Wordium

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While my company’s main focus had been console action games, there was a strong desire from both a tech and business standpoint, to add Android and iOS support to our tools and to explore new business models. A small team within our company devised a simple but addictive word-hunt game with asynchronous multiplayer as an exercise and I was asked to lead the design efforts while setting up analytics and social network integration. It was also a chance for me to build on my past web development tools and build the game’s promotional website, social marketing strategies, and manage its community of users. Wordium is currently available on the AppStore for iOS devices, Google Play, and the Amazon Appstore.

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Casual Design for Mobile

As our company’s first mobile title, and as a casual title, there were a lot of new tools to learn and plug in to. It was also important for us to have clear, easy-to-use menus. I worked closely with programmers Jennifer Lear and Mark Randel to organize the features into as few menu pages as possible while our artist Bobby St. Aubin created both concepts and final art assets for very clean, intuitive interfaces.

Creating a flow chart of the menus was a big help to everyone so that we could easily see what pages needed to be made and what options could be solved via dialog window vs. a new menu page solution.

I created this user flow chart to help guide the programmers on interfaces and dialog windows needed, and from which other menus they were accessed.

I created this user flow chart to help guide the programmers on interfaces and dialog windows needed, and from which other menus they were accessed.

This was especially critical when it came to user account management. In general, we wanted to hook up the popular “Login via Facebook” option for our users so that, if they wanted to, they would not have to sign up for a new account and could simply use their existing Facebook. As a requirement, Facebook requires application developers to make this an optional connection which can be disconnected at any time. As an avid social network user myself, it was fun to learn the developer tools within Facebook to define the appropriate permissions. I also spent time researching the habits of my friends and family when it came to using such features.

I created a backlog of analytics events for the engineers to hook up in the game. We used Flurry Analytics to collect and view this data.

I created a backlog of analytics events for the engineers to hook up in the game. We used Flurry Analytics to collect and view this data.

Snapshot of my design doc for monetization elements, which laid out game elements which are monetized and identifies their pricing tier's/reference names for the various app stores we integrated with. I ended up translating this into Apple and Google's store set-up tools.

Snapshot of my design doc for monetization elements, which laid out game elements which are monetized and identifies their pricing tier’s/reference names for the various app stores we integrated with. I ended up translating this into Apple and Google’s store set-up tools.

Integrating with social networks also allows for a great chance to provide gameplay that incorporates a user’s social presence. Some see this as intrusion, but I believe when done correctly it can be a useful part of the player’s feedback loop. I wrote a design for there to be “sharable moments” in Wordium. Obviously you could broadcast game wins/losses to your feed, but my favorite is the share features we included within Wordium’s built-in dictionary. Everyone has played a word game and found an obscure or funny word. In Wordium you can tap on that word to see it’s definition and then easily share it with your friends.

The image below is a snap shot of my original design for the social gameplay in Wordium:

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Snapshot from the Social Gameplay design doc I wrote which attempts to build a culture for our community of players as well as promote viral marketing. We also built an in-game rewards menu which earns players bonus items for following us across Facebook and Twitter.

Building the Promotional Video

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I love video editing, so with our team already short on resources, I volunteered to make a gameplay trailer for our game which would introduce it to new players as well as serve as our promotional video on Google Play and in the Amazon Appstore. I brushed off my Sony Vegas video editing skills and rendered out raw footage at various resolutions demonstrating all of our gameplay features.

After making an initial pre-visualization of each shot on paper, I got to work in Vegas. Using masks of iPads, iPhones, and Android devices I synced the raw footage and applied animations and effects to bring them in and out of the screen. The goal was a very simple and clean feature reel, and it was a lot of fun to make. Check it out here:

Web Design

One of my favorite hobbies outside of work ever since high school has been designing and building web pages. Again, with limited resources, I was happy to volunteer to build Wordium’s site. I built the site in WordPress and modified an existing theme to fit our game’s look and feel. Bobby St Aubin helped supply the art assets and I built several of the promotional press shots in Photoshop myself.

We used the webpage to serve as both a promotional info page, for people who are curious what Wordium is, as well for functional pieces of the game application itself. I worked with the engineers to embed the game features which required web-based solutions, such as the account password reset. The most extensive feature is the Frequently Asked Questions in the Help page. Edmund Chang and Patrick Al Goss, our resident experts in user research and quality assurance, provided the bulk of the content for this section, while I used a modified WordPress plugin to serve it. The FAQ is accessed online and from within the game application itself:

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View of the http://wordiumgame.com/ front page.

I used WordPress and many plugins to build the site itself. The "Get It Now" page allows us to have one address to share across social media and SMS/Email invites in the application no matter what device users' friends and followers own.

I used WordPress and many plugins to build the site itself. The “Get It Now” page allows us to have one address to share across social media and SMS/Email invites in the application no matter what device users’ friends and followers own.

Community Management

Unlike our previous experience working on console games, Wordium gave us an opportunity to maintain and grow the game and its community after launch. The userbase itself is still small, but utilizing social networks like Facebook and Twitter help maintain user retention, get word out about the game, and interact directly with players to learn what features they want us to add and where they are hitting snags in the current version.

What’s great about a Facebook page or a Twitter account is that when users ‘Like’ one of our posts or re-tweets us, their followers will see that activity in their own feeds. With that opportunity of new exposure in every post, I loved getting a chance to make compelling content for Facebook and Twitter that would show off our features while not overwhelming the audience with ‘spam.’

I’ve passed the torch on to another community manager, now, but here are some sample shots of posts I made: