The Joker’s Escape

The web is an ever-evolving platform. Change is the only constant. So it’s always exciting to push what it can do and become. To do this, you need pluralists with an innovation mindset: those who savor the unknown and like standing on the periphery.

- Sid Lee / Digital Kitchen Team

Can you describe your project and the concept behind it?

Hidden within DC FanDome’s ‘MultiVerse’ was a 24-hour fun house that invited fans to “step inside” Joker’s head. In a first-of-its-kind virtual escape experience, powered by a Unity 3D Game Engine + Web GL, fans were ushered in to explore his insanity in full, cinematic 360º gameplay. Filled with striking “mad” visuals, twisted dimensions, and wicked easter eggs, viewers were led through three interactive traps designed by The Clown Prince of Crime.

Tell us about your initial moodboard, wireframe, or prototype. How did things change throughout the process?

We relied on The Joker canon and its many iterations along with our collective passion for his character to help define his world and the trap challenges within. Since we were big fans, the process was almost second nature, enabling us to dive deep and create the worlds inside his demented head quickly. Not your typical hero, he is perhaps everyone’s favorite villain! But you empathize with his character, which makes him endearing. 

What influenced your chosen technical approach, and how did it go beyond past methods?

There aren’t a lot of immersive escape experiences built online. Most Escape Rooms are created for on-ground events. So we challenged ourselves to tell a compelling story that felt more like watching a film and playing a role-playing game at the same time. Unreal and Unity have long been used as game engines and platforms, but we wanted to push the storytelling aspect of it into a new dimension, creating a “gamified cinematic experience”.

When did you experience a breakthrough or an "a-ha" moment during this project?

Necessity is the mother of invention. 2020 forced us to evolve and find new ways to connect because we had no choice. The project's genesis was itself born from this crisis. Like a tsunami, CV19 pushed us to re-think and pivot how brands connect with audiences and how people could “experience“ the world under new circumstances — online. Overnight, R&D and innovation became necessary engines to make better digital experiences happen, survive, and to reinvent the web.

What web technologies, tools, and resources did you use to develop this?

We built the engine while flying it. Designed for WebGL 2.0, we leveraged environments and interactions using a single shader network from Unity’s Shader Graph for 95% of all objects. This helped with set dressing, lighting, and asset optimization, enabling a dense experience to run real-time, increasing performance, and allowing a higher-quality experience. It delivered cinematic 3D gameplay and visual fidelity rarely seen on the web to date.

How did you balance your own creative ideas and technical capabilities with a fair representation of the client’s brand?

It’s amazing how lacking time guides instinct. Every creative push had to be pragmatic. From the moment we went GO! we hunkered down and didn’t surface to air until finished, pivoting as needed, so long as it remained on vision. Fusing storytelling, design, and creative coding gave us the ingredients to experiment. But it was the flat collaboration that enabled us to actualize the vision, blurring boundaries and doing whatever it took to see it come to life.

How did the final product meet or exceed your expectations?

It’s exciting to see the project unfold and come to life daily since none of us had done something like this before: combining design, real-time 3D worlds, cinematic emotion, storytelling, and gaming into an immersive, “diabolical” experience, only possible with The Joker franchise. It wasn’t until the tail end of an intense 8-week production that we began to “see and feel” for ourselves what this thing was and could be… “delayed gratification.”

Why is this an exciting time to create new digital experiences? How does your team fit into this?

The web is an ever-evolving platform. Change is the only constant. So it’s always exciting to push what it can do and become. To do this, you need pluralists with an innovation mindset: those who savor the unknown and like standing on the periphery. We love assembling like-minded creatives and technologists who came from diverse backgrounds and disciplines but share a common vision to push the edge of possibility and create worlds beyond belief.

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