About the Game
“Interaktive Suche nach dem Gold der Germanen” (Treasure hunt for the gold of the Germanic tribes) immerses players in the ancient landscape of the imperial roman border zone at the Rhine. Equipped with tablets, the visitors become traders of the ancient world and playfully explore the new exhibition of the Archaeological Park Xanten.
The game utilizes different technologies like Augmented Reality and Bluetooth Beacons. It was commissioned by the Landschaftsverband Rheinland and developed in close collaboration with experts and educators of the museum.
Mobile (Apple iPad)
Museum Game (Point&Click)
the Good Evil GmbH
Role and Responsibilities
As this was a smaller commissioned project, my scope of work covered a wide variety of responsibilities. During development, I focused on tailoring an engaging adventure for the young target audience that incorporated or enhanced the different displays and artifacts of the exhibition in a playful manner. To ensure that the game lives up to the expectation of the client and players, I put a lot of work into the research of the historical setting of the game and stayed in close contact with the educators of the museum for all stages of development.
Preproduction: Turning a museum exhibition into an interactive playground
As a first step in creating a concept for this game, we held multiple workshops and meetings with the experts and educators of the museum in which we discussed the historical setting and the desired learning objective. We also identified a suitable format, limitations, and some key aspects that should be included.
Some of these considerations were:
- the limited space of the exhibition: a comparatively small pavilion
- the young target group: schoolchildren and visiting families
- a moderate time frame: roughly an hour that visitors will spend in the exhibition
- including some especially interesting artifacts like a roman helmet or ancient tombstones as well as multimedia stations
- Mechanics & Interactions that don’t require higher game literacy
One main goal for the game was to make sure not to take focus away from the exhibits but instead to augment the experience of visitors of the museum.
The big takeaway for the young target group was to gain a better understanding of the nuanced relationships between the different cultures and factions at the Lower Germanic Limes during the time of ancient Rome. It was particularly important to avoid a generalization of the Germanic tribes and to portray them according to the latest state of research.
After further research, I identified three design pillars on which the concepts rest and from which game mechanics, dynamics, and other features could be derived.
- Method of interaction (other than dialogue) between players & NPCs
- Drives the narrative and sets a goal/MacGuffin
- Highlights the exchange between different fractions/cultures
- Great way to include artifacts from the museum
SCAVENGER HUNT/KNOWLEDGE QUESTS
- Weaves in information and content from the exhibition into the game
- Help to spread the player groups into different areas of the exhibition space
- Creates flow between stations/keeps the players from standing still for too long
- Encourages exploration and rewards discovery of knowledge
- Represent and showcase the different factions/cultures/ways of living
- Create conflict & tension
- Relatable/Likable personalities with which players can connect
- Communicate diverse viewpoints and narratives
As a next step, I mapped out the exhibition and divided the space into three areas grouped by theme and their physical location both inside of the museum as well as the ancient world (its map was conveniently also printed on the exhibition floor).
Simultaneously I identified locations from the map that are either of high historical interest (like the settlement on which remains the museum was built) or which were needed to give certain factions/cultures a backdrop.
Characters and items for trading I either derived from the context of these locations (e.g. a Sanctuary needs a Priest who might want to trade a relic) or directly from the historic precedent.
Places, characters, and items could then be chained together into classical Fetch Quests. To make the interactions more interesting and challenging, every area is gated by a short Scavenger Hunt or “Knowledge Quest”, where players have to roam the exhibition for information or clues.
With these different elements established, we proceeded further with creating several paper prototypes to internally test the game’s mechanics, flow, and difficulty. During the first tests we could also gain a rough estimate for how long a playthrough would take as well as narrow done how much variety was needed to keep players engaged.
The prototype in paper, and later digital form underwent multiple iterations before we settled on a fixed amount of characters, locations, items and tasks.
In the following iteration cycle, we were able to test the digital prototype with a class of students from a local school onsite in the exhibition. These testing sessions were key as they provided us with more detailed feedback on player behavior and gave us the confidence to move forward with the concept into the development phase.
To conclude the pre-production phase, I visualized the game’s screen flow in a chart as well as its content in tables to easily share them with the team and to be able to refer to them later in development.