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Exploring ICT History with an Assembly Line Game – Raakku for Oulu Museum and Science Centre Luuppi

Exploring ICT History with an Assembly Line Game – Raakku for Oulu Museum and Science Centre Luuppi

The Challenge

When creativity meets creativity wonderful things often happen. That’s why we were happy to join forces with the curators at Luuppi, as they have been known for building innovative exhibitions. Our paths crossed when Luuppi was in the process of looking to add a further interactive element to their multi-format exhibition showcasing the history of Oulu’s ICT industry at The Oulu Museum of Art. Luuppi already had a pretty well-formed idea about an assembly line game and were looking for a helping hand to make their vision a reality.

Telling Stories Through Games

As well as presenting their game idea to us, Luuppi explained how it would feature in their exhibition that portrays history through a fictional story inspired by real-life events. It turned out that Luuppi were going to build an arcade-style cabinet for the game. Our inner 80s kids’ hearts skipped a beat – it’s not every day you get to develop an arcade game with in-built buttons and joysticks! This got us suitably hyped and so we started planning how best to develop an immersive and co-operative game experience.

The Puzzle of Raakku

The most challenging – and best – part of development was figuring out how to sync the whole game in a way that gets players truly into the spirit of team work. Players must work together to move items through an assembly line process – from sorting to stacking and packing. As Raakku was to be housed in a custom-made cabinet, all the players have their own screens, buttons and joysticks. Much like they would be standing next to an actual assembly line. With this in mind, we worked in close collaboration with Luuppi to ensure all the parts work seamlessly.

Bringing the Story to Life

The final version had to ensure that the feel of the buttons and joysticks are intuitive and satisfying for the player. So Luuppi made a plywood prototype of the Raakku assembly line for us to test out. It brought a new fun twist to the project with a full-scale arcade cabinet in our office. Once the exhibition opened, Raakku game became an eye-grabbing and enjoyable attraction for visitors. In fact, the game proved to be so popular that Luuppi decided to move the game to its new home at the Tietomaa Science Centre once the art museum’s exhibition finished.

Something Like an Oulu Phenomenon

Oulu Museum and Science Centre Luuppi were looking to do what they do best; create a one-of-a-kind exhibition that not only brings insightful cultural experiences but excites and surprises the visitor. This time around it was about the Oulu Phenomenon and incorporating a game into the exhibition’s narrative. Essentially the question was: is it possible to create an assembly line game that works as a part of an exhibition about ICT?

The short answer is ‘yes’.

The longer answer is also ‘yes’ with a few added twists in the development process. Luuppi professionals have an ability to tell stories that leave visitors both enlightened and inspired. Their exhibition ‘The Hype in the Arctic Silicon Valley’ – an expansive look through Oulu’s ICT industry – is no exception. And we were happy to lend a helping hand in making the magic happen.

We were given an overview of Luuppi’s grand plans to tell the story of the ICT industry boom in Oulu, known as the ‘Oulu Phenomenon’. By using a combination of real-life interviews and background information, Luuppi could explain the rise of the industry via the fictional narrative of inventor-engineer Toivo Ruokko and his Raakku device.

The success story of Raakku forms the core narrative of the exhibition and is the very device that is assembled in the assembly line game. Luuppi already had quite a clear vision about the game and how it best serves the overall exhibition. Our role was to use our game development expertise to make Luuppi’s vision a reality.

The Process of Making an Assembly Line Game

You know those moments when a group of people are gathered around an arcade game cheering on the player as they’re about to get a new high score? With Raakku it is possible to experience just that, as Luuppi constructed a custom-made arcade game cabinet for visitors to play the game on.

Many great ideas are quite simple, and so is the basic premise of the Raakku assembly line game. It is an approximation of the processes that all machines perform. After all, every device we use has an input and an output. This was the jumping off point for the concept: taking a basic understanding of how technology works and presenting it as an intricate-but-rewarding multiplayer puzzle game.

The game comprises of three assembly line parts; a sorting section forms the input, with a stacking section in the middle of the assembly line, and a packaging section that forms the output. Using different joysticks on the cabinet, players must methodically move all their items to the right of the screens through each section to create eight filled rows, all neatly arranged in the same colour.

Raakku is at its best when you have three players. One for sorting, a second one for stacking and a third one for packaging. All the players have their own buttons, joysticks and screens. You have to do your bit on the assembly line before the conveyor belt rushes Raakku parts over to the player next to you. In other words, the game requires seamless co-operation. But there are different ways to be a team. Do you work meticulously? Shout instructions over others or perhaps choose a “factory foreperson” as an unofficial fourth player to lead the team?

The Three Roles in Raakku

The Sorter

Player #1 finds themselves at the start of the assembly line. Their job is to make sure each item is sorted just right. But they need to be quick, the conveyor belt waits for no-one!

The Stacker

Right in the middle is player #2. They must take the sorted items and prepare them for packing. Concentration and sharp thinking is a must in order to keep the assembly line moving.

The Packer

At the end of the assembly line is player #3. They receive each prepared item and have to place them in as many neat rows as possible – think Tetris but with a multiplayer element.

LudoCraft Way of Working

Sanoja (jos tarvitse)

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Bringing Raakku to Life

We are no strangers to developing puzzle games but knowing that Raakku is essentially an arcade game brought a fun mix into development, especially regarding testing.

It was crucial for the game to link up to Luuppi’s custom-made cabinet in a way that was intuitive for players. Therefore, with every iteration that was produced and tested, all the game controls were monitored carefully to guarantee that they weren’t too sensitive and that the game itself had no lag. It was important that every press of a button and each movement of the joystick was satisfying and instinctively familiar to the player.

To make sure this was the case, Luuppi had made a physical prototype of the cabinet for us. It felt quite cool to have a full-scale exhibition arcade cabinet in our office. And it was probably one of our most entertaining testing periods for the whole team. Everyone wanted to have a turn or two (or three).

Ultimately, seeing the game in the middle of ‘The Hype in the Arctic Silicon Valley’ exhibition was quite amazing. Seeing how this game that we had worked on in our office had seamlessly fitted into the vast exhibition that Luuppi had built was incredible.

Working alongside Luuppi on Raakku was hugely inspiring; even though our backgrounds are very different, it was our shared sense of creativity that brought us together. The result of our partnership is an imaginative and engaging game that helps tell a remarkable story about our hometown.

The Oulu Art Museum’s exhibition is now over but you can still find our beloved Raakku game in its new and permanent home at another location that Luuppi manages, Tietomaa Science Centre.

Want your own game solution? Get in contact!

Marja Kuipers