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Redesigning Wild Ones into Playdom's Top Game: A Social Game Design Reboot

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Redesigning Wild Ones into Playdom's Top Game: A Social Game Design Reboot

April 28, 2011 Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next
 

[Designer Joshua Dallman dives into 10 critical factors in the redesign of Wild Ones, which saw the game transform from a failure into Playdom's top social title, and offers up a comprehensive picture with concrete examples on how to do it.]

One year ago I went to work for Playdom, joining as the studio design lead for an internal studio led by co-founder Ling Xiao after doing contract design work for months for projects such as Social City. My first project in the studio was to fix a game that wasn't performing well -- that game was the turn-based artillery shooter Wild Ones.


Wild Ones currently Playdom's #1 game

Through game design alone (no marketing tricks and no ad spend) I increased DAUs by 44 percent, increased MAUs by 25 percent, and quadrupled revenue, at a time when policy changes put all games on Facebook in decline.

It's now Playdom's number one game, comprising a quarter of its entire daily traffic. Here's how I did it.

Normally, the rule in social games is to direct by metrics. This is considered evolution, the next wave, modern. We think of the days before metrics as the dark ages, brute, unsophisticated.

Yet companies that evolve to use metrics then direct by metrics alone find success only in optimizing what can be perceived by metrics, which is often just the tip of the iceberg.


Playdom's Wild Ones today

Bad game design is imperceptible to metrics; you have to play something to know it's bad, and you have to know bad design when you see it. Metrics can show that something is broken, but not what is broken. I say this because although metrics will indeed take you to the next level as a designer, they amplify your design sense, not replace it.

When I looked at Wild Ones, I saw so many crippling mistakes of bad design that I didn't have to look at a single metric -- nor did I -- to determine what was wrong, or how to fix it. I only saw how the game was performing overall and knew from my experience that it should have been doing way better.

Why was I so confident it should have been doing better? Chiefly, because the concept behind the game has such broad appeal and historical precedent. The genre itself goes very far back as a casual game. Its ubiquity is almost that of Snake. I'm not going to do a history of the genre, but its history includes Artillery, Human Cannonball, Scorched Earth, Worms, iShoot, Angry Birds, and dozens of successful others in the artillery trajectory genre.

The Worms series in particular has been wildly successful, with many sequels and ports, and ranks as a consistent bestseller on Xbox Live Arcade.

Worms has done a great job of softening the aggressive war aspect with cute cartoon characters and cute weapons and themes to draw a wider audience and more casual player base in. Meanwhile, the game was still skill based and challenging enough for more strategic core players. Everyone loves Worms; it has universal appeal and is fun, casual, and accessible. I wanted to see Wild Ones hit the numbers that a Worms-like game would.

However, in its original state at the time, Wild Ones was far too intimidating, difficult, and unrewarding for a wider audience to play. The high level goal I set out for myself was to grow the game by reaching out to a larger audience by increasing the game's accessibility. My secondary goal was to grow retention by increasing game accessibility. My final goal was to monetize the game by designing a completely new monetization strategy where there was none before, and making sure that the monetization was as completely accessible as possible.

Why the focus on accessibility? Like most designers and those in the game industry, I come from a common shared hardcore game background -- MUDs, Dungeons & Dragons, Doom, Half-Life, MMORPGs, etc. When Bejeweled and Diner Dash defined a generation of casual games, I eagerly jumped ship to the promise of "games for everyone" instead of a small hardcore fraction of the market.

I see the primary difference between hardcore and casual games being that of accessibility. Hardcore players will recompile their Linux kernel to make a game compatible with their system; casual players are so sensitive as to drop out of a funnel in significant numbers if asked to make just one extra click to get into the game.

My background informed my area of focus. Historically, Skee Ball was the first amusement game to benefit from accessibility improvements -- its original form was designed with a huge, long bowling lane, and a large, heavy ball, making it difficult to play. A decade later, it was redesigned to be the tiny size you still see in arcades today, and that's when its popularity exploded. I wanted to make the ball easier to throw in Wild Ones, and the game easier to play to capture that same explosion in popularity through simple accessibility and game design improvements.

Here were the ten big design changes I made to accomplish these goals:

1. Unlimited Life

Problem identified. In the previous design, players would spawn on a map, and once killed, would remain permanently dead in that game, unable to perform any game action other than exiting -- which players did. This was an innovation in Counter-Strike, adding tension to the FPS genre where unlimited respawns were previously the norm.

However, this tension and resulting punishment is highly inappropriate in a casual game where the rule is to reward, praise, and offer opportunity to interact. My first and most important design decision was to offer unlimited life to players that they may play continuously through a timed round and never be punished with the inability to interact.

Solution. When players die, their ghost now floats to the top of the screen (inspired by Toe Jam & Earl) and then they respawn. That's it. Dead simple (excuse the pun). However, this has a number of positive effects.

First, the player is engaging throughout the whole round, instead of only part of it, which drives up engagement (duh), but also drives up retention (keeps them from quitting while waiting and bored watching) and as a bonus drives up monetization, because the player is shooting the whole round instead of only part of the round, and the more they shoot, the more they consume, and need, and spend.

However, there is an echo effect, in that the more players kill each other, the more antagonistic they get about killing each other, upping their weapons grade tier -- thereby upping the ante for all players in the room. This also provided the benefit of releasing constraints on what weapons you could bring into the game (restricted before to keep games from ending too soon), and allowing weapons to do bigger and even one-hit-kill damage as death was no longer a big deal (humiliation being the biggest punishment).

Another benefit was by changing the winner determination from last man standing to most points scored, it made all players who scored any points (any hits) feel like winners, instead of a purely binary one winner/all other losers. This one change had so many benefits it could practically be a whole article unto itself.

Suffice to say, it was the right thing to do, and no metric could expose that (short of post-release A/B). A minority of hardcore players vehemently opposed this change, but the feature opened the game to wider player base by making it less punishing and more engaging while still rewarding skill with points all in one stroke, and was a big "single reason" for the rebooted game's success.

N.B. Social game designers may look at giving unlimited life to drive engagement a cheap tactic, akin to giving unlimited energy to an energy-based game to drive engagement and calling it a success when it's a foregone effect. The difference here is that the player who died ("ran out of energy") did not do so based on their own action or inaction; it was another player's action that forced that game state, making it feel potently unfair to a casual player.

There is also no way to pay past it, nor pay or engage to increase your potential to avoid future death so quickly. It was also doled out universally to new players and engaged players alike, whereas with energy you do not want new players to run out of energy before they have a chance to get engaged.

Monetizing the valuable commodity of life directly was tempting, but doing so would gut the engagement you need to get players playing long enough to be motivated to monetize in the first place. Instead, I wanted to make life an unlimited commodity so that the weapons used against that unlimited commodity could be similarly dispensed in "unlimited" fashion -- each shot consuming ammo and making us money.


Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

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Comments


Soeren Lund
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Awesome article. Thanks Joshua.

Mark Venturelli
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Good practical design article, which is an unfortunate rarity. While I disagree with some of your analysis, I completely agree with the problems being real problems and the solutions being adequate. Great work!



As for the metrics rant, while I agree that most "designers", specially in the social space, make naive decisions based mostly (or sometimes only) in meaningless metrics, your point of view is sometimes too radical. Problem #4, for example: "no metric could ever point to this". Lots of metrics could point to that. It's just WHAT you use and WHEN you use. Experience, design expertise and direct observation (the "qualitative" approach) and hard data (the "quantitative" approach) are not opposite - they're complementary.



I'm quite sure you are aware of it yourself to some extent, but your tone in certain parts of the article could mislead some readers. Also, on a second note, your tone was sometimes too arrogant - too much "I", not enough "we". While you are obviously a talented designer, I doubt that the success of your game is due to your efforts alone.



Also, "Who cares how powerful a weapon is when you can always price it appropriately?".



Not even Brenda can vouch for these things... I'm not condemning it, I just wouldn't do it myself, and don't believe that it is the only way to go.

Joshua Dallman
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My point of view has less to do with designers making naive decisions based mostly on metrics, and more to do with social game companies making decisions based on metrics in the complete absence of designers. I can't tell you how many social game companies I've talked with that designed or ran live games and didn't even have designers due to an arrogant attitude of "the metrics will tell us what we need to do." This is the web vs game company bias; it is both business and cultural, and it must change for social game companies to move to the next level. Zynga gets it with their hiring and empowering of Brian Reynolds, who wields metrics use appropriately not exclusively. My tone is intentionally radical to make a point.



No metric could expose the problem #4 in the article. If there was one, they wouldn't have needed me to point out the problem, because the problem would be self-evident in numbers. Qualitative and quantitative are absolutely complementary - I discuss both in the article - the point I make in fact is that both are needed. I'm not championing a return to primitive pre-metrics era, I'm championing a harmonious wedding of the two.



I use "I" in the article a lot because it's true. On other projects I've worked on, it's been much more about the team and the "we" but here I was driving the changes. It's important to have a single vision holder for a product and here that person was me. In fact I forgot to mention it, but previously Wild Ones had been through some 4-5 different designers, and like a Hollywood film with 5 writers the diverging views and directions were what made the game a mess and why I so openly critique it.



It is monetization best practice to have no ceiling for extravagance and power of decorative or functional items, then price those extremely high to net whales. That this was a competitive realtime game instead of decorative cooperative one did not change the best practice. It's not the only way to go, but it can make a lot of money.

Raul Aliaga
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I think that both criticisms, "too much I" and "no metric could expose the problem" and your answers point out an underlying common problem: time to execute and desired results trade offs.



It's not that there is no metric to expose the problem, you can design one tracking the needed data and handle it properly, metrics are not something you can take for granted. But it's way more cost effective to bring an experienced game designer to evaluate the game and propose key changes like you did.



Same thing with cohesive vision: with more stakeholders involved, a design team of 4 people would work if all of them has the same knowledge and weigh in different information in the same way, but that it's a redundancy. Since no such team exists, communication times lengthen execution and too much time is spent making sure the design is right instead of executing it.



Conciliation of both design and metrics can always be linked to a trade off of time to execute and desired results, given your particular team and the resources you have in place. Specially for the resource of time, in an industry that moves so quickly.

Mark Venturelli
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Using "monetization" as a variable for game balancing sure makes a lot of money, but also makes, in my opinion, a not-so-good game.

Ting Chow
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Absolutely in agreement with Mark.



Edit: But with that said... I still really appreciate some of the design challenges you managed to solve, Josh.



Making the firing controls be mapped completely to the mouse along with changing the UI to better reflect angle and power gets five thumbs up from me.



Unlimited spawns in a turn based multiplayer game was a good decision too imo.

Chris Daniel
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True. "Monetization" almost always stands for bad games.

Gary LaRochelle
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Having played Wild Ones, my biggest complaint was the incredible lag in game play.



The lag made the game unplayable. That's the reason I stopped playing it.

Tony Ventrice
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Good article. I think the lesson being conveyed is simply: 'metrics can not identify a problem, only the symptoms'. A talented designer is needed to enunciate the goals of a game in general terms, identify the underlying impediments to those goals and propose fixes (as outlined in the 10 examples of the article). It is a rare casual/social project that has even one other person on the team that understands what the designer is doing during this process. While the designer is working, almost everyone else is fixating on the one thing they do understand: metrics.

The sense of arrogance therefore stems from a natural sense of self-justification. A designer grows tired of finding new ways to say the same thing; 'metrics are *one* thing, not the only thing'. Once the metrics finally round that corner and support the changes, it's hard not to hold them up in victory.

Stephen Horn
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I just clicked on the link to Wild Ones, and whoops, it seems the skull and cigar slipped back in.

Luis Guimaraes
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Awesome! Lot's of core Game Design information in a very concise article. Perfect to share the link around everybody from other disciplines. No need for too much tricky talking, just "read this".

Joshua Dallman
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A related article of interest: http://gamasutra.com/view/news/31855/GDC_China_Happy_Farms_Creato
r_On_Finding_The_Tao_Of_Social_Games.php

Radek Koncewicz
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Interesting read. I also appreciate that you pointed to so many examples of existing games that dealt with similar themes/mechanics; for whatever reason, designers are often reluctant to admit their sources of inspiration.



Some of the problems you described are amusing as well since they seem so absurd considering the circumstances. Permadeath in a social/casual title?!



Anyway, thanks for the article. It was refreshing to hear an honest take on monetization as well -- whether people agree with it or not -- so I hope to see similar posts in the future.

Joe McGinn
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Wonderfully generous, useful design article, thanks so much Joshua. Just so happened I played the revamped version of Wild Ones recently, and it's a pleasant easy UX ... I almost wish I had played the earlier version for comparison! (almost)

Nicolas Barriere-Kucharski
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This is really interesting. Most casual games often shy away from gameplay that is competitive or features any sort of conflict. Glad you were able to find a way and make it work.



I had a question: is there any sort of matchmaking system in place? Are players randomly matched with one another or does the game check for any sort of skill indicator or weapon purchases?

Alan Wootton
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We try to match players by level and game options picked. We expand a 'window' so that the average time to start a match is less than 20 sec. Typically it is +- two levels, sometimes more. The final algorithm is very complicated.

Ting Chow
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Hey Josh, you mentioned that Wild Ones is still a game that allows for some room for skill "(the game was still about skill in the end) ~ page 5"... but given the changes you've mentioned here I'd like to contest that.



What's to stop any player from buying up a bunch of Gamma Stars or Game Overs and spamming them for every match? Weapons that hit the entire screen and instantly kill, or destroys 90% of the terrain and players doesn't sound like they involve much skill to use. This is probably even worse for a turn-based game; what if the big spender is going first? Then everyone else will just lose because he gets an instantaneous head start on points/kills from deploying his super weapon. Even if everyone else is a big spender as well, they will never catch up to the first big spender.



Of course, Playdom will rake it in big when there are a bunch of big spenders playing... but I don't see how it'd be fun to play a massive armageddon game each time, with the winner first being determined by whoever wants to spend the most money, and secondly determined by whoever goes first by the game's arbitration.

Samuel Green
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Yeah, I stopped playing Wild Ones when they started releasing about 10 different 'I-win' buttons. It became a game about who spends the most money, rather than who has ANY skill. I suppose it worked because their audience is probably 13 year old boys with self-esteem issues and spare cash, who want to get a nice little "well done" through dropping $2 and guaranteeing themselves a win. They don't realize that they have no skill and didn't achieve anything, because it's in the form of a game and packaged into making them believe they did well.



It's like being a professional escort. Lonely men and women want to feel good about themselves, so they spend a bit of cash to fake 'success'. It works (it's the oldest profession in the world) but the majority frown upon it and in the long run people will realize that they're not achieving anything.



I am very surprised Wild Ones did have improved stats after the myriad of identi-kit "GG" weapon additions (every other change was quite good, I thought!). Would be nice to know what would have happened if the overpowered weapons were not introduced but everything else was.

Alan Wootton
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I agree with Venturelli (2nd post above) on this. You use the words "I" and "my" 77 times and only use the word "we" 11 times. Mostly you use "we" in a negative context, as in "We literally couldn't handle the incoming surge of traffic and interest in the game..." which is not how I remember it and feels like an insult to our efforts and planning. We did write experimental technology for scalability and it did, and does, work. Wild Ones is unique that way.

A nice 'making of' article is usually good but you only visited the project for a relatively short time. An analogy would be a script consultant taking credit for the success of Avatar. We all knew that the game was a work in progress, and a risky experiment, and I object to the characterization of it as 'failing' at any point. The real monetization breakthroughs (eg. 3x in one day, written by an actionscript developer almost on a whim) are not even mentioned in your article.

Dude, seriously, I was on your side when you were here. You know that. But now when I gaze with pride on the release poster (which resembles a movie poster), that is signed by my fellow cast members, and sits framed in my house, I notice that your name is not on it.

Besides that it's an interesting, informative, article when taken with a grain of salt :-)

cheers - a

Joshua Dallman
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Hi Alan, To be clear, this was not a Wild Ones post-mortem, nor a "making of" article. Either of those would have heralded the whole team's efforts. Instead this was a DESIGN specific post-mortem, as noted in the title, which is why I focus on the hard decisions I made as the DESIGNER that drove the product to success. There was only one designer, so as a design post-mortem I end up saying "I" a lot. Sorry! If I co-designed with someone, I'd be talking about how "we" designed things and drove changes. Without my redesign Wild Ones would have been sunset about a year ago - I am not hypothesizing this for my own benefit, I was told when I started that if I couldn't change the numbers for the game in a big way and quick, it would be sunset. You weren't told that to keep morale up. I'm sorry you take offense to that characterization, but when I got there, Wild Ones was a failure and ready to be axed. Its success or failure rested on my redesign and I felt that weight every day - for you guys it was more casual, your jobs didn't depend on it, it seemed like business as usual. For me it was more urgent. Go back and find the "Wild Ones Reboot Design Document" I wrote a year ago - it's all there in writing, and there's no question that I drove the changes that made the game a success. No slight intended whatsoever towards engineers such as yourself that wrote BRILLIANT code that helped make it a success. I have oceans of respect for you, and much gratitude for the team that built the game before I got there - with no game to fix, I'd have had nothing TO fix. And I love fixing games - it's less work than making them (tough a TON more politics). If you want to talk more about the engineering of the game, write an engineering post-mortem on the game here on Gamasutra - I would love to read it! Best, Josh

Alan Wootton
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"Without my redesign Wild Ones would have been sunset about a year ago". ? How can you possibly substantiate that?

Joshua Dallman
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To substantiate my claim talk to my boss at the time, Playdom co-founder Ling Xiao, who said the reversal in metrics caused by my design changes was so pronounced and unusual it was like nothing he'd seen in a year of running live games at Playdom before. He was amazed. I wasn't surprised - the game was truly awful from a design standpoint before, detailed in this very article. Talk to the game's producer (your boss at the time) who credited me with the game's success on my final day at the company. Look at the metrics - I rebooted the game, then DAU MAU and monetization all go way up. Can't be coincidence. No changes were happening at the time that would have independently caused the metrics to go up so radically (i.e. no ad spend, PM tricks, content, etc). I drove this with good design (or more specifically good re-design). You guys got to keep working on the game because of the success I brought to it. And the whole time I told the team, "The changes I am making will create a solid platform for the game for a long time to come, even if mistakes are later made" - even today traffic shows no sign of going down which is impressive onto itself. That's due to the strength of the design foundation I created. Maybe only other designers would understand this, and I'm addressing the wrong crowd by trying to convince an engineer (we speak different languages). I understand you see things differently and that's OK. I am proud of the work I did and take full credit for the design aspect. There's nothing wrong with that and it's necessary (though sometimes uncomfortable) to promote oneself in the game industry. I am proud of the work the team did as well and in particular the work that you did - you stood out as a rock star - realtime synchronous play servicing a half million daily players is no easy task and you must get job offers every day. I have rarely met an engineer so bright and experienced and who cared so much for the final product. It is not surprising that you have some strong feelings about my design post-mortem as you care for the product so much! Your framed picture of the game at home is evident of that. I am not taking anything away from you, so please don't be offended. My intent is to share with the game design community the tips and tricks I used from a practical game design standpoint to rocket the game's metrics, which commenters here have expressed much appreciation for my sharing. If you have the game hung on your wall as you say, you should be happy it's still doing so well and in circulation, regardless of cause. I think my detailed, articulate, 12 page design article (above) makes a pretty strong case for cause, and it's backed up with metrics shown on the final page, and now both the game's Executive Producer and Producer crediting me for the game's success, but as this is the Internet and an open forum you are welcome to disagree.

Brian Colin
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Congratulations Josh; both on what you achieved as well as writing such a terrific Design-Oriented article...

Though I suspect you are right on the money when you say "...Maybe only other designers would understand this..."



I've been designing & developing games for nearly 3 decades now, and I often lament that 99% of the stuff written about game development ignores practical, detailed explanations of good game DESIGN in action! Reading your thoughts, interpretations and conclusions was truly enjoyable, and it restores my faith in the industry. Keep up the terrific work and know that those of us who do what you do know exactly what you're talking about.

Saul Gonzalez
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Great article in practical game design.

However, am I the only one that felt uncomfortable when I realized this game was aimed at children? Yes, the entertainment industry has marketed at kids for decades, but I think a moral threshold is crossed when you actively design a psychological mechanism that encourages the person engaged with it to spend money again and again. It feels a lot like taking advantage of someone who is at an emotional and intellectual disadvantage.

Yes, the same could be said of any micro-transaction game aimed at teens, you can take this as a critique of the whole sector.

Samuel Green
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If a game sells power, then yes, it is more than likely to be exploiting the audience's desire to win. If the audience is a bunch of kids, then it's exploiting kids. Wild Ones sells power for cash.



Like I said in a post above, this sort of game takes advantage of kids with a bit of low self-esteem, who just want to pat themselves on the back for winning a game (and buying many of the weapons = GG). If cash can directly effect the result of a game, then it loses its status as a game, in my opinion. It just becomes this...



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wp7Jv3mwbW4

Dan Felder
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Nice article, but I'm interested in the graphs at the end. They weren't at all what I expected from your descriptions. From what you were describing, I expected to see a plateau or slow climb followed by a heavy increase in slope after the design changes. However they look like a straight trend up - with the redesign only continuing the current trend. From those numbers alone, the game looks far from a state of crisis that was jumped to a massive recovery.



Can you explain the trends?

Tomasz Mazurek
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My thought exactly. The graphs look at least underwhelming. Your design changes seem to have only continued a rising trend leading soon to a long term plateau. They also hardly confirm the idea that the game was a disaster before the redesign. I guess your monetization results must have been much better.

Joshua Dallman
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DAU rising trends at game launch are always misleading. Monetization and retention are the beef. Monetization was the biggest initial disappointment and most dramatic improvement. Most game stats cannot be shared, I shared what I could from public Appdata to illustrate the change.

Saul Gonzalez
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If that's the case, why include data that contributes nothing to the argument you're trying to make (and is, in your own words, misleading)? If your statements have to be taken at face value anyway, the article is better off without any data at all.

Joshua Dallman
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Those who work in social games know that DAU launch data is skewed due to two main factors 1) people will try anything new because it's new, the DAU therefore reflects the newness of the product and not necessarily sustained interest (which is retention) and 2) ad spend and cross-promotion at launch. What's significant about the data I share is the retention (1 year later and no sign of slowing down - even the venerable City of Wonder only peaked for 4 MONTHS then crashed - Wild Ones is STILL PEAKING) and the monetization (as noted a sustained quadruple improvement) in the face of no ad spend during the reboot and launch interest and newness-factor waning.

Scott Siegel
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There's no reason why you can't discuss positive design decisions on a game, while still empowering and crediting the team that executed those changes.



Even if you are solely responsible for the design changes listed, you're not responsible for their execution: the team is. And in either case, it's not out of the question to practice some humility when discussing a team effort.



As it's written, this article seems more about being self-congratulatory than it does about the game's accomplishments; It's more about what Josh did than what Wild Ones did. And that is disappointing.

Joshua Dallman
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Scott - I'm sorry you feel this article is merely self-congratulatory and doesn't surface any useful game design information to the greater development community. This was not a blog about the execution of the changes this was a blog about the design of the changes as noted twice in the title and that makes a big difference for article content. Please note my credit of the team in my closing paragraph: "There was an entire team of over a dozen people who worked on this reboot and helped make it a success -- I don't want to name them individually at the risk of omitting anyone -- but I do need to acknowledge that without their hard and thoughtful work, my design changes would have existed only on paper and in theory, and Wild Ones would have long ago been sunset as a disappointment." That said, the "team effort" you cite was driven by me alone - the team was uncooperative and wanted to keep "their" game as-is and maintain the status quo, I had to fight them every step of the way to make the changes I was already empowered by management to make. If it had been more of a team effort to reboot the game and we were all on the same page working together towards a common goal, I may have ended up talking more about the team in this article more because they would have been more active with design, but as it unfolded I drove this reboot (design and production). Alan even says above "I was on your side when you were here," which betrays the polarization of the team. They picked sides with or against me, whereas I took the PLAYERS side to deliver a fun game. You could say it was me that polarized the team, but the team already had framed posters of their game and were already attached to how the game was, they didn't want someone coming in and changing what they felt was already complete and perfect the way it was. This is a mistake in social games where one should stay loose and non-attached to the design to move in an agile way with a SAAS live product, which is different from traditional box product where you DO get attached because the product IS final once it ships. As soon as I saw the posters and swag, I knew there would be trouble in the form of attachment and inertia with the team. I'm sorry if my self-credit for driving the reboot sounds arrogant to some but that's how it happened and it wasn't fun struggling to get these changes done to save the product. If you're offended, consider that designers can do worse than overly self-credit themselves - like design failing games or destroy healthy ones - and that designers everywhere are better off when there's more recognition of their work towards making or breaking a product's success, not less. Note to readers that both Alan and Scott are current Playdom employees, and I am not.

Shay Pierce
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Awesome, practical article Joshua. Let the haters hate: of course the team members that designed and implemented the original game will have a very different perspective on the redesign... it's a very similar phenomenon to what you noted in the article, where players of the existing game had a similarly different perspective. But there are times when, to create something of value, you have to forge ahead. They're hard decisions exactly because someone is going to be unhappy with them; but someone has to make those decisions and it's great to see what decisions you made, why, and the overall impact they had.



This article does a service for the entire industry: not only does it share very practical design decisions and the thinking behind them (sharing your insight and experience for other designers to learn from), but you correctly and dramatically demonstrate the value of smart, experienced game designers and the fact that no amount of metrics can possibly replace them. I've heard at least one executive in the social games space quoted as saying that "any moron can design games" - sinking these dangerous and naive attitudes is important, and this article is (forgive the pun) a mortar shell right into midst of them.



Thanks for writing this feature Joshua!

David Fried
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Wonderful article. I love the detail you go into the design decisions you made. Not sure what all the hate is about, seems like bitter grapes or something...



Anyways, would love to see more articles from you with this much detail and honesty.

Joshua Dallman
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As an update, I want to note that no game prior to Wild Ones nor since have I had such direct control over; that working as a team without question produces the best product and is the most enjoyable process. Here I was tasked with being a stand out voice specifically. I would also like to note that Playdom was my transition from casual games to social games, and this article was to both share quality design information and to establish myself as a designer in social games. These days I am established so this article and some of my responses, while not an outright embarrassment, is regretful in tone.

Joshua Dallman
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8/2013 As historical note Alan Wootton is no longer at Disney or in the game industry.

Scott Siegel
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Stay classy, Joshua.


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