As the director of a digital agency, I find it fascinating to observe how industry and society will be truly innovative to overcome and address the issues of the day. In the case of the environment, which can be frustrating to see play out in the political arena, I’m going to show you a positive case study called Wet Rocks.
In mid-2010, the Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment approached Swinburne University’s Design Centre. It wanted to create some innovative learning materials pitched at Year 7 to 9 students, educating them on the use of ground water. Currently, there are very few resources in this area, and it’s often not taught at all as part of a subject such as geography. The Department was very open to different presentations and format, keeping in mind its young target audience. Swinburne decided to interpret the materials by creating a series of online games, combined with more static pdf resources for detailed learning. This decision worked well, as it meant the games could be kept fun and with an abstract representation of the key learning aspects of Wet Rocks.
Swinburne created a visual style based loosely on an island theme, using pastel colours, cartoon characters, buildings and landscapes. Three games were created, each representing aspects of the key messages. The first is Gnasty Gnomes, where gnomes drop by parachute, then pollute the soil and ultimately groundwater. The challenge being to remove gnomes before they drop pollution, then treat the water using different methods – bugs, chemical or drill. These are all real techniques used in water treatment, and the game includes a money system, to educate users of the effectiveness and cost of each treatment.
The second game requires the user to destroy robots that are intent on damaging the water bores used by a city. The user can both kill the robots (great fun!) and earn money to enable repair of water bores. The ultimate challenge being to maintain optimum water level, so the city has enough for drinking and industry, but without getting too high and damaging the city’s building foundations.
My firm’s role in the project was to refine the game concepts and visuals, then handle all technical implementation and music composition. We created the games using Flash animation, and a key was to ensure we got the balance right in terms of game difficulty. Even testing the games internally, we found huge discrepancies in the score and time lasted between our Gen Xs and Gen Ys!
Getting the audio right was another key factor. We used stock audio for the sound effects, such as killing robots, flicking gnomes and treating the water and bores; however, we collaborated with our pro musician, Nick Thayer, to create a completely custom soundtrack. We referenced games like Halfbrick’s Raskulls and Banjo-Kazooie, in line with the cartoon island visual style and theme. One main track was created then remixed heavily to ensure each game is distinct.
A worldwide online scoreboard was created, to encourage users to compete against one another, and broadly to help with the viral marketing of Wet Rocks.
From desktop magazine.
All images copyright Lava Web Creations.