Creole Carnival Games


I led the end-to-end UX design for the Creole Carnival Games experience. My work on the project also highlighted my leadership abilities to which I was granted a larger scope of work to include becoming the game's Product Owner.

When launched, Creole Carnival Games was a hybrid mobile and location-based game within the Universal Orlando Resort App created for the Park's Mardi Gras event, drawing 11,000+ unique players for its 2-month duration.

Creole Carnival Games screen in a Pixel 3 Phone
Matching game and endless runner game shown in mobile devices.
Creole Carnival Games QR codes found in the Annual Passholders lounge.
Scanning Creole Carnival Games QR code in the merchandise store.

overview

Challenge

Guests do not go to theme parks to play mobile games. However, there was a desire to explore gamification within the theme parks for future developments.

The Resort's existing mobile offering "Universal Play" was very limited and did not draw significant traffic (less than 0.0002% of our mobile app usage). How can we test and grow the Universal Play mobile gaming platform in a fun way leading up to our heavily game-focused project, Super Nintendo World™?

Solution

Reimagine the existing mobile game framework to create a platform for testing mobile game engagement to validate the potential in theme park gamification, and to also refine the Universal Play product. This particular mobile game was built for Universal's Mardi Gras.

Impact

In its duration, Creole Carnival Games drew over 11k unique players to Universal Play, increasing its traffic within the Universal Orlando App over 1,000%.

The rise in active users through Creole Carnival Games and its predecessor, Halloween Horror Nights, drew significant enough promise for approval on added development to mobile initiatives for other projects.

TEAM

Myself - Product Owner, UX Designer

Nick Puglisi - Producer

Matthew Heiden - Product Strategy

Carin Harkins - Artist

Sam Knox - Software Developer

1 Software Vendor

LOCATION

Orlando, FL

TIMELINE

Oct 2019 - Apr 2020 (5 Months)



To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have changed some of the quantitative data and omitted some information in this case study. All information in this case study is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of Universal Parks & Resorts.



context

Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

Mardi Gras is an annual event that takes place at the Universal Studios Florida theme park that runs through February and March. This event offers guests different experiences that typically are not offered during other times of the year such as Mardi Gras themed decorations, the nightly parade, and Louisiana inspired foods.

Mardi Gras 2020 logo Mardi Gras 2020 food offerings
goals

1. Playable at Home

Marketing for Universal Events begin on web and on mobile before opening night, and so should our games. Why limit our audience to only those in the parks?

Thank you Coca-Cola® for the partnership in helping make this happen!

2. Give Guests the Choice to Keep Immersing in our Stories through Mobile

Mobile devices are ubiquitous. While we prefer guests have their eyes on the parks, if their eyes are on their phones, we should give them something relable to look at or play.

3. What You See at the Event Aligns to What You See on Screen

Creole Carnival Games final screens
research

Getting The Right Audience

Annual Passholders (APs) would be enticed to maximize use of their passes and return for the event multiple times over its duration. The benefits for APs can also increase the value for other guests.

Universal Orlando Annual Passholder Cards

Crafting A Data-Driven Story

I worked with our Marketing Department to obtain data on WHY our guests attended Mardi Gras and what were those driving factors. As product owner, I wanted to augment those events through our app experience. The top factors:

Universal Mardi Gras Nightly Parade

Nightly Mardi Gras Parade

Universal Mardi Gras Concert

Select Mardi Gras Concert Nights

Universal Mardi Gras French Quarter

Limited Time Mardi Gras Cuisine

We were also fresh off data obtained from our most recent event with temmporary mobile experience: Halloween Horror Nights.

process

Taking Ownership of my Product

Due to time constraints for the project, I proposed that my team leverage the Halloween Horror Nights mobile experience framework instead of building new games from scratch. We also had insights from the game already having been live we could use to drive our design decisions, but this time for the Mardi Gras 'Treasures of the Deep' pirate theme.

Halloween Horror Nights: Haunted House "Die-res".

Creole Carnival Games: Parade Float "Creole Chronicles".

Delegating Tasks in Agile

I used a loose agile development methodology to iterate on the product while also obtaining approvals from the proper stakeholders to move the project forward at an accelerated pace. We used a combination of Basecamp and Slack to track tasks.

UX Design

I wrote the game design documents (GDD) for the entire experience and communicated this to our vendor developers. The GDDs acted as my guide to producing user flows, wireframes, and early mockups of the game.

Creole Carnival Games Flow Diagram

A user flow diagram of features for Creole Carnival Games

Creole Carnival Games Final Flow Diagram

Final Flow of Creole Carnival Games within the Universal Orlando Resort App

Transition into Product Management

I traded off finalizing UX designs earlier to allow my vendor enough development and testing time for the early release in January. Thus, I transitioned into product management for the remainder of the project.

My vendor developed the software architecture and also produced final art and animation assets for the UI in collaboration with my team's lead artist. I communicated this progress to my stakeholders regularly for approvals.

Mardi Gras 2020 Twisted Tater Stand

The Cajun Passport showed the menu options available at the vendor stands.

I collaborated with different divisions of Universal Orlando Resort™ to realize to interactive features of our game as a part of our goal to bridge real-world elements to our experience on screen. To realize 'Cajun Passport: a digital food and wine stamp card', I worked with the Universal Food & Beverage group to provide an opportunity for guests to log their meals to their game via QR code.

Our Product Actually Hit Shelves

Our corporate partnership with Coca-Cola allowed us to market the game and let people play prior to the Mardi Gras event at home. Almost 10% of players already has accessed the app experience before Feb 1, 2020!

Coca-Cola® and Coca-Cola® Zero Sugar packaging featuring Creole Carnival Games was released to Florida Publix grocery shelves on January 7, 2020.

All printed packages were SOLD OUT before the conclusion of the Mardi Gras Event!

metrics

Insights for Future Development

We intend to use data to drive design decisions for future products. We used Microsoft Azure PlayFab as our back-end platform, here are a few notable metrics.

icon-user

11,000+ Unique Users over duration of the event

icon-user

Peak Daily Active Users (DAU) occured in the event's first weekend at 550 DAU

Consistently hit ~400 DAU on weekend

Consistently hit ~200 DAU during the week

icon-calendar

~10% Players accessed the experience prior to Event official dates

Active users typically higher during concert evenings

icon-achievement

Top Achievements: Visiting the Tribute Store, Visiting Annual Passholders Lounge, Reading Creole Chronicles, Opened Carnival Treasure, Played Mardi Gras Dash

Carnival Treasure in the UO Annual Passholder Lounge

Carnival Treasure in the Annual Passholder Lounge - these were hidden in the app until achieved.

impact

Growing the Universal Play™ Platform

Creole Carnival Games produced a relatively strong turn-out which increased traffic to Universal Play to another 1/6th of the calendar year. We proved with our numbers that there is growing interest in engaging with Universal Play while at our parks and even at home.

With 1 permanent title and now our 2nd successful event release, we have grounds to push for release of more permanent content to Universal Play, in particular for the 4th gate: Universal's Epic Universe. I personally hope this leads to establishing a whole new theme park experience that guests can enjoy using the mobile platform.

Creole Carnival Games in the UO app