Pixel Farm partnered with AIGA to create a multiplayer 3D wilderness retreat for AIGA’s first ever virtual Design Camp®. In celebration of its 40th anniversary and first virtual gathering, a new approach was needed to bring the AIGA community together.
This interactive experience reflects past events but in a brand new light. Attendees can walk, talk, and explore together in a virtual forest inspired by historical Northern Minnesota locations of years past. Populated by towering trees, scenic vistas, and calming waters, the peaceful ambiance will make you want to chill out and appreciate the night sky with new friends. Make your way to the bonfire, grab a drink, and stop to dance along the way! Cheers to Design Camp’s 40th Anniversary!
Elaborating on the playful art direction provided by Christensen Creative, we built a 3D world that begged to be explored and observed. We wanted to respect the design decisions that were made for the event’s collateral while heightening the experience through dimensionality, interaction, and sound. Paying homage to the 40 years of Design Camp before it, this virtual experience needed to retain the sense of discovery, camaraderie, and creativity AIGA members had come to expect from this beloved event.
In order to remove barriers to entry, we opted for a browser-based experience that required no plugins or third party software installation. After testing several options, we chose to use Unity’s WebGL platform and deploy via WebAssembly. This allowed us to leverage our extensive experience using Unity for 3D content creation, user interaction, networked multiplayer, and audio design, while allowing event participants to just open a web page and login.
Effortless communication between users was key, so we implemented both voice and text chat functionality. We wanted attendees to feel like they were occupying the same space to really promote camaraderie at the event. We also wanted interactions within the environment to feel intuitive and unique, so we implemented “trigger zones” throughout. Users entering an area would trigger animation in the Flora, fauna, and sound design of the environment. Frogs would croak in warning, a bear would rear up and groan, deer would crane their necks and dart into the wilderness.
Our design process leveraged many different core competencies – creative ideation, 2D concepting and design, 3D design/animation, and interactive experience development. When working on something as complex as this, all of these teams needed to push forward collaboratively while still working remotely. Rather than do this via third party collaboration tools and video chats, we were able to host project meetings inside the virtual environment itself.
Cabins in the woods at night can get spooky pretty quickly, so to avoid slipping into this cliche, we focused our audio aesthetics on wonderment, exploration, and the friendlier side of forest flora and fauna. The typical sounds you’d hear in a forest – crickets, frogs, wind – were affected in post to create a myscial, otherworldly feel.
Sound was also used to create a sense of scale and orientation within the environment. Invisible entities like insects lived in the high frequencies, while mammoth creatures like the giant sea turtle possessed extreme low tones. In this interactive 3D environment, directional sounds provided the user perspective of their surroundings and where to go. Using faint sounds in the distance that gradually increased with movement created anticipation and drew the user to locations we wanted them to experience.