Location-Based Collaborative Experiences

PrintA guide to all aspects of location-based experiences.

Welcome to the location-based wiki. This guide is intended to provide a whole host of information for all the participants of the Magellan project, regardless of their previous experience with the medium.

What are location-based experiences?

The relative position of an individual (either in global or local terms) is now a readily available commodity. It can be obtained by the prevalence of mobile devices and services and subsequently utilised by appropriate applications. This has then given rise to an increase of location-aware applications, but what actually determines a location-based experience? A location-based experience relies on the location or location-awareness of participants as an integral part of the application. This location is typically derived by a form of positioning technology and this provides a measure of the available space for the environment. Technologies offer differing levels of coverage and accuracy. GPS for example utilizes satellite navigation to potentially map positions all over the surface of the earth. Networking infrastructures such as mobile phone networks may provide proximity information at lesser accuracy levels and more localized positioning systems also exist that map a smaller area, some in relation to a fixed point. Localized systems may also offer position-sensing in an indoor environment. Location-sensing does not have to be implemented via a mobile device however. Desktop users can also experience location-aware applications due to the ability of networks to derive the localities of connected computers. This may not allow the user to experience the full mobility of running through city streets in pursuit of co-participants for example, but it will allow them to tap into a range of location-based services. These typically consist of recommendations presented to users to inform them of service providers or events in their vicinity. The geographical information may also be utilised to complement navigation and way finding utilities, such as Google Maps for example.

In each case a measure of position is derived that will ultimately drive the evolution of the experience.

Types of location-based experience

The classification of a location-aware application is ultimately dependent on the manner in which this information is utilised. Typically we may define this usage as either static or dynamic. A static position (or gradually altering location) would typically be associated with scenarios pertaining to information retrieval; where am I? Or where is the nearest restaurant? Dynamically changing positions may relate to situations where participants are engaged in a more interactive task, some form of mobile game for example.

We can generalise these definitions thus:

  • Location-based services – Offering a number of recommendations or services based on the geographical location, such as driving directions or where to eat in the local neighbourhood.
  • Location-based games – A more interactive application whereby the user’s location is used in a gaming sense to complete tasks depending heavily on the location of the participants.

Further expansion on these categories then gives rise to a more detailed collection of experience types. Location-based services typically process some form of information request as outlined above. Examples would include locating the nearest cash-machine, receiving local advertising streams, in-car navigation or tracking a parcel or delivery. These types of applications usually require only a minimal level of interaction. Location-based games on the other hand may be further categorised by additional factors. This may relate to the modes of technology employed and by the general classification of the subject matter, educational games or cultural heritage applications for example. The broader technology-based classifications include pervasive (games that pervade into the outside world), mixed-reality (games that combine aspects of the real and the virtual), augmented reality (games that augment the physical space with supplemental information) and ubiquitous (games that integrate the functionality into everyday spaces). The underlying positioning technology may also have an impact upon the type of experience. The gaming arena may be global, evolving over time; or may be played indoors within a pre-determined time limit. Participant interaction or proximity often plays a significant role within the narrative. Physically locating objects or other players could be the mainstay of the application or events may be triggered merely by being in the proximity of objects or regions of space. Although the mobile-gaming sector is still in its relative infancy, there have been a number of games in such fields as education, cultural heritage and fitness. The game Savannah (see game examples section) permitted groups of children to masquerade as virtual lions hunting game. The CHESS project enabled visitors to the Cite L’Espace in Toulouse and the Acropolis Museum in Athens to interact with the exhibitions and the Fish'n'Steps (see game examples section) game encouraged participation in physical activity by relating movement to the well-being of a virtual character.

Examples of Location-Based Experiences

The following lists a number of games that are all location aware in some sense.


Design of Location-Based Experiences

There are obviously a number of components to consider when designing any application, regardless of the genre. Location-based experiences have a similar component set to conventional game-type applications in terms of a core game engine, user interfaces and input, etc. Where location-based experiences differ is in the need to cater for aspects concerned with the mobility of the game – the incorporation of potentially new modalities and differing technologies that brings along differing user interfaces and means of interaction.

We will consider all the components that make up an application and then expand upon where these differ for mobile applications.

Once we have identified areas of special attention we will then deal with how the design of these mobile-critical areas is dealt with.

Technological aspects are crucial for the mobile experience and all the associated technologies are addressed and expanded upon, detailing where they may fit in within the MAGELLAN experience. Throughout the following sections we will mainly refer to the design of location-based games as opposed to the more general category of location-based experiences. This intends to reflect the nature of the MAGELLAN project in that our main priority is to design and author more gaming-style applications, and that gaming applications appear to be more prevalent and offer a more diverse range of output.

Components of the Experience

Aspects of Application Design

Associated Technologies

Design Considerations and Guidelines

Design Patterns and Methodologies

Authoring Tools

Definitions and abbreviations

Common definitions and abbreviations used in the location-based gaming fraternity.