Themed Entertainment Design Concept & Mobile App • Personal Project
• A dynamic interactive experience for use in a theme park or resort that encourages guests to explore and experience all the location has to offer. Guests complete and turn in quests throughout their day/days at the park and gain experience points and [physical] collectible badges as they do.
• As guests continue questing, the app knows what they have and have not experienced in the past, and it learns what they like and dislike; what they want and don’t want to experience, and serves up quest options that best suit them.
• Ongoing personal project that I started simply because I've been obsessed with theme parks for [literally] most of my life, and I'm equally obsessed with thinking about them from a UX/UI perspective.
• Create a legitimately fun interactive experience that enhances and improves a guest’s experience at a theme park or resort, but does not distract from it or require them to constantly glance at their screen or pull out their phone.
• Help drive guest flow towards areas that may have lower traffic, that may be focal points for marketing, overlooked attractions, attractions with long waits, and so on.
• Consistently create new and individual experiences for guests in a real-world location that will, by necessity, remain fairly static/permanent over time.
• Give guests a fun way of learning their way around a park or resort; instill the sense of home-away-from home and ownership within them.
• Well, to start: There's no theme park. This is all made up. However, despite the environment not being real, I'm still trying to work within the typical physical and financial bounds of a theme park.
• A theme park experience, in my opinion, should feel novel & imaginative. But, by nature, that involves breaking away from the simplicity/efficiency-focused mindset that UX Design often entails -- which is fun!
• Differentiating between the individual experience and the group experience
• Although this is a 'blue sky' project, I'm constantly thinking about how a concept like this could realistically be rolled out to the insanely diverse theme park audience, gradually but effectively, in order to validate if it was worth developing further.
INSPIRATION & CONCEPT
I go to theme parks several times a year. They’re my favorite places and always have been -- not only are they places specifically built for joy and fun, but they are also stupefying design/engineering problems in and of themselves. They get millions of guests a year – some are first-timers, some come literally every day; some are locals, some live halfway across the world. In recent years, interactive attractions within theme parks are becoming more and more common to varying degrees of success. As a UX Designer and theme park geek, I find this type of experience to be very cool and an extremely intriguing user experience conundrum.
Park Scouts is an interactive experience and mobile app for use in a [make believe] theme park environment. It sends guests on fun quests, specifically catered to them/their groups, and gives them collectible rewards for completing them. Among other things, this experience is meant to address the problem of keeping guests engaged and familiar with the park environment, whether it be their first or their 1000th visit. It serves up dynamic experiences dependent on variables such as crowd level, time of year, guest preferences, and more. In addition to this, the park can also use this to send guests to places they want them to go for any reason – driving traffic away from congestion points, because the area is a focus of a marketing campaign, because the guest hasn’t spent much time in the area, etc.
In designing Park Scouts (something I am still very much working on, it being an on-the-side passion project and all) I try to take into account my lifelong experience as a theme park guest and fan as well as the zillions of theme park experiences I’ve heard and read about on message boards, podcasts, Facebook groups, and news stories ever since I was a nerdy little kid.
CORE USER FLOW
Guest downloads mobile app, creates an account, and ties park ticket to it.
In order to participate in Park Scouts, a guest must have a ticket to visit the park. Without a ticket, they can still create an account (in case they have to delay getting their ticket for some reason), but they will not be able to use it beyond account management tasks. When they purchase their ticket, they are instructed to download the app, and from there they can register their token of park admission -- which could be a paper ticket, an email, a wristband, or something else entirely. No matter what the token of admission is, all the guest has to do is scan or manually enter an individualized code printed on it and they’re off to the races. As they proceed through account creation, that ticket will now be tied to their account. Account creation, beyond scanning the park ticket, entails entering basic demographic & contact information and that's about it.
Guest completes Experiential Preferences & Limitations survey
Of course we won't call it that, but that's essentially what it is. Tied in seamlessly to account creation (but accessible and editable later) is a breezy survey in which guests enter information about their theme park habits, likes, dislikes, and comfort zones.
All of this information will go toward curating the Park Scouts questing experience to fit the guest’s liking. This is mainly for two reasons. The first is that nobody wants to be given a quest to ride a roller coaster when they simply can’t ride roller coasters – and that sort of thing should not be a major hindrance to getting the full Park Scouts experience. The second reason is that Park Scouts is meant to help enhance a guest’s visit, not distract from it or riddle it with chores. For example: If a guest is really excited about seeing a certain area of the park, the app can give them more quests to do in that area than any other area. The survey data will then be refined in the background over time based on how it matches up with the things the guest actually does throughout their day(s) at the park and subsequent visits. Guests can also manually change their responses – for instance, maybe they thought they hated launch coasters until they actually rode one, and now they adore them.
Is this their first time? Their 100th time? What do they want to get out of the trip? What are some of their must-sees and must-do attractions? On the other hand, what are some things they are less interested in? Is there any type of experience that they must skip due to something like pregnancy, motion sickness, or just simply because they’re not into that sort of thing? All of these questions and more will be answered in this survey in an experience that, tonally, should be fun and excitement-building while remaining under 8-10 minutes.
A good example of this idea done well are the various Harry Potter-adjacent 'Sorting Hat' personality quizzes found on WizardingWorld.com (formerly Pottermore). These quizzes are essential for getting the most out of the website’s experience, and though they take some time to complete, they are never a chore. They feel interesting, thought-provoking, and personalized.
Guest enters park, opens app, and embarks upon some quests
Eventually, the guest’s visit to the park arrives. Through location technology and the scanning of their park ticket at the entrance turnstiles, the Park Scouts app knows when they’ve entered and where they are throughout their day.
If this is their first time using the Park Scouts app on a park visit, the guest will have no quests to embark upon. To change that, all the guest needs to do is navigate to the ‘Available Quests’ list. Once they’ve done so, the screen will populate with a mix of Dynamic and Static quests to choose from. Dynamic quests are generated specifically for the individual, whereas Static quests are designed by the company and more or less the same for anyone using the app. The available Dynamic quests will be dependent on the guests’ survey responses (i.e., what they were most excited about, what they wanted to avoid, highest and lowest priorities, etc.) whereas the available Static quests will vary based on season (e.g., Halloween-themed quests), marketing tactics (e.g, tie-in to an upcoming film or new attraction), and other factors like that.
Guests can scroll through these available quests, tap on any of them to see their story, completion criteria, deadline, and the reward for completing the quest. If the quest looks good, they can start the quest, which adds it to their ‘Current Quests’ list. They can add up to five quests at any given time. If none of the available quests look enticing or doable, the guest can press the ‘Get New Quests’ button, which will refresh the page and generate a few new Dynamic quests for them to choose from. They cannot do this indefinitely, however, because eventually they will land back at their original quest choices.
Since the majority of theme park guests travel in groups of friends and family, most quests are available for group questing. When starting a quest, the guest is prompted to select their questing group. People who have been previously noted as party members appear by default, with an option to easily add party members. If a person has grouped up with the guest before, they appear in that person’s list of ‘Past Party Members’, but they can also easily add someone to their party simply by scanning that person’s ticket. The next time they open their app, they will see the group’s accepted quest in their ‘Current Quests’ list (or, alternately, they will get a prompt asking if they want to accept or decline the quest invite).
Guest completes their quests
Ah, the fun part! After the guest has accepted a few quests, it’s time to go complete them. The core method of completing a quest almost always entails scanning one’s ticket (or, in the visual examples, their admission wristband) at small check-in points across the park -- seen in the examples to the right as a small tablet attached to an RFID reader. These check-in points then chirp back the necessary changes to the user’s account. These changes are immediately reflected by the mobile app, so the user can keep track of their progress.
Although quest completion will, practically-speaking, revolve around check-ins, the actual tasks the guests must complete depend entirely on their quest’s “type”. The potential for different quest types is virtually limitless, but a few I’ve thought up so far are:
Challenges: A set of tasks that are a little out-of-the-ordinary from what a guest may normally do. These may be static or could be based on guest preferences. Some basic examples are “Ride every water ride in the park” or “Go on an attraction in every land in the park.” As a more individualized and advanced example: if a guest has indicated they particularly love a certain attraction or prioritized a certain experience, a good Challenge may be “Ride Expedition: Everest five times before the park closes” or “Try every Halloween Horror Nights specialty beverage within your three day visit”.
Scavenger Hunts: The guest is given one clue at a time, and must go check-in at the area the clue has sent them to. After that is completed, the quest updates and gives them another clue tied to another area they must visit. Check-in points may be easy-to-find (e.g., entrances to attractions, landmarks) or more obscure (e.g., the fireplace inside a gift shop, a particular rock outside a particular cave) . After a few clues have been checked-in, the scavenger hunt quest is complete and the guest is rewarded.
Photo Assignment: The guest is given a general location to snap a photo of something within the park. This quest type utilizes both location technologies and augmented reality, requires the use of a smartphone with a camera, and would likely not require use of a check-in kiosk. As an example, say a “legendary fish” is rumored to dwell in the park’s lagoon (wink wink). The guest is instructed to venture to that area of the park and, once there, is prompted to open their smartphone camera. When they do, they see the big old fish swimming and leaping in the lagoon through augmented reality technology. They snap a quick photo and the quest is marked completed. Photo assignments of static objects within the park would also be possible -- for example: “Snap a photo of the pyramid at the Mexico pavilion”, “Find Buzz Lightyear in the park today and take a photo with him.”
These are just three possibilities, but new and unique quest types will be the bread-and-butter of the Park Scouts user experience. The guiding light of these quests will be that they are fun and truly as complex as the individual guest(s) want them to be -- i.e., a first timer may want quests that blend in seamlessly with their touring plan, whereas an annual passholder may want quests that break their routine and make them do odd (but always fun) tasks.
If the guest is questing in a group, tapping into a quest location works generally the same, except there is an added 'wait period' for all guests currently present to tap their ticket/bracelet/what-have-you to the reader and be accounted for in the activity. This check-in will then be reflected on each individual user's mobile app.