Pocket Gems. 2016-Current
Product design, user experience design, user research, usability testing, and interaction design. Also UI implementation (in-house engine) and minor coding
Wild Beyond is an real time strategy, player versus player mobile game by Pocket Gems. Pocket Gems sought to bring a genre that’s underrepresented—core, strategic games that rewarded skilled players—to the mobile game market. The result is a beautiful, 3D game where players competed to be the best in the world.
Wild Beyond
Wild Beyond was featured as "Game of The Day" on the App Store on 11/24/2018
Ranked #7 on Strategy category for iPhones within a week of releasing, with an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Wild Beyond was Pocket Gems’ ticket into the competitive, core-game market. This goal inspired our designs to be a standard for the company: modern, with good user experience and product design. It’s strange, but many mobile games still lacked conventional app design, and we sought to break this trend with our own product.
My key contributions
• Product usability
• User research improvements
• Player onboarding improvements

Features pods were cross-functional and we completed features in two week sprints.

My process started with defining goals with product managers and game designers. Then I would move onto wireframes, build prototypes, and test it with co-workers and external customers. Once finalized, I’d work with engineers in our in-house engine. I’d build the layouts and interactions and our engineers would provide the magic. I’ll also implement the visuals from our visual designer and add confetti—like animations—to complete the features.

I championed user research and usability testing for our team. I noticed that when we were building our features, we had plenty of quantitative data, but no qualitative data. I wanted to know why our players were struggling with understanding a feature and why they enjoyed playing another feature.

Thus I added a valuable step to our process: after prototyping a feature, we’d test it with real players and then use this new data to iterate and improve.
The design team for Wild Beyond focused on making the interface goal driven, easy to understand and beautiful. Every screen followed these principles.
Goal Driven
Players understand the goals of a feature and are motivated to complete them
Easy to Understand
Players understand how to interact with the feature and are able to complete tasks
The interface is polished and enjoyable to use
Principles In Action
Feature: Big BosS BATTLES
Players faced powerful bosses in the mode Boss Blitz. The bosses leveled up and gained ability upgrades as players progressed and defeated each set of challenges.
Defining the feature's goals
The product managers wanted to diversify the player versus computer modes. The mode would provide players with additional mid-game content and would encourage players to explore new commander and unit combinations.

The game designers wanted to build bosses with upgradeable weapons and powers. Every time the player defeated a level, the boss leveled up and gained, or upgraded, a characteristic.
Initial sketches before diving into higher fidelity wireframes
the player's experience
The primary element the interface needed to communicate about the feature was that bosses upgraded or gained new characteristics as players defeated levels. Secondarily, players are incentivized to keep up in the leaderboard rankings and come back each week to battle the next boss. Finally the feature was given its own theming to make the full experience coherent and differentiated.
Version 1 (upper left), version 2 (lower left), version 3 (right)
Players loved the new challenge Bloss Blitz gave them. The feature saw a lot of traction the first few weeks because of its novelty. The guilds enjoyed discussing tactics for the bosses and helped one another complete levels. The only complaint we heard was the desire for this feature to have a solo battle option and more boss variety; therefore, version one of this feature was a success!
Animation mock up for when a boss levels up
Cleaned up version for feature's release
incorporating research
My personal initiative was to incorporate more user research and qualitative data for the project. I looked into why features were underperforming, seeked to get real player feedback on onboarding, and advocated for improving in-app purchases.

At first it was just me running inhouse usability tests. Then other teams at Pocket Gems also adopted my methodologies. With the data, the feature iterations improved and the team developed a greater empathy for players.
Survey potential participants and narrow down to our target audience.
Establish the goals of the test and the variables we’re testing. Run participants through the test environment and capture their thoughts and reactions.
What did we learn? Point out any patterns, points of frustration, and delightful moments to the team.
To launch, Wild Beyond needed to hit a few metrics, including retention from days one through three. To make sure players had a great onboarding experience, I advocated for usability tests. The team agreed and we started running every new iteration of the tutorial through in-house usability testing. I organized the tests, recruited users, lead the tests, and briefed the team of its results.

From these tests, we were able to establish which concepts were difficult for players to understand and improve them. We also understood more about player expectations and enjoyment.
Left: snippet of usability testing checklist. Right: snippet of usability test results
A major part of any application is the purchase flow. Was it easy, fast, and enjoyable? For Wild Beyond, I made sure our in-app purchases were up to today’s standards and that players enjoyed the experience.

I gathered data by looking at App Store standards, popular applications, and most importantly, what our competitors were doing.
Snippet of competitor research
It used to be visually overwhelming and confusing when players got to the purchase screen for our subscription service—Elite.

I gave direction to improve it, based on best practices. Along the way, I also identified methods to make all of our in-app purchases consistent and streamlined.
The Elite subscription screen saw the most improvements from the following points.

Decluttering the layout so that the flow of information was easier to read. It’s better when the eyes easily land on the call-to-action buttons after reading about its benefits.

Highlighting the transition from inactive to active and celebrating it. If players spent on a subscription, we should celebrate it with a punchy animation when the purchase is confirmed.
Takeaways from developing wild beyond
Research Provides Answers
When we weren’t sure about which direction to take, it was better to supplement our decisions with real player feedback and experiences.
Prioritize and Scope
Sprints are more organized when the team knows what’s most important to its goals. Also knowing each pod’s capabilities meant balanced workloads.
Both designers and engineers shared common knowledge about the in-house engine. Engineers could speak design, and designers knew about engineering restrictions and capabilities. This teamwork made transitioning from designs to implementation smoother.