Sometimes it is easy to overlook just how much of a benefit the right piece of technology can have, and how easily it can be built.
Towards the end of last year we were commissioned to build an app for a local events company with a bit of a difference. Their events are set in a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested world where players have to complete a series of challenges against the clock. One of the main challenges players face is a survival maze where, armed with a bow and arrows, they must take on an army of (rubber!) zombies. Not only do players try to get around the course as quickly as possible, but they must also try to avoid penalties for missing their targets. If they are too slow, or incur too many penalties, they are zombie food!
At their previous events, all the timing and scoring was done manually by marshals with stopwatches and clipboards. But as the events grew this was seriously limiting the rate at which players could complete the challenges, with them waiting for their scores and penalties to be tallied up by hand. This was frustrating for players and limiting for the business.
The event organisers talked to us about the possibility of using software to solve this problem. They had been considering this for a while, but had assumed any suitable system would be too expensive to be viable. Their requirements were fairly specific, and so no off-the-shelf event timing system would do everything they needed.
On the surface the requirements seemed a little complex, but after some discussion we realised that the core requirements could be met fairly easily with a simple app connected to a website ‘backend’.
Using rapid prototyping frameworks and techniques, we had a first version of the app ready in a few days. Following some on-site testing (yes, we got to shoot some zombies!), a production version was ready within a couple of weeks. After some additional tweaks, the app and associated scoreboard was on site and in full use for the next event.
The app made a huge difference: scores and leaderboard positions were now being calculated automatically and instantly, reducing the burden of scoring on the marshals almost to zero. Players were getting their scores immediately, and could see their leaderboard positions update in real time. In fact, the leaderboard screen became one of the focal points of the event!
We had enormous fun on this project, and it was great to be reminded that software projects don’t need to be big or complex to make a dramatic difference to a team or an organisation. If you have a challenge or inefficiency in your workflow -- whether or not it involves a zombie infestation -- do get in touch with us. The solution might be simpler than you think!