Keeping players engaged in Top Eleven: How to refresh a popular game while keeping it consistent
Top Eleven is the most played online football management game in the world. Millions of people play it every day — creating tactics, scouting the best players, analysing opponents and trying to find the best possible way to beat them. But with the game now running for six years, we wanted to give them something extra to keep up their level of excitement.
To stay on top, we realised that we need to give players an experience they cannot have with any other football manager game, allowing them to use their football knowledge to the fullest. The solution was to put this idea into practice by scheduling the perfect training sessions for their team.
With the right combination of drills, we aimed to give managers the chance to improve their teamwork and obtain bonuses in different areas: Attack, Defense, Possession and Condition, bringing a new depth to the game. By allowing players to try different combinations, we have allowed managers to discover what works best for their players and when they gain the most teamwork bonuses.
You want to be sure that you are making the right thing
So, we had our goals and a lot of ideas at the beginning. We explored all of the games on the market and checked out all different types of trainings, but we didn’t find anything even close to the thing we wanted to make. We saw that as a big opportunity so we started to define our ideas in depth and prototyped a lot of them. With three iterations of prototypes that we made in just one week, we came to the concept that we were satisfied with. We had a playable prototype that we tested with our players. The reaction was really positive. We got a lot of feedback on how we could improve it and make it even better.
One of our biggest lessons is that when you are making a prototype, it’s important to focus on the concept rather than edge cases, perfect art or finding balance in economy with the new feature. The goal of the prototype should simply answer the most important question of all
“How much fun will players have with the new feature?”
If players don’t have fun playing a game with squares and circles as art placeholders, even the best artists in the world cannot turn that around. But if players find it interesting, then a good artist can make that game awesome!
Back to the drawing board
With the amount of positive feedback that we got, we knew we were on the right track. We then began to think about all the unanswered questions that popped up during the prototyping phase — and it was a long list. In the end, that was the easy part, as when you have a proven concept all other issues are just easy fixes. But be careful, don’t get lost in details, and focus on the proven mechanic.
We started by improving all wireframes and designing a better flow for the user. Being agile, UI design kicked off even before all the wireframes were finished. That saved us some time in the end and it turned out to be a good approach. When we finished production of the feature, we did user testing all over again. This time, comments were even better and as always, there was lots of constructive feedback to be incorporated back into the game. With those improvements, we were ready to go live.
We discovered that involving the player from the start is essential. Being sure about what your players will think about the new feature before releasing it makes sense. It’s important to find out how they will use it, where they can struggle and what they will love about it. The user centric approach that we had with Training feature is only one of many ways to do it.
First feature that we pushed simultaneously on all platforms
The new training feature is our first update to be released across all platforms (iOS, Android and Web) simultaneously. With this update, this was achieved by bringing on board Unity which was a big step forward for Top Eleven. Our players now have the same experience in the game no matter what device they are playing it on.
What do we expect from Training?
We actually made a game within the game. We have a levelling system on experience gained with every training session. Every new level unlocks a new training drill through a different activity that managers can choose.
Some of the options include:
- going to a One Touch Football seminar in Madrid
- getting beach football equipment
- having dinner with Mourinho
Together with teamwork bonuses and sideline instructions during live matches, we provide much more fun for our players. With a progression system, the unlocking drills mechanic and the learning process with different training schedules, we expect to increase our long term retention metrics. Actually, after all the usability testing we have done before the launch, we are confident this will improve engagement amongst our players.