Labyrinth

The Case – Summary

We came in contact with the owner of Yumble, an interactive theme park that was already in construction and would soon open its doors. He told us that the park was missing an attraction where the kids could freely walk around in. Would it be possible for us to design and develop such an interactive attraction? Oh, and the opening of the park was due in three months!

The main challenge in this project was to design an attraction that would be easy to understand, relative easy to produce and overwhelmingly awesome to play. After a few brainstorming sessions we were able to tackle all these problems. The best way to describe The Labyrinth is as a real life kid-friendly science fiction shooter game (see videos and photos).

Since we only had three months to build the game, we had to use the given time as efficient as possible! Thanks to a good production flow, good communications with the client and a very skill-full team, we where able to effectively finish this project.

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The Case – Full Story

Interactive Amusement Park
“Would you like to design a ride for our new amusement park?” That’s not a question we get very often. But it is one we always wanted to get asked!
The questioner in case was Daan de Kruijk, an ambitious and innovative entrepreneur. Together with his business partner he came up with a “concept for the first theme park in the world that responds to the world we live in today.
This theme park is the interactive world of Yumble; 9000 square meters (95,000 sq ft) filled with all sorts of rides and attractions. The binding factor between all the rides is that they are all made with the newest technologies. Expect rides that exploit Video Mapping, Virtual Reality, Game Interactions, Augmented Reality, 4D and many more awesome stuff.

Little Time
Daan and his colleague had already spent a few years working on Yumble. All the plans and investments were already in place. Even the construction of the park was already at 80% when we first met Daan. But there was still something missing; an attraction where the kids could move freely and interact with the physical surroundings. That’s where we came in.
Once we knew all the technicalities, we could start the project. Since there was only a small development period, we had to come up with an easy to understand but overwhelming concept. After a few brainstorming sessions, The Labyrinth was born. An interactive maze with Augmented Reality targets.

Classic Science Fiction
Probably the best way to describe The Labyrinth is as a real-life version of a kid-friendly shooter game. Players receive a sci-fi space gun, complete with a screen in every gun, at the entrance of the maze. At every corner they see special markers on the walls. Aiming the gun at the markers will show a target on the screen; a wheel with yellow balls. Now the players have to shoot as many as they can within a time limit. The further the player progresses in the labyrinth, the harder the game becomes.

We deliberately choose to design both the gun and the game in a 1960’s science fiction style. The main reason for this, is that it’s a very friendly and accessible design for both children and their parents. This project demanded a style that would include everyone.

3D Printing
After a few prototypes and testing days, where Daan and his colleagues gave feedback, we finalized the project in February 2015. For the production of the space guns, we used a 3D-printer. This provided us with a whole new set of challenges. But they were easily overcome. After printing all the pieces and assembling more than 30 guns, we are now confident enough to say that we understand 3D printing.

Yumble opened its doors in March 2015, with our attraction standing firmly next to a dozen other attractions, while we only had a fraction of their budget and development time. Based on the feedback of the visitors we know that The Labyrinth is a worthy addition to the park.

WABA Fun

The Case – Summary

We came in contact with the American and Swedish based toy manufacturer WABA Fun. They produce and distribute the popular toy Kinetic Sand (see video). WABA Fun asked us if we could develop a game based on their line of play-sand products. During the analysis phase it became clear that the game should function as a promotion tool for the physical products.

One of the main challenges in this project was capturing and translating the unique feeling and behaviour of Kinetic Sand and Bubber to a digital version. Another big challenge was the geographical distance between WABA Fun in Sweden and us in The Netherlands. The latter was solved with a solid communication plan, the first with a development phase where the artists and programmers were equally important.

Lastly, a good marketing plan resulted into many downloads and features in the App Store right from the beginning.

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The Case – Full Story

We Love Sand
A couple of years ago, we worked together with the team of Monobanda Play to make an interactive sandbox. This resulted in an interactive installation where you control a game by actually playing and building in a real-life box of sand.

In the winter of 2013 we came in contact with WABA Fun, an American/Swedish company that creates and distribute Kinetic Sand. This amazing toy is sand that children (and adults) can play with indoors. It is manufactured in such a way that it feels and behaves more like play-doh than sand. To understand how this works, see the video about Kinetic Sand on this page.

Together with WABA Fun we created a big version of our interactive sandbox, filled with their Kinetic Sand. This installation was used at the Nuremberg Toy Fair 2014, and was a big success. It was at this fair that WABA Fun spoke with us about their new ambitions. Their line of physical toys was growing rapidly. They are expanding all over the world, with offices in the US, Sweden and Hong Kong. But they are also interested in setting up a line of digital toys, aka games. The toys of WABA Fun are praised for their innovating character and their high quality. They needed a game studio that operates on those same principals. After our collaboration at the Toy Fair, they were convinced that Monobanda Digital was the right game company to work with.

The beginning
So there it started. Together with Ingela Sjöberg, CEO of the Swedish branch, we mapped out the ideas behind the game. The business goals that WABA Fun wanted to achieve and the underlying strategy of why they even wanted a game in the first place. We decided to develop a game that was completely free to download and play, available on most smartphones and tablets. The game would be used as a marketing tool for the real life products, to connect consumers more with the brand.

After all this was clear, we could start working on the first concepts. After some brainstorm session we decided to go for a puzzle game, where the player can play with the three main compounds of WABA Fun. These are Kinetic Sand, Bubber and Shape-it. In the game world all these compounds live happily together and they all play with each other. But one day a big storm comes and blows away all the Bubber. Now it’s up to the player to go after the Bubber and safely guide them back home. The game consists of 20 levels and the difficulty increases slightly with every level. This is the “easy to learn, hard to master” principle.

After these plans were approved we had to think about the art style. Since WABA Fun focuses on real life products and those products are the stars of the game, this should be reflected in the art style. When you play with sand you feel it, it goes through your hands and fingers. We really wanted to capture this physical sensation and translate it to a digital experience. Therefore we went for a style that’s a bit rough and rugged, with real life textures. The player should be able to almost feel the compounds when touching the screen. Also the programmers made sure to emulate the typical behaviour of Kinetic Sand and Bubber as good as possible.

Long Distance Relation
One of the main challenges in this project, was to bridge the geographical gap between WABA Fun in Sweden and us in The Netherlands. For us, frequent contact with our client is necessary to maintain a high level of quality. Therefore we had a Skype meeting every week where we would discuss the progress and where we could brainstorm on issues that needed to be solved. Next to that we also set up a development blog, a secured website where only WABA Fun and we could log on to. Here we could post updates about the project, accompanied by photos and videos if necessary. All this resulted in a very clear communication throughout the entire project, where every stakeholder knew what the other was doing and what was expected of him or her.

The finale
At the beginning of winter in 2014 the tablet version of the game was finished and released. The smartphone version was released in the first week of 2015. WABA Fun made a great commercial for the game and together with us designed a sticker on the boxes that also promotes the game. All this resulted in a lot of downloads and world wide features right from the beginning.

The Team

We worked together with the following professionals:
WABA Fun – Client
Monobanda Play – Game and visual design
Happy Coders – Programming
Javier Sancho – Project management
Kettel – Music and audio
In-Visuals – Prototyping
Kusten Media – Visual advice
Kirin PR – PR and communication

Appreciation

“A compound can support play in many ways, the work from Monobanda has given our materials a virtual dimension. Kids can experience the digital differences that our compounds offer in reality. I think this is amazing.”
Ingela Sjöberg – General Manager WABA Fun Europe

Listen here to all the music

Android version in Google Play
iOS version in the App Store

Nott’s Flying Friends

The Case – Summary

After the success of Nott Won’t Sleep, publisher Developlay came to us for a new game about Nott. This game would again be based on the same scientific principles, and the target players were again toddlers. After some brainstorming the decision was made to make the game less story driven.

Instead the main feature would be gameplay, so kids can enjoy the game as long as they want. Also this game would be free to download so it could serve as a promotion tool for Nott Won’t Sleep. The result is the sweet Nott’s Flying Friends where the player flies around with Nox, the cuddly toy of Nott. Everything in the game is interactive and players are encouraged to explore as much as possible.

Nott’s Flying Friends is the first expansion in Nott’s World and an important growth step for our client.

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The Case – Full Story

This project is a follow-up to the Nott Won’t Sleep project. So for full context and understanding, you might want to read that case also.

A link to the project is here.

Making a Sequel
After the critically acclaimed Nott Won’t Sleep, it was time for a new game that is set in the same universe. Developlay, the publisher behind the game, sought the help of a branding agency to develop the best strategy. Since the character Nott became so loved by both the players and critics, it was decided to make her the star of every new game and other media outing. (Note: we never decided if Nott was a boy or a girl. For us Nott represents all children, regardless of their gender. But internally we always spoke of “her”. That’s why Nott is written in the female form here) She wouldn’t have to be the main playable character, but it would be her world, with her friends and her objects. From this point, all the communication would go via Nott’s World, instead of Developlay.

Once we had discussed the strategy and plans with Developlay, we started to dig in the pile of feedback we got from players and parents. One of the points that many parents told us, was that they wished the game was longer. Not as much in a narrative or story way, they thought that was done just fine. But the actual playtime of a Nott Won’t Sleep session was more or less always the same. This wasn’t the type of game that kids could play as long as they wanted.

New Genre
In conjunction with Developlay we decided to make a new game that is less story driven but more game-play driven. We choose for the “endless runner” genre. This is a game style where the game just keeps on going. The game would be free to download and would also serve as a promotional tool for the original Nott Won’t Sleep. All the lessons we learned from the first game, especially concerning child psychology and how children experience games, were used here again. This increased the productivity and efficiency immensely.

The end result is Nott’s Flying Friends, where you play as the cuddly toy Nox and you fly on Coddy, the pillow. Both of them also starred in the first game. In the game you fly freely around in the world, finding all sorts of new friends that want to join you in the flight. Just like the first game, there is only progression. Players are encouraged to explore and interact with everything they see.
Nott’s Flying Friends is the first online expansion in Nott’s World and it is an important growth step for our client.

The Team

We worked together with the following professionals:
Developlay – Client
Monobanda Play – Gameplay and interaction design
Lizzywanders – Lead visuals and design
Rajiv Krijnen – Lead programmer
Claynote – Music and audio
Iwein Visual Performance – Animations
Kevin Wassink – Junior artist
Teun van Dingenen – Android port

Official Website

Appreciation

Available in the App Store!

Nott Won’t Sleep

The Case – Summary

The game publisher Developlay approached us, their ambition was to grow into a publishing company for high-quality children’s games. We became the first development studio to develop such a game for them. In this project the joined forces of expertise on kids, education, psychology, research, literature and game design came together. There was a heavy focus on research, brainstorming and testing.
This project allowed us to excel in our craftsmanship and the end result, the game Nott Won’t Sleep, was showered with awards and positive reviews. This game is the foundation of our client’s reputation as a publisher of high-quality children’s games.

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The Case – Full Story

How it Started
One fine day the two founders of Develolay, Norah Gouw and Seth van der Meer, approached us. Both of them are parents with small children. During a school holiday they noticed that they had a really hard time finding some good quality games to keep their children entertained. They quickly understood that they weren’t the only parents who struggled with this, so they decided to start making those games themselves. Or to put it more precise: they started a publishing agency for high-quality children’s games. The only thing they needed now was a development studio that could actually make those games. Both because of our vision on game design and the stunning artwork of Liselore Goedhart, they decided to approach us.

Science and Art
The foundation of the game was a scientific paper published by the The Trimbos Instituut (the largest Dutch research centre for mental health) called The Seven Principles of Happiness. In this paper the most important factors of human happiness are described. After a few brainstorm sessions with Norah and Seth, the theme Sleep was chosen and the target group would be toddlers.
Since the study was mostly done with adults, we worked together with Pien Oijevaar, who is a celebrated Dutch child psychologist. She translated the part in the study about Sleep to what it means for children.

Once we had that, we could work on the first game ideas. In this phase we were joined by one the most famous Dutch novelists, Renate Dorrestein. She wrote several story arcs that we could work with and implement in the game. This phase of the project was dominated with brainstorm sessions. This resulted in a very powerful story-psychology-(game)design triangle, where every idea was tested and reviewed by every stakeholder. When everyone was happy with an idea, we could make a prototype out of it and test it on the target group. Only when they liked it, we would incorporate it into the final game.

The End Result
The end result is a beautiful and adorable iPad game for toddlers, age 2 till 4. In this game you play as little Nott who has to go to bed, but doesn’t want to. There are still three objects missing in the bedroom, so you will have to go and collect them. The many details in the game proves the power of the abovementioned collaboration. Just to name a few:

  • The name Nott refers to the “no-phase” many toddlers are experiencing. But it is also the name of the Nordic goddess of the night.
  • The game is design is such a way that you cannot do anything wrong. There is only progression.
  • With every level completed, Nott becomes a bit more tiered. Until all three levels are completed and Nott is so tired she herself decides to go to bed.
  • And many, many more.

The game was launched in the autumn of 2013 and has been showered with prizes and positive reviews. With this, the first high-quality game by Developlay was a fact. Partly due to all the positive attention the game received, Developlay became the quality brand for children’s games that they wanted to be.

The Team

We worked together with the following professionals:
Developlay – Client
Monobanda Play – Gameplay and interaction design
Lizzywanders – Lead visuals and design
Rajiv Krijnen – Lead programmer
Renate Dorrestein – Story
Claynote – Music and audio
Pien Oijevaar – Child psychology
Iwein Visual Performance – Animations
Koen de Graaf – Junior artist

Official Website

Appreciation

Digital Ehon Award 2014 – Winner
Indie Prize Europe 2014 – Top 5 Critics Award
Kirkus Best Book Apps of 2013 – Winner
ADC Best in App Awards 2013 – Winner
Dutch Game Award 2013 – Winner
Mom’s Choice Awards – Gold
And many, many more. See the full list here on the official Nott website.

Available in the App Store!

Bohm

Bohm is an experimental videogame in which you regulate the growth of a tree. The slow gameplay takes you into the uncomplicated beauty of a growing tree.

A game that isn’t about action or violence, but simply about growing a tree. A peaceful and poetic experience without an ultimate goal. As a player you are concerned with shaping the tree and its branches. Let yourself be guided by the visuals and auditory poetic experience. Bohm is an interactive homage to the beauty of a tree.

With Bohm we want to demonstrate that even in the world of games there is space for treasured and honourable emotions.

Gameplay
The player controls the shape and growth of the tree. You can make each branch grow faster to your consent and bend it in the desirable direction. The tree matures organically while you are playing. Simultaneously, the background music adapts itself to the growth of the tree. Both aspects change and evolve during the game, under the influence of the choices that you make and the buttons you press

Bohm isn’t available for purchase.

Remembering

Remembering is a poetic exploration game driven by sound. Players navigate through a landscape of shapes, music and sound.The gameplay in Remembering is fairly minimal, leaving you to concentrate on what you hear and see. Sound evolves when you interact with different shapes, triggering your imagination.Remembering is about your own associations. It does not tell you a story, but invites you to dream away and remember the people, places and things only you know of.

While creating Remembering we thought of our own memories and how they can be awoken by just a murmur of sound, a touch of color or a glimpse of light. Sound can be far more than simply background. Here, it becomes the entire landscape, inviting you into a world grounded not in reality, but in associations.

The result is an interactive experience that is strangely familiar but also magically different.

Remembering can be downloaded for free at www.rememberingthegame.com (mac and windows).

Active Cues

The Case – Summary

Active Cues is the result of a PhD research program started by Hester Anderiesen in 2010, at both the Delft University of Technology and VU University Amsterdam. We joined the project right from the beginning for the full four years, making this our longest running project ever. We started as gameplay consultants, but eventually became full development partners.

Active Cues is an interactive installation with games for dementia patients. We had the unique opportunity to design and test every aspect together with patients and professional caretakers. This resulted in an installation with games that are highly appreciated by the players and the staff.

As of February 2015, Active Cues has grown into its own stand-alone company. This company will bring Active Cues as a product to the market and will also set up new studies for different patient groups.

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The Case – Full Story

Scientific Research
Active Cues is by far the biggest project we had ever done. Not only in terms of lead-time, because that was over four years! But also in team size and amount of stakeholders.
Our client wasn’t a traditional client, but a large European conglomerate called CRISP – Creative Industry Scientific Programme. One of the many projects initiated by this conglomerate was: G-MOTIV. Designing Motivation: Changing Human Behaviour Using Game-Elements.
The project was the PhD research study for Hester Anderiesen, at both the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering (Delft University of Technology) and the department of Clinical Neuropsychology (VU Amsterdam).

The subject of Hester’s research was: how can games and game technologies be used to activate dementia patients again. As 90% of dementia patients suffer from apathy, they are not very active physically during the course of the day. This is a very worrying factor, because the negative effects that apathy has on the patients’ physical, mental and emotional well-being are rather alarming. Their muscles and joints stiffen, their boredom can cause depression and their cognitive abilities start to diminish. The design goal of Active Cues is to reduce this apathy by stimulating physical activity and social interaction by using a playful concept design.

Large Team
The entire team for this project was quite big; see “The Team” for a full list. We started out as a consultant of gameplay design. But slowly we grew into a full development partner. One the best aspects of this project was the enormous amount of time for research and development. Combined with the fact that we created most games together with dementia patients and professional caretakers, contributed to the high quality of Active Cues. The games in Active Cues are effective in their simplicity. The games are played at the same dinner table the patients always sit. There we project small objects on the table, for example some flowers. When they touch one of these projected flowers, it will start to grow and rotate. Another projecting is that of a beach ball, which they can bounce around the table. There are also typical Dutch sayings that they have to finish and many more. As a result, we saw that the players became more active and even encouraged each other to join the fun.

Commercial Product
At the beginning of the project in 2010, our role was that of gameplay consultant. After various months of intents brainstorming and testing, we also build the first physical prototype of Active Cues. This was an installation that we could intergrade in a nursery home, where we could test it with both the patients and staff. A few iterations later, after being praised by the patients and their family but also the caretakers and even the supervisor at Delft University of Technology, we decided together with Hester to turn this prototype into a real product and bring it to the market. We joined forces with Springlab and as of February 2015, the company Active Cues is a fact.

The Team

We worked together with the following professionals during the PhD program:
CRISP / G-Motive – Client
Hester Anderiesen – PhD Candidate and project leader.
Monobanda Play – Gameplay design and testing
Rajiv Krijnen – Lead programmer
Delft University of Technology – Lead support
Careyn – Nursery home where we tested
Art2B2 – Prototype construction
Novay (is now called InnoValor) – Data analysing
VU Amsterdam – Support
WoonzorgUnie Veluwe – Support
Humanitas – Support
Prof.dr.ir. R.H.M. Goossens (Richard) – Supervision
Prof. dr. E. Scherder (Erik) – Supervision
Dr. ir. M.H. Sonneveld (Marieke) – Supervision

We worked together with the following professionals to turn Active Cues into a company:
Hester Anderiesen – Project leader
Springlab – Business development
Rajiv Interactive – Lead programmer
Edutel – Hardware support
Teun van Dingenen – Additional programming
NISB – Support

Official Website
Official Facebook Page

Appreciation

Keynote from Hester Anderiesen at South African congress
Exposed at the Taiwan Design Museum

New Venture award – Winner (website in Dutch only)
Interview on Dutch radio
Interview with Hester (website in Dutch only)

U-SPY

The Case – Summary

The city of Utrecht is a popular location to hold business meetings. Hundreds of men and women come to the city, hold their meeting and then leave again. The municipality started a program where they would finance small pilot projects to capitalize on this group. Within this program we made the game U-SPY with them. Players could sign-up for the game at one of the many meeting places. The game itself was a real-life espionage game, where players had to run around the city while solving riddles and completing missions. U-SPY gathered information from the players on how they experienced the city, this was used by the municipality for their future marketing campaigns.

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The Case – Full Story

Games and the City
Utrecht is one of the four major cities in The Netherlands. Thanks to its geographic location (it’s right in the middle of the country) the city functions as a popular meeting place. Many business appointments from people of different cities are held in Utrecht. Mostly in the city centre where there are many meeting facilities for business meetings. This phenomenon is called Business Tourism and although the city of Utrecht benefits from it, the municipality calculated that there are more costs to sustain all the infrastructure and facilities than that there are income from this group. That’s why they started the Pilot SEA (Smart Experience Actuator) project. With this arrangement they could finance multiple pilot projects that would help with addressing aforementioned problem. There were different pitching rounds organised, we entered in the second round and won the pitch. This meant we could start working on a game that should tempt business tourists to either stay longer in the city or to come back in the weekends with their partner and/or children.

The HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht hold a survey amongst several meeting places for business people. We used those outcomes for the first concept of our game. An important conclusion was that it would almost be impossible to pursue our target audience to play a game, while they were in the city for a business meeting. Together with our client we organized a few brainstorm meetings with these business-meeting places. They were very enthusiastic about our idea for a game and they offered to actively help us.

Espionage
After several brainstorms we came with the idea to make a spy-game. Players would take on the role of a secret agent and they had to walk across the city to gather clues, solve puzzles and complete missions. The meeting places would function as starting point of the game. Also we had the cooperation of several local businesses, which played a key-role in the different missions. This all made it a real local Utrecht game. One of the benefits of working directly for the municipality is that it can quickly open doors that otherwise would stay shut.

As said, players would start at one of joined meeting places. When they asked for U-SPY at the counter, they would receive a special card (size of a normal credit card) and be directed to a white arcade machine. There they could play a simple shooter game, but when they entered there card in a special slot, the game would disappear and the U-SPY program would start. A video of an old man and his young assistant would play. It turned out that he wants to employ the player as a spy, but the player first has to prove if he’s worth it. After giving his personal contact information, the player was sent out to a specific location in the city. Halfway, the player would get a text message on his mobile, giving the player a riddle that could only be solved with information at the designated location. From there he would be send to several other locations. After an hour of solving puzzles and walking through the city, the player would find a final answer, when he enters that on the special U-Spy website, the old man congratulates him. He is worthy to be a spy. Now its time for the next mission. In total we made four of these missions, all with side mission and extra things to explore.

The Launch
The game was playable in the summer of 2012. Because this project was only meant to be a pilot, there was a modest budget and marketing tools. But we managed to gain a fair amount of players. They were asked to fill out another survey once they completed the game, this provided the municipality with a lot of valuable insights. Partly due to the outcomes of our project, the city marketing campaigns could target these people even better.

The Team

We worked together with the following professionals:
City of Utrecht – Client
Monobanda Play – Gameplay and interaction design
Eva Marsalkova – Project Management
Rajiv Krijnen – Lead programmer
Jorrit Thijn – Story and script writer
Friso de Hartog – Graphic Designer
Edo Douma – Actor
Didem Keles – Actress

HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht – Support
Tourist Information Agency Utrecht – Support and partner
Seats 2 Meet – Support and partner
Regardz La Vie – Support and partner
Café Olivier – Support and partner
Whoops Comics – Support and partner
Hotel Karel V – Support and partner
Restaurant ‘De Rechtbank’ – Support and partner
Music bar ‘Stairway to Heaven’ – Support and partner

Appreciation

Article in Dutch newspaper
Article on Dutch website