Tennis Clash was the most downloaded mobile game in 78 countries during its October 2019 launch, and it has received a number of rewards and features by both App Store and Google Play.
I started on Tennis Clash on November 2018. On that time, Product and Game Design struggled to find a good balance between Tennis techniques and fun, as the sole ui/ux designer on that moment, I stuck together with them, trying to learn as much as possible in order to achieve a world class user experience.
When our prototype (on the right) started to give positive signals, the team scalated from 8 to 100+ colleagues, I was leading 3 designers, freelancers and a US outsource UI team. As a result from everyone's huge effort, the game made to top 10 worldwide downloads on launch.
On early stages, after some decisions with the developers, the Product Manager came to me with a specification that he believed created a good balance between real life tennis physics and a fun mobile game that you can have a nice feeling with short matches and good challenges to keep you playing for a long time.
The feature documentation lists that all items on the game should have 10 different stats, in 5 different groups with Level, cost of upgrade and name. It seems like a lot for our players, but I understood that all this information is valuable to tennis enthusiasts. So I took all that for a spin on wireframes.
I showed him theses experimentations and told him that this would not be ideal but we could try to compensante the ammount of information with Light Visuals and he replied ”Cool but what about comparing 2 cards?”. Although that wasn't on the documentation, its part of the metagame that we are going for, the same as Sniper3D, War Machines, CSR and Clash Royale. Well, that's a lot, right?
Right. So I realised that the challenge here was really trying to make the team see that this goes beyond this screen, this is the most important part of the game perception, and it is core for players strategy.
Luckly for most of us, having something tangible, supported by people you trust and with a good hypothesis, things start to makes more sense. So I created some prototypes, with different solutions that the team wouldn't like at first, went around the company getting opinions and feedbacks, and got back to them.
This is not about how I present these informations or tests that I do. This is about understanding our target audience. Yes, we want to attract Tennis enthusiasts and make them happy. But Tennis is in general an Elite sport, and there is a whole world out there that have cellphones in their pocket that never played tennis before. This is our chance to reach a broader audience. So we all talked and iterate a lot.
Three important winnings happened here for our players:
- We reduced the stats from 10 to 6, they still carry important Tennis concepts but are way easy for anyone to understand or to be learned.
- We will have a Total Power number, so you know the impact on that equipment on your entire build.
- The cards have different categories (Rackets, Shoes, Grip, etc), we set that each category could only change up to 3 different stats.
This is the type of thing that makes me love being a designer. It's not about putting on the screen, it’s about understanding and connecting all ends. After this, the vision on the game was very clean and aligned among us, that made us progress a lot faster.
The prototype was going well, game enters in wartime/crunch, we had less time but way more resources. That means we can rise the art direction quality on the game.
The references focused on collecting cards, but we focus on strategy, so we set a navigation that would reflect that. We also realised that we don’t need a compare popup, we could just include the attributes on the card itself, and it would always compare to your equiped composition.
After the soft launch, we had more data and decided to tune down Total Power because we saw that players decided on the number instead of strategy, but it’s still there to guide them on building different Lineups/Decks.
One year after the game’s worldwide launch, we had lots of learnings and data that made us change, enhance and add new features. But all my work and effort on this core thing is still there and drives millions of players. That makes me proud of pushing so much on something that I believed in, and making everyone onboard made it happen.