Together, we can BeePopulate our world.

Mobile Game Design for agency Mango Concept. 2017.

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-promo

A promotional image for the game. BeePopulate is available on the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. 

Discover

Research and insight into the problem

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.

Define

Synthesis of research and identifying focus areas

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.

beepopulate-the-problem

From our press packet, explaining just how dire the situation is with declining bee populations, all information from our research process.  

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.

Design

Ideation and brainstorming solutions

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.

Wireframes showing some of the FTUE flow

A flow diagram of the First Time User Experience, ensuring that we hit all functionality for subsequent sessions, while also communicating our awareness and education messaging. 

Wireframes showing some of the FTUE flow

A wireflow related to the FTUE, notably showing the education aspects via the "EncycloBeedia" and "The Buzz About Bees", but also the tease of unlockable Flowers for continued gameplay.

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 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.

An app map diagram showing all of the interconnected screens in the game

What started as simple "plant flower, attract bee" gameplay became a larger machine, with many added aspects to improve player interest and daily playtime. 

beepopulate-bee-facts

The "Encyclobeedia" design remained mostly the same, but from player feedback we added a way to see what flower combos attract each bee species to encourage strategic planting!

Deliver

Finalizing the solution and overseeing development

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.

beepopulate-garden-wide

Captured via an oft-requested panoramic camera feature. Over time, all of the gardens, flowers, bees, and accessories can be unlocked to design a landscape with personal style.

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.

Retrospective

Looking back and looking ahead

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.

BeePopulate

Team credits

Designer — Zach Dorsett
iOS/Android Developer — Julius Btesh
Art Director — Heather Dega
Director of Product — Dom Propati
Designer — Venky Hariharan
Assistant Designer — Paul Arthur Myers

Learn more and download the game on iOS and Android at www.beepopulate.com

Let's Chat

Right now, I’m taking on select freelance work while pursuing personal projects and teaching new UX Designers at General Assembly's NYC campus.

However, I’m always happy to hear about new opportunities, meet potential collaborators, or simply grab a cup of coffee. Learn more about me, and reach out anytime. ☻

Copyright © 2021 Zach Dorsett