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 Jan 2017 - Present

@BlueStacks,  Bay Area

 
 

Project Overview

Gaming is getting more and more social now. From the learnings we got from user interviews we did in the past, we realize that one of the most fun parts of gaming is actually interaction with friends (or viewers in case of streaming). However, streaming is sometimes considered only for skilled gamers. Most casual gamers are more comfortable with only a small number of viewers, who are ideally their friends. Thus, we decide to dive into this problem and create a tool for casual gamers so that they can comfortably hang out with their gaming friends. 

Design Goal

Create a social tool for casual gamers so that they can connect with friends and discover new games.

My Role

  • The only designer on this project

  • Brainstormed design ideas and streamlined the workflow with my product manager

  • Created  wireframes,  final screens, visual assets and animations
 

User Research & Empathy Developing 

 

Interviews with ~15 BTV users

Watching Twitch everyday

Playing games together everyday!

 

Observations & Insights

  • People love to play games with friends. Oftentimes, people get into a game because their friends introduced this game to them so they can play together. Some people use our BTV product  just to stream to their friends
  • People like to make friends through games. Some casual streamer mentioned that it was fun to interact with viewers although he didn’t know the viewers at all.  Tons of people are also making friends on gaming forums
  • Most people are too shy to try streaming since they think streaming is only for skilled gamers
  • However, playing with friends is not easy. People sometimes have to go through a big hassle coordinating schedules and finding the right tool to share game-related information.
 

Persona

Josh

  • 21, from Arizona, college student
  • Casual Clash Royale player
  • Spend about 10 hours per week on gaming
  • Tried streaming several times, didn't get too many viewers though 
  • Enjoy interacting with viewers 
  • Constantly looking for new games 
  • Started using BlueStacks because of a friend's recommendation
  • Like BlueStacks over other streaming tools because BlueStacks is simple and straightforward, without technical barriers 
 
 
 

Design Iteration 1

PlayDate, Connect with gamers and make new friends

Playing games is a great way to kill time. But playing alone sometimes sucks since you have no one around to discuss gaming strategies or seek help from . It would much nicer if you have a friend to walk you through a new game, share all the small but important tips, or help you out when you are stuck. But what if none of your friends is available? Get on PlayDate!

 

Storyboards

 
 

 

Features

  • Match with a new gaming friend based on the game you are playing.  You can share your gaming screen with this new friend.
    • Challenge: we don't know how comfortable people are with strangers. We will find out on the first round of testing.
  • Invite a friend through a link to view your gameplay
    • Challenge: just a message with a link is not convincing enough for people to download a product. So we decided to make viewing accessible on browser. After a browser session, we will prompt the viewer to download the product to enjoy more features.
  • Voice/video chat with your viewer
    • Challenge: users are actually playing a game while interacting with our product. So making the UI minimalistic and not distracting is the key.
 
 
 
 

Experiment Release & Feedback

We released the beta version to a really small number of users and conducted 20 user testing sessions. We got the following feedback.

  • Only a small number of users are comfortable with talking with strangers, even if they are playing the same game
  • Most users are not comfortable with camera&mic with strangers. They feel safer with only typing
  • Only several PlayDate sessions lead to future interactions like friending each other on FB and playing more games 
  • Most people feel awkward connecting with strangers 
 

Design Iteration 2

PlayDate, hangout with friends over games

Based on the feedback we got from design idea 1, it seems like most people are not comfortable with the idea of connecting with a totally stranger. Thus, we decided to focus on the idea of hangout among gaming friends.

 

Features

  • Connect with Steam so you can bring your Steam friends over.
 

 

  • See friends' game status. Message friends and video/voice chat with friends.

 

  • In game UI so that gamers don't have to leave the game to invite a friend to watch. Gamers can also video/voice chat with their friends while playing.
 
 

Challenges

Challenge 1. How do we get more users onboard?

As a social software, to get as many people as we can onboard is a key problem to solve. Thus we focused on this problem can came up with the following solutions.

  • We encourage our users to connect with Steam(&other gaming platforms in the future) so they can bring their friends over.
 

When users skipped connecting with Steam and they don't have too many friends, we show the "connecting with Steam" button on the main page.

When users go to the "add friends" page, they will also see the option to connect with Steam.

  • We encourage users to add and invite friends to our platform by making adding friends page easily accessible everywhere.
Empty state for "no friends" scenario

Empty state for "no friends" scenario

When users are search for a friend, we also show potential friends

We also show friend suggestions on home page if the user doesn't have  too many friends

  • To reduce barriers for new users, we decided to make watching accessible on web browsers so they don't have to download the product first. After watching a play session they will be prompted to download our product.
 
 

Challenge 2. How do we create in game UIs for gamers so they don't get too distracted?

  • Minimize the actions gamers have to take during games
 

When gamers open a game, we would prompt them to invite a friend by showing a subtle reminder. If the gamer takes no action, the reminder would automatically go away.

We keep the dial box minimalistic and less distracting for the game. The box would also go away if the gamer doesn't take actions.

If the gamer decided to take the call, they don't have to do anything after hitting the button. Mic automatically turns on with a voice indicator so the gamer knows that there is a viewer.

  • Visually, we took a minimalistic style for our UI so that the overlay doesn't block the gameplay. By default, we only show a voice indicator. But the gamer can also choose to turn on camera and pin the camera view to the screen.
 
 

Technical Constraints

While we were creating designs for this idea, our engineering team were exploring  the technical constraints. It turned out that it was actually really hard to create third party in-game overlay. Our engineers needed more time to figure out the technical part. 

Therefore, we decided to break down this idea and start with a simple messenger that shows your friends' game status. And we will add more features like watching your friends' gameplay and video/voice chat later on.

 

Design Iteration 3

BlueStacks Friends, connect with friends and discover new games

Because of the technical constraints mentioned before, we decided to make this simple messenger as the first step. And to better reach our target users, which is casual gamers, we decided to take advantage of our existing user base of our main product, BlueStacks. So we attached this messenger to BlueStacks and named it BlueStacks Friends.

 
 
 

Test Release & Feedback

We released BlueStacks Friends to a small number of users one of the main problems that we discovered is that most users still don’t have too many friends who also installed BlueStacks, thus they are not motivated enough to use our product.

Therefore we came up with this idea of “nearby friends” so that people around you who are also playing the same game would show up as friend suggestions. Hope they can make more friends from there.

 
nearby.jpg

We are still working on this project 

To be continued