REXplorer is an interactive mobile & cross-media cultural heritage adventure game service for tourists, which was commercially available in Regensburg, Germany in 2007 & 2008 – see the project’s official documentation at http://rexplorer.arch.ethz.ch. This mobile museum game service extends the REX Regensburg Experience museum into the city (and thus turning the city into a kind of museum); players control the game with a location tracking ‘Wiimote’-like device, making the visitor sightseeing experience fun, highly engaging and educational:
- REXplorer is a mobile, “pervasive”, and persuasive game service that helps tourists and museum visitors to explore the history of the UNESCO world heritage city of Regensburg, Germany, and magically interact with the city’s monuments instead of just seeing them.
- Visitors play the game whilst seeing the sights, interact with historical buildings and characters, can take pictures with their magic wand game controller, and even receive a personalized geo-referenced webblog of their walk which they can access after the visit / game.
- The game service targets the “tour guides are boring” group and has been designed for ages 16-30. Have a look at the personalized & geo-tagged game-blogs of highscoring players!
- REXplorer was the first permanently installed game / museum service of this kind. During the tourist seasons of 2007 & 2008, the 1.5 hour mobile device rental service was available for EUR 12,-/device at Regensburg’s tourist information at the ‘Alte Rathaus’, and was co-operated by the tourist office and the REX museum.
- For getting a better feeling for the game, please watch the gameplay trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf7m97tF3Ls.
- In the game, tourists roleplay scientific assistants who help a certain Professor Rex – who they meet in an introductory tutorial movieshown at the tourist info – to understand and research Regensburg’s “perpetual magic”.
- This magic manifests itself by the way of historically & mythologically based spirits which are stationed at points of interest throughout the mostly gothic and Romanesque city core.
- For their magical field research, players rent a special “paranormal activity detector” (a device composed of a mobile phone and a GPS receiver in a protective shell) to interact with these location based and site specific spirits. Along with the detector, players receive a print brochure in which the game functionality is explained and which shows a map with the magical sights.
- A novel mobile interaction mechanism of “casting a spell” (making a gesture by waving the wand-like detector through the air) allows players to awaken and communicate with these spirits.
- Prof. Rex has discovered five different spells, which are part of a secret language engraved onto a real flagstone in the Regensburg cathedral: Water, Air, Earth, Fire, and a vertical mark strangely reminding Prof. Rex of an “i” as in “information”.
- At each spirit, and with the correct spell, players can receive and resolve multiple quests; thus, these quests take players across the city, from sight to sight and from character to character.
- Through the detector, spirits tell the player their story, and the story of the sight they reside at; when offering a quest to another sight / character, spirits verbally hint at the spell the player should carry out in order to accept the quest. For example: “Would you please take the fire of my love to my wife?” is a relatively blatant innuendo for the “Fire” spell.
- Each character encounter is thus a both a puzzle and a help situation for the player.
- The more quests a player completes, and the more spells a players successfully casts, the more points she receives, climbing a scientific assistant ranking from rookie to master assistant. In parallel, the more quests the player completes, the more the player learns about the city’s multi layered history.
- The detector – who accompanies the player and comments the gameplay ironically – asks players to take geo tagged pictures of their experience, which are being uploaded automatically to each player’s playblog, displaying the player’s route through the city, her stops, her image material, and deepening links.
- The player weblog serves as a reward, a lasting diary, and a springboard for further information about the city’s history.
Research and development
REXplorer was a joint research project between the ETH Zurich’s chair for Computer Aided Architectural Design (CAAD) and the Media Computing Group at RWTH Aachen University, Germany, for the REX Erlebnismuseum Regensburg Experience and the Regensburg tourist information.
The game served our research groups as a project focusing on pervasive & mobile game design, place-making, urban computing / interactive architecture, and influencing, steering, as well as enriching the mobile (museum) experience. During its offering, a couple of hundred players had enjoyed REXplorer, and some major German media had reported about the game.
- Dr. Steffen P. Walz (formerly ETH Zurich, now Chief Design Dude at www.sreee.com) & Dr. Rafael “Tico” Ballagas (formerly RWTH Aachen, now Senior Researcher at Nokia Research): Game Design & Production, Project Management
- Dr. Julien Biere & Brigitte Weidmann (REX): Co-Production
- Prof. Dr. Ludger Hovestadt (ETH Zurich) & Prof. Dr. Jan Borchers (RWTH Aachen): Project Enabling, Supervision
For inquiries concerning REXplorer and/or how our spin off company sreee could help make your museum experience more playful indoors or outdoors, please E-Mail Steffen P. Walz, sreee’s Chief Design Dude at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About sreee (the company designing projects in the wake of REXplorer)
sreee prototypes and creates mobile as well as cross-media game services with the goal to convey “serious” topics playfully, and/or by using game mechanics and interactive storytelling to engage, inspire and educate an audience across spaces and media. We are a small, but highly creative & motivated team based in Stuttgart, Germany. Yet, we bring not only research experience with us, but 25 years of combined industry experience in the realm of professional JAVA/IT development, game & interaction design as well as information architecture. On this basis, we have built rock solid mobile technology solutions based on our own web-based middleware that allows to define and deliver interactive mobile content to Android and iPhone devices.
sreee acquired company acceleration funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation in 2009, building on the success of the game service of REXplorer. Since then, sreee has not only been working on internal projects, but has also been providing strategy consulting to (serious) game projects and clients such as the United Nations Population Fund (USA), Forum Nokia (Finland), the Research Institute for Industrial Science & Technology (South Korea), the Musée des Arts et Métiers Paris (France), Flims Laax Falera Tourism (Switzerland) and MFG Baden-Württemberg, Public Innovation Agency for Information Technology and Media (Germany).