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Game Design, Music, Sound Design, XR

Historic Royal Palaces

A voice activated, multi branching narrative experience at the Historic Courtroom in Hillsborough Castle.

Tourist attractions have become increasingly sophisticated and immersive over the last few years, and visitors expect information delivered in novel ways.

So how do we bring historic buildings to life and animate the information for new audiences who are passionate to learn and be entertained? How do we get a building to talk and unravel the stories it holds?

After a few visits to the courtroom it felt apparent that we should create an atmosphere that would allow the audience to feel like a part of the building’s history. We needed to get the balance of fun audience participation and historic authenticity. It could be just another history lesson.

To breathe life into this history we created a character that would navigate the user through the experience. A no-nonsense judge that the user would face and plead their case to. The voice-activated narrative was then revealed by this digital judge depending on the user’s response. 

We used real-life historic cases to write a branching narrative that changed as the user interacted with the experience. At each stage of the experience, the user had to react to a stage of questions that would ultimately lead to the sentence of a certain historical crime.  

We worked closely with writer Vittoria Cafolla to ensure the narrative would effectively branch with smooth transitions. It was also extremely important for the character to feel human, have authentic reactions and still have room for moments of fun. 

We broke the 6 unique courtroom cases down into modular components which we used to build our branching system in Unity.

Working in a large historic venue like this was a real treat, and we found that keeping the essence of the place at the heart of the project whilst pushing the technical boundaries has a high reward value. The user testing scored well and the audience was convinced they had been talking to a real-life judge at times. It brought the room and the history of the building back to life in what can only be described as a kind of magic.

This project emphasised the potential of this technology working seamlessly with buildings and information. We feel that atmospheric music, interactive user input, and effective storytelling is key to truly immersive visitor attractions, and this project crystallized that for us.

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