Jedward's Big Adventure!!
Well what busy boys and girls we've been of late - (and in an effort to slightly over egg the situation) there's barely been a minute to stop and draw breath! But lets move on from well worn phrases and look towards the next in a series of (hopefully) regular updates this year - this time for everybody's favourite Irish-pop-combo/mad-cap-childrens-show-presenting-duo Jedward!
With the second series of 'Jedwards Big Adventure' launched on CBBC in January we were invited by our friends over at Endemol to create an online game to support broadcast. If you haven't seen it the show is hosted by those cheeky rascals Jedward following them as they visit various historical landmarks around the United Kingdom. Each of the twins teams up with a celebrity guest, with the pair tasked with learning as much about each location as possible, before leading a tour of real tourists and passing on what they've learnt. If you haven't seen the show we'd encourage you to take a look, it really is rather good.
Our task was to create a game which faithfully reflected the cheeky, chaotic personality of the twins and spotlight the landmarks from series two. In conjunction with Endemol we plumped on a 'time management/strategy style game with the player challenged to place visiting tourists into key points within the location, keeping them happy by delivering requested historical artefacts/souvenirs reflective again of historical events that have unfolded within the location.
Players are able to choose to play in one of five diverse locations featured in the show (Duxford, the Thames, Cheddar Gorge, Greenwich and the Orkneys) as well as being able to play as either John or Edward.
Within each location we placed a selection of historical figures that were featured in the show to act as the tourists - check out the Duxford level and you'll see Sir Winston Churchill, RAF pilots, US airmen and even a few members of the Bionic team making an appearance!
The game model, coupled with the quantity of characters presented in game dictated that a considerable amount of animation was required to bring the action to life. In broadcast key events in history are presented in animated (jib jab style) cutaway sequences, they work really well in bringing these events to life and so with this in mind it was an easy decision to transfer this style to the game. To begin the process we sourced stills from the broadcast materials before building a series of animation cycles in line with game play (queueing up, idle, happy, angry and so on).
Locations were then created from scratch with four landmarks added to each location as dropping off points for the in game characters (the Thames level includes Tower Bridge, Cleopatras Needle and Monument for example).
Alongside the visuals a huge, huge library of voice overs were integrated in the game featuring John and Edward as well as the shows narrator delivering a virtuoso performance acting as the many featured characters in game - we've already mentioned Sir Winston Churchill but Guy Fawkes, Queen Victoria, Nelson, Cavemen, Romans and Vikings pop up across the game!
Oh and don't forget to follow us on Twitter - If you're lucky you'll find previews on some of our current projects, in between the nonsense natch…
You're always welcome to get in touch too you know? Come on don't be shy, we're a friendly bunch.
You've been a lovely audience - see you next time chums!
Andy's Wild Adventures: Eagle Express
Hello and a happy 2013 to you all. With a very busy period in the run up to the Christmas break for all at Bionic our blog/site has been relatively sparse of updates towards the end of 2012. In fact its fair to say that the past year has been an extremely strong one for us. We've shipped a number of brand sites, released some really great games, we're *this* close from launching an app for one of the worlds biggest children's online brands and so much more.
With the new year upon its time to get back into the groove and share some of the goodness that we've been involved in over 2012, kicking off with a project undertaken for our friends at the BBC beginning with an update on our CBeebies project. We'll also be in a position to share what we've done for CBBC soon but let's not get carried away with ourselves eh?
We mentioned just before the Christmas break that we are in the middle of a fantastic project with the BBC - managing and delivering the content for the phase two digital rollout for the CBeebies series Andy's Wild Adventures. As part of the BBC's commitment to supporting the show online we're in the process of building two new interactive environments to support the existing four locations (the Amazon, the Savannah, the Rockies and the Arctic) as well as launching eight new games.
With a collection of beautifully crafted games making up the phase one deliverables the challenge for Bionic was not only to create eight new games that reflected the quality of the existing content but also deliver new and unique game models for visitors from those already within the site . Given the shows strong educational undertones and the use of achieve footage from the BBC's Natural History Unit's (NHU) resources gameplay, story, environments and creative positioning had to accurately reflect the shows style of presentation so no illustrative animation or fantasy game play - real animals in real world environments.
Two games were launched in the run up to Christmas - you may have read our little article on the first of these games 'Polar Paddle' - a beautifully serene game which challenges young explorers to help guide a mummy polar bear and her cubs through a maze of icebergs and water.
Now that I've found a little more time to update the site I thought I'd go in to a little more detail on the process of the design and build focusing on the second release - 'Eagle Express' which has now been added to the Rockies environment.
Let's take a step back first and look at the process of coming up with a series of games that differed from the existing content within the site. We began by working with the NHU team suggesting and sketching out a series of game models which fitted the animals behaviours / habits and environments that were being added to the site. We then narrowed the list down to a mutually agreed shortlist of favourites and from here GDD's were put together for each favoured game which expanded on game objectives, control mechanics, scoring, difficulty levels, accessibility considerations and so forth. Once feedback was received we had our final list and the project could begin proper.
The creative continued to work with the NHU, poring over archive footage of American Eagles in their natural habitat. Because the game focused on flight particular attention had to be paid towards wing beats and the creatures landing style (each level ends with the eagle landing in its nest). With a series of high quality stills selected the team set about isolating them before transferring the images into Flash for animating. Once again animation was led by Stu and the results speak for themselves.
The game model is based on a multi level horizontal scrolling flying game where the player takes control of the American Bald eagle. The player must pit their wits against a series of natural obstacles whilst trying to reach the nest with their freshly caught salmon. The player must look out for tree tops, branches and on coming traffic in the form of other eagles.
Whilst the game environments and assets were being worked up by creative Ollie invested his time in building a fantastically simple level builder enabling the dev team to work with the repeatable creative assets to build the levels for the game.
Voice over was provided by the great man Andy himself and was integrated into the game to ensure players received in game encouragements and advice and as they get to grips with gameplay. If you haven't had a go yet why not have a play now and let us know what you think?
Keep checking in for news of game three - lined up for launch very soon. Stay in touch too for news on the launch of the two new environments that are just around the corner.
Want to talk to us about supporting your brand online? We'd love to hear from you so get in touch. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter too - independent research highlights that over 1 in 3 of our tweets are actually useful…
It's Chime Time!
Find some time to check out our release for Zodiak's show 'Tickety Toc' - 'Bubble Trouble'
The show is based inside an old clock shop where a wall full of clocks can be found. Right in the middle is one very special clock. The Tickety Toc Clock and behind it lies an extraordinary wooden world where things definitely don't always run so smoothly. The slapstick show centres on two inseparable heroes, Tommy and Tallulah, and their friends as they race against time to keep the clock ticking.
Zodiak approached us to create a game that they could share with their broadcast partners worldwide, it had to (of course) reflect the show faithfully in its creative as well as feature the core theme of the show - time.
We settled on creating a multi level sideways scroller game taking inspiration from the likes of classic platform games such as Sonic the Hedgehog. Players are challenged to help Tommy and Tallulah - the stars of the show reach the end of each level by controlling the huge floating bubble that's trapped familiar faces from the show whilst trying to collect as many cogs en route.
The show features first class cgi and we wanted to ensure the game truly reflected the quality of the broadcast materials but with timings short (to put it mildly) and the producers unable to supply isolated animation we were always going to be up against it. That said we laugh in the face in the face of adversity and our solution was to take footage from the show and isolate key frames of Tommy and Tallulah to build a series slick run cycles of the two stars which were then integrated into the game. The results faithfully mirrored the animation within the show creating a slick bridge between the broadcast and online content.
The game is already on Disney Jr Canada and due for release elsewhere very soon. Go and have a play… go on you know you want to…
Fancy a Paddle?
We've had to keep this under our hat for some time but we can now share one of our latest launches with you - 'Polar Paddle' for Andy's Wild Adventures/Cbeebies.
It's the first of eight games we're building along with a series of new environments as part of the phase two roll out of the site.
We're really proud of this and the other games which you'll see over the next couple of months. Props must go out to Stu for his epic animation skills and Ollie for his efforts in dev for this one.
We'll talk about the site and the other seven games in greater detail as they roll out but for now go play Polar Paddle - we hope you like it!
Apologies for the lack of action on the site at late but it really has been an exceptionally busy within Bionic which to quote the Fast Show "is nice". We've been planning an update to the site look and feel for some time given the amount of projects that have been undertaken over the past 6 months but happily work has had an impact on our internal housekeeping (you really should see that state of our carpets). Anyhoo onwards…
We thought we'd pick things up by sharing an insight into an often undervalued area of digital development - end user testing. We held a really fun and productive morning earlier this month when we invited a number of parents and children in to Bionic to help test and evaluate content we're developing for the BBC at the moment (we should be in a position to reveal more about the project later this year).
The project kicked off in October with intense and rapid development of three Flash based games reaching beta stage and one at alpha so far and it was at this point that we decided to get some end user testing underway to ensure what we were building engaged with our target audience.
Rewinding back a bit and whilst we're talking about testing its worth giving props to our PM and chief in house tester Natalie who tests everything we build before anyone out of Bionic gets a look and what a job she does. Given our passion for agile development testing is an ongoing process within each iteration against scores of stories and the acceptance criteria therein. Once we're confident internally that our product works its time to unleash the children onto the product and their insight and feedback always proves invaluable to a project.
The whole process of testing is kept simple with session groups kept small - usually between 4 and 6 children at any time. Any more and things tend to get a bit noisy and the children themselves become distracted.and usually kicks off with a group discussion. We will then organise a number of these sessions over a day to give us a broad range of feedback.
Sessions kick off with a chat to introduce children to the brand or show and if available we'll watch an episode ensuring they have a really good understanding of the shows premise before the group splits up and we move over to a station and present the digital content to them on a one to one basis.
We use a superb piece of software called Silverback from those very clever people at Clearleft which records our testers as they interact with our content. Silverback captures everything - end user reactions and audio via the web cam as well as recording onscreen behaviour within the content including mouse tracking. It really is in our opinion the very best way to deliver transparent feedback and user reactions to our software and of course helps us improve the end product. Its worth noting that post sharing feedback with the team and client the video content is then destroyed.
We also use a very simple templated form to jot down notes as we monitor end user interaction, do they like the sound effects within the content? Is the music fitting for the games? Does the users enthusiasm wane quickly and so on.
Sessions usually take no more than an hour and a report can be generated for our client within hours given the wealth and manner of feedback we manage to capture. That hour has proved an invaluable part of the development process and ensures what we deliver is spot on for the client and their audience.
Want to learn more about our methodologies? Get in touch, we'll get the kettle on, break out the biscuits and have a jolly good time I'm sure.
Thanks for dropping by and don't forget, we love a chat so get in touch soon.
Olly the little White (mobile) Van
For this little article I'm going to imagine you're viewing this on a smart phone or a device with Flash disabled. If you're not, stay with us but if you are why not check out our latest release - 'Olly the Little White Van'.
Keen followers will know that we delivered a desktop based version of the site last year based largely around a Flash based framework but with the proliferation of smart phone ownership amongst the parent (and in particular young mums) market continuing to rise the time was right to ensure that access to the site was available across all media.
Take a look through the site, it's a compact but fully brand immersive extension to Olly's online world featuring games, video clips and biographies of all of the stars from the show. Whats more the site has a robust framework behind it allowing new content to be integrated swiftly. We're hoping to drop in greater levels of social media interaction and of course new games soon.
The end result was a neatt little product built over just two iterations with plenty of content to keep fans of the show occupied whilst out and about. Speaking of which, optimisation of video content and imagery was a key consideration given fans may well visit the site using 3G and could be without wifi access. Try it out for yourself, it won't let you you down.
Olly as a brand continues to gain momentum within the busy pre school market and we're going to do our best to ensure he stay one step (or four wheels) ahead of the pack.
If you'd like to learn more about ensuring absolute levels of accessibility for your shows and brands then get in touch. Our very own Ollie is on standby at the kettle as I type…
Games for TV
Howdy all. We're currently working on a number of large projects that sadly we can't share with you for the moment. We'd love to but we can't. What I can say though is that our quest continues to bring even greater levels of online immersion and interaction to youth orientated brands without the use of Flash. Stay tuned or get in touch if you'd like to talk to us about how we can help your brands or shows reach your audiences in a more effective manner. The kettle is on and if it's a Friday the padlock to the beer fridge is unlocked…
So today I thought we'd talk to you about the @C21Media organised and inaugural 'Games for TV' conference we attended at BAFTA last week.
The conference was a one day event designed to bring together the TV industry with games developers and proved to be a fun day of debate and networking with a few friends of Bionic chairing or presenting some of the content throughout the day. It was great to hear from all parties within the industry enabling a (relatively) open forum for all to discuss and learn lessons from the past and also glance into what's exciting both sides of the industry in the future.
The day kicked off with an entertaining presentation from Josh Atkins from Microsoft Soho taking us through their exciting collaborative project between Kinect and Sesame Street. If you're not aware yet we're pretty sure you will be soon.
Some of you out there may be aware that we've been talking to some of our producer and broadcast partners about dual screening for some time now so it was great to listen to David Flynn from Remarkable TV talk through the genuine Dual Screen success stories behind the Bank Job and Million Pound Drop Live. Shame he wasn't given quite enough time but what he did share was very well received and brilliantly presented.
We also really enjoyed Nick Lovell's founder of Gamesbrief bullet fast (but erudite) presentation "10 things that TV companies get wrong when making games" and it would appear that his was one of the best received contributions to the day.
In summary a great day, informative, entertaining and rewarding. The only downside for us was timing - some of the speakers were not given nearly long enough to present which impacted the Q&A sessions and in turn shortened the opportunity to network during breaks.
That said C21 reacted quickly (and in my view brilliantly) by creating a free bar at the end of the evening so you know…
We'll be back next year - see you there!
City of Friends is live!
For those of you that stay in touch with our news you'll be probably be aware that for the past few months we've been building a site for our friends CreaCon over in Norway and their show 'City of Friends' (COF).
Well, we're really proud to announce the sites successful launch last week and the fantastic reception from fans and broadcasters alike. The whole project has been a blast - there have been some enormously productive trips to Norway (life can be tough sometimes eh?!) coupled with a great opportunity to challenge the conventional methods of building a preschool site…
If you have stayed in touch with our updates over the past few months within the news section of this site or our Twitter feed you'll know that our intention from the start with the build was to create an immersive and interactive experience for children that relies on as little Flash integration as much as possible. That's not to say we're scrapping Flash - far from it, we just wanted to restrict the involvement of Flash within the site to areas where it was absolutely necessary. By taking this route we could ensure accessibility to the site was available by whatever means the end user would choose to visit.
With a talented bunch of animators in house we challenged ourselves to see whether we could match our usual high standards of Flash based animation (check out our Peppa Pig site for example) with a viable HTML based option.
The solution we decided to pursue resulted in us looking back at very old method of digital animation that has over the past year or so enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence within the web community and become a genuinely viable solution for simple looped animation - sprite animation. We're dead chuffed with the results within COF and hope you like what you see too. Feedback as ever is more than welcome! There are some really great examples of this style of animation embedded within the site but one of note - and to be honest it was a bit of a vanity project for us is the bumper image, its just so smooth! Check it out for yourselves but don't leave the site until you've had a good look through it!
Accessibility considerations continued within the video section of the site where we chose to encode in HTML5 with a Flash fallback. Funny how the fallback option has reversed of late - well at least in Bionic it makes us chuckle…
Beyond the aesthetics a fantastically intuitive content management system made up a large part of the build giving the client unparalleled control of the end product - clips, news articles, promotions, direct B2C comms, social media integration, character updates, backgrounds, new games and activities can all be managed within the site by CreaCon.
There's loads more content to be added to the site planned for release over the next few months and with CreaCon reporting viewing figures (for the TV show) of over 1.3 million in the UK we're hoping our site goes some way towards the show making a lot of new friends soon. Thanks CreaCon we had a ball!
Bionic are off to the North Pole (and back)
You may have noticed our little pink tab over there<<… If you haven't clicked through yet then let me explain.
We're undertaking a charity campaign for our friends at the Light Fund an amazing group of individuals within the licensing industry who year on year raise a lot of money for various charities and good causes. This year we decided we'd like to help so… We built a little site where we're attempting to 'virtually' cycle from our offices in Wandsworth up to the North Pole then return, finishing at the Licensing Awards 2012 held at the Grosvenor House Hotel Park Lane on September 12th. That's 5,376 miles of cycling to get through.
So far so good though and we're well underway having notched up 663 miles so far. Clearly a long way to go and we need your help to get us there and back. If you work within the licensing or broadcast industry why not visit our little site we built for the campaign and make a pledge. You can even watch us in action via the web cam stream on the home page!
It'd be great to feel the love from you guys so please try to get involved, make a pledge and cheer us on! You can also make a pledge via our justgiving page as well. We've got loads of incentives that could help highlight your brand or show as we make our way through this intrepid journey so take a look when you can.
Further adventures in HTML5
Todays little article heralds the launch of Discoverchuggington.com. A beautiful little HTML5 site put together as the first foray into a year long brand awareness campaign for Chuggington. The site was to become an integral part of the campaign launch in conjunction with a 24 page booklet inserted into the CBeebies Magazine 300th edition special.
In planning sessions with Ludorum we learned that the the Discover Chuggington booklet would be contained within a sealed edition of the special edition magazine. Given this scenario we were confident it would not be so easily/accidentally discarded giving Chuggington an edge over previous booklet inserts and an opportunity for us to begin planning digital integration into the booklet for busy mums on the move.
With this in mind the decision to go with a 100% HTML5 site was an easy one, we knew the magazine and the booklet was aimed towards mums and carers purchasing for their pre-schoolers and as they may be doing this whilst out and about we wanted to ensure it was fully accessible via mobile. Working with Ludorum we created a QR tag which was then added to the back cover of the Discover Chuggington booklet. Knowing busy mums may be on the move with the magazine we wanted to ensure mums had the ability to enjoy the site instantly rather than getting home and potentially losing the booklet.
A key factor for the Discover Chuggington campaign was to pull consumers and key decision makers closer to Chuggington. Children adore the show (ratings prove this across the globe) but how well do parents and carers know the show, the educational benefits behind the shorelines, the characters and so forth? This became the starting point of our roadmap for the site build and so we launched with an interactive map enabling parents and children to drop in to every location from the show introducing the multitude of characters along the way. This was then complemented with character focused clips showcasing characters personalities, their likes, dislikes and comical vignettes from selected episodes of the show.
A simple prize draw mechanic was also included at launch giving Ludorum the opportunity to expand their parent focused Chuggington database.
We didn't stop there and created a beautiful little game - Guess Choo! Based on the classic board game children and parents play along with a series of clues designed to discover which Chugger Dunbar was delivering clues on.
Plans are now in place to continue adding content in line with the campaign as it begins to roll out across retail in the UK and eventually across Europe and beyond.
Want to learn more about what we can do for your brand or show and how HTML 5 could play an important part in this? Get in touch and we'll get the kettle on! You're always welcome to a brew at Bionic HQ.
The end of an era...?
Avid followers of our Twitter feed (@bioniclondon) may know we're in the middle of Sprint 2 of the City of Friends project - a pre-school site refresh for our client CreaCon. Flash has historically played a big part in many children’s sites enabling truly immersive interaction via rich web content.
Bionic's own bank job!
Back in October 2011, Endemol UK approached us looking for some help with an Interactive presentation for a new game show idea they had, known as the Bank Job!
Naturally we were only too happy to help so we mocked up the game play in Flash so that Endemol could take the game concept and present the idea to interested broadcasters, as well as demonstrate how this could be taken online so viewers could play along during live shows. We created simple animations and integrated an XML feed so that Endemol could alter the monetary values found during the game play. What we delivered was simple but very effective, with Endemol thrilled with the ease of integration and how quickly they could alter key details of the game play which made the "sell in" to broadcasters that much easier. The Bank Job aired on Channel 4 in the UK during January 2012 and we loved the small role we played in making this happen!
We had the pleasure of visiting our friends Creacon over in Norway earlier in the week to kick off a project for one of their hugely popular shows. With every project we undertake the first stage is to conduct a workshop day.
Workshops are an integral part of the Bionic production process involving all members of the working party where they share their views on what is required from the project. Post workshop Natalie (our Project Manager) takes away the notes sharing them across the team to ensure what was said can be done and delivered within the schedule. From here we finalise the schedule of production which is then shared with the client giving them a completely transparent view of the production roadmap.
It was a really productive 24 hours in Norway and we can’t wait to get started on the project. More news soon!
Peppa Pig relaunched!
The past three months have seen us working with our friends over at EOne on the relaunch of the Peppa Pig site (Peppapig.com) and its been live now for just over a month.
The site was completely rebuilt from the ground up - a solid framework and content management system forming the foundations of a site that now truly bridges the broadcast content with a compelling and immersive online experience seamlessly. Children can now create their very own Peppa character which is then integrated into content, they can form their own Peppa band and play games which link in to episodes of the multi BAFTA award winning show.
There’s even a little mention about us in Marketing Week - look…
We could talk about what we’ve done for ages but why not check it out for yourself?
Is this thing on? Bionic London's got a new site!
Hello! We should start by apologising. You see, we've been intending to update our site for ages but the truth is we've been a bit busy (to say the least). That said enough is enough and here we are - the all new Bionic site! We hope you like it.
We said we've been busy and that's the truth just take a look at the case studies detailing all of the fantastic projects we've been lucky enough to have worked on. We've loads of exciting and fun packed projects lined up for 2012 so stick around and we'll tell you more as soon as we're allowed to…