Dive in the Past: a Serious Game for promoting the Underwater Cultural Heritage
MeDryDive Project

MeDryDive is a co-funded project held by COSME European Union program. It involves 5 European countries (Italy, Greece, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania) with 7 different partners. The project aimed to realize a new product for transnational tourism, with a special focus on Underwater Cultural Heritage. This goal is supposed to be reached thanks to several CCI (Cultural and Creative Industries) Applications, designed for all kind of users: divers, non-divers and divers to-be. Both visitors and potential travelers will be provided with AR and VR experiences, as well as a serious game that allows players to explore the underwater sites and also to discover their history, both for VR and mobile devices.

For its initial phase, MeDryDive focused on four underwater pilot sites, though the full list contains even more places: the Sunken Nymphaeum of Punta Epitaffio (Baia, Italy), the Peristera shipwreck (Peristera island, Greece), the Gnalić shipwreck (Biograd Na Moru, Croatia), and the Oreste shipwreck (Trsteno Bay, Montenegro).

Dive in the Past – The Game

Given this particular context, it is possible to state that the game Dive in the Past belongs to the gaming tourism area, which is a brand-new field of the whole gaming industry regarding players who decide to go visit the places from the game they played (and hopefully liked). There are many examples of this new users' behaviour, and the final aim of Dive in the Past is to amaze players with an engaging and visually stunning game while triggering curiosity about the places they explored through their smartphones and tabled. Moreover, Dive in the Past belongs also to the serious games category, because it aims to promote the underwater sites among new potential tourists, it gives historically accurate information about the different places and, last but not least, it offers an enjoyable challenge to the players.

This is the vision, but how does Dive in the Past manage to achieve this? The main concept of the game passed through many iterations and internal revisioning, before reaching its final form: a game combining 3D exploration and 2D storytelling, where the player has to explore the underwater sites to find forgotten treasures, first, and then unveil the secrets from the past solving unique minigames. This particular structure with 3D and 2D scenes mixed together is supported by strong plot and storytelling, which guide the player into a journey through the 4 different real underwater sites, but also through time!

The plot

Dive in the Past tells the story of Albert, a young scientist involved in the underwater research field. During one of his explorations, he finds a mysterious diary, with a strange symbol on its cover: two crossed snakes, in the shape of an hourglass. Once he comes back to the surface, and he interacts with the diary, the true nature of the mysterious item comes out: the diary is actually the prison of a damned Soul, who starts to communicate with Albert through the pages of the diary itself. The Soul need Albert's help, to break its curse. Four forgotten items must be found, one per underwater site, and each item will unlock a new page of the Soul story. Will he deserve Albert's aid?

Development process

The development of Dive in the Past started with strong historical researches about every single underwater site, since the game wants to share accurate information about the places and to reconstruct faithfully the aspect of the sites. Although there are fictional elements inside the plot and the game itself, they are mixed with real events coherently, and they enhance players’ engagement and, therefore, interest in the sites. Then, each scene has been reconstructed and optimized for mobile devices, offering visually stunning environments and landscapes, and the core mechanic of the game has been implemented and tested inside the 3D scenes. The design of the mechanics took an important amount of time, especially for the 2D scenes. Each site has a bidimensional step to be accomplished, with a story told employing hand-drawn illustrations organized as a video, and three unique minigames to complete. Each minigame fits into the narration, giving players the feeling of being an active part of the story, and has been designed and implemented coherently both from a plot point of view and from the historical point of view. The will of getting a high-quality result brought the studio to hire external professionals to be joined to the main team, and their work has been crucial to define the art direction of the game but also writing and narrative coherence.

The VR porting

In addition to the mobile game, a Virtual Reality porting has been developed by 3D Research. It presents the same game mechanics and storytelling, providing players with an immersive experience among the four underwater sites. It will be used both as a promotional tool that provides a “portable” overview of the locations all over the world, and to improve the accessibility of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, by providing a unique opportunity to overcome the difficulties imposed by the environment and depth to enjoy the submerged cultural treasures.

Results after launch

Dive in the Past has been released worldwide on March, 21st, both for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, reaching more than 23.000 downloads on Android and iOS. The game is currently available in three languages (Italian, English and Spanish), and more will come in the next updates.

Disclaimer: the MeDryDive project (https://medrydive.eu/) is an EU co-financed project under COSME Programme which works on the design of a new thematic tourism product with Underwater Cultural Heritage in Greece, Italy, Croatia and Montenegro as main tourism attractions.
The permission to publish data (3D of the site, 3D findings and photos/videos) has been granted by: - (for the Sunken Nimphaeum of Baiae) Ministero della Cultura (MiC) - Istituto Centrale per il Restauro (ICR). A special thanks to Parco Archeologico Campi Flegrei. A special thanks to Barbara Davidde Petriaggi and Roberto Petriaggi. - (for the Gnalić shipwreck) Adrias Project (Archaeology of Adriatic Shipbuilding and Seafaring Project) – University of Zadar. - (for the Oreste shipwreck) Budva Diving - (for the Peristera shipwreck) Bluemed Project – Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities – Università della Calabria.