Trafalgar Origins

(Channel 4)

Experience the drama of a bloody 19th century naval battle in the multi-player Trafalgar Origins, making history fun for a hard-to-reach teen audience

The brief

Channel 4 commissioned a season of television and online content entitled Bloody Foreigners, aimed at showing how Britain has been assisted in times of conflict by non British nationals. One of the four commissioned TV shows examined the Battle of Trafalgar in which the British fleet included a large number of non-British sailors; from Irish, Scottish and Welsh nationals to ex-slaves from the West Indies and convicts from America. The online element of this educational commission focused on developing an engaging game designed to capture the imaginations of the difficult-to-reach teen audience. It needed to work as standalone content, whilst also relating to the TV show in trailing the drama and increasing awareness.

Our response

Set against a backdrop of British, French and Spanish tensions during the Napoleonic wars, Trafalgar Origins gives you the command of a Royal Navy ship in historical recreations of Napoleonic naval battles.

Initial training missions help players hone their nautical skills, learning how to sail their ship and building up a crew of different skills.

An arcade section builds on these skills enabling players learn the ropes by engaging in real nautical exercises, defeating foes, sinking ships and collecting loot while building points and scores. Historic missions recreate actual skirmishes experienced by Nelson and the allied navy where you pit your skills against enemy ships.

We were careful to ensure that the game was fun and engaging to play as well as being historically accurate. We worked closely with the Curator Emeritus at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich to make sure that we captured the detail, mood and feeling of the day in a way that was completely faithful to the facts of the battles.

As well as being able to play in single-player mode, a multi-player option allows players the opportunity to play together in real time, enlisting up to five friends to join them in their battles.

Visually, Trafalgar Origins tries to capture the spirit of the time, fusing easy-to-use game graphics with a look and feel that perfectly represents 19th century naval history. All graphical elements have been designed with the Napoleonic period in mind, especially charts and maps. We worked with Sliced Bread who also helped us on 1066 to develop the ship animations, rendering out 3D sequences which enable the vessels to pitch and roll realistically when navigating, with sails billowing as they catch the Spanish winds.

We also developed a robust Facebook Connect component for Channel 4 to use on Trafalgar Origins, allowing players to draw their Facebook friends into the game. It also pushes achievements, scores and progress notifications back to their social network through the specially designed Facebook Application. The generic component was developed for Channel 4 to use on their other game properties, and is currently being integrated into other Channel 4 Education titles.

The game combines the energy and drama of 19th century naval warfare with real life people and stories. This bloody slice of history provides a perfect backdrop for a really exciting gaming experience, which will appeal to a huge teen audience.

"Trafalgar Origins is a very well-made and polished game... An entertaining and educational peek at the age of sail, and one that will take you many hours to beat."

Karl Parakenings, Jay Is Games

The Results

  • Nominations

    Broadcast Digital - Best use of Interactive (2011)
    BIMA - Best Game (2010)

  • 11+ million

    Levels played

  • 2+ million

    Multiplayer games played

  • 11:13 minutes

    Average game length