.
“Protective coveralls, a helmet, a carbon monoxide absorber, and a lamp with battery. Sign here, please. Please fasten everything securely. Now, let’s turn the lamps on. They are supposed to be on all the time”.  I dutifully follow the Foreman’s instructions. He laughs under his breath when he sees my clumsy moves. Easy for him to say, he is an experienced miner who, I am sure, has been doing it like a million times! And I? I have never been here before…

An extract from the draft description of the game created for the project’s purposes: 

“A user will get various possibilities to experience adventure on The Miners’  Route”.

·         on the computer,
·         on the mobile device,
·         on the computer + mobile device (it will be used for completing the manual tasks)

To make sure that the version designed for a smartphone and computer works optimally, scanning a special QR code and an Internet connection will be required (so the smartphone can send an update on progress in completing the tasks to a computer). Before the player “starts” the Route, a “miner’s lamp must be turned on”.  

…After a while I am in a different room. The experienced miner props himself up on a cane (a symbol of a Foreman and a very useful working tool) and tells us a story about a place we are going to see soon. He tells us about a medieval shaft where miners mined salt, while on the surface above them, the knights wearing armors were riding horses.  I try not to miss one word but I can’t focus. The helmet on my head appears to be too tight, the coveralls zipped up to my neck limits my movement. And this carbon monoxide absorber which hangs at my side. Carbon monoxide is a vicious, invisible gas. But this little box can see it. How? I have no idea.  

Finally we head out. We enter an elevator and go a few dozen meters underground. I carefully study the faces of others who are here with me. All of them, a grown men and women have the same facial expressions. It’s something between curiosity and a slight anxiety. The door finally opens. There is a long, dark tunnel in front of me. This is how my adventure begins. Together with my group I move forward. And I think to myself... How the hell am I supposed to describe it later to our graphic designers and programmers?

An extract from the game description:

“After activating the game, the user sees a darkened map of the Route. While moving ahead, particular fragments of the map are illuminated. This way the user gets a realistic impression of using a miner’s lamp.  

There are 6 spots/task on the map. The first one is active (visible in colors). Remaining tasks are inactive (they are monochromatic and can’t be activated). Clicking on the chamber starts an action”.


Where am I actually? I am sure I owe you few words of explanation. The “Wieliczka” Salt Mine is 700 years old. It is located close to the city of Cracow, the historical capital of the Kingdom of Poland. As a little town Wieliczka is picturesque and quiet. But underground... quite a contrary! Within centuries the hardworking miners carved amazing corridors out of the many kilometers of labyrinth-like tunnels and breathtaking chambers. Today the salt mine is turned into a touristic pearl, a high class monument which is visited by tourists from all around the globe (yes, Dear Reader, also from your country!) Magnificent salt sculptures, underground lakes, intricately carved floors and chandeliers… Everything here is amazing, fascinating and overwhelming with its magnitude. That is why when the company I work for was given an opportunity to develop an application for the Salt Mine, I jumped at the chance.

You can see the results of our work here:

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=air.com.goldensubmarine.wieliczkamine

iPhone https://itunes.apple.com/app/wieliczka-mine/id547928426

iPad https://itunes.apple.com/app/the-salt-mine/id547636839

Hold on, it’s just the beginning. While we were working on the application, the Mine workers didn’t twiddle their thumbs. They were coming to an end with a project they were working on for a few years, The Miners’ Route. It was supposed to be something totally different, a new perception of underground life. Tourists were supposed to get dirty and tired here. Plus maybe get a shot of adrenaline too. They were supposed to experience first-hand what the miners’ every day efforts were like.

The Route kicked off, and we launched our app. After the first application’s success (also awarded with the mFWA, thanks for your votes!), I was pleased to find out that also in this case, a similar incentive would be recommended. But this time, the task was more difficult than I thought it would be. I mean how to introduce a computer or a smartphone user to something THIS unique and at the same time make sure it’s believable? I had to check everything, touching everything, even tasting bit here and there too. So I thought to myself – Sławek, you are going to “Wieliczka” again.

An extract from the game’s description:

“A player performs activities which are related to a miners profession and tradition. As well as the unique conditions typical for the salt mine. Also, the player follows the scenario prepared for completing various tasks during a journey across the Miners’ Route.

Each task will have two aspects – educational and entertaining. Each time, before starting to perform a task, an edu-screen will be displayed, and the player will receive complete information and knowledge needed to accomplish the task presented”.


Let’s go back to the Mine. Remember, some time ago I left an elevator. We have been walking for 5 minutes now. I have a tingly sensation somewhere in my neck, and I’m tense, as I begin walking down a sidewalk (the mine’s corridor, that is). My headlamp illuminates only a small percentage of the route, the rest of it is completely dark. Everything around me is raw and rough. Sometimes I am under impression that J.R.R. Tolkien could have walked here, looking for an inspiration for one of his books. This is how Moria might look like. I almost hear those malicious Orcs rumbling their war drums rhythmically.

The Foreman’s voice interrupts my thoughts.  “Stop, Slepers I have a task for one of you. We must make sure this route is safe.” He chooses me, a Sleper, which in other words means a novice miner. He hands me a little device with a small pump. I have to apply it to the highest point of this chamber and then pump as many times as the chamber measures in meters. I check it out... Whew!... the device shows 0,0. It’s safe. The Foreman seems to be satisfied. He uses his cane to indicate the next route. So we move forward, straight into the darkness...

An extract from the game’s description:

“After measuring the chambers height, a player must click on the pump of the methane detector shown on the screen a particular number of times. (An edu-screen will provide a player with useful knowledge on how many times the pump should be clicked on). After receiving a certain result, a special blower in the chamber will be turned on to get rid of the gas. A player will receive a ‘Methane Gas Miner License’. The first task is completed, the next chamber on the map opens up”

.…Uneven thill is taking its toll on my legs. Awhile ago I stepped on a large paddle and its contents splattered all over me. It would probably piss me off, but a few minutes before I had already gotten dirty and wet while crawling through a narrow corridor, so now I simply don’t care. This journey is definitely not recommended for people suffering from claustrophobia!

We stop walking after awhile. The Foreman orders, “turn the lamps off.” Has he lost his mind? Well, he is in charge here, so the lamps go off, one after another. For a moment my eyes find it difficult to get used to a complete darkness. Darkness, it’s not the right word, I am in a cosmic black hole! I can’t see anything, absolutely nothing!

I hold still. Tap… tap…tap… I hear water dripping. I guess its somewhere behind the wall. Deep in the corridor (there is a corridor there, right? Um… I don’t remember) I hear wood cracking and barely audible steps. The sound disappears in a moment. Now I hear it again or, maybe it’s just my imagination? 

An extract from the game’s description:

“The tasks will be complemented with appropriately constructed text and sound information. The application will be provided with complete sound – the player will hear a soundtrack and the sounds of action and reverberations,  for example – the rumble of water, wood cracking, steps- all of them can be heard in the Mine every day. This way the user gets an even more realistic impression of actually “being” underground.”

We have been on our journey for a good three hours. So far, I had to check the timber beans (huge pieces of wood used to support the chambers), I measured the level of water salinity (while doing this I got my sleeve wet), I pulled a cart with the excavated material, I even found out how to set up explosives safely. At the end of the journey, an awesome surprise is waiting for me. The Foreman points at the chest where tools are that I’ll need to get to the treasure.  I take protective goggles and a pickaxe out of the chest. I start to hit the rock as hard as I can! Every one of us is trying to get our own piece of salt crystal. Whatever we end up with, we can take it home.

Clank, clank, the salt rock turns out to be as hard as… well, as a real rock. I have a feeling it won’t be easy. The Foreman wanders around and shows us where to hit the rock. I am athletic, but after a few minutes I feel really tired. Finally, I manage to chip off a piece which is shaped like something between an octopus and a cube. I admire even more now all those guys who worked like this every day. They worked in the torch light and didn’t have all those improvements we had. I am so proud of my octopus. My face falls when I see a girl carrying a piece twice as big as mine. Our adventure ends up here. Wait… there is something else...

Or, you know what, I will not reveal it yet. You have to check it out by yourself, Dear Reader.

An extract from the game’s description:

“There is a large chunk of salt on the ground. Using a pickaxe a player hits it as many times as possible, to get a desired shape. When the task is complete, the player receives a ‘Miner-Crumbler License’. The salt crystal can be sent in a form of MMS with a special dedication to someone, the player can also share it on Facebook.”

The last task is completed. The player is enticed to visit the Mine and check out in person all the real skills gained during The Miners’ Route expedition. The player receives a virtual certificate acknowledging the first professional mining experience gained on The Miners’ Route.


So, what do you think, did I manage to entice you?

If so, you can download Miners’ route here:

https://itunes.apple.com/pl/app/miners-route/id727578241?mt=8

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=air.com.goldensubmarine.minersroute

http://www.wieliczka-saltmine.com/_wsr/  

--------------------------

The Miners’ Route was developed with Adobe FLASH/AIR technology, thanks to which it is available on both computers and mobile devices. The QR codes synchronize the map’s revelation (on the computer) and tasks completion (on the smartphone or tablet).  This connection is operated by a server created by us. The project was in production for six months and ten experts worked on it.  Over a hundred graphic views were created, 20 000 lines of code were written. For the game’s physics the mechanisms of a nape engine were used. The project is available in 3 languages which are uploaded automatically, on the basis of the operating systems language. The tests and modifications took us almost a month, with a help of 20 testers. They reported over 200 remarks and errors, of course, we have implemented them all :-)

It is our third project based on Adobe FLASH/AIR technology which was awarded with the mFWA.

 


hr
Working clothes :)
Working clothes :)

Everything is ready. Let’s get it started!
Everything is ready. Let’s get it started!

These carts must be filled with salt.
These carts must be filled with salt.

Rails designed for transporting the excavated material.
Rails designed for transporting the excavated material.

Those rails must be arranged.
Those rails must be arranged.

Timber beans supporting the Boczaniec chamber.
Timber beans supporting the Boczaniec chamber.

And this is how you arrange them in the game.
And this is how you arrange them in the game.

Crumbling the salt rock for real.
Crumbling the salt rock for real.

And in the app.
And in the app.

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