Mobile App Game Design

Transforming a Classic Game

CLUE is one of the oldest board games around, but with the growing market of mobile party games, it was time to expand into a new category.

 

CLUE became the inspiration for many “murder mystery dinner parties,” so it seemed fitting to turn the traditional board game into a mobile party game! 

For this project, I taught myself the animation software Principle to really showcase how users would interface with the mobile game.

Deconstructing CLUE

My first step was deconstructing this classic board game into all of it's core components. I needed to understand how the game worked and how all the parts of the game were connected. This helped me understand the architecture of CLUE and what pieces were important to the structure of the game.

Based on this, I found that CLUE has 3 key components: 

  • Suggestions to the whole table about what the crime is, which allows players to deduct the final answer.

  • Moving across the board to make a suggestion, which adds to the complexity and difficulty of the game.

  • Making a final Accusation to win (or lose) the game

I also found that the weapon tokens were irrelevant to the game.

User Research

To gain better insights into how people played board games, I fielded a survey among 90 respondents.

 

These findings also gave me a better understanding of player motivations for both the traditional CLUE game and murder mystery dinner parties.

With this data, I knew my game had to balance between strategic thinking and socializing.

Player Personas

I analyzed the data from my research study and applied it to a well known game design theory known as Bartle's Taxonomy.

 

In 1996, Richard Bartle studied gamers and observed that there are four main player types in multiplayer or collaborative games. These four player types became the basis for my player personas.

User Flow

When designing the flow of my new game, the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was how removing the game board would adjust the gameplay. I was replacing the board with players actually moving around a physical space, so that had a huge impact on how users interacted with the game and each other.

 

In addition to designing new rules for CLUE, I also had to create two user flows: one for when users use the app and one for users navigating their play space.

Creating New Rules

In my research, I found that while the board was among the least favorite things for a large group of CLUE players (31%), it was actually a core component of how the game worked and maintained balance.

 

By removing the board, I had to reimagine how the game of CLUE could be played throughout an apartment or house. So as part of my user flow, I created four new rules that either replaced or added onto the existing CLUE rules. 

Sketching the Interface

When sketching the interface, I focused on designing something that honored the card-based nature of the original game, while also leveraging the technology of a smart phone. 

Given that this was still supposed to be a party game, I also had to make sure the game had a "glanceable UI." It wouldn't be fun if everyone was stuck in their phones the entire time and not actually talking to one another. 

User Testing

I conducted user tests to determine both player comprehension of the new rules and the optimal navigation of the mobile interface for the game. I created mockup rulebooks and asked players if they could understand how to play just by reading the rules.

 

To test the mobile interface, I focused on whether players could accomplish key game objectives such as starting rumors or making a final accusation to win the game

A major learning was how a player views their notes. My assumption was that after first seeing their hand at the start of the game, players wouldn't need to see it again since those card clues would be added directly to their notes.

 

However, while testing I learned that players wanted to understand the difference between clues they started with versus clues they had learned throughout the game. This led me add a "My Hand" tab to provide that feedback for players.

Character Design

The concept art for Arkane Studio’s Dishonored was the primary inspiration for Murder Mode’s character design. The art style provides a darker version of the game that implies a more adult story, which appeals to my personas.

 

These images are placeholders in my concept. Copyright Arkane Studios.

Animated Prototype

I used Principle to animate my final protoype. There are three main sections of the prototype:

Setting Up the Game

When a new players wants to start a game, there's a simple setup process.

 

They pick the version they want to play (such as Classic or Star Wars themed). Then they choose the mode (such as Kids or Murder Mode).

 

Finally they add the number of players, set up their play space, invite their friends and choose their character. Once all players are ready, the player who set everything up can start the game.

Starting a Rumor

To start a Rumor, a player has to enter a Room by scanning the Room Card. If there are other players checked into that Room, they can start a Rumor.

They select the Clues they want included in their Rumor, then send that Rumor to the rest of the players in that Room. The other players are then given the chance to disprove a part of the Rumor. When a Rumor is disproved, that Clue is added to the player's notes.  

Making an Accusation

In order to win the game, the player must be the first one to make a correct Accusation.

Making an Accusation is the same experience as starting a Rumor, though a player can Accuse at any time. They can check their Notes as well as see their original Hand. Then they select the Who, What, & Where and make their Accusation.

 

If they are correct, they win the game. If not, they can still play the game, though they cannot Accuse for another 5 minutes.

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