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Behind the scenes: The making of Zynga Socialpoint's Top Troops

Top Troops game lead Albert Fontova discusses the development of the game and its vital first few months post launch
Behind the scenes: The making of Zynga Socialpoint's Top Troops
  • Backed by a promising beta phase and community feedback Top Troops embraced its vision for creating a title that blends both strategy merge genres
  • Top Troops was in development for several years before it launched worldwide on October 3 2023

Back in October Zynga’s Socialpoint launched a new mobile game, Top Troops which aimed to blend mobile strategy, RPG and merge mechanics all into one fantasy adventure game. Since its release the game has gone on to receive over 2 million downloads.

To find out more about this unique blending of genres, we caught up with Socialpoint’s director of product and Top Troops game lead, Albert Fontova to take a look behind the curtain of the games prototyping phase and development process. How long was Top Troops in development for? And how big of a team worked on the project?

Albert Fontova: Top Troops was in development for several years before it launched worldwide on October 3, 2023. We started with a small, dedicated team prototyping an idea that we quickly tested with real users. We scaled the size of the team in tandem with continuous refinement and user feedback after each release.

What was that prototyping phase like? How do you know when it’s the right time to take something from a prototype to a fully committed idea ready for development?

There was a big ideation phase. Once we had an idea that the entire team believed in, we started prototyping. The prototyping phase to get an alpha version took only several months, but the team knew the type of experience it wanted to test with real users. We followed a staged development process to decrease the risk in each phase. Each phase had several releases with very ambitious goals.

To fully commit to an idea, we needed to prove the fun of the concept we were developing. Once we had validated the fun of the game, both with qualitative and quantitative data, we decided to commit to developing the entire game fully.

“The beta phase was instrumental in derisking at each stage.”
Albert Fontova

How important was the beta phase and community feedback for preparing the game’s launch? What were some of the key takeaways?

The beta phase was crucial, and we relied on three main verticals when gaining confidence about the opportunity: quantitative insights in the form of data, qualitative insights in the form of reviews and talking to users, and intuition from our market knowledge.

The beta phase was instrumental in derisking at each stage. We used rapid prototyping to gather data and polish the product in a way that our users would enjoy. We also talked to our most engaged users, saw how they played the game, understood their pinch points and adapted the roadmap based on their qualitative insights.

The game is a mix of genres; what was the thought process behind this decision, and how do you find the right balance?

The value proposition has always been to release a fun game that players had never played before. We wanted to positively surprise our users. From the early planning stages, we had the knowledge and conviction that the merge mechanic would revolutionize other categories as we’d seen some games in the industry revolutionize the 4X space. We believed that we could achieve something similar in either the strategy or the RPG genre.

It was not easy at first, and we learned our player preferences with every release, but over time, we realized that RPG features would be the most enjoyed and would generate the highest impact in our metrics. That is when we decided to create the Merge RPG category.

Were there any major challenges during development? If so, how did the team overcome them?

As with the development of any new game, we had to first define its direction and vision as we were learning about our users. We knew that creating a genuinely innovative gaming experience meant dealing with any uncertainties that may come with building the type of game we envisioned. After several releases, we realized that going for an RPG experience was what would set Top Troops apart from other games.

We were also challenged with scaling the team, but we’re blessed to have such a talented team of engineers, artists, designers, product managers, and analysts.

“We’re confident that Top Troops has the makings of a fun and long-lasting game.”
Albert Fontova

And how has the launch been so far?

Top Troops has been well received by our players, which is a testament to our engaging gameplay and the immersive world we’ve built. To continue this success, we’re committed to expanding the game’s functionalities, features, and liveops so that our users can enjoy the game for years to come. There’s room to scale it even further.

How is the team approaching live ops and supporting the game in the future?

We’re constantly working on new and exciting content to keep our players engaged with a continuous stream of new features, events, and new units. We will continue introducing competitive game modes that allow players to strategize battles in different ways. Adding liveops that favor variability and bring novelty also improves the player experience. We’re confident that Top Troops has the makings of a fun and long-lasting game, and we’re dedicated to providing our players with an unforgettable gaming experience now and in the future.

Finally, is there anything else we should know about Top Troops or be on the lookout for?

We have an exciting line-up of content coming soon! Seasonal events, clan wars, gear, and much more! Be sure to follow Top Troops’ social channels for updates.