BREATHING NEW LIFE INTO AN OLD LEGEND

As part of a £30 million investment, Nottingham Castle has undergone a major redevelopment, transforming the site into a family destination worthy of its iconic status.

Interactivity and storytelling lie at the heart of a strategy that breathes new life into an old legend. Visitors immerse themselves in a playful and authentic experience of Nottingham’s rich history, from Robin Hood and rebellion to industrial and creative innovation.

PRELOADED developed a suite of games inspired by two traditional weapons from the world of Robin Hood, which occupy four converted archways. Using cutting-edge motion capture technology, custom-built hardware and bespoke electronics, these exhibits place visitors at the heart of the action to test their skills against Robin and his merry men.

A COLLABORATIVE PROCESS

Designing a hybrid physical-digital experience from the ground up during a pandemic required a flexible and thoroughly collaborative approach. Alongside compelling and intuitive gameplay, the experience had to serve high volumes of visitors with diverse access needs. PRELOADED joined forces with trusted experts from our network, bringing in legendary props manufacturer MDM, electronics experts Artists & Engineers and motion tracking hardware suppliers Target3D. 

The iterative process saw the physical interfaces evolve from paper sketches into wooden then steel prototypes and finally a carbon-fibre and aluminium hybrid. This modern realisation of a medieval Longbow is packed with custom circuit boards, high-speed serial interfaces and a light sensor array to give players the best game experience. Robin would be proud.

MOVING TARGET TECHNOLOGY

During early prototyping, the PRELOADED studio hosted family groups to test pre-production models and perfect the core game mechanic. As COVID-19 restraints kicked in, the team had to adopt a remote approach, using a novel mobile AR solution to stand in for the medieval weapons.

Onsite installation required coordination with AV specialists Sysco and setwork manufacturers Beck over a number of weeks. Each of the four arches was fitted with four OptiTrack cameras, along with projector, screen and speakers. The result is a near-invisible technical setup providing accurate, real-time tracking as players wield the weapons. A unified approach to technology across the arches simplifies the process of supporting an incredibly sophisticated level of interaction.

A near-invisible technical setup providing accurate, real-time tracking as players wield the weapons.

AUTHENTIC GAME DESIGN

The four arches also have a unified look and feel, appearing as a single ‘world’ for players as they move through the different games. From a single-player Quarterstaff showdown with Little John to a multiplayer archery competition outside the castle walls, each game balances short but ‘sticky’ loops whilst remaining true to historical legend.

The variety of gameplay across four arches gives visitors more than a glimpse into medieval life. Every activity, whether range-finding in the forest with ‘clouts’ as targets or the quick-fire ‘popinjay’ game of moving targets, is drawn from historical insight. Boys as young as seven were required by law to practice archery every week! Even the Quarterstaff, weapon of the peasants, has its secrets; as useful herding geese and picking acorns as it is against a broadsword.

Realising this project required a diverse blend of skills, marrying the patterns of visitor flow with spatial constraints, the technical opportunities of real-time tracking, expert physical craftsmanship and the rewarding gameplay PRELOADED is famous for. The result is a beautiful suite of narrative-driven, skill-based games that immerse players in a vibrant medieval world. 

Are you also interested in learning more about digital and physical play? Get in touch with our team.

The result is a beautiful suite of narrative-driven, skill-based games that immerse players in a vibrant medieval world.

PRELOADED were a strong creative force on the project, mixing solid game design principles with an ambition for innovation. The resulting exhibit has been well received by visitors – offering the chance to understand more about the medieval world of Robin Hood through a series of fun, hands-on archery and quarterstaff activities.”

Cal Warren , Nottingham Castle Project Programme Manager