Responses by William Chen, technical director; and Steffen Christansen, creative director, Jam3.
Background: Launched by Complex Networks, ComplexLand was a week-long virtual event running from December 7th to December 11th, 2020. A real-time, e-commerce-enabled, fully immersive digital experience, ComplexLand featured exclusive product drops, shopping, food, discussions, celebrity appearances and the full Complex Networks community. Seventy brands participated across the arenas of fashion, entertainment and media. Free to log onto, ComplexLand catered to a global audience obsessed with all things convergence culture to shop coveted brands and drops, explore a community of new and popular artists, hear from the people and performers shaping global culture, and discover what’s next—democratizing the process globally.
Design core: ComplexLand rests at the intersection of gaming, commerce, entertainment and convergence culture. As we saw it, we were creating a 3-D gamified experience that gave consumers a chance to interact with culture and their favorite brands within a highly immersive experience. We designed an avatar system for attendees to then customize with apparel and footwear from the most sought-after streetwear brands—which they could then have the opportunity to purchase some of the exclusive items from their virtual wardrobes for their real-life closets.
We embedded video players within the world that pulled in livestreams and prerecorded content from various artists, as well as a radio player with multiple channels for attendees to pick from and listen to as they explored. The radio channels included a curated mix of music and Complex podcasts, among other types of content.
Challenges: To design and build something technically ambitious, while also inheriting the problems and challenges found both in gaming and event activation. Once we broke the barrier between those worlds, we found ourselves solving problems that we’d never usually think of under normal circumstances.
Technology: We built the front-end, consumer-facing experience in React and WebGL, with ComplexLand being one of the most ambitious uses of WebGL seen on the Internet to date. The development interface was used to build all the 3-D aspects of the world, including the base world and neighborhoods, the shops, and the avatars, among others. We also included a chat functionality for all attendees to connect with the ComplexLand community, enabling visitors to engage in conversation, share thoughts and ask questions.
On the back end, we built a content management system that enabled brands to upload their copy, imagery and assets for how they wanted to appear in the world, as well as managing their inventory. For the e-commerce experience, we developed a seamless purchase flow powered by Shopify.
Special technical features: The biggest technical challenge for us was to cram an entire 3-D world into a mobile device, while integrating all the services and platforms needed for the experience—and simultaneously upholding performance and security best practices.
On the user-facing side, our application went through numerous rounds of performance optimization, balancing various aspects of the experience and platform integration. Due to the drastic range of user devices anticipated, we implemented performance detection to enable us to implement the best possible visual experience dynamically. Finally, we also optimized the experience to dynamically allocate resources based on user interactions: for example, pausing WebGL rendering when the user was engaged in the theater or pausing listeners when the user was in a shopping experience.
Under the hood, we knew we would face huge spikes in traffic while facing bots and exploiters attempting to game the system and win exclusive drops. Our server-side application was completely serverless and scaled instantly based on utilization. Each service was independent and fault tolerant, and in case of a catastrophic outage, it would not take down the entire experience. We also implemented extensive firewall and application logic to combat bots and exploiters.