Takbo! (Run!)

A web-game built to support candidates for the 2022 PH elections
2 devs, 5 artists, 4 consultants
Project Details
2 weeks
How I helped
Product Management & Design
Takbo is a web game that was built alongside 8 other volunteers for the campaign of the 2022 Philippine Elections. The goal of the game was to support the tandem of Presidential candidate Leni Robredo and VP Candidate Kiko Pangilinan. 

During the last few months of the 2022 presidential election in the Philippines, there was a dramatic spike in youth volunteerism from leading fronts in both physical and digital channels. This project (alongside other similar initiatives) was definitely a byproduct of that entire spirit, which also made it easier for us to find volunteers to join the team. 

Project Goals

  • Create a game that boosts the name recall of the Robredo-Pangilinan tandem
  • Tap into youth voters, who we believed would help us get the game viral organically
  • Launch the game in two weeks to have the game public for a month before election day

In order to hit these higher-level goals with our constrained timeline, our lead game developer Ryan summarized our strategic approach perfectly: “The game needs to be simple-stupid. And annoying. Players need to keep hitting respawn.”

Game Concept

We decided an endless runner with an infinite map was the best direction for our game concept.
Using classic game references like the Google Dinosaur, Temple Run, Flappy Bird or Jetpack Joyride, we thought it would be clever to play with the narrative of the candidates “running” for office. We tried to analyze elements of the gameplay experience (from mechanics to design) that made some of these references so frustratingly addicting. 

We invited a panel of game developers and designers to validate our concepts and product development strategy. This was a fun session that helped us make vital decisions on game mechanics which affected our user flow and full-stack diagram.

With the help of our panel, the game concept was finalized: candidates Leni and Kiko would act as endless runners jumping over randomly generated obstacles in an infinite map. Difficulty level would increase by the varying heights of these obstacles. The further these characters ran, the higher a player’s score. We agreed to surface a user’s score with a progress bar acting as an indicator of how close (or far) they were to beating their personal record. To boost a sense of competition around the game, we agreed to create a sharing functionality through a unique link that enabled players to challenge their friends’ scores. 

Game Design & Development

The most crucial part of the planning process was finalizing our gameplay mechanics, user flow, and backend structure. Once these were set, we started working on our screens and actual development. While building the game, our core areas of focus were the following:

  • Accessibility: loading the game on a web browser 
  • Functionality: simple UX, game optimization and speed across multiple device types 
  • Playability: players are inclined to play again
  • Shareability: players are able to seamlessly share the game with others 

We had an iterative testing process that helped us build the game faster and refine its functionality better. Every game update was tested by our team and with a pool of friends. This approach helped us help identify bugs, cross-test between multiple devices, learn more about the overall gameplay experience, and identify loopholes in our user flow. Some problems that arised from this process were the following: 

  • In earlier versions, players felt like the timing and speed of their jumps were off 
  • Players felt like it took way too many steps for them to share their score with friend
  • Keyboard experience was, as our developers said, “janky”
  • Users only replayed the game 3-4 times; could game art increase this?
  • Design bugs on different browsers or devices 

Game Art

Our main priority was to ensure that the art assets would effectively convey our message without compromising the playability and seamlessness of the game.
The art direction was loosely defined as a “comic book” style with cartoon-ish versions of our selected candidates. The goal was to create an identity that was friendly and youthful, but not exceedingly cheesy. In hindsight, the colors we selected might not have helped with that 🤣. 

To expedite our game development process, we brought in volunteer artists to help us with character design, background & foreground design, and music. In the process of creating these assets, we tackled questions like: How do we animate our characters to ensure that they appear to be moving seamlessly? How do we make background and foreground elements that are visually striking and convey our message, but don’t attract too much attention? What sound effect gives users the most satisfaction upon doing x, y, or z? These little decisions were vital in delivering the final gameplay experience. 

Game Launch & Responses

We launched on time! After a week of incorporating and troubleshooting our art elements, we went live by sharing the game with immediate families and friends. On launch day, we hit 4k unique visitors and 6k pageviews. As expected, our average visit duration was 3 minutes per session. While we experienced a few minor bugs, the game and website never crashed.

Without spending a single cent, our launch strategy relied on influencer marketing and blasting social media posts alongside volunteer and youth groups. The goal was to get people to share their unique links or screenshots of their scores, which people did actively on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

A Game Update

Like most mobile game apps today, Takbo’s life cycle slowed down after 3 days. From our peak of 11k unique visitors on Day 2, we hit 279 unique players by Day 10. As a low hanging fruit, we released an update with power-ups and a new character with hopes of bringing some users back. This update brought in 12k new unique visitors who in just 4 days who tapped “retry” on our game 117k times. 

What we learned

Our game update brought us from 28k to 40k unique visitors (woo! 🥳), but we realized we spent little time strategizing for long-term user retention. Our game’s visitor count experienced two peaks in its entire lifespan that were catalyzed by social media posts. When we evaluated our user acquisition channels, we discovered an overlooked pain point: players were not accessing the game through their browser or through links shared by friends. 

Instagram and Twitter were our leading sources for users thanks to our partnered influencers. Our initial hypothesis (and hope) was that user acquisition would rely heavily on private messaging channels and/or word of mouth (similar to Wordle) and therefore reflect larger numbers in users coming from Messenger. Our data reflected that users were not sharing their scores with their friends as much as we hoped they would, so we realized that our game’s shareability was not fully optimal.  

With regards to user devices, the data reflected our initial expectations as we designed the game specifically for mobile users in mind. Knowing that majority of Philippine smartphone owners use Android devices, we expected a large gap between iOS and Android users. However, given the discrepancy of only 4.9% between these users, we inferred that we didn’t hit the demographic groups we initially targeted.

To add on to that, our goal was to target players from more provincial regions in the Philippines, but our data showed us that majority of our Philippine userbase (34k+) was based in Luzon and in largely urban areas. Our top player cities were Mandaluyong, Taguig, San Juan, Pasig and Makati. In hindsight, we should have been more intentional about our demographic reach when planning our product launch. Nevertheless, it was a nice surprise to have a significant number of players from other countries such as Singapore (680), the US (598), Canada (428), the UAE (187) and Australia (178).

Project Conclusions 

During our team debrief, we realized that we were acting on feedback from groups we did not plan to target. If we could do it all over again, we’d design and test with users we always planned  to reach to create a more fitting product experience. 

In spite of this learning curve, working on this project was a fun challenge and a first for every member of our core team. What stunned us the most, however, was that people actually played our game, again and again. They ranted about their frustration or bragged about their scores on social media. 

We understood that the number of unique visitors on our game didn’t necessarily translate to votes for our candidates, but what made this short project fulfilling was that our team was able to build and ship out a product that we cared about. This project wasn’t funded nor affliated with any of the campaign teams involved, so every team member we onboarded was a volunteer who gladly offered their services and time for a unifying cause. It was great to work and learn alongside a team behind a shared purpose.

Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve...

During our team debrief, we identified the things we would have done better if we had a chance to do it again, and possibly with more time:
  • Ideate on ways to incentivize competition and the community aspect of the game
  • Test the game with target users 
  • Optimize UX for shareability
  • Launch the game with the power-ups sooner; or include this feature in the first release
  • Create a more comprehensive launch plan with more diverse range of influencers and respective engagement tracking
  • Set clearer targets for data and metrics before building our analytics dashboard
  • Track user age groups and user retention
  • Experiment with other user aqcuisition strategies

Project Playlist

Rosas - Nica del Rosario, Gab Pangilinan
Telefono - Phoenix 
Lasso - Phoenix 
Volando - Mora, Bad Bunny, Sech
Breakdown - Bag Raiders
Lo que tú me das - Juanpalitoschinos
Wake Me - Bleachers
First Class - Jack Harlow
Shot in the Dark - John Mayer
Fuera del Mercado - Danny Ocean

People who made this possible

Game Dev & Strategy
Ryan Buizon
Ramon Catane
Vince Simpao
Game Art & Music
Balat ng Saging
Sarah Chuang
Daniella Dinco
Justine Gacog
Nicolas Pascal
Game Dev Consultants
Nikki Ebora
Matthew Gonzales
OJ Tibi