Role - Game Design & Studio Ops
If Silicon Valley was a black hole, DI would have been my event horizon. It sucked me in, turned me inside out, and helped me figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. And it's where I learned how to do it.
Fresh out of grad school, I came on with DI's social/mobile games division (formerly Playdom) in an administrative role. Within a week I was writing for the games. This led to game design, which led to product management and live operations. Really, anything I wanted to work on was fair game. Eventually, they changed my title to Studio Operations Coordinator, but if you asked my boss, he'd probably tell you they just didn't know what else to call me.
Armies of Magic Case Study
Armies of Magic was a social RPG fantasy game for Facebook that combined city building with realtime side scrolling battles. Players could play as elves, dwarves, or humans, and the objective was to build up a city/army (by unlocking new military units and raw resources), research and develop new weaponry, and fight off the evil goblin armies.
Case Problem - Side Quest Design
Create a narrative that builds upon existing Armies of Magic content & features and functions independently of the main storyline.
- The side quest can be completed by a player over a two to three week period.
- A restricted resource that players have to purchase (or gift to other players) in order to complete the side quest must be embedded into the narrative.
- The restricted resource can be usable after the side quest event ends, but unavailable after the event ends.
- The narrative must be crafted out of existing (unused) assets.
- Requests for additional production resources must be kept to a minimum.
Metrics for Success
Increased reactivation, ARPDAU, ARPPU, daily revenue, virality, short term retention, and positive feedback from players hungry for fresh content.
The War of the Gnomes
Using the above constraints as a prompt, I wrote & designed The War of the Gnomes, a harrowing coming-of-age tale about a young beekeeping gnome caught in the middle of a war between a powerful witch and an evil goblin queen for control of the Brumblewood (homeland of the gnomes). Gnomes were divided, fighting on both sides. Thousands had died. It was all very tragic. Little did our lowly beekeeper know that he would be the one to unite his people, or that his tasty Brumble Brew would turn the tide of the war as it contained the secret to surviving the goblin queen’s spells...
Cast of Characters
We did several events/side quests in other games at DI, as they were ideal for injecting fresh content into a game while boosting revenue. We already had some success with a side quest chapter that I had written previously for Armies of Magic, so we got the green light to do another one. I made the decision to use the gnomes as a story catalyst in this side quest because we had plenty of unused gnome assets lying around. I made Melvin a beekeeper because it sounded kind of cool but cute (Disney MO), and it could connect the restricted resource into the narrative organically.
Significant increases all around. We were averaging around $8k - $12k in daily revenue leading up to the side quest. During the side quest, we nearly doubled those numbers. We got plenty of positive feedback in the forums and lots of requests for free Brumble Brew!
I chose to share this particular project because I believe it was a solid gauge of my creative problem solving abilities. This was one of my earlier forays into game production, and it was a chance to prove that I could jump in on a project with relatively little experience and still make a strong contribution.
I successfully managed to assemble a collage of leftover assets that weren’t necessarily created for the purposes of the assignment; I filled in the gaps, polished the rough edges, and gave them the cohesion and vitality needed for a compelling user experience. I created a valuable monetization mechanic. I also managed the difficult task of weaving character development, plot progression, banter, gameplay tips and strategies, and monetization mechanics all into a series of tweet sized dialog bubbles, and all in a very short period of time.
* The evil goblin queen was aptly named after one of my ex-girlfriends. :)