Garrett Peek, former Associate Creative Director of OMGPOP and current Zynga UI Designer, was the lead designer behind hit game Draw Something.Of course, a lot of people worked on the game, including CEO Dan Porter who directed Peek’s team. But Peek played a particularly large role in its success.
Draw Something is largely why Zynga just spent $210 million to acquire OMGPOP.
We spoke with Peek about how the hit app came to be.
Business Insider: Who actually came up with Draw Something?
Garrett Peek: Draw Something is the third iteration of OMGPOP’s Draw My Thing. The original version was a flash game on our social website, OMGPOP.com, which we brought over to Facebook last year and which made into mobile this year.
The naming process lasted a while. We sent out a company-wide email for name submissions and ultimately landed on one that was more marketable, easier to search for, and would be familiar to our existing “Draw My Thing” players.
What did the very first version look like?
You’d recognise the UI and the structure, but the gameplay was very different. Originally there was a keyboard entry field for guessing words, a turn timer, achievement unlocks, and a point system. Many of these features were carried over from our flash version of the game, but they didn’t ultimately make the cut. We took an axe to anything that wasn’t fun and ultimately rebuilt the experience several times to enhance the game on mobile. The process was highly iterative.
How long did the game take to make?
It took about six and a half months to launch, and we were building other games in parallel. We had an aggressive product pipeline and the whole OMGPOP team was doing double, triple, and sometimes quadruple duty across all our products.
What was the design inspiration for Draw Something?
Early on we looked at Words with Friends and felt that asynchronous gameplay was the way to go. The match menu and volley approach were highly intuitive and worked really well for casual gameplay.
Other than that, Draw Something was built on a clean slate. Our previous experience with Draw My Thing gave us ideas that got baked into Draw Something and we further tweaked and refined it until it got to where it is now.
How did Draw My Thing turn into Draw Something?
We set our sites on mobile last year. Since Draw My Thing was one of our most popular games, we decided to focus on it.
Which features stayed, which features were ditched, and which features were new when it became Draw Something?
It’s easy to overwhelm a user. The main goal from the beginning was to make Draw Something as fun, intuitive, and easy-to-use as possible — not an easy task considering most people don’t draw on a daily basis.
Imagine trying to play a game based on a skill set you haven’t used since grade school. It’d be a nightmare. So we leveled the playing field by controlling the tool set each player has. We stripped out multiplayer concurrent matches because it wasn’t a very good experience on mobile, and we removed the persistent game clock so players wouldn’t feel rushed. We removed the points system, so ultimately the game became more collaborative.
Why can’t you skip the “Drawsome!” screen? We hate waiting to play!
This is a good problem for us. It shows the main gameplay is fun and people get so excited to play their next round that they are willing to skip their rewards! Originally the flow was controlled in such a way so that users would have a game cadence and touch points that reiterated the importance of the turn count and collaboration.
How will you keep Draw Something sticky, so it stays fresh and doesn’t become a 2 month fad?
People have been drawing in sand, sketching on paper, and doodling forever. Draw Something is a platform for letting people do what’s in their nature – communicating. We present something that is already inherent in our nature in a way that is fun, enjoyable, and relevant. It connects us with those around us in an authentic way that makes losing ok, even fun. Even being terrible at Draw Something can be a joyful experience. We think that by tapping into something so fundamental in human nature – communicating and sharing – that the game will have legs.
Has Hasboro (the maker of Pictionary) ever complained about Draw Something’s similarity?
People draw similarities between the two because they both feature sketching and guessing. But Draw Something is actually a much different game. It has no dice rolls, no forced time limits, no game pieces, no teams, and no game board to progress through. It’s a bit like comparing basketball to football – they both share some aspects (a ball, two teams, and point system) but are vastly different games.
Many playing Draw Something today have never played Pictionary. Several decades ago people were mainly playing party games and sitting around interacting during special occasions like holidays, birthday parties, etc. Nowadays social gameplay is no longer occasional, it can happen thousands of miles apart anytime of the day.
What new Draw Something features can we expect next?
Early on we outlined and designed a ton of great features for Draw Something that people are really going to enjoy. Features such as chat, sharing images, saving images, and challenge modes. We’re refining the gameplay and will launch each one once they are as fun and positive an experience as possible.
Here’s what Draw My Thing, the original web game, looked like.