Thomas Mountainborn

Detective for a day: interactive castle visit

Two years after launching the synchronized night time video and light show at Alden Biesen (you can read all about that and the history of this beautiful location in an earlier blog post), the city of Bilzen wanted to double down on its efforts to attract more tourists by also offering something to do at the site during the day. Since the night time experience is mostly passive, something more interactive was desired for this new attraction. Something that’s also capable of keeping younger guests entertained – you guessed it, games!

The city of Bilzen returned to my employer CREATE and Alice Events to realize this new project. To tie in nicely to the night time walk (and to entice visitors to come back for it), the new day time attraction was designed to be about the night time one. A murder mystery was written: on the day of shooting the film for the night time walk, one of the actors died under suspicious circumstances.

Just like the old experience, the visitors receive a tablet to take with them while exploring the premises. Also like the old experience, a film was recorded for the occasion: this time, two detectives take the visitors with them through the entire fort. At each stop, the user is presented with a minigame to aid in the investigation: run a blood test, use a pencil to find a hidden message on a notepad, piece together a fragmented audio recording, compare finger prints, and so on. After each game, the user unlocks some extra info: character bio’s, pieces of evidence, or just lore about Alden Biesen. All this helps in identifying the culprits at the end of the tour, when you have to write up your final report.

Since each video segment is filmed at a specific spot, we only wanted users to be able to watch the video and solve the related puzzle once he’s at the location. Having had bad experiences with bluetooth beacons before, we chose to place image markers on signs instead. The image markers are recognized by Vuforia, a leading AR package. Once the user scans the marker, the video starts.

I built the application in Unity, with a colleague creating a couple of the 12 minigames to be able to meet the tight deadlline.

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