Helix

How do you create a digital experience that makes it fun to stand in a queue? And how do you make the time go by quicker when the goal is an hour away? The answer is the world’s first synchronized in-queue entertainment. Sticky Beat has produced the mobile app Helix the Game for the Liseberg theme park. Here is how it happened.

On 26th April 2014, Liseberg’s biggest ever venture was opened – the Helix. The expectations for this new £20 000 000 roller-coaster were high, and the opening-day visitors were blown away. The press was also pleased, awarding the Helix the highest possible score. So what could the downside be? Obviously, at times the queues would inevitably be long. Liseberg knew that some visitors would most likely be facing more than an hour of waiting. That is why they liked advertising agency Shout’s idea for a Helix app. The app would not only make the time in the queue go by quicker, it would also make the wait a more enjoyable experience.

When Shout got in touch with us at Sticky Beat in February 2014, the idea for a game already existed – something fun for the people in the queue to occupy their time with. Additionally, it would be possible to collect badges by going on the Helix several times.

We immediately started kicking ideas around. We liked the basic concept – taking a dull thing like waiting in a queue and making it fun using a mobile phone. We soon agreed that the queuing activity should consist of short and quick games, and that all the users should be playing in sync. The inspiration for simple games probably originated in both ”Dumb Ways to Die”, a public information campaign in the Melbourne Underground which was developed into a game, as well as in the giant hit Flappy Bird. Shout and Liseberg liked our pitch, and we landed the project.

But how the games look, and what would their connection to the Helix be?

We used the different parts of the Helix as a starting-point. The ride consists of the Launch, the Heartline Roll, the Airtime Hump, the Pretzel Loop and the Zero-G-Roll, all of which would guide us somewhat during the brainstorming process. We spent a day with Shout’s art director Calle and copywriter Pontus in Gothenburg and came up with eight ideas for games. This was a better result than we could have dared to hope for, and all eight games made it into the final version of the app. This is not an everyday occurrence in game development. Some of the games seemed perfect, and while we had minor reservations about some of the others, they all complemented each other well and would go great together.

We wanted a round to last for approximately one minute and consist of five randomly selected games out of the eight games in the app, making each individual game 12 seconds long. After the round, you can check the screens around the Helix station to see if you made it onto the high score list. The list is reset after 15 minutes, and the top scorer at that point will win an express pass and can go straight to the front of the queue next time. The games start in sync, meaning that everyone in the queue is playing the same game at the same time. Not only does that make playing the game more enjoyable, it is also fun to look around the queue and see everyone doing the same moves simultaneously.

The primary purpose was for the game to be in-queue entertainment. However, it had to be possible to play even if you were not at Liseberg waiting to go on the Helix. That is why a practice mode was created with a classic high score list where express passes were not available to winners. In order to prove that you are in fact waiting to go on the Helix, you are required to enter a code displayed on the screens around the building, a code that is switched at regular intervals. The point of this is for the game to be fair. It is, after all, much easier to score well in the comfort of your own home than in a constantly moving queue.

The winner of an express pass receives an in-app voucher to be cashed in the Helix shop.

Working with Shout was incredibly seamless. We co-operated on ideas, design, and game mechanics. We pushed each other, and even though we did not always share the same opinion, what we eventually agreed on was almost always the best solution. We interacted with each other every day and were quick to give each other feedback. This allowed our work to flow smoothly and without interruption.

The app was developed using an original wrapper. The actual games were built in Javascript, which was great in many ways. A major advantage was that Shout and Liseberg could follow the process from day one. We quickly had a playable game that could be tested in the browser of a mobile. Not having to keep releasing new versions for iOS and Android allowed us to focus on developing the game. This also allowed Shout to give us continuous feedback, enabling us to try out new solutions together. We were also able to use developers who normally do not do app development.

The sound effects were created by Seamus Divert and are unique to the game.

There is a lot of talk about gamification. Was there a way to make people want to go on the Helix again and again, and having that itself become a thing? We tested this out by giving people the opportunity to log their rides using a code at the exit. That way they collected badges ranging from “Go on the Helix three times in one day” to “Go on the Helix on a Thursday”. The idea was for users to compete with themselves and their friends, and for that reason we do not actually know who collected the most badges.

Because the project began in early March, there was no way we could finish in time for the opening on 26th April. However, since nobody knew there was an app coming, nobody could be disappointed that it was not finished by the time the ride was opened. Instead the app was released on 10th June. Needless to say, we were eagerly awaiting the response from the visitors. Would people download the app? Would they even play while waiting? Would it be appreciated outside Liseberg?

It is no exaggeration to say that the way it was received has exceeded all expectations. The app has been one of the AppStore’s most popular apps all season; over 1.7 million rounds have been played, and people have experienced the time spent in the queue as less than it actually was. Standing in the queue myself in June, I could see that practically everyone with a mobile was playing, and I could see friends competing with each other.

Thanks to the Helix app, there has even been less vandalism! A most unexpected but delightful effect.

Download the Helix app from App Store

or from Google Play

Questions and thoughts?

Talk with Michael Dabrowski, our CEO. He knows almost everything about the project! You reach him by:

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