Finding Dory | 2016

Motivation

One of the major projects I worked on at Disney was a game to release alongside Finding Dory. This was a game meant to capitalize on the tent pole release of Finding Dory in theaters, and was designed for kids to supplement the match-3 game also released by Disney for adults.

Technology Unity
Role Game Designer
Links iOS App Store

Process

The division I worked in, and my role at Disney, was to make mobile kids games attached to existing Disney properties. We occasionally stretched that into combining properties, or utilizing properties to try new design ideas, but the tent pole releases were our bread and butter.

However, due to our focus on kids games we were able to try things that other divisions wouldn't be able to. This is partially to do with COPPA restrictions on data collection, but Disney also strived to be a brand that supported more ethical approaches to kids game design.

Filling in Dory's memory

This thankfully let us design one notable fun feature into the game. We used the conceit of Dory's short-term memory to frame the game as Dory re-telling the events of the film. But, due to her memory lapses, she can't remember everything, and asks the player to help her remember certain parts.

Here, we let the player select one of three objects (from a pool of about 30) that will appear later in the level. The set-up just involved using different images, but the result was a Dory-specific gameplay system.

Selection from Dory's memory filled-in

The actual design of the game was based on other exploration, level-based games from the app store. Games like Gathering Sky and Heroki as design references, though we couldn't use the flocking or carrying mechanics because they didn't fit with the Dory source material.

This, I think, was the hardest part. The game's design was squeezed between the need to base itself off of game designs that could be evaluated with iOS store metrics, but also fit within Dory's source material. That's a tall order, and one could imagine a more compelling design (we definitely did in brainstorming meetings) that fit with Dory but if the design needs to have a reasonably successful history on the market then the design must end up being derivative, which is a shame. I'm still proud of what memory-play we could incorporate but the business squeeze of the game was a tough position to design in.


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