Cred.fm is a music project I worked on as creative director and lead designer from January 2011 through December 2013. The project went through several phases, from a streaming music/social game hybrid to a curated playlist service, and included widgets that could be embedded on various platforms.
This page focuses on the “Game” portion of the Cred.fm project. For the music stuff, click here.
Below you can see a glimpse into the various phases the project went through and my part in them.
The project actually started as an offshoot of a student project at USC, one that I wasn’t a part of. When I was contracted for the job, we were given a vague idea of a “music service meets social game” where listening to music would earn you points, and sharing music would cement your status as a tastemaker in the world of music. We didn’t have much time to get things going so I went to work figuring out what information we would need and how it might be displayed. Meanwhile the CEO of the new company organized a team of recent student graduates from USC’s engineering department.
Music Player Beginnings
We didn’t have the resources to create both a visual game and a music player simultaneously, so we focused on creating the music streaming “shell” while leaving space for where the game would go. In the meantime, the game would be tracking your music listening habits since this would form the core of the “gameplay” anyway. This design used a “wheel” based on the idea of spinning your music as a DJ would. It was fun to use but unwieldy for some things.
Music is playing, but where’s the game?
With the base music playing technology present, I had time to focus on the displayed game itself. With limited resources, and no artists on board, I felt it would be ideal to make a game where the number of needed artists would be minimal, and focus on creating a “creature” that would be interactive and malleable for a wide variety of simple gameplay. Meanwhile, the creature had to have a life of its own, since music listening is typically a passive experience. Thus, the “Credder” concept was born. I envisioned them listening to your music and the player being able to interact with them, earning new items and environments for listening to their music and sharing with friends. We looked at a number of references for inspiration, including Animal Crossing, Pocket God, and a wide variety of mobile and social apps.
Due to feedback from the CEO, project managers and the project’s investors, I was asked to scrap the abstract Credder designs and make them more humanoid. This was also when the CEO, project managers, and investors decided that we had to be on Facebook at all costs. Various interface updates had to be made to accomodate this, such as space resizing. We set to launch on Facebook, and for this we required a lot of art assets. We hired a few artists, which I managed for the duration of their time on the project. We also settled on a “Club” aesthetic for the game based on how the art style was going and the obvious connection with the youth market and the music scene we were targeting.
The Facebook launch was fraught with issues, as the game itself hadn’t had enough time to be tested and improved, but we continued to work on the game as it attracted users regardless.
The Club Game Comes Into Its Own
With a lot of growing pains on Facebook, and a lot of user tests and focus groups, I took a long look at our game and decided on some swift changes to the game that would improve the experience. I worked with an artist to improve our visual style, and focused on providing a more social club experience with a clearer upgrade path.
Users in this version could upgrade their club, and I handled the asynchronous “social” aspects by having people who visited your club on Facebook, or recommended music to you, actually appear in a line outside. When you let them into the club, they would dance to your music, and you could serve them drinks, and so on.
Our investors and project managers put us under a lot of pressure to launch again very quickly, and it was apparent that we would not have enough time to implement everything, so I had to make decisions on which things were critical for the first pass, and which we could do on the second. So for our first version, we had visiting players, we had a set of introductory missions (sorely missing from the initial version) as well as further missions, club expansions, and avatar customization.
Things were looking good so far… as one review said:
From the unique quests structure, and the wide array of customization option, tier system to the shared music and terrific production values, Cred.fm is simply a solid and addicting management game that really entices you to keep coming back. — dotmmo.com
Once again, though, we had pushed before the feature set was complete, and this was hampering the game’s ability to be “sticky.” Those features were in development when the decision came down to cut the game portion of the project and pivot.
Game Features Cut Short
These missing components were a lot of fun in prototypes, and involved playing certain kinds of music for your friends, or giving them drinks to keep them around longer, which would earn you more coins. Furthermore, you could “hook up” with people in your club by keeping them happy for long enough, which added a bit of a subversive element that was appealing. As a game designer I was really excited to finally get these mechanics in place as I was sure it would improve the experience dramatically. Unfortunately we never got to try it in the wild, and the project shifted focus.
From then on, the focus shifted to Cred.fm as a curated music service. If you want to see more examples of the work I did on the game aspects of Cred.fm, check out the gallery below. Otherwise, click this link to read on: Cred.fm – The Music Service
Below is a gallery of things from various stages over the game lifespan of the Cred.fm project. Feel free to browse through them.