Philipp Steinacher

Interaction Designer and Developer

Soccer for the 
half time break

How can we build and ship a game in a few weeks that
 allows us and our friends to have some fun during a half time break

Background

After working on Pendlr for over a year, Dominic Rödel and I decided that we’d have to challenge ourselves with something new. On one hand we wanted to prove to us that we’re capable of releasing a product in a foreseeable time frame and at the same time learn something new in an area of design in which we hadn’t really worked yet.

Since the 2014 soccer world cup was around we decided to use it as a topic and deadline for a quick project. Furthermore we chose to make a game as we hadn’t done that before and wanted to learn more about game design and game mechanics as well as its development.

We challenged ourselves to adapt the idea of a physical tabletop game to the iPad by using the benefits of a touch based tablet. All in all our goal was to create a game that would fit perfectly in a boring half time break of the otherwise exciting world cup matches.

Concept

We designed a simple, one screen app, that shows a classic soccer field with a ball and two goal keepers. The players had to take turns who can shoot the ball and the opponent could control his goal keeper at that time trying to prevent the goal.

To control the ball, we came up with a simple but fun custom control. A draggable circle around the ball displayed the intensity and direction of your attempted shoot and a small indicator in front of the ball allowed the player to give it a deadly spin.

The opponent is able to defeat the goal by tapping on the left or right side of his goal to let the goalkeeper move to one side or another. If the player is successful doing so, it’s his turn in trying to shoot a goal by controlling the ball.

Process

The two week design and development phase was quite straight forward. After some initial thoughts and outlines of the game mechanics, we sketched some variations of our game interface and the ball control in particular. While we quickly prototyped the control on an iPhone and could validate that it would work to interact with the ball with speed, and precision, Dominic Rödel started to work on the art direction. After some back and force we decided to formalize the flags and our playground grid to have a consistent look and feel across all parts of the game. It also allowed us to easily derive interface elements and subtile motion design.

After we determined all the important features and mechanics, we worked hand in hand to implement and design the whole game at the same time. We spend a lot of time to work on an appropriate design language and adjusting the delicate ball mechanics so that players are challenged but don’t become frustrated.

Learnings

First of all, we underestimated the organizational work to publish an first app on the Appstore and hence missed working on that from early on when we started the project since we were incredibly focused on the design work.

Generally we were happy to see what we could execute in a little over two weeks: We had decent game mechanics, a good and distinctive visual Design, clear interaction patterns and in the end a working game. On the other hand some parts fell a little too short: E.g. a better introduction to the game, game mode settings etc. Since we only had the time during one or two tryout matches before the world cup to test the game with our friends, some aspects in terms of usability could have been resolved with a more elaborate test setting that would have lead to improvements to some parts of the ball control and game options.

In the end we were able to publish within three weeks and had loads of fun exploring game design and development. While it has obviously not been an incredibly successful game, it still pays for a two burgers once or twice a year.

Role

Over the short time span of the project I was involved in creating the initial concepts and wireframing first drafts of interaction flows and game controlls. While Dominic Rödel picked up the work on the visual design, I was responsible to implement the whole game on iOS in Objective-C, starting from the first rough prototype to shipping it to the AppStore.

Team