Designing Playmaker, an NFT-powered basketball simulator, to foster a community of online collectors




UI, Gaming UX, Product Strategy

Exploring the intersection of Web3 and online fantasy sports

The emergence of NFTs created a buzz in the online space, prompting many fantasy sports games to incorporate NFTs into their ecosystems. Committed to creating a brighter future for sports within the Web3 space, Lympo, approached us with an idea to develop an NFT-powered online basketball simulator, ‘Playmaker’.

Playmaker would utilize some of the existing assets from the Lympo ecosystem, such as their $PORT token and NFT player cards. The game would also partially leverage the code base of Lympo’s existing basketball manager game, Basketpulse, and incorporate some of its functionalities. This project would offer an engaging and unique experience for both sports fans and collectors by combining the excitement of sports with the benefits of blockchain technology.

In all of this, Lympo’s Northstar goal—and therefore, ours—was to increase their NFT sales and value of their $SPORT token. We realized designing and building Playmaker would require was complex logic.

So, to most effectively create it, we first needed to gain a comprehensive understanding of the opportunities and constraints we would encounter when integrating these concepts into a user-friendly gaming experience. So, we began by conducting extensive research into cryptocurrencies and NFTs to precisely understand our target audience, their preferences, and how to meet them where they already are.

Understanding the complex logic behind online sport manager games to inform our design strategy

First and foremost, a main challenge of building Playmaker was the mixed audience: doing so in a way that targeted users who were interested in NFTs but not well versed in basketball—and vice versa. Therefore, our goal was to give our varied players control over their teams and decisions, making their actions impactful and meaningful. Users needed to be able to adjust team parameters and see the game simulated automatically based on selected strategy parameters.

And so, we began by studying the mechanics of Lympo’s already existing game, Basketpulse, to understand its key functionalities and identify areas for improvement. We found that Playmaker and Basketpulse needed to be distinct because of their different target audiences. Basketpulse used sports terminology and game mechanics, while Playmaker aimed to be user-friendly for those new to basketball or NFTs while keeping experts engaged.

Along with the audit of Basketpulse, we also conducted a comprehensive competitive analysis. We analyzed six competitors’ platforms, looking for ways to simplify basketball team management through gamification and personalization, and presented our findings to the Lympo team in SWOT tables.

Moreover, we researched ways to incorporate level progression and leaderboards without creating a “pay-to-win” experience. So, we looked at how mobile and video games used loot boxes, daily rewards, and achievements to encourage and incentivize repeat visits from users.

Developing understanding and empathy for our users to create an intuitive feature set and incredible UX

We identified four user groups for the Lympo project: basketball fans, NFT collectors, crypto fans, and physical collectors. To understand each group’s unique characteristics, we created user personas with biographies, goals, needs, and frustrations. These insights helped us tailor our features to meet their exclusive needs.

Given the wide scope of the project, we developed a feature set and prioritized it into two buckets: minimum viable product and full application features. The features were ranked based on their potential value to users.

  • Onboarding that’s interactive and intuitive for attracting and retaining new users
  • Tactics management as users set up their gameplay
  • An internal wallet for a streamlined and convenient workflow

We also created a list of high-level guidelines for the project, including:

  • Prioritizing desktop experience over mobile to encourage a more attentive experience
  • Offering a free version to establish a lower barrier-to-entry in a field that’s typically heavily paywalled or hard to casually enter
  • Cultivating an active community with whom users could interact and trade players and NFTs within the platform. 

We were ready for the low-fidelity phase of development after researching and strategizing. With a good understanding of our users, we were confident in creating an engaging experience.

Designing complex flows in low-fidelity

In the wireframing phase, we worked on creating simple and intuitive flows while offering a high level of customization to our users without overwhelming them.

To tackle this challenge, we first identified and prioritized the importance of each feature within the flow to ensure a smooth learning curve for our users. We added a progress bar component on the dashboard to help users stay informed and engaged in the process.

Then, we created an interactive onboarding experience with a helper figure to guide users through the game mechanics and setup. We used strategies like progressive disclosure to introduce features gradually, allowing users to learn at a natural pace without realizing they were in a tutorial.

Developing the tactics setup flow for lo-fis was challenging as it needed to manage a multitude of complex game tactics. To make it intuitive and streamlined, we introduced a gameplay setup hub screen that allowed users to “bulk-manage” their tactics while seeing the big picture on their basketball court.

After extensive revisions and discussions with the Lympo team, we successfully devised optimal flows for every feature. To test these flows, we decided to conduct a series of Moderated Usability Tests with our a low-fidelity prototype.

Validating our designs through moderated usability testing

We conducted moderated usability tests with five participants to gather user feedback on our onboarding flow and assess the overall ease of use of the experience. Our goal was to avoid providing too much context and to add visualization to the onboarding. So, we added animations and interactions to improve the low-fidelity experience and provided enough copy for informed decision-making.

Our participants gave positive feedback that validated many design decisions. They did raise some concerns about game naming conventions and copy clarity for novice users, and requested more customization options for club setup were also requested—both of which were valuable feedback for the Lympo team.

Aiming for the best visual experience through diverse UI explorations

To begin the UI exploration phase, we focused on designing the NFT player cards that would play a crucial role in the overall visual setup of the experience. While the characters themselves were provided by the Lympo team, our task was to create minimalistic yet modern card layouts that would complement the characters and look visually appealing.

Next, our team embarked on a series of diverse explorations, which were characterized by their bold and innovative approach. Among these, we developed both light and dark modes to ensure that the visual identity would be easily visible and effective in a range of contexts. Additionally, we sought to replicate some of the nostalgic 90s gaming elements, such as dashed lines and pixelated imagery, in order to create a unique and visually appealing design that would stand out among our competitors.

Additionally, we ventured into a range of color palettes, moving beyond the traditional basketball colors of orange and dark purple to explore more unconventional options, such as chartreuse, blue, and lavender, to accentuate Playmaker’s uniqueness.

A platform that empowered users while raising Lympo’s NFT and $SPORT token values

To sum it our project with Lympo: our team conducted workshops and usability testing to create a gamified platform that combines NFTs/cryptocurrency and fantasy basketball. We designed UI explorations based on client feedback and set the entire information architecture and designs for Playmaker. The platform offers a unique and engaging experience for users while meeting the needs and goals of Lympo.

And, we’re grateful to have worked with such a fantastic partner and had a blast doing it.

We were impressed [with Goji Labs’] willingness to help us succeed. They took the time to understand our needs and market, and ensured a seamless workflow by communicating effectively, attending to issues quickly, and leading regular meetings—always willing to go the extra mile to ensure the project’s success.

– Chief Delivery Officer, Lympo