Geo-Based Social Network For Gamified Travel
How Visartech performed the full-cycle location-based social network development of a unique tourism ecosystem with a gamification touch that won market recognition
Atlas Globe Ltd is a B2C company presented by a location-based social networking app. It aims to gamify the people’s experience in spontaneous traveling by exploring surroundings through a Pokemon-Go-like experience.
Partnership since: 2019
Top 2 & the Most Popular Startup awards at CCPC 2019
2-in-1 Game & a B2C Business App with B2B Potential
Facilitating the excitement of spontaneous travel with a gamified app.
“Imagine the year 2300. After many decades of humankind abandoning the Earth in favor of living on Mars, you decide to come back and explore the remnants of human civilization. All you have is the ExplorR app on your iPhone 320S to uncover the surroundings and gradually reveal the locations with memories attached to them. Parks, gardens, museums, restaurants – you start to have a mental picture of what life on Earth was like hundreds of years ago. It is always a magical moment to discover someone’s memories that give a soul to a previously lifeless place.”
That is the picture our client shared with us when we first talked. At that moment they had a poorly designed prototype. After the whole code architecture review, we have decided to build a new prototype from scratch.
Together we have completely redefined the exploration experience by falling into the demand of fundamentally different traveling – the people’s desire to discover places far off the guided tours, with more freedom, true culture, personal memories, and without prior planning.
The full cycle of gamified app development has been performed by utilizing well-proven software development tools and the latest tech advancements in mapping, backends, data storage, multi-user experiences, and much more. The app idea has resonated extremely well among the target audience and judges of the prestigious competitions and accelerators.
Accurate execution of the full-cycle app development process.
Visual Content Production
How to make a geo-based social network MVP in the most efficient way possible.
The client has turned to the Visartech team with a passionate idea to revolutionize the traveling industry via an exciting location-based social network app that allows users to explore cities, discover new places, and deepen the connections between people and locations.
|The first interactions included a code review of an initial prototype. This version had a poor, non-modular architecture that was hard to extend or maintain. So we’ve decided to build a new project from the ground, with all the functionality required for the MVP.
The experience of navigating the city was crucial for the success of the app. So, some other challenges were related to the map as well. The customizable animated user avatars had to be displayed on the map, to make the experience more personalized. And the “fog of war” effect had to be implemented to make it even more intriguing for the users to explore the surroundings.
The key feature of the app was an interactive real-time map with a custom style and 3D elements. But just making an interactive map was not enough.
Apart from it, there were also a lot of other social and backend-related features to implement:
- Gather Location Cards
Capture collectible items with information about the places you’ve visited.
- Interact with friends
Find, add or follow friends, see friends’ profiles, journeys, and memoirs at the places of interest.
- Social Share
Share your journeys, location cards, memoirs with your friends internally, or via social networks and chats.
Another important aspect was the app localization. It had to be designed with localization in mind right from the start and eventually presented in multiple languages.
To sum it up, the whole app was expected to meet the following requirements:
Users had to be able to navigate geo-locations conveniently.
Players had to have the opportunity to collect the places they are interested in.
Users had to be allowed to interact with each other via feedback and social sharing.
In-game visuals and content needed to be an extension of the real world.
Since the project was at the stage of MVP development, we had to achieve all these requirements in the most efficient way possible, at the same time preserving the high quality and user experience.
End-to-end app development of a geo-based social network MVP.
The client was working on the tech documentation on a regular basis, keeping it always up to date, taking part in the project development as a part of an Agile team, and was always ready to explain the project requirements to the development team in detail. We have received all the art from the client.
This way, the Visartech team was solely responsible for the application development.
A gamified real-time nature of the mobile app that included the use of 3D elements has urged us to select Unity as the core frontend technology.
So, the team working on the project included:
The client was actively involved in the product development, by participating in the Backlog Grooming, Sprint Planning, and Demo meetings with the development team.
After thorough research of various Map SDKs, we have allocated the Mapbox API to develop an interactive real-time map. It has an excellent Unity SDK that supports location-based games, custom 3D elements, and augmented reality technology. It was a perfect fit for the app idea.
To implement the customizable avatars, we’ve developed a custom avatar constructor. It lets the users construct their 3D avatars of various parts: body, hairstyles, T-shirts, boots, etc. Additionally, we’ve implemented a custom shader for the “fog of war” effect. To handle localization we’ve used the I2 localization plugin from the Unity Asset Store.
But the most critical technical decision taken during the project development was the choice of the backend tech stack. The backend solution had to provide:
- User Authentication
- Memos and Photo Storage
- Custom POI Database
- Friends Functionality
- Social Sharing
Due to the nature of the application, it had to support a lot of users and be scalable.
Instead of implementing a microservices approach that is so popular among tech giants like Facebook or LinkedIn, we have decided to move further with an easier and less expensive path. We have chosen to make a custom backend solution using popular web frameworks like Express (Node.js) or Django (Python).
However, the MVP phase implied really tight deadlines and budgets, hence completing all the required backend functionality in a custom way was still impossible. So, we went creative!
We tried to find the existing technologies with the ready-made required functionality in the market. And we found it.
GameSparks became our choice for the backend.
The only backend feature we couldn’t implement using GameSparks was photos storage. So we have used a separate storage service for that purpose. Our choice fell on Cloud Storage for Firebase.
After all, we’ve delivered a production-ready and well-tested product to the client for further marketing and app promotion efforts to acquire new users. The agile approach together with transparent communication and our extensive technology expertise helped us solve all the app development challenges in the most efficient way. We’ve managed to make a product that looked and felt exactly how the client imagined it.
Visartech is incredible to work with. They understand exactly what is needed in our project brief. They are responsive, flexible and go the extra mile to achieve the tasks. Full of talented developers, making it very easy to work with. I would highly recommend working with them.
The path to recognition in the reputable competition.
Code review of the initial app version, requirements gathering, tech specification, and new prototype development.
The app triumphs with winning two respected awards at the CCPC 2019.
The app launched on the App Store and Play Market.
The second release with new features and an improved UI.
Further app support with necessary upgrades.
Getting recognition within an app community and in reputable competitions.
Together with the client, we have completely redefined the exploration experience by enabling users to create their own journeys via an app built with gamification and location-based technology.
Namely, this location-based social networking app can brag about the following results:
- The Most Popular Award & Top 2 among 80+ pitch submissions, 8 out of those were selected to pitch to several US-China investor judges at CCPC 2019.
- The app eventually was launched on popular app stores and formed a community of over 3000 users, 1624 POIs collected, and more than 18000 locations uncovered.
- The application has combined game mechanics and a business app in one with a capacity to turn from a B2C approach to B2B with outdoor facilities.
The Visartech team is extremely delighted that our contribution to the app development has resulted in our clients’ success and recognition on the market. This outcome perfectly aligns with the mission and values we hold in our software development company aimed at delivery excellence.
ExplorR - Gamified Traveling Today
- Competition Awards
- Places Collected
- Travellers Engaged
- Locations Uncovered