Monday, August 26, 2013

Casual Connect 2013: Finding the Needle in the Haystack: Prototyping Culture at Wooga

by Antti Hattara, Pocket Studio
·         Summary: Make a one-page pitch with a clear objective, make a prototype with scoring, and launch an internal company competition to drive people to playtest the game.
·         This talk is about how to evaluate and recognize prototypes with potential. Antti is the lead of a Wooga subbrand called Pocket Studio, which focuses on casual, mass-market games.
·         They show a case study, an idea called Lines. It's a match-3 game where you draw lines between same colored blocks. Yes, it is exactly like Puzzle Craft andBayou Blast...
·         Their prototyping process is a 3 phase framework.
1.     It starts with the idea being reduced into a one-page pitch. Using a lot of visuals helps a lot. The idea must have a clear objective and concept specification, so the prototyping team would know exactly what they have to build. It must also have some market potential for it to be considered. Lines was pitched as a line-drawing match-3 game with a move limit and a map. There was nothing in the market that was exactly like this, so they decided to go forward with it. This is how the one-page pitch looked like...
2.     The next step is to create a prototype with scoring. While building the prototype, there are two key elements to focus on. The first is that the game is intuitive. Do a lot of user testing to make sure the game is easy to understand and play. The second is that the game provides meaningful choices and replayability. You can achieve this by adding a meaningful scoring system in the game and testing to see if users are driven to improve their scores. Lines had scoring which was attached to a 3 star system. This was used to prove if the game had any retention and replayability.
3.     Finally, release the game internally and hold a competition to get your users into the game. Wooga has about 250 employees, but they found that you only need 50 users as a good sample size for this test. Hold a competition (over the course of 2-3 weeks) with actual physical incentives (prizes, t-shirts, toys). This will test the depth of the game, its extendability (how much the game requires on the content side), and its engagement factor. At Wooga, they create a private Facebook group to run the competition, which adds a social element and the benefit of wall posting. If there's a lot of talk and buzz about the game, you may have a winner on your hands.
·         Lines was a successful prototype and they greenlit the game, soon releasing as Jelly Splash. The idea was pitched in July 2012, the initial prototype was done in Sept 2012, and the competition was held in Dec 2012. Their process takes roughly 3 months of prototyping and 3 months of hardening with a team of 2 engineers.
·         They have about a 20% greenlight ratio. 4 out of 5 games are thrown away.

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