Transmedia Blog

World Without Water

robert | February 18, 2018  ‐  No Comments

The news that Cape Town could run out of water in 10 weeks’ time has prompted a lot of discussion about how this could happen.

In the BBC’s post on the 11 cities most likely to run out of water, it states “global demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030, thanks to a combination of climate change, human action and population growth”. Apparently 1 in 4 of the world’s largest cities are in a precarious situation regards having enough drinking water.

Public Awareness, Private Emotion

A greater awareness of how water is wasted or could be used more economically can definitely help but information alone is not enough to change habits (look at the smoking industry for proof).

Our belief is that storytelling and technology can be used to deliver a message with an emotional impact; and, as with our crisis simulations, it’s the emotional connection to the data that changes behaviour. To illustrate this, my colleague Belen Santa-Olalla has created DayZero (https://dayzero.cm.cr) a short interactive story in which you meet your future self in a world without water. Decisions you make today will impact advance or recede the final day the water runs out in your city.

Call To Action

DayZero is intended as a lightweight demonstration of the capability of storytelling and technology combined to engage the public in an important issue. An additional benefit of this approach is that the data collected reveals common misperceptions which can be used by municipalities to further improve and tailor their message.

If you think your city or country could benefit from our technology, drop as a line!

http://www.conducttr.com // info [at] conducttr [dot] com

RoW: +44 207 193 4567 // USA: +1 415 287 4150

Creating Safe-to-fail Scenarios

robert | November 16, 2017  ‐  1 Comment

A challenge that many scenario writers ask about is “how do I prevent the audience from going off-track while making it seem like there is no track?”

This is desirable is because we want the experience to feel authentic and avoid the audience feeling frustrated when the decision they want to make isn’t on the menu.

So how do we address this? How do we create enough freedom of choice while still meeting the exercise objectives? How do we limit the amount of content we need to create to make the exercise feel responsive.

Open-world games like Fallout and GTA have massive landscapes for players to explore but even here if you head too far in any direction you’ll find a mountain you can’t climb or a river you can’t cross or a barricade you can’t go around. When you reach the limits of the open-world the immersion doesn’t collapse – the world rebuffs your decisions and you’re forced to try something else.

Our approach then is to think in terms of feedback loops. Players can go so far in a certain direction but then resistance or negative feedback will cause them to reevaluate their strategy and hence turn around and try a different tack.

Providing feedback

Scenario design includes identifying stakeholders and how they will react to player decisions. As players get closer to the boundary of the exercise, stakeholder reactions get stronger.

Initially of course we should try to nudge the players back onto the path(s) but if subtlety doesn’t work then more direct interventions will be necessary.

There are several options:

  • breaking news and social media communicates disapproval or negative reaction to the choices the player makes
  • explicit data is published directly to the player that contradicts earlier assumptions. This can be from a clandestine source or a known source
  • a “mentor” or superior character makes contact and directly instructs or advises a change of plan.

Deciding the boundaries

When analyzing and presenting future scenarios it is common to first determine two axes of uncertainty. In the case of designing a scenario for a training exercise, these axes determine the primary training objectives.

For example, in the diagram below, the exercise tests the participants’ ability to contain a pandemic by maintaining effective quarantines with public support. The assumption here being that poor public communication of the legal, ethical, emotional and rational basis for quarantines – and the results of their effectiveness – will cause social disharmony with the potential for rioting and even civil war.


AAIABADGAAAAAQAAAAAAAAq_AAAAJDRkMGVjNzk0LTBmZTgtNDBiMC1iNWU3LTY1ZDY0MDdiZTZiMwWith these two axes – quarantine and public communications – we have set the core parameters of the exercise and we can create “world building” content for each quadrant of the diagram that will communicate to players how the world is changing based on their decisions.

Assuming we start at the center with no quarantine and no communications, player decisions will cause the experience to move from the center out to the edges. As it does so, our feedback to players about how the world is changing will reduce in subtlety and increase in volume – as shown in the second diagram.

Effective execution

In theory it ought to be possible to script and automate much of the content publication ahead of time. Especially if the design effectively communicates to players the issues at hand so that they can deduce the scenario axes. This will mean that they recognize the cues being sent them and they determine which direction their decisions are taking them.

Even if live injects are needed to cause an about-face, determining the scenario axes ahead of time helps identify and prepare possible content to have in our armoury.

Creating a safe-to-fail environment means allowing players the scope to explore within broad boundaries and for them to see the impact of their decisions. The impact is communicated by stakeholders who care about the outcomes and have conflicting points of view.

As player decisions take them closer to the edge of the exercise, feedback in the form of news, data and direct communications gets stronger and quicker and informs them of the world they created – perhaps with the objective of having them see their failure and reverse their direction of travel.


This blog post is part of our Serious Games Unconference.

Follow it here! http://bit.ly/unconfnov

Read original article here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/creating-safe-to-fail-scenarios-robert-pratten/


Competitive Strategy Development

robert | October 19, 2017  ‐  No Comments

Plans implemented without a rigorous challenge to the rationale and assumptions behind them run the risk of falling apart. Failure can be costly.

Considering a market entry strategy, for example, a business might make assumptions about how the incumbent will react only to find it is better prepared to fend off new entrants: the incumbent is quicker to discount and bundle its products and it exercises its influence to stall the new entrant’s distribution. Shouldn’t this reaction have been anticipated?

Now imagine using Competitive Strategy Development (CSD): the business creates two teams – one the new entrant and one the incumbent – and they challenge each other over a series of turns. No complicated and expensive market simulation is needed, just the intelligence of the opposing teams and a way to represent the market.

Maybe the exercise is about capturing the airwaves, capturing hearts and minds or capturing shelf space. Whenever battleground, CSD can be easily adapted to develop plans with better critical thinking and commercial resilience. At the end of the strategy session the teams will share their experience of competing against each other: not only the technical approaches but also the mindset, the feelings, the expectations.

It’s always about the people

Earlier this week we demonstrated our Black Swan strategy development suite (so called because of its intention to to get teams thinking about the unknowable unknowns) using a scenario based around the arctic circle and the competition for natural resources there.


The combination of old school physical cards and counters with technology serves several purposes:

  • Faster to implement
  • Greater immersion
  • Faster review
  • Detailed post-exercise decision analysis.

Placing teams in different rooms or in different parts of the world, they are unable to see the definitive moves made by their opponent and instead must experience their competitor’s tactics as they would in real life – via social media and public news media.

As the exercise unfolds, our storytelling technology generates simulated social media posts and TV reports while all the time allowing the exercise director to interject with her own “live” unscripted simu-tweets and TV reports.

As each adversary makes a move, we used our Android mobile app and NFC-encoded cards to quickly codify the decisions. Scanned cards reduce the time needed to document developments and ensure consistency and contemporaneous data (which is captured on an exercise timeline).



Plans developed in a vacuum usually wither and die at first breath. Far better then to have competing teams develop real implementable market strategies in an adversarial exercise. This approach will ensure more thoughtful, resilient and defendable approaches for the real world.

Location-based Experiences (Attack on Titan Quest)

robert | June 29, 2017  ‐  No Comments

Lunched earlier this week and expected to go into overdrive this weekend at the Anime Expo in LA, Attack on Titan Quest is a two-part location-based experience developed by Conducttr for AoT publisher Kodansha.

The narrative of the experience is that the convention center for Anime Expo, LA is “inside the wall” and Little Tokyo is “outside the wall”. Consistent with the AoT storyworld, inside the wall is positioned as a training exercise requiring players to find five missing soldiers while outside the wall is a full-on mission to defeat increasing stronger Titans.

Both quests are independent of the other but it’s more fun to complete both.


The outside quest uses a web application built on our Communicator framework (with back-end naturally powered by the Conducttr story-gaming engine) and requires the player to be in LA and to enable location services on their browser. During development and testing we could play online without going to a specific location but licencing restrictions allow us only to offer the location-based LA experience to the public.

The inside quest is a more familiar SMS-based scavenger hunt. Part of the reason for the switch of channels is expectations of poor WiFi and internet reception that is typical of most conference venues.

While the inside quest requires players to follow a pre-defined path (as discovering each checkpoint reveals a clue to finding the next), the outside quest allows a more free-flowing route with players able to visit Titan hotspots in the order of their choosing.

Defeating Titans

Those familiar with AoT will know that to kill a Titan requires the soldier to slice the back of the neck. In our game we test the player’s sword skills with increasingly complex swipe patterns (see image above) against a vanishing fight period.

This simple mechanic combined with the minimally frustrating requirement to maintain a sufficient gas supply (the swords are gas-powered) delivers an extremely fun experience.

Character phone calls

A highlight of the SMS experience is several phone calls from the popular AoT character, Mikasa. The calls were recorded by the same actress that is the voice-over artist for the anime which screens on Funimation. This means the voice is familiar to the show’s millions of viewers and when heard directly spoken to YOU via your phone creates an incredible intimacy that is actually quite mind-blowing.

Wider applications

In our mission to make everyone’s life an adventure, we continually look for opportunities to employ our technology in the widest ways to improve people’s health, wealth and happiness.

Clearly there’s been a lot of attention on location-based games and their potential to improve public health, simply because it gets people moving. We certainly feel there’s lots of potential here and especially if it were combined with an activity tracker like Fitbit or Moves (as we can do but didn’t for this project).

2017-06-24_07-51-49The other popular use case is tourism. As this article explains, location-based experiences can connect people to culture and heritage – and of course an opportunity to collect data about popular locations and the times and days that people visit. The image above uses data from early play-testing in San Francisco to show popular hotspots. Using Conducttr as the multi-channel story-gaming engine offers many advantages including easy relocation and refinement of hotspots by an admin with no development skills, easy integration across experiences and services such that follow-up emails can be specifically targeted based on activity or locations visited and of course deep data mining of player activity across multiple channels.

Outside of the obvious health and tourism applications, the technology could be used for onboarding – either requiring new employees to visit locations to become familiar with their whereabouts or just as a team game that reveals more about the company and gets people talking. The AoT game is a single-player experience but there’s no reason why this couldn’t be played competitively with teams.

Go play the game!

If you’re in LA between June 29th and July 4th 2017, go play it for yourself https://aot.cm.cr












Blended Training

robert | June 20, 2017  ‐  No Comments


It’s typical to think of VR, AR and branching narrative as different disciplines or technologies but in our podcast we talk with Aoi Nakamura one of directors of WHIST, an immersive experience that combines them all.

The audience, wearing the low-cost GEAR VR headsets, explore a physical space (the headset uses the phone’s camera to allow the audience to see the space) until specific objects are recognized by AR software. The recognition triggers a 360 movie which can branch depending on your gaze (i.e. where you look).

At the end of the experience, each audience member gets a personalized psychometric profile based on the way they navigated the space and the 360 movies.

While WHIST is an artistic endeavor, it’s not hard to see how the approach could be used in training to explore complex spaces like the bridge of a ship or oil & gas rigs: the headset would guide the trainee through the real physical space and trigger pertinent video playback that might be, say, the dramatization of a crisis.  During the 360 video crisis, the system tracks where the trainee is focusing attention and could allow them to trigger decisions with their gaze that de-escalates the unfolding drama. At the end of the session, the trainee gets a performance assessment about how they navigated the space and how they responded to the crisis.

Using Transmedia Storytelling to Increase Serendipity in Informal Learning

robert | November 1, 2016  ‐  No Comments

It’s long been known that combining informal learning with formal learning improves learning outcomes thanks to a beneficial effect on learner motivation. But informal learning means the learner decides what’s important or of interest to him. Hence, this could be at a tangent to what the instructor-as-expert thinks is important.

So what if we could build an informal learning environment that increased the likelihood of learners taking an interest in and directing themselves towards what the instructor thought were the key concepts, rather than leaving informal/unexpected learning to chance?

The diagram below shows the platforms typically associated with different types of learning – formal and informal. This article proposes an approach towards that Informal/Incidental learning that uses transmedia storytelling to increase the serendipity of learners reinforcing the formal learning.


What is Transmedia Storytelling?

Transmedia storytelling is telling a story across multiple platforms in such a way that the platforms are additive. That is, each platform highlights a unique perspective on the story and doesn’t just repurpose the same content.

For example, a minor character in a video might have their story told in a series of blog posts; or a location mentioned in an email might have its full details revealed on a tourism web page.

For us at Conducttr, transmedia storytelling is also a design principal we use to create participatory experiences. The double-layer model shown to the left in the diagram below shows how we would embed a learner journey on top of what might be typical instructional design.

Add to this model the aspects of timing and pacing and we get a four-layer “transmedia learning” model – the delivery of content over time in such a way that it’s designed to increase motivation and memory retention.


Lifelike Experiences

Working with our Brazilian partners, Lifelike, we’ve been able to experiment and improve our understanding of how to appropriate platforms that blend informal and formal learning.

In the diagram below we take a concept from transmedia storytelling which is the “storyworld”. A storyworld is typically a fictional world that encompasses a multitude of possible stories – for example the world of Harry Potter is one of wizards, wands and spells; James Bond is a world of espionage, guns and gadgets.   In the context of our transmedia learning, “in-world” means content in the fictional world we’ve wrapped around the learning (say a Twitter account from a mad professor searching for a flux capacitor) whereas “out-of-world” would be anything that’s not inside that fictional world (say a Wikipedia entry on Ohms Law).

Formal learning is most likely “out of world” whereas informal learning allows us to create “in world” content.

When it comes to intentional and incidental learning, direct communications to learners as afforded by email, SMS and phone calls lend themselves to very specific plot points or concepts or facts that the learner must come in contact with. Social media on the other hand is more community-based, more social of course, and this lends itself better to incidental learning.

None of this represents hard and fast rules – it’s just a rule of thumb – but the intention is to provide some introductory structure while designers new to transmedia storytelling find their feet.


Writing Learning Stories

The diagram below highlights how certain character archetypes might be employed for certain types of learning.

The “Mentor” for example, is a character like, say, Yoda, that guides the learner in an informal way through the challenges of the formal learning – offering hints and tips, anecdotes and compassion. The Mentor is like a parental figure (but “cool”!) whereas the Sidekick is more like friend.

The Sidekick might travel ahead of the learner, making mistakes in a fictional world that shine a light on the real world concepts of the formal learning.

Again, the position of the archetypes aren’t set in stone – the point of the diagram is to provide a starting point for ideas in storytelling and how the story characters might support the formal learning and be true to themselves.


Personalized Learning

Adaptive learning is something of a Holy Grail and we’re rather proud to have perfected our approach over several years now.

The diagram below is a template we use as a starting point for integrating a formal elearning with a fictional storyworld.

At the top of the diagram is a typical learner journey – start a course, complete assignments, finish the course. On the rows below are the data we seek to obtain about the learner’s progress and finally, on the bottom row, is the content we publish.

Note that in this model, we’re wrapping a fictional story around the instructional designer’s course with the intention of elucidating key concepts while proving fun, surprise and motivation. You can see too that we use the interactive narrative structure of “kernals” and “satellites” – kernals being the heart of soul or tent poles of the story while satellites are the fluffier bits, the parts of the story we’re free to personalize at will without derailing the plot.

Depending on the project, the “character interventions” might be purely fictional or could additionally be changes in course materials such as an easier task to improve motivation if the learner appears to be struggling.


Conclusion:  why so serious?

Transmedia storytelling offers an excellent opportunity to engage learners in a wrapper around formal structures and can do so in a very systematic, structured way without damaging the integrity of the desired informal or formal learning environment.

Good storytellers should allow themselves the opportunity to tell good stories with interactive characters – and apply this approach to any client category. For example, compliance training for bankers can be extremely dull but a transmedia approach with stories told, say, on SMS during a commute to work can firmly embed important lessons. Why shouldn’t corporates use fictional warlords and oligarchs to illustrate important rules of conduct?

And of course with interactivity comes performance assessment – so no longer can someone use their assistant to click through an exercise, because detailed activity tracking and peer comparisons can identify cheats, liabilities and top performers!

Creating a personalized, serendipitous informal learning environment around the learner increases motivation and learning that really sticks.




Connecting Amazon Echo to Conducttr

robert | October 13, 2016  ‐  No Comments

Here’s how to give Conducttr some Alexa Skills 🙂

Here’s the code used in the video example

  “intents”: [
      “intent”: “GetFacebookMsg”
// Credit to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt9WdE5kR6g for the code base!
var https = require(‘https’)
exports.handler = (event, context) => {
  try {
    if (event.session.new) {
      // New Session
      console.log(“NEW SESSION”)
    switch (event.request.type) {
      case “LaunchRequest”:
        // Launch Request
        console.log(`LAUNCH REQUEST`)
            buildSpeechletResponse(“Welcome to Conducttr”, true),
      case “IntentRequest”:
        // Intent Request
        console.log(`INTENT REQUEST`)
        switch(event.request.intent.name) {
          case “”: // INTENT GOES HERE
            var endpoint = “” // ENDPOINT GOES HERE
            var body = “”
            https.get(endpoint, (response) => {
              response.on(‘data’, (chunk) => { body += chunk })
              response.on(‘end’, () => {
                var data = JSON.parse(body)
                var last_comment = data.results[0].this_tweet  // MODIFY THIS TO SUIT YOUR DATA
                    buildSpeechletResponse(`hmmm… ${last_comment}`, true),
            throw “Invalid intent”
      case “SessionEndedRequest”:
        // Session Ended Request
        console.log(`SESSION ENDED REQUEST`)
        context.fail(`INVALID REQUEST TYPE: ${event.request.type}`)
  } catch(error) { context.fail(`Exception: ${error}`) }
// Helpers
buildSpeechletResponse = (outputText, shouldEndSession) => {
  return {
    outputSpeech: {
      type: “PlainText”,
      text: outputText
    shouldEndSession: shouldEndSession
generateResponse = (speechletResponse, sessionAttributes) => {
  return {
    version: “1.0”,
    sessionAttributes: sessionAttributes,
    response: speechletResponse

How Pokemon Go and the DNC hack are related.

robert | July 29, 2016  ‐  No Comments


The Democratic party hack and Pokemon Go are both battles for the mind. They both demonstrate that there is no reality, only multiple perceptions of the world that we in turn perceive as a reality.

Pokemon Go is a location-based game that overlays onto the physical world a fictional world populated by cute monsters. While our mobile phones act as a portal into this parallel world – allowing us to see the previously unseen –  it’s our imaginations that allow us to believe monsters are out there.

Of course many will proclaim that they know the monsters aren’t real but large parts of the population are acting as if they were real – maybe hundreds leaving the safety of the couch to venture outside to enslave virtual pets.

So do players believe those monsters are really real? It actually doesn’t matter too much if players are acting as if they do. Physically real or virtually real we are all becoming more accepting of worlds that can’t be seen. Worlds that are uncovered and revealed to us through technology. Sometimes we are more trusting of technology than what we observe first hand in physical space – such as when we witness a conflict between Google maps/streetview and a city block that’s found to be unexpectedly demolished. We double-check the technology-offered reality with our physical reality and at first don’t believe what we see in front of us.

The DNC hackers and those responding to it also want us to believe that there are monsters out there: Monsters that can’t be seen but are revealed to us through technology. Regardless of whether the hackers are State-sponsored or not, this hack is an example of an aspect of cyber warfare to influence negative opinion towards an adversary. Opinions and actions are driven by beliefs and beliefs come from interpretations of the world. If someone can change the interpretation of the world – to overlay or replace the old reality with a new reality, then they can get others to act through this “soft power” without ever physically coercing them.

This is why storytelling matters and why transmedia storytelling matters most. We make sense of the world through stories – connecting this event with another and imagining the relationships between them and the implications. Positive stories influence us in positive ways, giving us self-belief and adherence to behaviours that may have otherwise faded sooner. Negative stories hurt – even if they’re not based on fact because there are no facts, no reality, there are only beliefs.

Storytelling is about controlling information – who has it, who doesn’t, when it’s released or when it’s withheld. The DNC hack is a beat, a plot point in an adversary’s story – a “counter-narrative” to  combat the Democratic party narrative. Pokemon Go is both a framework for player-driven narratives born of their scavenging activities and a mechanism to re-see the world and it’s stories via points of interest.

Storytelling is powerful and transmedia storytelling is more powerful still, because it’s about building a story around the audience so that it fits into their world, around their world such that our narrative becomes pervasive, unavoidable, multifaceted and reinforcing.

When you’re next creating a training exercise or health programme or entertainment experience, consider how you might influence someone’s perception of reality through transmedia storytelling and the benefits it might bring, the behaviours it might change and the outcomes it could deliver. Let your story become the seeds for someone else’s story because the only reality is the story we write for ourselves.

Exercise Control and Performance Assessment

robert | April 28, 2016  ‐  No Comments

Yesterday we delivered to the UK Ministry of Defence our “personal assistant for instructors” or, in the military acronym, CUARATT (connected universal assessment and real-time analysis training tool).

The video below shows the technology in operation in an instrumented battlefield scenario on private land.

Adaptive Training

So what’s going on?

Conducttr is operating from the cloud as an intelligent training platform: it holds the exercise scenario and listens to wearables and IoT devices  to track trainee performance and progress.

The exercise instructor is able to make real-time inquiries and Conducttr sends “intelligent prompts” and activity alerts – bothering the instructor only for events that s/he may wish to investigate further.  Should the exercise need changing (made more difficult or easier), the instructor is able to branch the scenario without breaking immersion.

Throughout the exercise, Conducttr receives real-time data from the trainees and the instrumented battlefield. It compares performance against benchmarks and expected performance (for example time, between two locations, pulse rate at a certain time, pulse rate compared to other trainees at that time and so on) and determines if it should intervene or alert the instructor.

Note that intervention might mean interacting with synthetic environments which in turn are interpreted by the trainees and the scenario branched.

Activity Tracking

Today, it’s our contention that only enough data is collected to ensure that training is proceeding as desired. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg –  the “expected actions”. As the pyramid diagram below shows, there is much more data to be collected that would provide context for the exercise.

Conducttr maintains detailed activity tracking that contains all this collected data so that exercises can be mined for insights and improvement opportunities.


Completely customizable

CUARATT is a universal tool meaning that it is completely customizable to only show information relevant to that particular exercise.


In the diagram above, the instructional designer creates the scenario (either from scratch or copying a previous project) and the CUARATT configuration file – none of which requires coding although connecting into operational systems does require knowledge of APIs.

On the right of the diagram, the instructor and observer team is able to send injects (including audio injects that play on a trainee’s mobile or operational equipment) and make qualitative assessments while receiving real-time data about performance and exercise progress.


Conducttr is now unique in its ability to connect live physical environments, sythentic virtual environments and social media, email, text messaging, phone calls etc. so that it’s the perfect system for counter-insurgency training, crisis management and civil defense/emergency exercises.


To try a demo, check out http://market.conducttr.com/experiences/hostage-rescue


Working in Transmedia

robert | March 2, 2016  ‐  No Comments

We were lucky enough to be covered by El Pais in their documentary series about jobs of the future!

Please checkout the video:

Si te gusta contar historias, tienes que saber de transmedia, el ingrediente secreto que convierte cualquier narración en una experiencia única.

Se acabaron las historias que sólo se escuchan o se ven. Ahora las historias se viven. En Londres y de la mano del gurú transmedia Robert Pratten, conoceremos los nuevos recursos que han revolucionado la narración, convirtiendo a cada cliente en el protagonista de su propia aventura.

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