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How do you make virtual property tours next-level? We find out with this Breakout collab.

Throughout the MCO, property viewings have pivoted online. Some property developers, agencies, or renters would offer either video tours or 360° virtual viewings along with their listings on property marketplaces.

Instead of going the conventional route, Singaporean developer Beverly Group (Beverly) collaborated with Breakout to gamify the property viewing experience. It’s meant to showcase their new serviced apartment, ONE EQUINE in Seri Kembangan, KL.

The game is titled LINDA and works similarly to Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch on Netflix, with the addition of puzzles. Players select commands that influence how the story may unfold. 

From what we know, this is the first real estate developer in Malaysia to provide such a virtual viewing experience publicly. The goal is to help customers understand ONE EQUINE’s project offerings whilst keeping them safe and entertained from their homes.

On September 11, LINDA was launched, and we at Vulcan Post got the chance to review it.

Choose your own story

While I didn’t get to try Breakout’s live online escape room with my colleagues last year, I’d say I’ve had plenty of experience with Netflix’s choose your own story offerings. 

I’ve replayed Bandersnatch multiple times (to watch all the possible scenarios) and realised how bad my survival skills were in Bear Grylls’ You vs. Wild. 

LINDA was filmed with live actors inside ONE EQUINE’s show unit, where video production and software development were involved to roll out the experience. It’s able to host up to 100 players per 40-minute session on its server, and the team controls sign-up rates.

A screenshot from LINDA’s trailer / Image Credit: Breakout X Beverly Group

Without giving too much away, the premise of LINDA follows a girl, who calls herself Linda, in her pursuit of saving her “dying relationship” with her lover, Thomas. 

Players choose the actions of Linda and solve a couple of puzzles along the way to help break into Thomas’s home, plant a gift, and escape without being noticed. You’re encouraged to have note-taking materials (pen and paper work best, but a stylus and a device work too) on standby before the game to note down certain clues provided. 

Though you’re given the power of choice, the final action is still determined by the majority’s vote. For example, if 51/100 players voted for the actor to hide behind a couch, the actor’s final action will be to hide behind the couch.

An example of the choices you’d see on screen / Image Credit: Breakout X Beverly Group

Puzzles in LINDA revolve around decoding number-centric passcodes and were actually pretty difficult for my colleague and me to solve. (Forgive us, we haven’t been around numbers much after graduating years ago.)

I’d blame it on the anxiety of watching a 5-minute timer countdown for your answers to be submitted. But upon letting my partner try out one of the puzzles after the game, he solved it pretty quickly without having to write anything down on paper. 

Though my colleague and I couldn’t solve the puzzles, the game wouldn’t end if you got the answers wrong. However, you also wouldn’t know if you got it right or wrong until after the session is over.

In a way, it made it feel like your answer didn’t matter because there seemed to be no consequences. Understandably though, this was intentional by design to keep the experience within 40 minutes.

One thing I wished the experience allowed for was an interactive element to discuss actions with other players in the session. It would make for a more collaborative game, even if you’re playing it while physically alone. 

There were times I felt misled after making a choice and watched as the actor did something else I didn’t pick. It would tick me off initially until I remembered that votes were based on the majority’s choices. 

Perhaps a poll shown after all players have voted would be a practical addition to have as well, so you know how many participants chose which answer.

In terms of highlighting ONE EQUINE’s offerings, I’d say the game does a pretty good job at that. Very early on in the game, we were introduced to the project’s facilities and nearby amenities before entering the suspenseful part of the story.

Parts of the filming that highlighted ONE EQUINE’s free buggy service from the shuttle bus stop to your unit, and the proximity to food and other spots / Image Credit: Breakout X Beverly Group

At times, the highlights did feel a little forced, but the 40-minute limit of the session likely meant less freedom to explore the facilities naturally.

And yes, we did manage to escape successfully!

Navigating the fantasy in reality

Of the challenges that both Beverly and Breakout noted to Vulcan Post was the scheduling difficulties for the shoot. As filming took place in ONE EQUINE’s show unit at the sales gallery that customers were also visiting physically, disturbances had to be minimised.

An interesting titbit shared by Breakout was that although the unit had furniture already set up, it didn’t have a door for the convenience of customers’ viewings. After trying to find multiple angles to work around it to no avail, the team had to install a fake door for the film.

Note the door on the left, installed just for the shoot / Image Credit; Breakout X Beverly Group

The software to accommodate LINDA had to also be programmed from scratch as they were creating a new virtual experience with no former data to work with. It was up to Breakout’s team to deliver the right requirements to their software engineer with minimal errors based on their vision.

LINDA’s storyline was also tedious, as the game designers were required to draw out all the possible decisions that players can make and their possible endings. 

“At the same time, I am required to subtly fit in the uniqueness of the ONE EQUINE’s property in the game. It really takes a lot of attention to detail in creating the right path to avoid repetition and mistakes,” said Johnny, Breakout’s Head of Experience Design.

To bring LINDA to life, it took both parties a rough 4 months to complete, from the storyline creation, video production, and web application development, to rolling out the experience.

More to come, hopefully

Apart from the aspects that could still be improved on for LINDA, it is a commendable effort on both Beverly and Breakout’s parts.

Alexis Ng, Head of Sales and Marketing at Beverly Group said of their target market, “We definitely want to reach out to all sorts of audiences as this experience was created to appeal to the general public who are already familiar with basic technology like smartphones and web browsing.”

“It is not meant to be complicated so that we are able to engage with a wider target audience especially those that are in the technologically savvy age group between 18-45.”

Though the experience was easy and straightforward to access, perhaps it’s mainly the younger crowd who would be more drawn to the premise of LINDA. Even if they’re not the ones with purchasing power, they’d likely share the experience on social media, thus providing ONE EQUINE with word-of-mouth marketing.

I can say that the experience is one that I’d like to replay multiple times again, a) because it’s free to join, and b) to try out all possible scenarios that could’ve happened depending on different decisions. Then again, the latter is still based on a majority vote which will make it harder to explore all routes.

When asked if Breakout has plans to collaborate with more property developers to release different storylines, Johnny shared that he was interested in doing so.

“At the same time, I am also looking forward to collaborating with different industry players such as shopping malls, car dealers, or even brand owners to gamify their product or services to bring in a more immersive experience to their customers,” he said.

“We are definitely ready to do much more interesting experiences and bring in impact and light up the lives of people during this pandemic time.”

Breakout has gone through multiple challenges as a physical entertainment centre throughout the pandemic, and the team has been racking their brains for ideas on how to pivot without diverting from their core branding. In line with that, they previously launched a virtual breakout experience and puzzle gift boxes.

Now with this Beverly Group collaboration, the team has once again found another revenue stream that fits their branding. There’s a lot of potential in this project and with their track record of creating experiences that just hit it off with their audience, we’d say Breakout is well-positioned to continue through the pandemic.

  • LINDA will be available for anyone to experience for free from September to November 2021, at 4PM every weekend. Those interested can RSVP here.
  • You can read more on what we’ve written about Breakout here.

Featured Image Credit: Breakout X Beverly Group

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(UEN 201431998C.)

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