Attract bees in this playful gardening simulator with a mission: to BeePopulate the Earth! Learn about the vital importance of bees and their role in the environment by designing a fun garden for them to pollinate.
This in-house project was to create a "game with a conscience". Focusing on the environmental phenomenon of the declining bee populations, our team created a game to grab the interest of children and parents alike to incite them towards learning more and becoming part of the solution.
BeePopulate was a passion project with full-scale resources. Our team already knew we wanted to create a product at the intersection of gaming, education, and activism, so the impetus in the early stages was to ensure that we could excel in each of those sectors and produce a well-rounded, effective game.
We kicked off a period of research, surveying the existing market through a comparative analysis of games across the kids, educational, and simulator game sectors. Much of our focus was placed on the behavioral expectations from our potential users, so that we could craft an experience that would keep users returning, and keep them learning and engaging with bees on a regular basis.
The research helped not only define our intentions regarding gameplay, but also our demographic. Instead of trying to spread ourselves thin by appealing to multiple age ranges, we came to the decision to focus specifically on the youth, and to consider others as a secondary focus.
This played heavily into our definition of concepts to be explored within the game, and even more so how we presented it, giving impetus to defining a voice for our in-game copywriting to be instructive, clear, and supportive. The voice we defined for the game would ultimately lead the design process. At every corner of defining our user flows and crafting our wireframes, we were able to consider if this process matched our demographic and if it exemplified our intent.
Designing the game was like designing a playground, one in which our players could continue to find joy in all of the minor details while building out their unique garden as they pleased. BeePopulate players have their own plot of land that they can fill with flowers from around the world, water them and nurture them to grow, and watch as their contribution to growing plants attracts more and more bees of all species. The game itself was serene and therapeutic, and so followed our art style.
Our Art Director, Heather Dega, led the branding and visual design of the game, taking our conceptual voice and aesthetic and bringing it to life with bees, flowers, and scenery for our two-dimensional, storybook style game. The playfulness of her team’s designs helped to shape our further gameplay, as we incorporated more lively — and often goofy — elements such as our garden gnome accessories, dancing rhythm mini game, and our EncycloBeedia, a resource for learning important facts about all of our bees.
Development was a grueling process. Transitioning our ideas into a fully-functioning game that not only accomplished our goals but was enjoyable to play proved to be a difficult, but thoroughly enjoyable process. During this time, we gained endless insights from our impromptu playtest sessions around the city, and adapted our game on the fly to accommodate for new ideas and tweaks to the user flows.
Onboarding our players and getting them to that first point of satisfaction was an iterative process all on its own. Tweaks to the algorithms and timing of a player’s progression timeline were continuously made before it finally clicked, and we began to receive the user feedback we were hoping for.
With Version 1.0 ready to go, we released it into the App Store and Google Play Store in October of 2017, with plans for expansion in further updates to grow out the play area of the user’s garden and bolster the educational aspects of the game.
There is a lot I might change about how we designed BeePopulate, but ultimately this was an iterative process, one in which we were meant to adapt and grow as time went on. For most of the team, this was their first time working on a game, especially one for a younger demographic and for mobile devices. Naturally, there were many moments of doubt, but I’m most proud of how the team stuck with it, and tackled problems head on despite uncertainty. The final version of BeePopulate that went live accomplished all of our original goals, and was something we would have loved to keep working on. Maybe one day we can pick up where we left off and start working on our laundry list of Version 2.0 improvements, but for now I’m excited about the game that’s out there now, and hopeful that it made an impact to spread awareness of our cause to BeePopulate the world.
Designer, Product Manager— Zach Dorsett
iOS/Android Developer — Julius Btesh
Art Director — Heather Dega
Director of Product — Dom Propati
Associate Product Manager — Venky Hariharan
Assistant Designer — Paul Arthur Myers
Learn more and download the game on iOS and Android at www.beepopulate.com
Copyright © 2021 Zach Dorsett