Pot Farm: Grass Roots
Pot Farm: Grass Roots is a mobile, free-to-play game about owning and operating your very own Pot Farm. As a Live-Ops designer on this game I was responsible for developing new features, maintaining the overall balance of the in-game economy, and meeting revenue targets through the release of live events and by creating promotions that players could monetize on. I also kept an eye on our set KPIs for the game, and worked with our data analysts to develop strategies to increase those KPIs.
- Designed a quest system that served players daily quests to support and guide their progression through the game and supported “Limited-Time” quests that drove engagement and monetization.
- Designed a messaging system to inform players of new content being added to the game and notify them of live events.
- Created the first set of gacha crates in the game.
- Conducted a full audit and re-balance of the soft-currency economy in the game. A long-term project which resulted in a ~100% increase of soft-currency purchases.
One of the issues that arose while I was working on Pot Farm: Grass Roots (PFGR) was that our retention numbers weren’t as high as we would like. There were many factors that led to this, one being the lack of guidance and clear goals for the player after the First Time User Experience. The system of quests at that time was completely linear. You had to do one quest at a time and there was no way to look ahead at what you'd need to do in the future, or look back and see what you had done. This meant that there was a steady drop-off of players with every quest in the line. If a player was stuck on a quest, bored with it, or simply forgot about it, that was effectively the end of their interactions with quests. I audited every one of these linear quests to remove or adjust quests that were apparent blockers, but it quickly became clear that PFGR would need a new system to deliver quests to the player effectively.
I also wanted to develop a new type of live event. PFGR at that point had “Karma Contests” which were weekly contests where players could complete a set of repeatable actions for points that would place them on a leader-board. The higher they placed, the better their prizes were. However players were beginning to complain of fatigue with these contests, and often felt like they were being hopelessly outclassed by the top-tier players.
Both of these issues led to my development of the Quest 2.0 system. I designed the system and pitched it to the team. From there I lead a group of engineers and artists through the development and launch of the feature. There were a few core goals for this system:
First; to remove the linear nature of the current quest system and allow the player to have more than one active quest at once, as displayed by the center picture in the image above. This meant that players would unlock tutorial quests at the appropriate level to guide them through new features, and player progression wouldn’t be blocked by any single quest.
Second; to increase visibility on the quest actions and rewards. In the center image you can see that the player has clear indication, even in this “list” view, of their progress in the quest and the reward that they are working toward. If the player taps on any of the quests in the list they are taken to an info-window as displayed in the third image. There players are able to view more specific details of the quest step they are on, get hints on how to complete the quest from “Uncle Floyd”, and tab forward to the other steps in the quest to see what they need to do (and what they will gain) as they progress in the quest.
Third; to provide another live event system that was focused more on PvE than PvP. At the top of the center image is an example of a Limited Time Quest (LTQ). The tile is similar in base functionality to the regular quests, but with the addition of a timer and an overall progress tracker at the top. The player would have to race against the clock in order to complete each of the quests. The player would be given a slightly larger reward every few quests, with a Grand Prize waiting for them at the end. The LTQs allowed for players to “compete” in a challenge without having a top-tier prize denied to them by another player, like in the Karma contests.
The Quest 2.0 system was well-received by players. It has also increased monetization for PFGR while LTQs are active. It took a team of five people 3 months to finish development. It was a great experience both for the opportunity to design a feature from start to finish, and to gain experience leading a team.
Kill Shot: Bravo
Kill Shot Bravo is one of the top FPS sniper games on mobile. As a mission designer on this title, my role is to work with Artists and Engineers to develop new and compelling mission content for players on a monthly basis. Each month I develop paper plans of the overall map layout, and then work with artists to bring that map to life. The maps must both be visually interesting and be able to handle the various mission types the the game supports. Each map must be able to provide interesting engagement spaces for the varying ranges that Sniper Rifle, Machine Gun, Shotgun, and Assault Rifles require. Once we’ve released the content to the players, we work with our analytics team to monitor the performance of those missions to confirm that they are helping us meet our KPIs, and make adjustments if they are not.
Working on Kill Shot: Bravo has been an amazing experience with a great team. My fellow designers and I are always trying to push the engine to it’s limits with the most awesome, action-packed mission that we can.
- Created over 400 unique missions, each with a positive player rating of 85% or more.
- Developed a reusable map that can be redressed indefinitely to create “new” maps using only props and changes in lighting. Saves almost 3 weeks of an Artist’s man-hours each month.
- Worked with Artists to develop a set of practices that help designers and artists communicate ideas and develop maps in tandem.
Sniper mission for the Arctic Fishing Village region in Kill Shot: Bravo. In this mission the player must kill an officer, but the officer is hidden until the player engages the enemies. Once the player engages them, the officer will appear, but the player must still take out the Gunner and melee enemies first. If the player takes too long, the officer will flee. Once the player kills all the gunners and melee enemies, a sniper appears to help direct the players attention to where the officer is standing.
The action-packed finale to the Casino Region in Kill Shot:Bravo! Very difficult mission that requires careful timing and precise aim to hit as many explosives as you can. It was a ton of fun to make!
Early Machine Gun mission for Region 39 of Kill Shot: Bravo. I designed it to be an easy mission, but the volume of melee units jumping toward the player down the alley gives the mission a sense of intensity. Energy shielded units provide cover for some of the enemies to get closer to the player. The snipers that appear periodically interrupt the player and force them to frantically search for the source of the laser, providing some white-knuckle moments in the midst of an otherwise simple "bullet hose" mission.
This mission requires the player to kill multiple sniper in a row. It is intended to be quite difficult, despite how straightforward it is. The only enemy is the snipers, who have escalating levels of armour, and the snipers spawn at a steady rate of 5 to 7 seconds. It is timed out so that the player can only miss one or two shots throughout the entire mission before the snipers begin to build up and overwhelm the player. So though the enemies appear at a steady rate, the intensity of the increases as the player gets further into the mission due to a sense of loss aversion. It is more of an endurance test than a puzzle. Creating the mission required many test passes so that every shot could be timed out perfectly. The speed of each shot, the time it takes to reload, the traversal time of the enemies, player rotation speed, and a little bit of wiggle room for a missed shot all needed to be taken into account so that the mission could ride that line between too easy, and impossibly hard.
The intent behind this mission is exactly what it would appear to be: a fun roller coaster! We add easier "Relief" missions throughout each region we release in order to give the player a break, especially after a particularly difficult mission. In this case, during the development of a "Mining" Region, one of the artists and I thought it would be fun to create an "underground roller-coaster in a sea of gold" (and maybe pay homage to Indiana Jones in the process). The first pass of this mission ended up being a lot harder than intended, and not in a good way. Enemies were difficult to track while moving at the high speed of the coaster. Also, the twists and turns that made the track interesting resulted in the player having major difficulty controlling their weapon. I added longer straight sections and slowed the player down at certain points to help mitigate this. I also placed enemy groups so that once a player turned corners or went down inclines, the enemies were right in front of them. Adding in a bunch of boxes of TNT helped make the mission easier as well while also adding to the action-movie flair of the mission.