Using 3D-Printed Trophies and Community Tournaments to Increase Player Engagement
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TASTEE: Lethal Tactics launched in May 2016 and is our studio’s first independent effort. We had a fantastic launch, climbing to the top of Steam’s “Popular New Releases” chart, getting a main capsule feature, and even earning an additional visibility round.
As PvP is a major component of our game, we knew we had to find ways to encourage players to challenge one another. At launch, all we had in-game that would promote this behaviour was our monthly PvP leaderboard. While it was a great start, we knew we had to do more, and so we decided to organize tournaments.
This post is about how we run our tournaments, the prizes we created, and the results we’ve achieved so far from running them.
We wanted to challenge and engage our community, keep the game fresh with events and content, and also spread some cool TASTEE swag around the world!
TASTEE has amazing community members. We’re constantly impressed with what they bring to the table: their feedback, their suggestions, their incredible how-to guides. While playing matches against the community we were stunned by some of the inventive tactics that they came up with - tactics and moves that we’d never thought of or attempted in development.
We’ve also found that keeping a game feeling fresh and “alive” is crucial in converting new Steam page traffic into wishlist adds or sales. It’s very important to us that when a new user lands on our Steam page, they see one or more of the following:
There is new content
There is a community event
The devs are promptly responding to all feedback, questions, and support threads.
The setup is fairly simple. After announcing the tournament on our channels and Steam store page, we set up a landing page where players can sign up for the tournament. Having a dedicated landing page works best as it allows us to funnel traffic from various sources (in-game, social, Steam) all into one signup form. From there, we work directly with the community to organize and schedule matches.
Organization is critical when coordinating a tournament with players from all over the world, here are the tools we use to help with communications and operations.
Challonge (http://challonge.com/) - For our tournaments, we use a single-elimination bracket format. Challonge is a clean and simple bracket generator. For our first tournament, one of our awesome community members created and managed the bracket for us - all we had to do was embed the bracket onto our tournament page.
Discord (https://discordapp.com/) - Discord is a chat app designed specifically for the gaming community. We use Discord as meeting place for members to set up matches. As an added benefit, it is also a great place for community members to chat post-match and share match recaps with the broader community.
MailChimp (https://mailchimp.com/) - MailChimp is a mailing list service. We use MailChimp for two things: Tournament sign ups (the double opt-in process really comes in handy for keeping spam sign ups away) and disseminating tournament information.
We needed to generate cool rewards for our tournament winners. In deciding what to make or purchase we had these three guidelines:
Something that we ourselves would want
Cost-effective, but also significant
Able to be dropshipped - i.e. the vendor ships directly to the end-user. (This reduces the overall shipping times, shipping costs, and has less of a carbon footprint.)
After much discussion, in addition to t-shirts and art prints, we chose to design and 3D-print our own trophy! This was a chance to play with cool new technology and create something awesome and totally unique to TASTEE and SkyBox Labs… Plus, what kind of tournament would it be without a cool trophy?
We wrote a creative brief referencing trophies that we thought have a lot of personality. We wound up looking at a lot of MTV trophies, in particular, the iconic astronaut and the popcorn trophies. Our art team then went to work, developing several amazing concepts.
While we loved them all, we chose the final design based on what would work best as a 3D-print. The model had to be stable, not have too many intricate details, and it had to translate well to 3D. For example, we avoided concepts that looked like a giant explosion because the final print could end up looking like broccoli.
Once we had the designs, it was time to get things produced. Here’s who we worked with to bring the prizes to life.
Kraft Media (http://www.kraftmedia.com/) - Kraft Media is a screenprinting shop located in Downtown Vancouver. For creating t-shirts, going local is ideal as you’ll have better quality control. Every city should have a screenprinting shop - google your local options. We used Kraft Media to screenprint our t-shirts, and we definitely recommend screenprinting over DTG (direct to garment) as the tee designs will last longer and appear more vibrant. Plus, Kraft Media is run by some very cool people and they produce great quality tees - if you’re in the Vancouver area, we highly recommend them.
Posterjack (http://www.posterjack.ca/) - Posterjack is a printing company. We chose them because they offered a large selection of print options and had an office in Canada. The prints turned out great!
Shapeways (https://www.shapeways.com/) - Shapeways is a 3D-printing company. Customers can upload a 3D model, select between a number of materials and finishes, and then have the model printed and shipped. Shapeways was a fantastic choice for us! Not only could we upload and view the 3D model of our trophy, but the Shapeways software also analyzed the model and filled in parts of the mesh that might have been trouble to print. Shapeways’ whole ordering process was seamless and the model arrived intact, looking simply stunning.
We’ve run a number of community tournaments and have seen competitors from the USA, Canada, Japan, Sweden, Russia, Germany, France, Spain, Czech Republic and China. We’ve shipped trophies across the world, seen some of the best tactics we’ve ever seen happen in the game, and have witnessed legends emerge from the community. With each additional tournament, we’ve seen sign ups double, and we’re seeing our average MAU increase 15-25% the months succeeding each tournament.
Would we do it again? Absolutely! We are actually running a “Beat the Devs” tournament right now!