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Interactive Annual 14:
RED Universe is delightfully unexpected, beautiful and fun. Michael Lebowitz
A mesmerizing and immersive world to explore; the attention to subtle design details really pays off. Bart Marable
Founded in 1999, RED Interactive Agency is an award-winning studio. RED Universe is its official corporate site; thanks to its interactive potential and cemetery-like landscape, its a daily stopping point for thousands. An important aspect of REDs corporate culture involves expanding the possibilities of rich online experiences and enhancing the way people interact on the Web. Accordingly, visitors to the studios site communicate and interact in a unique, real-time environment where their avatars can run, fly, chat, dance and punch each other.
- RED Universe logged over 1,000,000 visitors during its first year—with no marketing dollars.
- The average time spent on the site is ten minutes; many users spend multiple hours.
- The sites been linked to so often that Google searches for red returns RED Interactive in the top ten out of 1,230,000,000 search returns.
Did you learn anything new during the development process?
I can say, right off, that building and launching this rich, engaging multi-user environment was an experience like no other.
A few years ago, at Flash in the Can, I attended a talk by Colin Moock where he was presenting his Unity application. I was intrigued by his suggestion that browsing the Internet was an unnaturally solitary experience and eventually began brainstorming with co-workers about multi-user experiences.
Development began in our spare time, but it didnt take long to put together a prototype where users could see each other and walk through an environment. It wasnt exactly real time and only supported a handful of users, but it was amusing. Because wed exhausted our budget of zero dollars and found it difficult to focus on anything else while the project was around, we eventually shelved it.
A year-and-a-half went by. As luck would have it, our office was assigned to build our new portfolio site. We pitched our prototype to ceo Brian Lovell as an option. A few days later we were again developing what would become known as The Universe. (Man, Brian is such a sucker.)
During the course of development, we learned a lot about building multi-user environments. We learned even more about approaching creative challenges in general and that perhaps the best thing we had going was that this project was audacious from the start—mostly because we had no idea what we were doing. We challenged ourselves more than the technology, and consequently our creativity was unfettered by ignorance of the multiple limitations.
As the Universe expands, much of its future will be determined by its visitors. Personally, I would like to see it adapt to include more complex forms of interaction or repurposed for a client project. As it stands, it remains the most ridiculous project I have yet to participate in, and probably my favorite.
RED Interactive Agency (Santa Monica, CA), project design and development/client