Flow Communications

Flow took a trip “under the sea” to conceptualise something different for our client, the Two Oceans Aquarium, in Cape Town. Our brief was to create something completely new and fresh, giving us the chance to delve into the ever-changing world of game design.

The result was the Kelp Forest Quest.

“The Two Oceans Aquarium’s collections story and the importance of sustainability, whether in an exhibit or on a plate, are two of our core values. We love being able to communicate these values through one application that combines forward-thinking technology with a nostalgic design style,” says the aquarium’s online content executive, Ingrid Sinclair.

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A mom and son linger at the aquarium's Kelp Forest Quest. (Image: Two Oceans Aquarium)

An eco-conscious concept that focuses on informing consumers about our local marine life, Kelp Forest Quest works via Twitter and specific hashtags.

The process started two years ago, when the Two Oceans Aquarium informed us that its Ocean Basket Kelp Forest Exhibit would be moving and an interesting and interactive virtual display would need to take its place during the renovation period.

A fun fact: there aren’t many kelp forests housed in marine exhibits around the world. Two Oceans is one of the few in the southern hemisphere to have one.

The Kelp Forest Quest had to be enabled to work off both desktop and mobile devices. The idea was that visitors could engage with it at the aquarium, adding fish and kelp to the digital forest by tweeting, using the venue’s Wi-Fi, and then seeing their contribution instantly appear on the screen. Afterwards, they could see the game’s progress by monitoring it on their personal computers.

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The original kelp-game design. (Image: Flow Communications)

How to play the game

Visitors can access the game via Twitter, by logging in, tweeting @KelpForestQuest and selecting one of the hashtags from the display.

Each hashtag represents an aspect of marine life and adds it to the tank. The aim of the game is to maintain a healthy balance within the tank and to keep marine life thriving.

The list of hashtags includes #galjoen, #catshark, #kelp, #redstumpnose, #whitestumpnose and #strepie.

If you’d like to see the progress online, you can simply follow this link and watch it all unfold in the comfort of your home.

And, most importantly, if you’re visiting the Two Oceans Aquarium, you can see it happen right in front of your eyes. Visit the display, located just above the popular shark tank, log in and start tweeting!

The Kelp Forest Quest is also an educational tool, reaching learners through social media. The game display area also includes information from The Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) and informs visitors about endangered fish in the Western Cape’s seas, unsustainable fishing practices and the marine life found in the Kelp Forest Exhibit.

Flow developer Stephen Frank explains, “We developed the fish animations and scenery using an HTML5 game engine. This was a fun variation from website layout design, which we love doing, too.”

Kelp Forest Quest has a distinct 8-bit design (each pixel is represented by one 8-bit byte), resembling retro arcade games from the early 1980s and 1990s.

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The final design in action! (Image: Two Oceans Aquarium)

During Flow’s development stages, the initial concept shifted to a landscape design for the “tank”. The logo also morphed from pink to blue.

The developer team used the Firebase database, which allows the game to update in real time as people tweet at the Kelp Forest Quest Twitter account, says Stephen.

Since its launch, the game has been popular with adults and children alike. If you’re planning to visit the Two Oceans Aquarium this year, check it out, play along and share it with us!

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