Launchball. Do interactives get any better?

Posted on September 24, 2007

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I said in my last post that I’d be blogging about the new Launchpad interactive pretty soon. So here it is – the arrival of Launchball – the culmination of a huge amount of hard work by those fabulous fellows at the Science Museum, stunning Flash and visual stuff by digital marvels Preloaded and some stirling hardcore lifting back-end courtesy of Eduserv via the amazing CMS, Sitecore.

I worked on the fun (and easy) bit of this project – together with Daniel Evans, Frankie Roberto and Jane Audas we worked up the concepts, presented them to the wider Launchpad project board, user tested and honed them down into what you see today. Then because of my imminent departure, Mr Evans picked up the hard work of actually steering the project through to completion.

LaunchballThe challenge we faced in delivering this interactive was this: the Launchpad gallery is entirely a physical experience. It’s about bubbles, wheels, flashes of light, dynamos. The obvious (and also obviously wrong) approach would have been to do some kind of awful online version of that physical experience. A “pull this virtual lever to see the virtual bubble rise up through the virtual tube” kind of interactive. We knew, right from the off, that this was what we absolutely wanted to avoid.

The concept we came up with was to use a physics engine to demonstrate concepts which are abstract and yet physically real in some way. Conceptually this is incredibly strong, and we could see eyes lighting up across the content team from the first time we presented this approach.

Getting it from there to reality however could have gone badly wrong. Luckily, Preloaded pulled some extraordinary things out of the bag – the sounds, the UI, the sophistication of the graphics. And behind the scenes, the CMS holds all the content data as well as the layouts for each level which means editing stuff is very easy, as is (possibly in the future…?) letting others get at the XML layout data to build their own weird stuff as well. Chucking in the means for users to save and share their own levels was also an obvious but well-planned step which could well have fallen off the radar during “project panic” time. I’m terribly pleased that it didn’t.

So. That’s it. I’m willing to bet that this will go viral, big-time. Help by Digging it.

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