Red Bull, the biggest energy drink company in the world, commissioned us a hacking experience for programmers, nerds and students of Computer Science at Codemotion — the biggest Italian tech conference.

The client gave us some tools to build the game:

  • a vending machine with a giant screen
  • an iPad
  • a lot of Red Bull cans to boost our productivity

They asked us to build an engaging experience. The final reward — if the users were skilled enough — was a free can of Red Bull.

How does it work?

Hack for Wings is a multi-device game:

  1. iPad
    An iPad is used by the player to interact with the vending machine. It’s similar to an old-school terminal where you can send commands to the vending machine. That’s where the hacking happens!
  2. Interactive vending machine
    A vending machine with a large screen responds to the commands given by the iPad. It’s the enemy you have to defeat by hacking.

Game design

The game is entirely text-based. We studied interactive fiction to make the experience engaging and fun. Red Bull asked us to keep it under five minutes in order to let more people play. We opted for 80s graphics - like an arcade game cabinet.

Red Bull screens in perspective

The whole project was designed with a nerdy attitude and aesthetic…
needless to say that the vending machine has a sense of humor. We used memes, quotes from cult movies and geek culture to make it more fun!

May the Hack be with you.

Before the delivery to Codemotion we had a session of user testing at Speck&Tech, the monthly tech meetup in Trento. We wanted to make sure that timing, difficulty and engagement of the game were just right.

We tweaked it and thanks to the results it was open to the public at Rome’s Codemotion.

People loved it!

Girl playing with an iPad the Red Bull hacking experience

Young man playing with an iPad the Red Bull hacking experience

Technologies involved

This project required all the tools that we have in our digital toolbox.

The vending machine runs an Electron app, with React.js on the frontend. The link with the mechanical parts of the vending machine is made with the help of an Arduino, as the connection from the iPad to the computer runs the app inside the vending machine too. The iPad app is native, developed in Swift.

Building the Red Bull hacking experience