878AD is a next generation two-part immersive experience that brings the Anglo-Saxon age to life through an interactive exhibition with live performance followed by a city-scale augmented reality app tour of Winchester. The experience reconstructs a key moment in history, the defeat of the Vikings by Alfred the Great in 878, through a partnership with Ubisoft, the developers of the video game franchise Assassin’s Creed®. With this project, Sarner is pioneering a collaboration between heritage organisations, technology innovators and the gaming industry. The new attraction inspires, transports, and amazes both fans of Assassin’s Creed® and traditional museum goers alike.
Winchester’s pivotal role in English history is not widely enough known, and there is no visitor attraction dedicated to bringing its Anglo-Saxon history to life. Furthermore, in recent times young visitors to Winchester’s historic attractions have been declining, so this project needed a revolutionary approach to attracting new audiences and telling Winchester’s story in an engaging way.
Sarner integrated stories, branding, imagery, audio, characters and objects from Assassin’s Creed® Valhalla into an exciting, authentic and relevant visitor attraction that would appeal across generations. Ubisoft’s wealth of content feeds into every section of the attraction, thus creating continuity between the video game and the experience. This allows for an expansion of the attraction’s audience into the vast demographic of ‘gamers’, a somewhat untapped pool when it comes to more traditional museum experiences.
The experience offers an interactive insight into Anglo-Saxon life in 9th century Winchester through immersive storytelling, the latest audio-visual technologies, augmented reality, interactive software, and precious Anglo-Saxon artefacts. Thanks to the immersive virtual world of Assassin’s Creed® and technological innovation made possible through this partnership, we help people step into a moment in history, inspiring empathy and emotion, as well as learning. To give nuance, the exhibition experience is enhanced with emotional live performance against immersive AV sets, blending the realms of museum design and immersive theatre.
A key highlight is the display for the Winchester Reliquary, a priceless 9th century artefact that is the only Anglo-Saxon reliquary to be found in England. In order to bring the artefact to life, we developed a new interactive holographic technology that combines digital overlays to interpret the physical object. Using technology, the exhibition brings to life the artistic skills used in the artefact’s creation and explores its historical context. 3D models and in-game footage from Ubisoft as well as images from the recently completed CT scan and text, all provide a new dimension to this object beautifully, which has previously only been seen in a traditional museum showcase.
The app-based immersive experience creatively combines digital geolocation of content that breaks the boundaries of the exhibition to take the content into the streets of Winchester with immersive play and interaction that goes beyond simply presenting historical information to allowing participants to step into it as never before. An exceptional level of attention to detail was applied to the 3D modelling process, preserving the intricate details of the high-definition AAA game assets while compressing and animating them for optimal performance.
The collaboration has already had a profound impact. By incorporating Ubisoft’s renowned Assassin’s Creed® IP, 878AD is attracting a much more diverse audience: 25% are 16-35 years old compared to 7% at the other Hampshire Cultural Trust’s museums and art centres.
By embracing an innovative approach to interpretation and cutting-edge technologies, the project serves as an inspiration for future immersive heritage experiences and sets a new standard in the field.
Hampshire Cultural Trust