I led UI UX efforts for a major redesign of an AAA mobile game
Racing Rivals had attracted a significant number of players by the time the project started. However, the company that owned the game planned to shut it down due to profitability concerns.
We were given an opportunity to bring the struggling product back to life.
I conducted a survey that attracted more than 700 players
We didn’t know much about the product at first. We had to learn from the players.
The survey allowed me to take a glimpse into the current state of the game.
You normally try to answer “what..?” with quantitative research.
It’s interesting that sometimes you can also answer “why..?”
It turned out that from the perspective of the existing customers, there wasn’t anything inherently broken.
There was definitely some frustration, and it turned out that those were the technical problems, followed by feature requests, followed by gameplay fixes.
The players have clearly identified that Turf Wars was the most important feature.
It was the ultimate social event where players formed teams and battled it out for the chance to earn exclusive rewards unavailable anywhere else. The prizes served as a symbol of status within the community.
The reason why the existing players kept coming back was the social capital they earned by competing with other players
I conducted user interviews
We held regular player council meetings with the most active and respectful players.
We listened to them. I showed some prototypes. We played together.
I looked into analytics to confirm the findings
It turned out that experienced players were highly engaged and retained - the churn rate among them was incredibly low. They kept coming back, hooked on the game. Our task was to maintain this level of engagement while also improving other areas.
Despite the high engagement among experienced players, our onboarding process and retention rate were struggling. The low FTUE completion rate and subpar retention compared to industry leaders highlighted areas for improvement in the player's initial experience and continued engagement.
After analyzing all the insights, it became apparent that the game failed in bridging the gap between experienced players and new players.
From the UX perspective, it was worth focusing my attention on the first-time users and players who started playing the game recently
The game tutorial was unnecessarily complicated
It was almost trying to keep up with the hard-core experience of the game itself.
It scared the prospective players away.
UI prompts were misleading
There are certain fundamental design principles it's extremely dangerous to mess with. The conceptual model is one of them.
It turned out to be broken in Racing Rivals.
How most players thought the product worked and how it actually worked were two completely different things. In order to be competitive, you couldn’t rely on in-game prompts. You had to find the perfect shifts yourself. And every car was different.
The only way to get better was to spend a lot of time experimenting. Once you understand it as a player, it will give you a competitive advantage.
We had to change that, there was no other way.
I went through multiple stages of iterating and improving the existing flow.
When reconsidering our approach to FTUE, my goal was to gradually make it more complicated, giving the players a chance to keep up with its pace.
During the initial stages, I just used to go back and forth between the FTUE flow diagram and simple sketches...
...that were turned into prototypes...
...that were tested with the real players making it through the updated tutorial.
The game set incorrect expectations on how navigation worked
The new players expected the game screens to be connected in a linear way, while in fact, the player’s garage was in the center. It happened too often when the players found themselves on a different screen, and not where they actually wanted to go in the first place.
Some of the design decisions provided players with insights, which created an incorrect conceptual model that was drastically different from the actual design.
In the updated approach I made it so all the destinations became just a tap away.
Destinations: accessible via the hamburger menu, transition through the loading screen
Overlays: accessible via the HUD, transition through sliding down (up)
I took a pass on the iconography, typography, backgrounds, animations, and overall UI direction.
Unfortunately, the product kept struggling to monetize the existing customers.
Revenue generated from Racing Rivals didn't cover the cost of operations.
Eventually, Racing Rivals raced off into the sunset.