bustr the bulldog

Create a simple and engaging on-the-go mobile game.

• Target age 15+ and public transportation commuters
• Easy to play on the move
• Simple endless runner

There is no shortage of endless runner games in the app store, but this was set out to be a learning experience, not monetary gain.

We started the process by researching several games and nitpicked about what we did and didn’t like. We noticed nothing featured a dog, so we grabbed inspiration from my very own English bulldog, Pumba.

At this point, we knew we had a dog + obstacles + time.

After figuring out the basic premise of the game, we focused on the game mechanics.

The daily New York City commute was our reference point. Public transportation is crowded and bumpy. Commuters have to maintain their balance with the handrails, so this was the driving force behind the ability to play with one hand. The lack space and time in transit pushed us to focus on speed and simplicity.

Integrating obstacles was our next step. The player's goal was to jump over and run under openings in a fence for as long as possible. Our character was controlled with the thumb since users will be playing with one hand. The dog can slide left and right just by sliding their thumbs across the screen. Users would release their thumbs to simulate the jumping movement. Timing was everything.

Game speed would increase as time progressed, so we had to figure out a fair distance between obstacles. To avoid making the game impossible the speed was capped at a reasonable, but challenging rate. User research helped us determine how to approach obstacles.

Once we felt comfortable with the game mechanics, it was time to figure out the user flow. We considered the emotional journey our audience may have. 

1. Commuting to work/school on public transit
2. Bored, opens up the app to kill time
3. Plays Bustr
4. Dies, views score
5. Restart

As mentioned earlier, based on the commuting environment we aimed for speed. It had to be easy to start a game and restart once you've died. We narrowed the user flow down to 4 screens.

The menu contained three interactions. "Play," "Game Center" and "Mute"

Simple instructions overlayed the game interface

Game interface

Score - Restart:
Four interactions. “Home,” “Restart,” “Game Center” and “Share”

The visual personality had to be fun and friendly. We wanted users to look at the art and get the urge to try the game.

“Cubano’s" big bold letters exude a fun-loving persona. Reading even in the toughest situations is easy.
Color Palette:
Inspired by traditional cartoons, we stuck to the realistic palette. Green for grass, blue for skies, etc.

Character Development:
The inspiration for the game was my very own bulldog, Pumba. I started by sketching out variations of how to present a loving pup. Once her look was locked in, I jumped into developing a looping run and jump cycle.

The user research was finished, and our visual personality was set. Tying the UX elements and branding visuals together was our next step.

App Icon:
The process of developing an icon was challenging. I initially made the mistake of making it too complicated. The icon at smaller sizes was not visible; it appeared as a mash of colors. Through a few iterations, we settled on using Bustr's face. It was visible at all sizes and maintained our brand identity.

Product screens:
Using our low-fidelity mockups as a starting point, I began to integrate illustrations and color to develop our user interface.

We were ready to ship, and it was the biggest headache of all! After being rejected three times, it subdued our excitement. We kept pushing and working with the support team at Apple to finally crack the code.

We had our launch date!

Now came the most challenging part. How do we set ourselves apart from the oversaturated gaming market?

We started with a 3-week high-score contest that gave contestants a chance to win an iPad. We placed ads on accounts with large followings such as “Best Vines” to reach a large portion of our demographic. Also, we partnered with social media influencer "Jabbar Hakeem," to promote our game on his Vine channel.

After all had been said and done, our success was short-lived. We managed to achieve the following:

#25 Action free games
#20 Arcade free games
#40 Free games

Although we had plans to scale, we eventually ran out of capital. The lessons learned and experience gained throughout this experience were invaluable.

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