Tumbleweed was an experiment in location-based content I worked on from 2012-2013. I teamed up with UX designers Greg Kuebler and Luke Miller to toy with the question of whether a story could be better told by taking into account where the audience was currently standing.
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I had recently co-directed a short film called No Man’s Land, and we came up with the idea of transforming it into a location-based game. We used a few different interactions:

  • check-in to a nearby venue on Foursquare, so say for instance the next scene takes place at a saloon, you'd have to be near a similar category like a bar
  • some scenes required you to move several miles from your last known location to simulate getting out of town
  • some scenes just unlocked when enough time had passed
Kuebler managed the design assets, Greg Kletsel illustrated, and I handled the software.

In case you're curious, here were some of the interesting technical challenges I faced. 1) I had to become a master of parallax. There were three layers of illustration that moved at different speeds, so not only did I need to figure out the best rate of movement for each, but I had to guarantee that the appropriate layer responded to each touch event even though there were overlapping transparent layers. 2) I needed to keep this app fast and light. Not only did I have to explore different means of compressing and displaying the illustrations and animations, but I needed to keep the framerate high by efficiently managing processes running just outside of the view port. 3) Some of our interactions required background triggers, but you have to assume your app will be terminated after some downtime. After trying out timed notifications on the client I found it too limiting, so I set up a rails server to help unlock states of the game and also send multiple push reminders that added color to the story if the user became inactive.

So, can a story be better told with location data? Maybe. But I think everyone would rather sit on the couch and watch Netflix.