Hunting for Social Experiences

Developing a game that combines the best of both worlds, digital and physical, is equally challenging and exciting. Where are we now with Project Wonderworld and how are we planning to solve the challenges that we’ll face when heading to the unknown?
Magdalena Telech, Product Lead

I joined Wondershop towards the end of 2021 as a Product Lead of our first game, Project Wonderworld, having previously worked at one of Finland’s biggest game companies – Rovio. At the time, I had already had unique career opportunities ahead of me, however, Wondershop struck me with a bold and somewhat crazy ambition: a mission to build long lasting gaming experiences that promote and nurture social connection, as well as, advance a positive and measurable societal change. And so I took the plunge.

The task that awaited me? To lead the team and the product development towards its first release: “So it’s a game, not tied to one specific platform, but which comprises a wearable controller, a game screen, player console and a game master app. It exists in an ecosystem of digital and physical realm and you, as a player, experience the game magic by navigating in both of these realms.”

Wait, what? 

It’s likely that you share my uncertainty, trying to grasp the idea, and I don’t blame you. It is always hard to envision a concept that does not yet have a clear reference in real life – let alone channel the team’s efforts to begin the journey to learn what Wonderworld can become.

What we’re working on is building a wholesome social experience where magic happens through social interactions nudged by the game’s digital components. We approach the game as a platform for social experiences with the nearest real-life references being amusement parks or escape rooms – which are still miles away. If you got interested, you can read more about the Project Wonderworld here.

Where are we today?

Our team is currently very much focused on the digital component of the gaming experience. We want to assure that the interaction with the wristband, the games our players play, and the world they immerse themselves in, can be something unforgettable, fun and intuitive. We are working very hard on our core loop, different game modes’ content and the story.

However, a big part of the development process needs to be happening onsite in the real hub environment. We are already gearing up towards scaling our production and resume our testing onsite at a community space and gaming hub Meltsi. Right now, we are working hard with our Meltsi team on planning the customization of the hub as well as designing the real life quests’ setup.

Working together with the gaming hubs is essential, as Wonderworld experience starts the moment you enter the hub and ends the moment you exit the space. The Wonderworld experience encompasses what you see from the moment you come in, how the physical space guides you, how easy the login flow is, how simple the initial steps are and how engaging the game play is with an intuitive controller at your disposal.

Flow between the physical and virtual worlds

One of the main challenges for us to solve is the spatial context. When players play our game, they are in a constant flow between physical and digital domains, and it’s easy to become distracted when an interesting event happens on the other side of the hub.

When working on digital parts of the game, we need to think and continuously test the pacing of the game. How the environment interacts with the player and how does the game respond to the player at any point in time, given those dynamic moments that happen? How do we positively influence the player's emotions when they transition from digital to real world and vice versa?

Second, the flow between the digital and physical dimensions challenges us in the game development phase because real-life and digital experiences evoke different kinds of feelings with varying intensity. How do we balance those emotions and assure that the transition points feel welcoming instead of being some of the player’s natural drop off points is essential in making the game experience as fun and intuitive as we strive for.

Navigating the unpredictability with modularity

To reach our ambition levels, we are testing the different development stages with real players via focus groups and a continuous iterative process. We want to observe the natural dynamics of the location and our players to acknowledge their feedback in our design thinking and the choices we make on the journey to iterating our game. 

There is a lot of unpredictability and contextual fluidity in the setting we are building Wonderworld, therefore one of the methods we employ in our development process is modularity. We want to be able to manage dependencies in a way that will allow us still to make needed changes and move the building blocks around freely in order to manage the architecture of the Wonderworld experience better. 

Developing a game that combines the best from both worlds, physical and digital, is powerfully challenging and hard, but equally exciting. When I look into the future, I see us building something truly remarkable. Something I would hope to experience myself.

In her next blog our Product Lead, Magdalena, will dive into how the shift from mobile to hybrid worlds gaming experience, and how the shift affects team’s work. Make sure to come back for that!