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Discovering Oulu’s Joyous Islands – Hupisaaret Game for Natural Resources Institute Finland

Discovering Oulu’s Joyous Islands – Hupisaaret Game for Natural Resources Institute Finland

The Challenge

A GPS-based mobile game that brings together all the different facets of Hupisaaret City Park. How to combine nature, playgrounds, unique urban water area and an all-around awesome park into one fun game that can be used in education, for locals and for tourists? The challenge wasn’t by any means small but we were willing to take it on!

Myths, Folklore and More

Senior Scientist, Pauliina Louhi, and her team were our counterparts at Natural Resources Institute Finland. After having a chat or two with the team, we figured the best way to go about creating the game was to have three different game modes. We were delighted Pauliina and her team wanted to tell some of the less known urban myths of Hupisaaret with the dark mode.

Connecting the Dots

We set out to do three different games in one. The common denominators were Hupisaaret, GPS and creating enticing routes for the players. The GPS part was easy-peasy, something we’ve done before. Additionally, the most fun part was to explore an area of our hometown and learn so many new things about it in the midst of game development. This is one of the reasons why we love working in different fields – you never know what you get to learn!

Walking Tours Beyond our QA

After rigorous testing of the game – which meant quite a lot of walked kilometers around the Hupisaaret area for our QA – we released the game just in time for the summer. We hope that the people living, visiting and learning in Oulu get as much joy out of walking around in the unique urban island area of Hupisaaret as we did when making the game.

Islands in the Stream

Sometimes when we start a project, our customer might not know they are actually looking for a game. The Natural Resources Institute Finland were already in it for the game. Our job was to figure out how to make their vision into reality. We started out by sharing some early concept work on how to approach the challenge. After this we got to kick it to the next gear and think about all the ways in which the area needs to be represented in the game. 

In case you didn’t know the Hupisaaret area is quite a unique place. To put it simply it is a huge park made of different size islands connected with quaint wooden bridges that date back to 1860s. The streams of water that cut through the islands make it particularly magical. What is more, trout use the area’s waterway for swimming upstream to spawn. It is quite a diverse piece of nature wrapped up in history almost in the middle of the city centre, making it definitely worth the visit if in Oulu.

With this much material in our hands, it was more a question of choosing what aspects we want to emphasise in the game. Games are an excellent tool of taking a lot of information and making it work together. In addition, establishing clear rules on how the game works and what type of content serves the idea of the game best. By creating rules, it is easy to see what is truly the most important and interesting parts of the entity you’re describing or building. 

Different Paths Through the Islands

The game has three different modes: pick berries, go on a walking tour and get immersed in the myths and folklore of Hupisaaret. All of the games, while offering different ways of playing, rely on similar mechanics. We use GPS to determine where the player is located and how they are able to interact with the objects on their mobile screen. 

In a sense we view the real world as the game board on top of which people can do different actions based on their positions. The actions are defined by their location (so, the GPS) and a card mechanic that is the core driving force of the game. In fact, all of the information within the game is neatly packed into card stacks. These stacks hold different information depending on the game mode the player has chosen. It is a neat way of packing information into easy-to-digest pieces while bringing a sense of control for the player. Moreover, the card mechanic enables us to build game challenges for the players to enjoy. 

By using game mechanics and a clear set of rules, we are able to build a game world that is in seamless interaction with the physical world. This gives the player a sense of control over the game and the area they are exploring. It is a fun way to learn and expand your views. We know this from experience, as we got to learn a lot of new information about our hometown while working on the game. For instance, you can find a rock with the devil’s hoof imprinted on it on one of the Hupisaaret Islands. Who knew?

Hupisaaret in Three Ways

Berry Picking

This one is mostly for the kids. You race against the clock and pick virtual berries to open up beacons on your mobile device’s map. Once you get a beacon open, you get a question or fun fact. Who will be the fastest to open all the beacons! Teachers can make their own tracks with this tool, too.

Sunday Stroll

This can be considered the official route of Hupisaaret City Park. It takes the player through all the important and remarkable sights found around the beautiful cluster of islands.

Walk on the Dark Side

A storyline called the ‘Rose of Hupisaaret’ leads the player to explore the old myths and dark secrets of Hupisaaret and Oulu. In this game mode the map even changes its bright green colour into a dark hue. Can the player solve all the mysteries of yester year?

LudoCraft Way of Working

Working with LudoCraft in this project opened up a whole new view into how games are made and what is possible with innovative game design. We were happy to hear the ideas of the creative team at LudoCraft. The approach enabled us to marry our expertise of nature and the Hupisaaret area into the game seamlessly. The end result was really satisfying with a finished product that serves its purpose in a fun and meaningful way.

EUEA, VEU ja ELY logot Hupisaaretille

– Pauliina Louhi, Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Institute Finland

EUEA, VEU ja ELY logot Hupisaaretille

Hometown Pride

This project was truly special for us, since we got to learn so much about our hometown. We were really privileged to get to see the seasons change in one of the most beautiful places in Oulu. Our QA in particular got to walk around Hupisaaret City Park throughout development to check that the real world and game world work well together. Along with making sure the game works as it should, they got to watch nature come to life as the development work progressed from icy winter into spring and finally summer. 

Together with the Natural Resources Institute Finland we wanted to release the game at the end of June. This was so that people could go explore the Hupisaaret area in lovely summer weather. Although one can’t really ever be sure how things work out with the summers of Finland – in fact, sometimes it snows in June! This time we were lucky and got sunshine. Therefore conditions were ideal for players to start using the game.

Go On Your Own Hupisaaret Adventure

Discover the mysteries of the magical Hupisaaret area and explore a unique part of Oulu history by downloading the app now!

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Marja Kuipers