Living LandscapesJanuary 2007 - July 2007
Client: PlayMotion / Disney Imagineering
The line for the most popular attraction at one of the major theme parks in Orlando can get pretty long. At busy times the wait can exceed two hours! To improve the guest experience, the park wanted to experiment with making the line itself an entertaining experience instead of just a hour wait for a nine minute ride. As a test of this new idea they started with the most popular ride they had (with the most boring line).
During the games we show the crowd their outlines. When they move they can recognize themselves and use their outline to play with objects on the screen. Four games were developed for this first round of installation. One game allows guests to use their bodies to form the shape of mountains and hills and build their own landscape. After shaping the land, they can make a gesture like a growing tree to sprout plants, flowers, and trees on the land they created.
In addition to that game, my biggest responsibility was for the software architecture that synchronized and managed all the games. Each of the five screens was run by a separate computer. It was important that the same game be running on all machines and that they start at the same time. We had a sixth computer that coordinated the other five. I designed the software that ran on that computer, telling the others what game to start when, and also the software that listened to that server and started the appropriate game at the right time. Besides just launching the games, though, it was also responsible for showing a slide show between games and making sure all the games continued to run properly. The theme park is open about 12 hours a day, 365 days a year and they insisted that our games needed work at least 95% of the time without failure. With that constraint, the software that monitors each game and each machine is extremely important. I designed it in such a way that the monitoring software can not only detect immediately when a problem has occurred, but most of the time it can fix the problem without manual intervention.
Finally, I had to design and build a simple touch panel interface for the ride operators to be able to control our games. They needed to be able to start up the system in the morning, choose when to run games or when to let the system run the games on its own, monitor the status of all five screens, and shut it down at the end of the day. In addition, I built in the ability to choose how many screens were active so that games weren't running on screens where no one was playing at times when the line was not completely full.