Giant Fox Studios
It was the winter of 2014 when my friend Jackie asked me about making a game for her boyfriend to celebrate their anniversary. The game would feature them as the main characters and be customized to include their favorite animals, colors, music, etc. I thought it was such a cute idea that I found an artist and together we created the full game for free for her planning to find a publisher for it later on. I designed and coded the whole game while the artist worked on animations and graphics. On their anniversary, Jackie surprised her boyfriend with the game and he loved it. He played it for about 2 hours, determined to save his Princess Jackie in the game.
I showed the game to a few publishers but the response was different than I anticipated, they weren’t interested in publishing the game, but were more interested in hiring us to create games about their significant others, kids, and even pets. I realized there was an opportunity here, an untapped market of personalized games for consumers. There’s dozens of stories about Game Designers creating a personalized game to propose, but this isn’t something an every day consumer can do. So my solution to this was to build an app that allowed anyone to easily create a personalized game about someone they care about.
Gamester is an app that allows anyone to create a personalized game. It’s like Jib Jab but for Games. Users just take a photo of their face or of a friends and then select different options to customize their game. That’s it! Now they can play and share a game all about them or someone they know.
HOW IT WORKS
I started out by sketching each screen, designing the UX in a modular way to help reduce development time for new content.
I created high fidelity wireframes in Balsamiq. I created a prototype in Invision. Working closely with my Giant Fox Studios development team, we created a fully functioning vertical-slice demo of the app.
We had about 10 orders during the 2015 holiday season for personalized games with custom drawn artwork and merchandise. This is a photo a happy customer sent in to us.
I created a pitch deck that included a full business and development plan, that included projections to help investors understand their ROI.
After demoing the original prototype at several expos, I analyzed pain points and simplified the UX drastically.
I created a full Application Design Document including detailed functionality specs.
In order to get an App Store feature, we needed allow Gamester to work right in iMessage.
I saw that some users wanted to get right into a game while others wanted to customize them. I redesigned the UX to allow both types of users to get what they want.
After 200 game releases, you learn a thing or two about how to increase retention and monetization. I incorporated a lot of growth hacking techniques I've learned over the years to help Gamester grow organically and climb the App Store ranks.
Redesigned Gamester Website
I've created updated wireframes for an updated Gamester website that allows users to make games on the web.
Dancing Game Functionality Specs
I created a full Game Design Document for each of the minigames in Gamester. The games are all highscore based, very social/competitive and focus on the personalized character.
JIRA Stories and Timeline
I created user stories on JIRA and separated them into sprints and releases with a SCRUM production cycle.
I created JIRA dashboards for people working on Gamester to help everyone understand and easily manage their tasks.
After a month of demoing the app, we raised about $12,000. It wasn’t enough to hit our Kickstarter goal, so I started my search for publishers again and this time had an easier time finding one. Everyone loved the new concept and saw that there was revenue to be made from the amount of donations we received. We decided on having K Bros as our publisher to help with funding and marketing the game. Now that funding was taken care of, I focused on iterating the UX of the application based on feedback from the expos.
I saw a consistent issue that people had with the application, it took too long to get to the gameplay. I reorganized the user flow and simplified the process of making a game to get users to gameplay within an average of 15 seconds instead of a previous 4 minutes. This had a huge impact on user satisfaction.
We showed an updated prototype to K Bros' contacts at Apple and were told we could have a two week feature on the front of the App Store with the release of iOS 11 as long as we included iMessage app support. This was great news, but the problem was that the deadline was a lot sooner than the timeline we had planned and I didn’t have a team set up to finish by then. I quickly put together an art and developer test to find great people to join our team and help hit the deadline. After three weeks of searching, I put together the perfect combination of freelancers to hit our goal. I created user stories and tasks and organized a SCRUM based production cycle on JIRA.
K Bros ended up failing to pay for the development team which has lead to the project being placed on a brief pause while I reevaluate options to move it forward.
Click the images to learn more.
I ran a Kickstarter for the project with a goal of $25,000. I worked with my Giant Fox Studios team to create a solid demo of the application and traveled to several gaming expos to showcase it and promote the Kickstarter campaign. At PAX East, we set up a mini game dev studio in a 10x10 booth where visitors could take a photo in front of professional lighting equipment, meet our artists and get drawn if they donate, and record their voice acting in a personal sound booth. We won first place at a PlaycraftingNYC expo and were flown out to San Francisco to demo the game at Casual Connect.
LET'S PLAY INTERVIEW
We did a let's play interview that streamed on Twitch during Casual Connect expo. Here you can see a full playthrough of our first demo of the game. We've changed a lot since this video was taken.