Finding the right audience through Reddit
On June 8, 2020, I uploaded a new YouTube video talking about my project that helped experienced players teach beginners how to play Bang! the board game.
I was super proud of this video. I recorded all the footage and audio myself. I edited it, cleaned up the clips, and added in music I took the time to find. I was very excited about this project but wasn’t sure if I could do more with it. I shared this project on Twitter and LinkedIn. It didn’t get as much traction as I’d hoped. I was hoping more people would nerd out about the project. And then I remembered that all the people who follow me care about dataviz, but not board games.
A huge problem industry professionals have is that we are often followed by peers, not by people who would want to hire us for our work. On Instagram, a lot of designers follow me. On Twitter, a lot of dataviz professionals follow me. This becomes problematic because our work isn’t targeted at people in our industry, it’s often targeted at people outside of it.
I was very comfortable in my current social circles. I’d get a lot of encouragement and validation from my community when I share my work. But, that’s not good enough. I think as a dataviz professional, we fail if our work only gets traction within our own professional circles. Of course, the exception to this is if our target audience are peers, examples include technical tutorials or visuals to help other industry professionals navigate their careers.
I was tired of my work only getting seen my people in my circles. I thought about where I could go to find people who would care about what I made. The first thing that came to mind was Reddit. I shared this project on Reddit in the game design community. I didn’t expect anything from this, but I got a lot of feedback on Reddit. It surprised me because people really started to nerd out. This is important because it meant I made something that they cared about.
I really like this way of presenting the game rules. I also think Bang! is a good choice, as I’ve never really like the manual for it. There’s definitely something to be said about teaching how to play the game (this aid) vs how to play the game’s rules (most manuals).
Have/will you consider uploading it on BGG to Bang’s file section?
I have one nit to pick though, and it’s about the symbols you use. To me the various arrow-heads and geometry figures makes it a bit too much like a UML diagram or an excel graph. Also, was there any significance to the geometry chosen? i.e. the sheriff (square) and deputy are quite different (sphere) despite being on the same team, whereas the outlaws (diamond) are just a rotated sheriff.. 🙂 Perhaps the goodies can be filled in squares/diamonds, the baddies a hollow circle, and the renegade some other shade/shape?
Or did you consider the use of graphical symbols instead? e.g. star=sheriff, mask=outlaws etc? little gun for ‘offensive’, fort=defensive, horse/anvil=utility, dice/ace-of-spades=risky ?
I think the best method for teaching boardgames is that you start the round and every player can make one move (reminiscent of your approach with adding puzzlepieces). Then by each round you add one more move/action for the player to take. A ruleset should never ever take any longer than 8 min to explain.
EDIT: When it comes to the characters it would be handy to have a visual reference that stands out when it comes to a character that is unlike the others. It could be something so simple as the name typography being altered in some fashion. Looking at the characters the way they look now its also just plain boring.. No contrast.
One comment in particular was pivotal in getting me to explore fighting games as my next project:
This topic is near to my heart as a fan of fighting games. People think fighting games are about button mashing and godlike reflexes, which is completely untrue. But few (if any) fighting games manage to teach players how to think about them.
They recommended a fantastic video that looks at how to think about fighting games. This video gave me some foundational knowledge to work from when analyzing fighting games.
At this point, I was itching to create something useful for the fighting game community. I was feeling tired of the majority of my projects being produced and just existing on my website. It’s something that gets made, then forgotten. Barely looked at again.
Call it vanity, but I wanted my stuff to be useful. I was determined to make things that could be usable. I was very excited about the idea of creating some data visualization that showed all the character moves somehow while teaching players how to build tactics. I picked Tekken 7 to test my ideas out.
I’ve never played Tekken before and I have no background at all with the game. I’m familiar with Street Fighter and King of Fighters because I used to watch my older brother play it, but that’s about it.
Validating a user need
So what now? I have little domain expertise with this game and I needed some more guidance. The next thing I did was join the Tekken Reddit community. I asked a question and wanted to see the community’s reaction.
And thankfully, I wasn’t eaten alive. A lot of people offered their thoughts and were extremely helpful. One user offered insight into what I could design that would be valuable to the community. Which was looking at effective range. This is a rudimentary concept that applies to all fighting games. Some moves are effective at close range and others are effective at far range. This information that’s not listed in the game and it’s something you just have to learn as you develop experience playing the game.
As for things to present, I have an idea I’d like to share. An important concept in Tekken (and in all fighting games) is spacing – maintaining an effective distance from your opponent so as to nullify a portion of their moveset, thus reducing the guesses you have to make. Additionally, you can also space for offensive advantage, ensuring your own attacks have a greater chance of connecting. Looking at the Knee (Kazuya) vs Daddyking (Steve) set really drove this point home for me. Knee kept backdashing into duck, moving from range 0, where Steve is deadliest, into range 1, where he doesn’t have too many fast attacks. Daddyking kept using a -i13 low which Knee could block (due to backdash into duck) and launch.
How about trying to create a visualization to describe the “effective range” of each character? It could describe the high, mid and low moves which are effective at various ranges, and include the speed of the move as well. Such a visualization would help players develop better counterplay against other characters. If I’m a Kat main up against Steve, I would know to keep my distance due to the fast, powerful moves at range 0, and instead operate at range 1 or 2, where I have the better moves. Against someone like Gigas or Jack, I should probably be going in, since they have faster moves at range 1 which Kat cannot counter effectively.
Describing how each character controls space in this manner could also inform general movement strategies which might be effective against each character, such as backdash into duck, backdash into sidestep, staying at range 0 etc.
Later on, perhaps one could factor in special movement options available to certain characters, such as wavedash.
Another user recommended I start with a character called Josie because her mechanics are simple and fairly straightforward. If you try to read their comment, its filled with jargon. Don’t worry if it goes over your head. The nomenclature for Tekken is complicated.
Josie is the easiest character for offensive mechanics. Her d/f4, d34, 124 and 24 lead into her switch stance. look at the situations created from this stance and it’s the core of offense in the game.
The basics are rushdown into frame trap, rushdown into mixup, and rushdown into rushdown. Josie has access to all of these options from this stance. Basically you would use frame data to create these situations regardless of your character but josie makes it easy.
With the inputs from these two users, I had a great start on something that people would want to use. It was fascinating to talk to the community and validate my idea. This is important. There’s no point in making something if the community doesn’t want it. This is a big problem in product design where designers aren’t always user-centric. It’s important to make something people actually need, and not make something we as designers perceive they might want. Do we really need another makeup brand? Is this something that people need? What makes this new line of products competitive? Fenty is a great example of how it stood out. It was designed by and for people with darker skin tones. A feature that other cosmetic brands have failed to provide.
Similarly for what I want to do, I want to make sure it is driven by the end-user. I want to test all my ideas out in the community, get their feedback and modify it to the point where they would want to download it for their own reference as they learn to play Tekken.
To be continued