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Pyramid

A series of games, for the TV quiz show broadcast on S4C, played by young contestants on the set and also at home as a play along second-screen app.

Nominated for Gameplay Design at the BAFTA Cymru Award for Games & Interactive Experience 2015.

Over the course of two series, we were commissioned by Boom Cymru to design and build 10 different themed challenges for the show Pyramid. Developed in the Unity 3D engine, each game offered varied mechanics, a competitive head-to-head score system and 3 levels of difficulty that could be selectively picked by the producers of the show. In addition we developed a Kinect motion tracking challenge which acted as a knockout round, using full body participation to earn the highest score for progression.

As a unique feature we simultaneously developed an accompanying second-screen app, released on the premiere of the show, that allowed viewers to play along with the show at home. When activated the app could automatically launch the same game being played by the contestants, further immersing the viewer in the Pyramid series IP.

We built a custom online server to allow the games to be controlled in the iOS and Android apps remotely. For studio floor supervision we developed a separate module that gave the production team control of the games on each contestants screen from the gallery.

Design

With the ancient Egyptian theme of the show in mind, our game design was influenced accordingly. We had a diverse game selection each with its own scale and setting housed inside the pyramid, this required us to develop a design language that brought them all together involving connected texturing, modelling and lighting approaches.

We designed the graphics and layouts ahead of the app development and studio shoot, and as a result a great deal of our work influenced the look of the show. On-screen graphics, set design and fabrication utilised our assets and game logic, helping to define the look and feel that tied it all together.

We love game design and gamification so this was a project that we were happy to be approached for. We are skilled at creative problem solving and the primary challenge presented by this project was an immovable and fast approaching deadline dictated firstly by the show’s studio shoot booking then it’s broadcast date. So our challenge was to design a selection of game mechanics with depth and variety while keeping within the schedule.

For efficiency, we designed a palette of assets that could be utilised in a variety of ways, glowing hieroglyphics, scarab beetles, statues, stone architecture, golden pharaohs etc were integrated into the games and the rooms that held them.

We wanted to give the players a sense that they were progressing through the chambers of a pyramid, puzzle to puzzle, towards a prize at the end.

Development

We were provided with a touch screen that the producers of the show intended to use, but unfortunately the touch command proved to have a few latency issues. While this was fine for most of the games we’d designed, a few required touch accuracy to function correctly, so we re-jigged and redesigned until all the games played seamlessly using the provided technology.

As Pyramid required players to play head-to-head, we needed to provide our client with three machines on set: two for the players and one for to be a serve that could control both games, queue them up for television, run the intro sequence and start the games according to the director. We could also change which game was loaded, and adjust the duration for each, so the show could be balanced during production. All of this could be controlled from afar, meaning that nothing was in the way of the busy camera crew!

The producers also wanted viewers at home to be able to play along with Pyramid as it aired, with a mode that would launch games at the same time as the televised versions.

To achieve this, the producers wanted to use an audio watermarking system, which would use a piece of audio played at a certain frequency in the video feed and cause the app to respond. However, this system can be expensive, so to stay within budget we instead devised a more cost-effective method: a simple web page that our app would ping every few seconds when in a certain mode, which would then, with a custom CMS, change the output of this web page to send data back to the app, thus giving the signal to launch.

Beyond launch we redeveloped one of the Unity games as an HTML5 web build to act as a promotional tool for the S4C website