Nickelodeon wanted something fun and easy to get into that would allow players to dance alongside their favourite Nick characters and share experiences with each other, very much along the lines of the ubiquitous ‘Elf-Yourself’ Flash game. Our aims were therefore:
To build something that had a silly/humorous feel that will encourage players to laugh and share with their friends.
To promote personal ownership of the experience by allowing players to use their own face, choose their own options and choreograph their own dance.
Be simple and quick to do. Needs to feel quick and streamlined without feeling like it lacks depth and options, should you want to explore them.
The key challenge inherent in Nickelodeon ‘Elf-Yourself’ style proposal was that iOS powered phones won’t allow video that is real-time composited with animated elements (like Flash would) and also forces video to run full-screen. We proposed moving away from video as a result and instead animating everything ourselves, compositing the players face into the animation. This was green lit but in itself presented some challenges!
How would we create dances that not only looked great but could be programmed to apply to any character, be controlled live by the player, smoothly flow into one another and be recorded at minimal file size so the dance could easily be recreated on a friends device?
Another challenge was to make all of this both extendable, so that Nick could add as many brands and as many dances as they liked, and re-skinnable so that seasonal visual styles such as valentines day or Christmas could be applied to keep it feeling fresh and relevant.
Dance and Share proved to be a huge hit with kids on the Nickelodeon site, allowing them to upload their face, pick their favourite live-action characters from top Nick shows such as ‘Gameshakers’, ‘Bella and the Bulldogs’, ’Every Witch Way’ and ‘School of Rock’ then hit record build their own live action dance in realtime. They can then share this with their friends – and the world!
Dances were animated using skeletal animation tools that rendered out via HTML5 canvas, this meant we could have lots of difference dances for very little file size, smooth 60fps motion and the dance moves could react to player inputs and seamlessly blend together. It also meant we could record players inputs to a database and then recreate the dance on a friends computer.
Dance and share was originally launched in November 2015 but was so popular Nickelodeon came back to us to update it in March 2016 with a valentines themed skin, new characters and a full set of new dance moves for players to try! We also added the gallery feature. This would allow a Nick-curated selection of user-generated dances to populate an in-page gallery that would sit below the game on the nick website and show a section of the latest dances, helping create buzz and a feeling of community around the game.
We had a germ of an idea to offer our audience something that they could not only enjoy themselves but also share with their friends too. We wanted something funny, irreverent and festive and Peg more than delivered on this! Video couldn't be used as originally planned but this didn't seem like a hurdle; Peg came to me with a solution to the problem straight away and Dance & Share is all the better for it. They produced something unique, simple to use and absolutely on brand and more than fulfilled the remit. We really enjoy working with Peg; their approach is straight forward and clear, there's no denying that their technical knowledge and design skills are exemplary, and most importantly, they are thoroughly nice people.