Perfect Drift

A Thinking Ape


Developed at A Thinking Ape, Perfect Drift was an Android game where you had to win street races to gain and maintain turf dominance.

The problem

This game was extremely far behind schedule as it had switched Lead Designers twice before. A lot of money was being sunk into this, and designs kept getting reworked, with no end in sight.

My role

Assisting the founders, who were now the Lead Designers, I helped get their project back on track. I helped them prototype new mechanics, communicated their designs to the team, and made sure everyone had what they needed to continue their tasks.

The splash image for the iOS game, Perfect Drift

Paper Prototyping

When I joined this project, the game was well into production, however the Lead Designer wanted to redesign the core mechanics (again). Since I have a lot of experience with prototyping, we locked ourselves in a room for a week and, under my lead, prototyped some games on paper.

Here you can see a few images of some of the paper prototypes for the boost mechanic, as well as a video of us trying it out.

A photo of the paper prototype for the game mechanics for Perfect Drift

Hi-Fi Prototypes

After ironing out the details on the mechanics, we created a high-fidelity prototype and went through several iterations of the mechanics and prototyping phases until we got consistent, positive feedback.

Here you can see a few videos of the different iterations of our core mechanics.

Stat Balancing

Once the core mechanics were finally done and back on track, I also helped out by balancing some sections in the game.

Here you can view a few example spreadsheets. This first one contains the list of prices for all of the parts that the player can buy or get in game, this other one is a snippet from our drops/loot system, which sets the chances that the player can get a specific type of crate as a reward.

A screenshot of a spreadsheet containing a bunch of meticulously calculated numbers

Reiterative Design

Throughout the entire production cycle of Perfect Drift, the vision changed so frequently that there was a lot of reiteration for all of the screens, and I was constantly in charge of communicating the changes to the UI Designers.

To show you the amount of work we all did due to the constant iterations, here you can see an image that shows you every single screen in the game (full image here), and I have added a second image which shows every single version of only one of those screens that we went through (full image here).

This is the master image that shows off every single screen in the gameAnd this is every single iteration of one screen; the Driver Profile screen


In terms of this game hitting its targets for the company, this game was the most epic of fails. Really. But I learned a lot about what not to do with a product.

The main thing was that you can't spend all of your time constantly reiterating designs based on opinion for a full year until it's ready to go live. You need constant testing, every step of the way with your target audience. Not only could that have saved this game from being a disaster, but it could have kept the team morale up, as they would be getting feedback on their hard work much earlier on.

There were so many other lessons too, but you probalby don't want to spend an hour reading about them now.