manner in the context of a science museum gallery.
1. Provide opportunities for guests to play physical-digital games with an emphasis on games that they cannot play anywhere else.
2. Illustrate the purpose of play and how it connects us to others.
3. Draw connections between digital game playing and real-world skills, interactions, behaviors, and emotions.
4. Have fun!
Based on the exhibit initiative and after in-depth discussion within the exhibit design team, we prioritized the follwing design principles as the guiding experienctial criteria for my gaming creation.
The game should possess these qualities to align with exhibit goals: fun, joyful, social, inclusive, educational.
The game should employ unconventioal interfaces and interactions that are creative, intuitive, and immersive.
The game should bring out the unique voice of MSI and fit the varied needs of our internal teams.
To better understand the broader picture of the design context, I delved into relevant gaming community, experiential design principles and game design methodology, which kept me on track and also well informed on my design decisions.
Alt.Ctrl.GDC is an annual gaming event that showcases some of the most unique, offbeat, and innovative controllers in modern gaming.
Former digital experience director in Digital Kitchen, our exhibit leader is a strong advocate for Design For Belonging.
An iterative and agile game design approach was employed under the overall waterfall exhibit development process.
Classic analog and digital games are powerful hooks for evoking fun, communal and nostalgic feelings. Riffing off of these time-tested positive gaming memories, but with just a whimsical and clever twist, it's possible to create something brand new out of the familiar.
During brainstorming, I was drawn to the shared intuitiveness, simplicity, and sociability between Connect4, Arcade Basketball, and Candy Crush, each initially representing a different gaming context (party game, arcade game, and mobile game). A reimagined mash-up of their affordances exudes elements of pleasant surprise and seems to ensure a good time together.
Multiple prototypes were made and evolved in the iterative process to answer various core questions: Would the game be feasible, playable, and most importantly, experientially sensible and sustainable?
Physical challenges quickly emerged throughout the early prototyping process. The follwoing are some of the key learnings and solutions.
Varied materials, sizes, and colors of balls are tested to find out what is the best for prototype and gameplay. Red, green, blue, and yellow are the most stable colors to be registered. Vinyl balls prove best for throwing but wear out a prototype quickly, whereas foam balls feel a bit too lightweight but can be prototype-friendly.
Off-the-shelve modular frame structure from a toy set saves time and resources for fast prototyping. But they comed with certain joints that are limiting. I modeled and 3D printed the customized joints I wanted which futher expaned their flexibility to be able to build the structure I wanted.
Though mostly workable, the Adafruit color sensor comes with its own whims and quirks. Through trials and errors, I figured out an enclosure structure that can significantly stabilize its performance and improve consistency in color reading while also preventing violent direct contacts with coming balls. The enclosure was also measured, moldeled and 3D printed.
A modular structure is super beneficial for prototyping: I can quickly come up with structes of varied sizes and shapes and tweak and adjust as I see fit. They are also easy to assemble and dissemble, which proves very uesful especially when dedicated prototyping spaces are scarce on museum floor and the prototype need to be transported and installled from places to places.
"All game designs were perfect until they were playtested", said game designer Reiner Knizia. As soon as I had a guest-ready prototype, I reached out to our Guest Experience department and set up a team to help me facilitate playtest sessions and see how the game actually plays out. The following are some of the key questions we hope could be answered through playtesting.
To get the most out of the playtests, we laid out a detailed evaluation plan trying to capture questions we would like to explore.
I documented in-game observations and post-game interviews while other team members facilitated interactions with guests.
Afterwards, we compared and collated our notes, synthesized insights and learnings, and developed a plan regarding the next steps.
the educational component: how to get people think like a game designer?
flow theory. parameters. obstacles. cooperation and competition
"This could be an ever evolving prototype throughout the exhibit. I really like the idea of a facilitated interaction that gets people thinking like a game designer. If we co-designed a game with our guests that could be a lot of fun."
VP of Exhibitions, Museum of Science and Industry