Portfolio

Here is a selection of 3 projects that I have worked on. Scroll down to find out more about my role on the projects and some of the problems I tackled.

Tintin Match

Tintin Match is a casual match 3 game that was released on iOS and Android. I worked on the game from its inception and while I initially was employed as a developer, I switched to the design department as the project was 2 months out from global launch. While I'd been planning to transition to the design department, the sudden departure of the other 2 designers from the company left me in charge of a promising game riddled with issues.

 

Team size: 13 during production, now scaling down to 6-7 for live ops.

Store links: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fpg.tintin&hl=en

                      https://apps.apple.com/ph/app/tintin-match/id1455871967

 

1 of the features I designed

One of the features I introduced quickly after joining the design team was the First Try Reward. This will reward the player with a random item (whose average value in Soft Currency is rather small), when they beat a level on their first attempt. It also places a crown on the level button on the level list.

There were two reasons for introducing this feature.

  1. Combat the dominant strategy whereby players would immediately restart a level once they made one bad move.
  2.  Motivate player's to spend items (for the economy's and monetization's sake) when playing a level and aiming for the first try reward.

There were a few other directions this feature could have gone, but we opted for a single reward and not a streak (that increases whenever you beat a level and resets when you lose) for these reasons.

  1. Using a streak would've had a more pronounced effect on level balancing and the economy,  as the reward from beating several levels in a row would need to be significant to motivate players.
  2. Players have to backtrack at several points in our game in order to get more stars on already beaten levels. A streak mechanic would not work together with the backtracking, as the player shouldn't be able to increase their streak by going back to replay one of the easy tutorial levels.

This is a relatively simple feature, but has had some repercussions that I'd like to mention.

 

A few months after implementing this feature, we introduced a "rest bonus system" that will deduct energy from the player whenever they attempt a level. When they have no energy left they receive two less turns for every puzzle they attempt (the player sees + 2 turns when they have energy, to give the feature a positive feeling). We introduced this feature to combat the content treadmill problem we have. However, it does make the rest bonus system redundant in large part, as the player's will already be motivated to beat a level on their first attempt in order to avoid spending additional energy, thereby removing the dominant strategy mentioned above.

 

My solution for keeping the first try reward feature relevant is the following. A "first try reward" event that will give players the opportunity to play old levels again and have a second chance of getting the first try reward. This event will be live for a few days and will motivate engaged users to pay, while alleviating our content treadmill problem.

 

Approach to improving the game's economy

As a free to play game, it's vital to keep the game's economy in check in order to have monetize effectively. However, we were somewhat in the dark regarding the player's inventory, so my first course of action was to create graphs in data studio that showed us the player's coins, boosters and powerups by level number. This allows us to see how the amount of items in their inventory rose slowly but surely from level to level.

 

In order to change how the state of player's inventory we had to

  1. increase the amount of boosters and powerups the player used.
  2. decrease the amount of items we were giving the player.

Tuning the level's to make them slightly harder, together with a feature that "recommends" boosters for levels that are suitable saw an increase in the amount of boosters and powerups players where using.

 

While the above changes were being made I created a control sheet that showed the value of each of the different resources in the game, both in terms of soft currency and real money.

The game has crafting feature that allows you to convert collectibles into useful items (coins, powerups or boosters). Using analytics to determine the average player's behaviour I increased the amount of collectibles required when crafting so that player's would be able to craft less often per day, while still making sure they would be able to craft about one time per session.

 

The next change was to also hand out collectibles from the first try reward and daily login bonus. As you'll receive a collectible instead of i.e a booster, this decreases the average value of the rewards that the player receives. An additional benefit of this is that the player has agency in deciding what to craft with the collectibles they receive.

 

These and other changes removed the upward trend in the player's inventory and improved monetization.

 

Changes to the design department

The same month that I made the switch to the design department, we hired a junior game and level designer. My responsibilities now included not only game design tasks, but also mentoring a new employee and figuring out how the new design department should interface with the rest of the company.

 

Whereas the previous designers had a very top-down approach to game design. The studio wanted to use this change as an opportunity to allow more voices to be heard.

 

The first of two changes I introduced to make this happen was a bi-weekly design meeting to give team members an opportunity to express their concerns and desires in front of the rest of the team.

 

The second change was that instead of designing features in advance and then introducing them to the team later, so that the programmers could execute the design, we decided to include problems (with an initial design of a potential solution) in the team's Kanban board. This made the design work more transparent and allowed other team members to influence the feature.

Tip Top

Tip Top is a roguelike climbing game that will take you on adventures to all corners of the globe. Alone or with friends.

A personal project, I do the game design, programming and project management, while art is made by Studio Huckepack.

 

It's been in development since December 2019 and will be released in Q2 2021. While I work on the project in my free time, the rest of development is funded by a local government funding body, the Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg.

 

Team size: 3, if you include myself, one artist from Studio Huckepack and the sound designer.

Website: https://www.tristandahl.de/tip-top/

 

You can look at this pitch doc (from when the game was still called Insurmountable) I used to approach publishers to find out more about the game.

 

 

Download
Insurmountable Pitch Deck.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 23.2 MB

Validate what needs to be validated

I began designing Tip Top while still working on Lingotopia, which meant that a lot of calendar time had passed before I began prototyping it. The initial prototype was made in a matter of days and by sharing it with friends and family it quickly became apparent that the concept had promise. The dexterity required to move the avatar's hands to the correct position, combined with the need to plan your route and keep an eye on each hand's stamina created exciting mix of action and tactical gameplay.

 

The next thing to validate, was the fact that this initial prototype would scale to a full game with hours of gameplay. I prototyped several mountain types with their own features.

  • one mountain with sand clouds that would fly by and obscure your vision
  • one mountain with ice holds that break off if you hold them too long
  • one mountain with ice holds that cause your hands to slide down
  • one mountain with birds that fly across the screen and cost you stamina if they collide with you

 

These mountains proved that the core gameplay was versatile enough to scope up to an entire game and most of them remain in the game in their current form to this day. The bird mountain however, had to be changed, as the player's control over their avatar's body position was too indirect and slow.

Roguelike with a twist

The game's unique take on the roguelike genre is that you "never have to die". While climbing you can attach your rope to the wall at specific points, if you fall you'll survive as long as you're close enough to the last point you attached your rope to the wall.

 

I like this approach, as it can remove a lot of the frustration from the roguelike genre, without removing the excitement and pressure. One approach for the player might be too practice a route several times (while clippping in), but as clipping in costs time (and therefore endurance), when you decide you're ready you might not clip in at all.

 

The challenge with this feature was that it requires the core-gameplay to be dangerous enough. If the player can't fall unexpectedly, then there's no reason to clip in. This was solved in two ways:

 

  • Jumps between holds became more common place (through level design and reducing the stamina cost) and I changed the jump so that it requires more skill to land in the correct location.
  • Hold types introduced in later levels can cause the player to fall if they make a mistake positioning their hands.

Get in touch: dahltristan@gmail.com