Alpha Centauri Farming

Case Study

Connecting family & friends through a classic board game.

Challenge

Bring a classic board game to life online to enhance and grow relationships.

Outcome

A smooth, high-performance, easy-to-use, real-time React-based board game used to connect family & friends.

Try the game - View the source

A photo of a family playing a boardgame

Building Connection

Decades ago my siblings and I would sit on the floor for hours around the board laughing, playing, and experimenting. The game was there but more than anything we were developing our own relationships. When developing the online game we knew that connection was critical.

"Connection transcends technology."

Discovery

The most important aspect to the game's development was how it facilitated interactions between people. The best way to discover how to do this would be to have people actually use a prototype and iterate quickly based on their feedback.

"Experience trumps mechanics."

People laugh and bond together as they watch the die flip from bad to good, not whether the game mechanics are flawless. Suspense combined with real-time synchronicity triggered relationship building moments. We incorporated this lesson in to future iterations. While we'd work to eventually make the game mechanics flawless the focus became on providing a shared experience through building a very fast React front-end that could send and receive messages quickly and instantly reflect the current game state. We developed a predictive algorithm that allowed even people on poor connections or separated by a high latency to have a good shared experience.

Handwritten development notes from the Alpha Centauri Farming Game

Performance

Especially on mobile devices the earlier versions of the game sometimes ran in to performance issues that really killed the "connected" feeling. We utilized the React and browser JS profiler to track the problem down to a number of components re-rendering too frequently. With some re-architecting and caching we were able to completely eliminate the problem and deliver a high performance game on all devices.

Screenshot of trading screen in game.

Result

In the end we delivered a fantastic game that ran seamlessly bringing people together to connect over a memerable experience.

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