Google/Niantic - Ancient Societies
About Ancient Societies
Ancient Societies was a collaboration between Niantic, at the time a startup funded by Google, and the author James Frey. He’d released a book called Endgame and approached Niantic about building out the fictional world of the book into an augmented reality game as well as a daily updated transmedia experience.
We were challenged with creating two websites; a website that would market the online experience and a second in-fiction website where the experience lived.
I was lead designer on the project and responsible for all aspects of design.
Niantic challenged us with creating a marketing website for the experience and the experience itself. In creating the websites we were able to:
- Create a conversion funnel drawing new users into the experience
- Have a central location to communicate with users on a daily basis
- Set and adjust the tone of the experience through visual design
Since the scope and structure of the project were already defined the process was a bit different than most. For the sake of this case study I’ll focus on the design of the experience itself:
The following case study details how I utilized this process to deliver this ever changing experience to users.
1 - Research
The main in-fiction website for the experience, ancientsocieties.com, was supposed to have been designed by the lead character, Stella. Designers are used to designing FOR a certain persona but as sole designer of that site it was my responsibility to step in to Stella’s character and design AS her.
To understand Stella I spent a lot of time interviewing the writing team. The writing team was responsible for the overall direction of the project and character development so they held the key to who Stella was, her goals, and her drives.
The senior producer, or showrunner in this case, was responsible for the overall experience and I spent a lot of time interviewing him to better understand the components that would be necessary to see through his vision.
2 - Identify
Once I had a full understanding of the necessary components to fulfill the senior producer’s vision, and Stella’s goals and drives, I set to designing out lo-fi wires.
We decided the best way to communicate the experience to users was through a personal blog run by Stella.
Later in the experience as we began adding new features and functionality, like daily puzzles,fa I delivered more intricate experience maps detailing the resources a user would utilize depending on their level of involvement.
Phase 3 Lo-fi Wires
3 - Ideate
With lo-fi wires of the blog approved I began ideating based on the research I’d performed with the writers. Stella’s goals and drives changed over time and to reflect those goals and drives so did the design of the site.
Ancient Societies - V1
Ancient Societies - V2
Ancient Societies - V3
Ancient Societies - V4
4 - User Feedback
A fundamental part of an interactive experience of this type is user feedback and to solicit that feedback we included the ability to comment on posts/puzzles in the blog. We actively monitored all conversations and comments, sometimes posting and replying as Stella, as a way to further develop the experience.
The senior producer and writers would review feedback and devise next steps for the experience. At this point my process would loop back to research interviewing them to find out how Stella’s goals and drives were changing over time or how the story and experience were changing. I’d then come back to them with recommendations for how the site should update.
We ended up with a small audience of devoted users who not only participated daily but ended up contributing to the story and submitting their own puzzles and artwork to further the story.