How to make animated interactive videos – our webinar with Vyond

An overview of our VYOND webinar

On the 30th of March, 2022, CEO Mike Todd held a webinar with VYOND – the animation software tool – to demonstrate how Near-Life can be used to quickly and easily make your animated content interactive and immersive. Here’s how it went.  

Introduction to Near-Life

Near-Life CREATOR makes it easy to design, build and share your own interactive and gamified content, and to us, that means helping democratise creativity, just like Vyond does. 

In addition to our authoring product, we also provide consultancy support and create bespoke content, working in partnership with other organisations. 

We seek to support the growth of a global, engaged community of interactive content creators.

Interactivity in Entertainment, and Popular Culture 

An interactive, game-based approach to storytelling is something that is rooted in popular culture and has been growing in popularity in recent years. Netflix now hosts a number of interactive videos such as the Black Mirror Bandersnatch episode, or Cat Burglar. 

Interactive video not only boosts engagement, which in turn increases audience retention, but it also gives you insights into how your audience or team is interacting with the content you’ve shared.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is the application of game-like elements to your content. Whether that be for learning, marketing, recruiting, and more, gamification creates more engaging content that improves knowledge retention. It could involve elements such as leaderboards, badges, or rewards, and typically incentivises users through adding a sense of competition or challenge. Near-Life uses this concept with time-based interactions and scoring in an environment where users define their own journey.

California based Yu-kai Chow, has done a lot of work in mapping out what gamification is. This is what he calls his Octalyst framework.

Octalysis model

 It’s great to have a look at this for ideas and inspiration about how you can consider elements of the game and your design. So looking at things about narrative, how you can go on a kind of a hero’s journey, put people in a position where they’re making the choices affecting the outcome. You can bring time based elements to things, and add points, leaderboards, and create unpredictability.

Why is Gamification a Growing Area?

Well, because it works! Research shows that up to 90% of traditional training can be forgotten within a week of being taught. It might be a clear and direct message, but it still tends to go in one ear and out the other. It doesn’t have that ‘stickability’ that most people want. Video works really well at increasing engagement, and most of you on this call are already using VYOND so I’m sure you all know this. So we know that video helps. 

Ofcom, which is the media regulator in this country (the UK), carried out some research that showed knowledge retention could be up to as high as 90% greater with immersive style content. 70% of employees say that corporate technology and training tools fall short when compared to personal technology. We won’t go through every statistic, but just know that the research is out there to show that people respond better to game design content. They learn better and they remember better, so it’s a more engaging and enjoyable experience. It’s also a better outcome for the content creator or learning designer because you’re giving people the ability to interact and have that experiential engagement with the content. So it’s a win-win??.

“Good game-based learning applications are motivational because we can quickly see and understand the connection between the learning experience and real-life.”

Case Studies

There are so many different types of gamified content you could create. For example, we’ve recently worked with St John Ambulance to produce a short interactive video for children aged 7-9, to demonstrate the correct protocol when you suspect someone is choking. Feel free to give it a go!

This is a very simple style of interactive video, that asks the same series of questions regardless of the answers you give. It corrects the user when they get the wrong answer and tells them what they should do instead. This is what the map for this video looks like: 

SJA Choking emergency map

This is one type of interactive video, however, there are also branching videos. Branching videos means the user can get a different final outcome depending on the decisions they make in the video. Here is an example of an interactive video where the user will get a different ending depending on the answers they give. Feel free to have a go!

Here’s what the map for this video looks like. You’ll notice how the pathways branch off depending on which choice is made. You can also design your map so the end-user can try questions again and again until they choose the right answer.

Adding the interactions 

Near-Life allows you to add buttons on the platform, but there’s also the option to hotspot. Hostpotting allows you to select an area of the screen to become interactive. For example, when presented with an animated scene in a hospital waiting room, the user must click on the correct person to see first based on their physical symptoms. Hotspotting would allow you to select the area over the correct person, and set it to jump to a slide to congratulate them when clicked.

You’ve also got the ability to add advanced settings and advanced features. So you can mark that something’s correct and you can track that. Or think of it in game terms, maybe you find a lamp and then two scenes on you come to the dark room. It means you can enter the dark room because you’ve got the lamp. So you can track interactions, it’s not just a case of making a choice and going somewhere else. You can have a deeper game based logic and set these achievements and also recognise conditions. Let’s look at an example. And this is again designed the same way you’re going to design and storyboarded out your diagram. And then you can populate a simple video up on videos very easily.

To illustrate the real-time insights into how users interact with the content, we asked the community who took part in the webinar if gamifying their VYOND content was a good idea…and 98% of the nearly 300 respondents agreed (we had 249 say yes and 5 say no).

Designing your own interactive and gamified content: some things to think about…

It’s important to try and link your interactions and your game design to your objectives. There’s often a temptation to create interactions and add gamification for its own sake and because it’s interesting and different. But you’ll create the most successful and impactful content when you can really relate the game design to your learning objectives. For example, the one for St. John Ambulance is just a simple one aimed for school aged children. However, it’s really linking that particular learning with the situation, and you’ve got a clearly phased approach where you make different choices at different times. The fact it’s aimed for children also means a simpler style is more suitable. If you’re able to create your interactions and your engagements and link to the learning objectives, the structure is then formed by the learning objectives rather than the gamification. That way you’re going to end up with a much more powerful and impactful piece of learning content because you’re putting the learning first. This may sound like I’m stating the obvious, but I think in the design phase, sometimes the approach or the process can get ahead of the principles of why we are doing it.

Linked to that, it’s also important to understand what success is, and how to measure it. Let’s say there was a national campaign in Canada to make sure that 80% of school aged children participating in doing this exercise could navigate a choking incident. With Near-Life, you can measure that because you’ve got the aggregated feedback on who got what right and what the success rate is. You can set clear goals and parameters to understand exactly how the audience is receiving the information. And you’ve got that ability also by tracking into the interactions, understanding an individual user’s journey and giving them the tailored feedback. So you’ve got the ability to really understand what success is and feedback on it. 

Our tool allows you to build a storyboard for the interactive scenario before you create your videos. This design allows for you to really get to grips with the structure you want and map out where everything is going to go before you start making the content you’ll need. You can just upload your media and then drag and drop it to the right place once the storyboard is fully built. This design feature can save a lot of time for your content creation. VYOND makes it very easy and quick to build really effective animations. But you can save even more time if you understand what kind of clips you’ll need. What’s the design of the game, and what content will suit it best? The creative potential is massive. If you really see the potential and embrace the possibilities, your imagination is the limit. You can gather feedback, use it for your training, use it for learning. Gamified interactions are also more engaging and effective than surveys or exercises in understanding what people want. From VR to learning courses, whatever way you go with your content, we want to see everyone succeed with gamification and embrace the interactive approach. Because ultimately, what a great thing to be part of.

Questions from the Webinar

What actually constitutes a game?

There’s been a lot of research over the years to define what a game really is, but I think to a certain extent it’s open to interpretation. If you take ‘choose your own adventure’ books, they were essentially game-books. They had narrative-based storytelling like interactive stories, where you’re being involved as a protagonist, you’re directing the action. So it’s almost like it’s an adventure game. Then there are traditional point-and-click adventure games that you used to get years ago. And then there are obviously quizzes and game-based quizzes. I think it’s more the features that constitute the game. Does it have the engagement, can you achieve things? Are there any challenges? I think you’ve got to think about what it isn’t. Gaming is an expansive universe. It can be anything from a quiz or board game to an arcade or platform game. 

How does Near-Life differ from Articulate or Storyline 360 and other course authoring tools, is this Articulate on steroids? 

Those products are really designed to help you structure your courses, obviously you can put videos in, and then you can have questions. It’s like building blocks of content. What’s different about Near-Life is that it’s primarily driven around this gamification principle and creating new interactive and immersive elements. You’ve got this ability to visualise and design your content, to storyboard it out in a very simple way, To check and test those interactions. It’s got real-time-based decision making and the potential for gamification principles around the rules and achievements. The difference with Near-Life, in a nutshell, is that you really create a single piece of interactive content, or a single game, and you publish it. Some people do just use our tool and don’t have the authoring tools because if it’s microlearning, you might just want to have a single interactive scenario. But the emphasis is really on that dynamic interactivity and the time-based decision-making. Articulate and Adobe’s tools are still really good – but we’ve focused on making this particular type of content very easy to create.

Can you tell me more about Near-Life and how this works to create interactive content? Is it compatible with an LMS? Can we use a SCORM file? So can we make a SCORM compliant file? 

Because Near-Life is a cloud-based authoring tool it will track the interactions, plus you’ve got the analytics. When you’re happy with your design, you publish it and get a share link. This means you can have it on any website at all. You can have it public-facing, or it could be a project page. Or it could be a single, standalone course – whatever you decide. But yes, you can embed it, and we’ve got information and guidance around that on our website. But you would get a SCORM embed code, which you simply embed within your SCORM course and your zip file. So your audience will just see the video embedded in your course wherever you might want it to be. You can use LTI integration as well. A lot of schools and universities use LTI and just have this. And that will allow you to have a very fast and secure way to authenticate the user. So yes, it’s very flexible in terms of sharing and adding new content to your courses.

What are your life’s pricing tiers? And is Near-Life only available in the UK?

No, absolutely not. We have users all around the world! We have users in the US, Asia, Africa. It’s cloud-based, so you can have access from wherever you are. The pricing is on our website. t’s really not too expensive. You’ve got the monthly subscription price or you get two months free on the annual membership, so it’s designed to be accessible. We want to be a tool really, without sounding too pretentious, that kind of democratises this type of creativity and makes it accessible. We have student users, we have everything from large corporations, and global pharmaceutical companies to individuals who embrace this type of storytelling and game-making content creation. Our mission is to make this very accessible, but prices are on our website if people want.

Are the quiz questions tracked? Can we run a quiz report, not only a completion report? Can this tool also capture if questions were answered incorrectly? Or if someone has another go and gets it right on the next time?

Yes, you could set those rules. It works on the basis of what we call achievements. So on the map, you would award a point for clicking a certain answer, or you could even deduct points for clicking the wrong answer. There’s also the option for more advanced features such as adding conditions. So perhaps the user can only move on to the next level once they’ve gathered enough points, or gotten the first 3 questions right. You can set things like a total pass score, and then you can choose to display the feedback report. So every interaction or choice is tracked. We’ve seen people who use this authoring software, make quite complex scenarios where they want people to be able to do something again. But it will track each time because effectively as I say each interaction is tracked.

Is this 508 compliant and does it include the ability to customise levels of accessibility?

So in terms of accessibility, there’s this there’s a loss of accessibility, the authoring tool itself is followsWCAG guidelines, it’s compliant with those – but with visual mediums, there are always going to be some challenges but you’ve got subtitling, and you’ve got the ability to choose a subtitle or set the subtitle so it’s designed to be as accessible as possible.

Once you’ve created a video with interactive pieces, where are the videos hosted? Do they need to stay within Near-Life in order for the interactive pieces to work? And is there a way to track those who have viewed the video and done the quiz? 

So because it’s a cloud-based tool you’re embedding the interactive video within your LMS. But the interactions and the files are kind of driven, you’ve got kind of your own account, you can manage access to that, you can have teams, but effectively you’re working with the embedded video. So you could share that anywhere and it will track every play. If you’re going to use LTI integration with an LMS you’ll get the authenticated user, if you use SCORM, you’ll know that somebody has completed that as part of the SCORM course because it’s a component but you also have the ability to go to the app. If I go to the settings here. I can choose to capture the name and email so when you see the list of users you’d actually have each play with the name or emails. You could look up the Harvard students individually.

The basic answer is yes: you can see the aggregated plays, every play is tracked. And then you have the option here in the settings to capture the name and email. For example, in universities, I know that we’ve got some users who may not have the students go through a full LMS course, but they have a special assignment. I know nursing simulations that do this where the students enter their names, and you can see the individual’s choices. It’s done more in the wider context of the course and the class and not just a specific kind of a chapter of an elearning course, but it’s used as an exercise. So you do have the ability to track every play, and then you’ve got the ability to capture the name or email. But if you do an LTI integration or you have a SCORM, you’ll already be tracking that within your LMS.

Regarding analytics, where do the analytics reside – on the cloud or locally on our network? Or are analytics only available on your system? And what if you’re using an LMS?

Like we talked about earlier, you will get your SCORM embed. You’re going to already have your SCORM course and set your password so it’s really a component part of your courses, you’re only going to get that basic information that people have played and accessed it. But the richer analytics around the interactions are available here. However, if you do use xAPI, what you would have the ability to do in fact, because we track the interactions, we make it possible for you to be able to share those interactions. And then that you can have those interactions in a record store. So it would be possible to export that but otherwise, the main analytics are on your dashboards, for you as a content creator to access here. Basically, you’ve got tiered levels of information and different ways to access it.

Do you have guides that help explain the different types of games that could be created?

We’re only a demo away for anyone who wants to dive into more detail. We’ve got examples of game designs and some blogs on the website, but I think it’d be great for us to work on creating a series of resources to show the different types of games.  Maybe we can work to create a series of resources to show different types of games. We’re always happy to talk to anyone and offer tips and advice without any expectations, just to discuss how you might be thinking of using gamification. So we’re always open to a conversation. We do have a lot of resources about creating the content, but it’s definitely a good idea for us to create some example games that people could build from. 

If I create content and then my licence ends, would that content still play in my courses? Or would the links break?

We would keep your content for you and your account. But at a certain point, if the account isn’t active then there may be some issues, because obviously it’s a cloud-based system. It’s based on a subscription that you are running the games and interactivity from the platform. It’s not like an LMS. You can have hundreds or thousands of scenarios. So you’re not limited. No one’s ever reached the bandwidth limits so you can create multiple scenarios. It’s not expensive.

Question again about plans: are they set up for enterprise use? Can multiple users use it with the same subscription?

Yes, so we do have Enterprise users with multiple content creators, you can set access permissions. You could even have your clients or stakeholders come in as a reviewer. Let’s say you’ve created a storyboard for the interactive scenario you want to create before you produce the VYOND videos. You could share access with whoever you need to show what it looks like and how you’re going to approach it, and check that it lines up with the expectations or needs of the end-user. It opens up a dialogue with anyone from subject matter experts to your customers, clients, and even potential learners. So you can test the principles of your game and the approach you’re taking before you start making your videos.

Can we add external graphics as well as videos?

Yes. I used videos to demonstrate, but you can have static images as well, and you can swap between slides and video throughout the game. So you can have them time-dependent. This is just a static image to really illustrate how the pop-ups work, it’s actually time-based but it’s a static image. Still images can lead to pop-ups when you click on a specific area of the screen. What sets Near-Life apart is the emphasis on the dynamic game-based element, with the time-based decision making, but you can set defaults too. It’s like a self-contained game where you’re really interacting with something immersive. But you can still break it up with slides and still images. You can also have 360 video with Near-Life and you can have the immersion work on Web VR principles. Everything that we try to do is to make this immersive and interactive content more easy. That’s part of why we feel such a great kinship with VYOND, because what they do in terms of making it easy is really what we want to do as well.

Have any customers used this for new hire onboarding?

Yes. Onboarding is one of the recurring themes we get. I know JLL, Jones Lang LaSalle, one of the world’s big property companies, they use it in graduate recruitment. I think it’s a graduate recruitment and school recruitment scheme. So you can do something like a virtual open day with a video where the viewers will be asked questions or to make choices, and you can see who responds with what. It lends itself very well to onboarding. You could use your VYOND videos and make an avatar, do a tour, and then maybe you could drop in some clips from interviews with the chief exec or people who’ll explain or introduce themselves. You can combine video footage (that you could even just shoot on a phone) with animated VYOND videos or slides. It’s very flexible. But yes, definitely. Onboarding is one of the strong use cases. So if anyone wants to have a go making one we’d love to look at it. It’d be nice to see what people could do, especially with VYOND.

Is there a community where we can connect with users of Near-Life?

We’re definitely not at VYOND’s level yet, but we do have some kind of social media presence. We have a group on LinkedIn that runs gamification and learning. We’ve got one on Facebook, a bit more fledgling, and then we have our own Facebook page. Our aspiration for that is actually to build more of that type of community. I think that’s one of the next steps in our journey, because we already see people using it in ways that we didn’t imagine. It’s become its own kind of creative force. And we really want to help facilitate that. We want to support that community. We’ve got our social media presence, but we were also very happy to have conversations directly – no expectations or anything. Just always happy to have a conversation, hear some questions and all the rest.

So what are those advanced offerings and interactions that you have?

That tends to be more for our enterprise users. But for example, by adding the advanced properties in your advanced settings it allows you to create your achievements and conditions and set the deeper rules around recognising them. With the simple version, you can still do a lot of things. I’ve shown with the buttons and hotspots how to track the interactions. Advanced authoring is just the way you’re involved in setting more complex rules. You’ve got the ability to have a notebook and inventory items. So you could track objects people have found and allow them to use them later, or let people take notes from lessons. It’s that extra layer of game-based interaction.

Want to know more?

If you’d like to learn more about why Near-Life is the right tool for creating animated interactive videos, please go ahead and book a demo.

Or, if you’re already confident it’s right for you, you can get started right away with a free trial.

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