Mi has worked extensively across the BBC’s ever growing folio of online products over the last 2 years having produced full games, trailers and coding tech. This year sees the centenary of WW1 and with it brought us an unprecedented opportunity to work on Our World War. Combining our accumulated experience in the areas of games, broadcast and cgi into one groundbreaking project which would tell the now infamous story of 1916 Battle of the Somme
After our initial elation of a new key project win sank in, the real gravitas of the project ahead of us began to dawn. Firstly from a technical point of view the times scales were extremely tight and making the live date at a quality level we could stand behind would be challenging. Secondly and more significantly, we were to be custodians of a subject matter and a narrative which our peers, parents and grandparents are heavily invested in. I speak for all the team involved when I say we all felt the weight of responsibility in ensuring the content was not trivialised by this new mode of delivery.
Fortunately we were not in this alone in our duties and had the privilege of working alongside the BBC’s 2013 BAFTA winning team, creators of the Our War series in telling the story of one of the bloodiest battles of World War One.
With this highly collaborative project we created a fully interactive on-line drama episode to accompany the BBC3 three part series Our World War for BBC Knowledge & Learning. The interactive episode, a first in its sector would see the viewer guide the fortunes of a small group of soldiers led by a young corporal as he fights to keep the men alive in the fight for High Wood at The Battle of the Somme.
The interactive episode is split into three acts and through the use of on-screen buttons viewers takes control of the narrative. Users are required to make moral, tactical and leadership decisions. They are then faced with the immediate ramifications of those choices and assessment of those leadership abilities. We think that this in some small way gives even the smallest of insights into the immense moral and ethical dilemmas facing these soldiers on an almost daily basis while in the combat zone.
We closely worked with the BBC3 production team to seamlessly integrate live footage into the interactive episode. Then created a Bespoke engine code framework and custom HTML5 Video player which integrated the live action footage. We also designed and created the in game experience, Ui and menu systems and over 3 minutes of bespoke stylised animation.
We had to solve some real technical challenges in order to successfully deliver the project. One of which was the massively compressed timescale for what have comfortably been a 6 month project we had less than 3 months to deliver. Fortunately the infrastructure we have in place is ideally suited to this kind of high pressure, high stakes project. We can prototype ideas and concepts very rapidly, something that was crucial on this project.
We decided early on that we would need to deliver a piece that ran on desktop and tablet, but until the tech was ready we used a flash based solution called Treehouse to get underway with flow of the narrative from day one. Once that had been locked we switched over to the custom HTML5 version and continued with the build.
Parallel to the tech build our 3D artists were underway with the motion comic style animations. Working from the storyboards and concept images we used our full arsenal of Maya, 3ds Max, Zbrush, Nuke and After Effects to create the back story to our soldiers. Approaching launch we then moved everything from our S3 server over to BBC to take the load of the nation hitting the website. We invest heavily in our artists and technology and seeing the team create something unique as this is very humbling.
This interactive piece sees a convergence of broadcast and games. The exciting point is that it draws on the best of two disciplines and allows for an original, refreshing and much more immersive way to re-connect with an increasingly tech savvy and capricious audience.
We are extremely proud of our small contribution in making this pivotal historic story available to a new generation. Our hope is that this will allow the core subject matter to escape the now homogeneous delivery methods and achieve cut through.
These historic stories require persistent review by every new generation if the hard won lessons of this era are to still serve us. As our forefathers had to quickly acclimate the evolution of cavalry from horseback to that of armoured. We must also quickly adapt to new modes of information delivery if for no other reason than to ensure that cautionary stories such as this continue to endure.
We are proud to have played a very very small part.
You can judge the results for yourself here