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My Experience as a Product Manager and Game Designer at Alpha Potato

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Alpha Potato (AP)  introduced me to hypercasual mobile games and all intricacies involved with this slice of the mobile gaming industry. It is my first stint as Product Manager here at AP while I have been dabbling with Game Design for over a decade now. I have around 1.5 years of experience with hypercasuals so far and in that limited time, my experience has been nothing but revelationary. 

As A Game Designer

Designing hypercasual games is unlike designing regular games. As we understand it, hypercasual players aren’t looking for challenging gameplay but are more interested in feeling accomplished by doing the minimum. We as Game Designers are required to engineer experiences that leave the players feeling rewarded, satisfied and empowered by completing minimally challenging tasks. 

At first, this philosophy sounded absurd and was hard to swallow but over time I understood that these games experience a very short window of opportunity to gain mass appeal before being overshadowed by some other title. In general, the shelf life of these games are short and the competition is so ruthless that no mistake goes unpunished.

When we all sit in a circle and ideate for games, the atmosphere is full of speculation of what the elusive players will/won’t like. Even though we have an understanding of what our players want, it’s not easy to churn out a new hit following in the footprints of past successes. 

It brings tears of joy when the think tank goes off the rails to drum up new versions of tried and tested formulas but we continue pondering over the proverbial question – will players understand/like this? Often times, it feels like a struggle to simplify complex concepts because we believe the player won’t be able to grasp it.

As A Product Manager

Product Management is something that was very new to me before AP. I had some idea of project management and how to develop games;  but when you are also responsible for ensuring multiple profit generating published titles in short intervals, the tables turn significantly. 

Every idea and implementation has to be calculative. You need to think of consequences, assign priorities, and plan for missed deadlines. Balancing the need for perfection, incorporating nice-to-haves, and deadlines is harder than juggling chainsaws! Not to mention the angry raptors (colleagues) being at your throat for requirements vs time allotted. We appreciate clever girls a lot around here! 

It took some time to get used to Trello boards and their importance in an Agile environment. The team, including myself, find it lethargic to write down tasks, estimates, and assigning due dates but it all keeps us organized in the chaos of game development. We can keep track of the work done, time it took, what we left out, how we missed deadlines and mom’s spaghetti 😀 ! There are times, we go back to dusty boards to find that bit of info we need for our current project or casually forgot. The point being – use Trello boards! 

It becomes an art to plan to sprints with loose ideas of what we want to accomplish and fleshing them as we go. There is an overall plan and vision in mind but properly executing them becomes very difficult when issues pop up and how you planned things, don’t go according to plan.  

Being the fast fashion of mobile games, I found it wise to be emotionally detached from projects because the market requires us to always be out with the old and in with the new. If something didn’t work, then hypothesize why it didn’t work and move on. Grinding on the same project with red flags robs time from future successes; just let go. 

We experience light bulb moments of how this idea simply cannot fail and after testing, the results are anything but fairytale like. Just like love, the first failure hurts the most and over time we learn to treat every project either like a toxic ex to learn from or a trophy to be proud of but we always keep moving forward.

Perhaps the brightest eye-opener was the importance of publishers. Publishers are considered to be the icing on the hypercasual cake but not all icing tastes the same. Brilliant insights in the wrong hands feel like punishment when the market is very unkind to those who figure things out late.