Bringing innovative storytelling to new dimensions

How Fictioneers developed two cutting-edge Wallace & Gromit AR apps

Wallace & Gromit’s first foray into AR

Aardman Animations, the creators of Wallace & Gromit, tasked Fictioneers with bringing this iconic series into the digital world with two AR apps. The first, The Big Fix Up, brings Wallace & Gromit’s adventures into fans’ homes. Fix Up the City, the second app, offers a unique city-scale experience of users’ surroundings in three locales.

  • The challenge

    Finding innovative ways to bring Wallace & Gromit into the digital world and reach new audiences

  • Platforms

    iOS, Android

  • Team members

    43 contributors across a variety of partner organizations and the U.K. government

  • Location

    Bristol and Cardiff, U.K., San Francisco, U.S.

Bringing Wallace and Gromit into the physical world

Fictioneers, a consortium of three companies (Sugar Creative, Potato, and Tiny Rebel Games) leveraged Unity’s AR tech stack and artists tools to build immersive AR experiences that stay true to Wallace & Gromit’s visual style and are accessible to a wide audience of all ages.

Wallace in a pile of posters

The results

  • The Big Fix Up 

    • 197 story events over 90 minutes
    • 150,000+ website visits
    • 500,000+ story jobs completed
    • 420,000+ earned media hits
    • Winner of over 10 industry awards
  • Fix Up The City 
    • 1000+ instances of AR gameplay
    • 92.5% NPS rating

Finding multiplatform support with AR Foundation

When Fictioneers built The Big Fix Up, they considered which software could enable rapid development for multiple platforms, as well as providing quality output that would impress users.

AR Foundation helped the team to develop a single codebase that supports both iOS and Android applications. The tech acted as a wrapper for the shared features of ARCore and ARKit, while enabling the team to leverage platform-specific features like ARKit’s People Occlusion – without having to write a single line of platform-specific code.

AR Environment’s probes for real-world reflections and Light Estimation systems for coloring and shadows were essential AR features used to create The Big Fix Up, seamlessly blending virtual and physical worlds.

Unlocking faster workflows with Unity MARS

MARS’s advanced workflows helped Fictioneers developers to create, test, and iterate on complex AI characters, all within the Unity Editor.

The Simulation view was the backbone of the “Fix Up Your Space” feature. Players could get up close with Wallace’s inventions and key props from the story as it unfolded in a sandbox-style interactive environment. MARS made it possible to program logical conditions into the content with just a few clicks by utilizing the layer of semantic understanding provided by the system.

Unity MARS saved the team countless hours of prototyping and testing, giving them more time to focus on producing an incredible experience.

Scenery development

Scaling from living room to life-size

The road to creating the wealth of immersive Wallace & Gromit AR experiences came with a number of challenges, the greatest of which was shifting from a life-size experience to a tabletop and back again.

Working with Fantasmo, which provided a visual positioning system, Fictioneers used the dense point cloud data they had collected from the location scans to reproduce detailed models of real-world play spaces.

The scaled-down models were then used as a birds-eye view of the city, which let players bring Bristol into their homes with AR in The Big Fix Up. The same models were reused as a base to build full-scale occlusion meshes for Fix Up the City.

Balancing CG and in-game visuals

Fictioneers wanted to bring the magic and charm of Wallace & Gromit’s stop-motion animation into The Big Fix Up. They also wanted to strike a balance between CG videos and the gameplay itself. Unity’s graphics pipelines and cinematic tools gave them the flexibility they needed.

Fictioneers used a combination of the High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP), Timeline, Unity Recorder, and Cinemachine to create and animate the cutscene sequences. They used the same animation workflow with the Universal Render Pipeline (URP) to create in-game AR scenes. By using the tools in this way, the team produced a high-definition, cinema-quality video with the same assets and animations used for in-app AR gameplay.

Person performing LiveOps

Streamlining deployment with Unity DevOps and LiveOps

The tool suites available through the Unity Dashboard were essential components during the development of both The Big Fix Up and Fix Up The City

For example, Fictioneers used the DevOps suite to set up a variety of automated builds that targeted multiple platforms from both production and test branches using the Cloud Build tool. This saved their developers an enormous amount of time by providing detailed reports, unit test results, and build status.

The Remote Config tool from the LiveOps suite provided Fictioneers with the means to enable and disable attractions and relay important information to the users at the click of a button. The tool’s management features also allowed them to control which user groups in which locations received updates, and this component became vital to managing crowd flow in public space.

Mobile devices with AR experiences

Adding AR to your existing native app

By leveraging the power of Unity as a Library, the team could export their Unity application as separate iOS Xcode and Android Gradle projects, then embed them into an existing native application. This enabled rapid iteration and validation of the story by separating the mixed reality content development (in Unity) and complex UI and traditional storytelling (in the native mobile app).

Using a simple script, the team could send and receive messages between Unity and their native app, allowing them to handle scene management and things like updating high scores, triggering in-app purchase flows and so on. By having the ability to load and unload the Unity runtime programmatically, they could really maximize the app’s performance while increasing the amount of devices it could support.

Taavi Kelle, Product Lead, Potato (part of Fictioneers)

“Remote Config allowed us to display in-app messages and disable AR scenes remotely, without the need for the user to update their application. This allowed us to respond to local emergencies and COVID guidelines, enabling us to keep our audience safe.”

Taavi Kelle, Product Lead, Potato (part of Fictioneers)
Thomas Mahoney, Lead AR Developer, Tiny Rebel Games (part of Fictioneers)

“Unity’s MARS and AR Foundation packages provided us with a stable cross-platform AR solution that empowered our developers to focus on creating entertaining, engaging content immersing players in both our small and world-scale AR experiences.”

Thomas Mahoney, Lead AR Developer, Tiny Rebel Games (part of Fictioneers)
Susan Cummings, Executive Producer, TinyRebel Games (part of Fictioneers)

“Unity has been a steadfast, supportive partner to us since the outset of the project, offering their technical expertise and knowledge to our bleeding-edge use cases for their technology. Unity’s technologies fuel our creativity.”

Susan Cummings, Executive Producer, TinyRebel Games (part of Fictioneers)
Merlin Crossingham, Creative Director, Aardman

Wallace & Gromit has bags of character in its traditional form of stop-motion animation. So it was great to see that by making the leap into real-time rendering we could continue to create that well-known quality and feel.”

Merlin Crossingham, Creative Director, Aardman

Download The Big Fix Up and Fix Up The City

Head to the App Store or Google Play to join the lads on their first AR adventure.

Wallace and Gromit

Power AR app creation with Unity

Learn more about Unity’s solutions for brands and creative agencies. Try Unity MARS to unlock streamlined AR workflows and faster iteration times.

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