In 2017, the team at Wooga began an 18 month long journey to ‘bring Diamond Dash back from the dead’. The game did quite well but ended up being retired in 2015 as the market changed. Learn from Senior Product Manager at Wooga Tim Shepherd as he tells the story of resurrecting a 7 year old game. Join Tim for his talk entitled Bringing a 7 Year Old Game Back to Life at Casual Connect Europe 2018 in London.
Tim Shepherd is Senior Product Manager for Liveops at Wooga. Currently he is the product manager of Diamond Dash, one of Wooga’s classic titles, with a focus on revitalizing the game for the 2018 audience. Tim has been creating the strategy and road map to make this happen. He joined Wooga 2 ½ years ago as liveops/monetization specialist across the portfolio before moving to Diamond Dash full-time. Before that he ran a gaming startup in Copenhagen, called Chroma Studios where they created indie puzzle and hyper-casual games.
His background is in design, production and social sciences. Social sciences is possibly the most significant; it has been useful in a range of development related issues such as player psychology and profiling, understanding the appeal of a game experience, maximizing KPIs through UI/UX, and various marketing disciplines, among other challenges.
What Tim enjoys most about his work is the speed of change in the game industry; there are constantly new disruptions to master. Right now he is interested in playable ad units; he believes these have game-changing potential for UA and marketing strategies.
Inspired by Blending the Creative and the Technical
Tim’s beginning in the game industry was actually a result of his training as a musician. After college he began working on Guitar Hero DLC where they needed musos to annotate the new content. He relates, “I was inspired by the blend of creative and technical challenges required to get a product to market and found a home in design. This role then expanded to other disciplines over my career.”
To those who would like a career in games, the most important advice Tim offers is “Don’t forget to have fun.” He emphasizes that the game industry is often stressful and challenging but if you are not having fun it will be reflected in your output.
Tim dreamed about becoming an inventor as a child, which is not that distant from what he is doing today. He was always fascinated by games, especially puzzles and platformers. But he also had other intense interests, such as music and theater, so it is no surprise to find him in such a creative industry. Tim studied art and music at college, although not specifically for games. It was not until he joined Activision to work on DLC for Guitar Hero that he became interested in game design and then content designer for DJ Hero.
Focus on Fundamental Appeal
Tim’s creative process varies, but when he feels inspiration, he focuses on the fundamental appeal of his idea. “I try to find a core desire or reason an audience might be interested in a certain thing – what question or desire am I trying to solve here.”
His most tested and valued creative process is to “sleep on it. I throw away waaaay more ‘great ideas’ than I end up following up on after a good nights sleep. Not all great ideas are quite as interesting the next day.”
When developing games or features, Tim tries to explore out of the box. Looking at competitors can be a good place to start but he likes to go beyond this and see he can learn something transferable from comparable sources. As an example, he feels when designing games, there is more to be learned from Booking.com that form conversion techniques than from the Top Grossing List.
For original ideas for game ideas, whether mechanics or themes, Tim believes in finding the fun first, so he emphasizes finding inspiration from the whimsical and nonsensical. And this could be anywhere: sports, memes, nature, movies, Instagram, etc.
If Tim could create any game he wanted, with unlimited resources and time, he would probably consider a platformer; he has always loved the classic platformers like Sonic. But he is also very interested in AR, so he would love to do something like Sonic in AR.
The most challenging part of game development is also the most rewarding part according to Tim: that is, shipping something. He claims, “Whenever I see a games team manage to get a game over the finish line, whether it is objectively good or bad, or if it performs well in the market, this is still a magnificent achievement.” It is a fantastic accomplishment to coordinate cutting edge technology with creative vision and keep a team of people moving in the same direction to deliver it. “Shipping a game is one of the hardest types of products to produce, and I believe anyone who has done it, or at least tried, should be super proud. I find this to be the most rewarding part of the process because it is so difficult to get to.”
Tim continues to be intensely involved with games in his free time. This winter he went more into coding/Unity and created a “Neflix for Jigsaw Puzzles” title called Puzzle Kings. But in the warmer months he can often be found doing yoga or wakeboarding.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.