Enhanced Game Play
As a subsidiary of French game maker Asmodee, Fantasy Flight Games is a Minnesota-based board game studio specializing in tabletop, card, and miniatures games. The bulk of its games occur in well-known sci-fi and fantasy universes like Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and Star Wars. One of Fantasy Flight’s most popular games from the latter franchise is Star Wars: X-Wing, a tabletop miniature game that allows players to recreate the epic starfighter battles from the films.
While the gameplay itself uses physical pieces, Fantasy Flight sought to create an accompanying app to enhance gameplay. The app gives players access to tools like a squad builder, game modes, and card databases to make the overall experience better. Fantasy Flight worked with a different offshore company to build the first version of the app but wasn’t quite satisfied with the results. When it came time for the second edition, the company enrolled MentorMate to redesign and rebuild it.
UX / UI Design
A More Robust, Usable X-Wing App
In addition to making the app more usable, there were several new features that Fantasy Flight had in mind to make it even more robust as well. Within the X-Wing game, every spaceship, pilot, and upgrade to a ship’s abilities has a points value associated with it. Typical gameplay goes up to 200 points, and there are a ton of different points options and combos available. The app makes keeping track of all these points and building a gaming strategy around them easy for players. On the back-end, Fantasy Flight can update point values for various things within the game over time as it introduces new ships and upgrades.
Additionally, Fantasy Flight wanted players to fight epic battles with historical accuracy (historical to the films, that is). To do so, we added functionality around creating curated lists of options to tell the story of those battles. If, for example, a player wants to recreate the Battle of Yavin from the original Star Wars film, only characters and ships that were actually at that battle are available in the app.
Sometimes Research is All Fun and Games
With the original app, usability goals, and a newly defined feature set in hand, we got to work on redesigning the app’s experience. And who better to head up the design work than our resident* Star Wars fanatic, Senior UI Designer Jake Nelsen. Or at least one of our resident fans. We are a technology company after all.
Our design process for the X-Wing app began with research. We met with all of the product stakeholders from Fantasy Flight to gain familiarity with the app in its current state and identify its pain points. That meant logging some hours actually playing the game alongside the Fantasy Flight team. Immersing ourselves in gameplay helped us understand the actual needs and pain points of players on a personal level.
Alongside our research into the shortcomings of the first X-Wing version, we also conducted competitor research into other gaming companion apps. By understanding what else is out there, we built a framework for exactly what players expect when they download an app like X-Wing.
A UI Plucked From A Galaxy Far, Far Away
With our research complete, we moved on to storyboarding what we wanted each component of the app to accomplish. Since the app’s main functionality is around squad building, much of our focus was on designing those features. Throughout several brainstorming sessions with the Fantasy Flight team, we sketched out a lot of different approaches. We came away from those sessions with several ideas that we could then refine further until we eventually had one cohesive design concept and UX pattern.
Working within that concept and using all of the Star Wars assets we had access to, we began designing the app’s look and feel. A core piece of that look and feel meant pushing our animation capabilities to add subtle movements throughout the app. Taking design cues from the films themselves, we created a clean, usable UI that fits well within the Star Wars universe without distracting players.
Since X-Wing was unlike anything that we’ve done in the past, the handoff from design to development was even more collaborative than usual. Designers on the project worked alongside the development team to iterate as needed and ensure that every feature looked and functioned as intended across all devices.
A Drastic Improvement in Ratings and Usability
When the previous version of the X-Wing app launched, it was met with mixed to negative results. The issues around mobile usability kept its app store ratings down and left players with few positive things to say about it. Since launching in the fall of 2020, the revamped X-Wing companion app has received a much more favorable rating.