Lost in Venice – A Fun Way to Discover Venice

Introduction

We developed an online quiz game called “Lost in Venice” that encourages people to learn more about the history of Venice. It is an interactive game that uses Google Street View API so players can explore Venice virtually. It is also educational because it provides short summary of the history of the most famous historic sites in Venice. And it is also fun to play, players can dress up the cartoon figure that represents them in the game by answering questions and share the game with their friends.   lostinvenice

Motivation

Venice, a dreamy city with an enormous historical, cultural and architectural heritage, attracts millions of tourists every year. Travelling to Venice is indeed a wonderful experience. However, to truly appreciate the beauty of Venice, one needs to know more about its history.

Nowadays with Google Street View application, people can take a virtual trip to Venice but are not able to get more detailed information of the sites at the same time.  And websites like Wikipedia, TripAdvisor and so on can provide people with detailed information and photos of the historic sites in Venice, however, people can hardly relate themselves with virtually being there and wandering around. So we proposed the idea of an online quiz game where people not only can virtually travel to the most famous historic sites in Venice but also can learn their history.

Game framework

 

The rough outline of the game is to show the Google Street View of five famous historic sites in Venice to the player at each round. The five sites are randomly picked from the database so the players have no idea where they will be each time they start a new round, as if they get lost in the city Venice. And that’s where the name of the game comes from. The player needs to answer a question relevant to the current site that he/she sees in order to proceed to the next sites. We use score to record how many questions the player answers correctly.

To make the game more informative,  the player can also read a short overview of a site when it appears. Moreover, a cartoon human figure is introduced to the game for more entertainment. The cartoon human figure represents the player in the quiz game, and it will be dressed up every time the player answers a question correctly. It will also seem more delighted when it is more dressed. For that, we have designed both male and female cartoon figures, as shown in the image gallery below. You can also see how the figure evolves as the score of the players increases.

The project can be separated into two major parts: database construction and game function implementation. In the following, we will illustrate our methods for both parts.

Database construction

A database of a number of famous historic sites in Venice is necessary to support the online quiz game. At the beginning, we selected 126 most popular tourist attractions from TripAdvisor to put in the quiz game database.

We need the geographical information of each site for displaying the street view using Google Street View API. The geographical information required to use Google Street View API includes coordinate (longitude and latitude) and viewpoint (pitch, heading and zoom).

Besides the geographic information, the general information and history of each Venetian historic site should also be collected. We collected the information of all the sites on our list from the Internet manually. First, we went through the information from reliable sources such as Wikipedia, the Churches of Venice, Slow Travel and etc; and then we selected the information that appeared to be interesting; at last, we summarized the information to a short passage. During the information collecting process, we discarded some sites that are not historical or can hardly be found with Google Street View. In the end, only 86 historic sites remain on our list, but we still have sufficient information for the quiz game.

Questions for the sites are also put into the database. Nevertheless, designing questions is the most creativity-demanding part of the game development. The questions are all designed based on the information we found from reliable sources. In addition, in order not to make the quiz game too hard to play, the question for each site only consists of one correct option and one wrong option. We have designed several categories of questions. These categories include architecture, art, historical fact and anecdote.

After we have finishing collecting information and designing questions, we put all these data into a MySQL database, which serves as the database for the online quiz game. The data of each site consists of  11 fields: id, name, latitude, longitude, zoom, heading, pitch, question, wrong option, correct option and answer, and we filled all the fields  with the information that we have collected and the questions that we have designed.

Game function implementation

Another major part of the project is to implement the functions of the game. Since it’s an online game, we developed the game with script language such as HTML, PHP and CSS. Figure 1 shows a flow chart that presents how the online game functions.

Figure 1: Flow chart of the game function

The main game functions that we implemented are connecting the game page with the database on the server, generating random number for extracting site from the database, displaying street view of the sites, and updating the score and cartoon figure according to the player’s answers.

We use PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor)  scripts to connect the game page with database and also extract the data from the database. PHP scripts are executed right on the server prior to transferring the data to the user. Because of this property of PHP,  we are able to load the data of  all the historic sites from the MySQL database we constructed on the server, and prior to the page load, our PHP script parses all the 11 attributes of the chosen historical site. Google Street View API is then used to display the street view of the sites, the parameters we use to load the street view are the longitude, latitude, pitch, heading and zoom, which we obtained from the database. With PHP scripts, we can also construct the function of updating scores and cartoon figures.

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Figure 2: Interface of the start page
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Figure 3: Interface of the game page.
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Figure 4: Interface of the end page

Figure 2, 3 and 4 show the interface of the online quiz game. Before starting the game, the rules will be explained once the player click the “How to Play” button. During the game session, a panel with information and the question is shown in the upper left corner of the game page. When each round of the game ends, the player can share the game on Facebook to invite more people to play the game and learn the history of Venice.

The link to the online quiz game: http://lostinvenice.16mb.com/.