What is Gravity? Animation and Video Game
Adobe Design Achievement Awards 2017 – Semifinalist
“What is Gravity?” was asked by a student from the Kasase Humanist Primary School (KHPS) in Uganda. The school aims to teach a STEM focused curriculum which includes a variety of science-based learning materials.
Our team chose to answer the question posed by the student by producing digital and print designs. With a deadline of 12 weeks, we had to plan, design and deliver:
- An educational animation
- Video game
The content produced for the project would also be featured on ScienceIsland.com which has a large international reach and aims to educate children about topics in Science and Technology.
To ensure scientific accuracy I contacted Dr. Brad Tucker, Astrophysicist at Australian National University, who lent his expertise during the development of the project.
The primary target audience for the project was children aged between 8 – 12 studying at KHPS. However, we also wanted to ensure the produced media would be appealing to an international audience with it’s placement on ScienceIsland.com.
In terms of psychographics the children would likely still be forming their beliefs and attitudes partially based on the materials they are being shown in schools. It was therefore crucial for the themes in the animation and video game to be scientifically accurate and for the characters to be appealing to a wide audience. However, this need must be balanced with retaining a highly engaging experience by being interactive, fun and exciting.
In order to successfully target a broad spectrum of this age group, an animation, experiment, quiz, video game and story book was produced which is accessible for individuals of all technical ability and geographic location. For example, in areas where power is not readily available, the experiment and quiz can be used in place of the video game.
Song lyrics were written by all team members, it was crucial that the lyrics struck a balance between being scientifically accurate and entertaining. Stuart Favilla, Interaction Design Lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology, provided his immense musical expertise in assisting lyric writing.
Fiona awakes to find herself falling through the atmosphere. Confused about her situation, she meets a young scientist who teaches her about why she is falling – gravity. In a race against time, she must learn about gravity and find a solution to her vertical predicament before she reaches the ground.
One of the cliches we wanted to avoid when designing the Scientist character was the caricature who wears a white lab coat and has grey messy hair. Instead, we wanted the Scientist to break the mold of what is typically expected and decided the character should be a young woman and to design her with more fashionable attire. We hoped this would inspire younger girls to take up STEM related studies later in their education which could help even out the current gender imbalance.
During the song sections of the animation we thought it would be best to simplify the art style to better communicate the complex concepts that were being sung.
The Big Apple Educational Animation
The primary goal for our protagonist, Fiona, is to reach the centre of the Earth and discover the secret of gravity. Much like our animation she wakes up high up in the atmosphere before working her way to the core.
While scientific accuracy would remain a priority in the facts we conveyed through the “Apple of Knowledge” item, we felt the need to include more fantasy elements in the design of the game to ensure it was fun to play. The game therefore took on a more fairy-tale inspired aesthetic, which we thought would better retain the interest of the child users.
The core gameplay involves Fiona solving puzzles on the levels by swapping the direction of gravity and avoiding the dangers such as spikes.
Our game also features cutscenes from the animation which provides some context for the beginning of the game and an ending.
Game Demo Video
The game was user tested among a select group of people with varying technical abilities. The beta version of the game received praise for its visual style and music.
Some users found the gravity flipping mechanic to be difficult to grasp at first which is why a tutorial level was developed to ease users into the mechanics of the game, beyond the how to play screen.
Additionally, the player input was changed from WASD, to the arrow keys which was found to be more easy to understand for younger users.
The music was produced in GarageBand and Adobe Audition using a mix of existing loops and original music played by Christine using her keyboard.
We wanted a distinctive feel for each biome as Fiona travels down to the core of the Earth which was accomplished by using different instruments and synths.
High quality music was deemed to be as essential as having high quality visuals, therefore Christine spent a considerable amount of time refining the tracks until they matched the type of game and visual style.