Born from the brief “Who is your superhero” this gaming installation aims to give players the superpower of flight. Created for the OFFF 2003 Arts Festival in Barcelona, it is essentially a simplified flight simulator that tracks body movement (through the use of a webcam) to allow players to direct their flight through the environment.
One of the biggest challenges was designing a user interface that was greatly immersive yet still very easy to pick up (each player session was very short, a couple of minutes at the most, and players had to get the interface in the first session or they wouldn’t play again). The use of colour tracking also provided its own challenges, as it needed to be reliable in a variety of lighting conditions and with different coloured clothing.
As each game session was so short (up to a couple of minutes) the requirements for the design were similar to those of games designed for arcade machines in terms of difficulty curve, balance and simplicity of controls. The language barrier made it even more important for it to be completely intuitive (it was an international conference, and we couldn’t provide instructions in all languages). One advantage we had was all people appear to find it natural to “pretend” to fly like superman or like birds in the same way, by sticking out their arms and leaning in the direction they want to go. As a result the final user design aimed to take advantage of this making it easy to pick up by tapping into their childhood make-believe games.
The game environment was laid out to avoid disorientation and to provide constant challenges and fun things to fly around. There were no areas where there was nothing to fly over, around, or through. In order to add challenges, and encourage repeat plays, tests of accuracy were placed around the environment in the form of 8 collectibles. Each collectible “coloured in” a section of the environment, and raised the accompanying music to a crescendo. The game
could be completed if all 8 were collected. A time limit also raised the importance of flying at speed.
The installation environment also added to the feeling of immersiveness, by using a large projection screen to take up a large proportion of the player’s field of view and by raising the player off the ground (on a set of stairs)