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Pet Projects

July 17, 2020


A creative spark turned into a tribute to an online dating company called Zoosk.

Last year I had this random idea: make my own Monopoly board based on the Zoosk app. Voilà — Zooskopoly!

Zooskopoly board cropped to show the logo and Heartfriend

Welcome to the Hood

The Zoosk app has a lot of features, from account settings to Carousel to account deactivation. I used a spreadsheet to map out where each feature could stand in for a Monopoly property.

Once I grouped my "neighborhoods," I opened Illustrator and imported a to-scale image of a real Monopoly board. Using this template I laid out each Zoosk feature on the spaces. For most of them, I used corresponding icons from our web app. These were designed by our UX team.

I had to re-brand the board with a Zoosk angle. Zoosk had a retired mascot called Heartfriend that I could use to replace Rich Uncle Pennybags. He was an animatronic puppet we used in TV and YouTube ads. Our UX team also took pictures of him dressed in different outfits. I had access to these.

Photos of Heartfriend in costumes

I dropped Heartfriend and our mobile app background image onto the board's center. I then added the word "Zooskopoly" on top. I was able to custom-make the additional letters thanks to the simple typeface used in our logo.

I completed the layout and posted it on LinkedIn. I received a lot of positive reactions and feedback.

Zooskopoly board based on Monopoly

The crowning touch for this digital Monopoly re-design was that I replaced the dollar currency with coins. Virtual coins can be bought on Zoosk then spent to unlock special features in the app. Customers who are paid subscribers hate coins. They believe if they subscribe, they shouldn't have to unlock features with an additional coin purchase. Many of us at Zoosk agreed, but because coins were a big money maker, the powers-that-be refused to get rid of them. I used coins as the game's currency to call out the scuzziness of this decision.

Chance and Community Chest Cards

Fast forward to early 2020. I hadn't touched the Zooskopoly design in a long time, but it was such a great concept I decided to make custom Chance and Community Chest cards.

For authenticity and branding, each card should be based on the Zoosk UI experience, and Heartfriend had to be the central character. But I couldn't use the limited photos from our UX team. So I had to draw him and each card scene. That was going to be hard. I've never stylized a character on my own.

For some of the cards, I chose to use only Zoosk icons. For the Heartfriend cards I googled cartoon facial expressions for guidance. The process of creating each one started with drawing the scene on paper, taking a picture of it, then tracing it in Illustrator. As time went on, my drawings got better.

Drawing of Heartfriend sitting in a heap of coins

I posted the finished Chance and Community Chest cards on LinkedIn and again got positive reactions.

Samples of the Community Chest cards I made Samples of the Community Chest cards I made Samples of the Chance cards I made Samples of the Chance cards I made

So, should I make game tokens? 😱

Eh...another hard task. I researched 3D programs and found a web-based one called Vectary. There's a learning curve, but I got good enough at it.

I based the tokens on Zoosk's virtual gifts. These are little images you can send to someone using coins. I picked the most unique ones.

Gifts from the Zoosk gifts store plus Cupid's hammer and the boost rocket

I made two bonus tokens: the Boost rocket, just because it's cool, and Zoosk-Cupid's hammer, because Zoosk-Cupid is stupid. He's a legacy character that appears on Zoosk's mobile web app only, and he carries a hammer like Thor's. My re-design of the hammer is much better than the original. Below are the 3D renderings of the tokens in Vectary.

3D renderings of a game tokens

Deed Cards and Those Damn Coins

I also created the deed cards and coins (seven demonimations) in Illustrator.

I designed the deed cards so that the back side shows a popup modal over the same front design. It was my nod to Zoosk's love for popups.

Renderings of a sample deed card and a few coins

Should I Turn Pinocchio into a Real Boy?

All this work, and nothing to show for it, eh? Well, I found Board Games Maker, a complete game manufacturer. They even sell the green houses and red hotels for Monopoly games. That was one thing I decided not to re-invent. They don't make custom tokens, so I uploaded all my other artwork to their website and placed an order.

My Board Games Maker order didn't take too long to arrive. Overall the pieces came out great. The color on the cards is a bit washed out due to the cardstock, but it's ok. Also the artwork for the coins wasn't centered, but that could have been on my end. It's not worth re-ordering. Check out Zoosk-Cupid in the Super Send square below.

Close up of part of the Zooskopoly board Close up of some of the deed cards Close up of some of the coins

Some of the Chance and Community Chest cards are inside jokes for Zoosk employees.

Close up of some of the Chance and Community Chest Cards

Here's the board and all the trimmings from Board Games Makers.

Close up of the board with accessories on top

The cost of my board, cards, etc. wasn't bad: $67 for all the pieces. The $27 shipping, however, was not so great. It was made in China then shipped to Sacramento. But their site was easy to use and provided full-service game making.

3D Printing the Tokens

I discovered a 3D print company called Shapeways. Their plastic materials seemed affordable enough, but I wanted metal game tokens. Their website provided quotes based on my 3D files, and good God — the prices for steel tokens ranged from $15 to $30 each!

Since I had no idea what their quality was like, I ordered two of the cheaper tokens to see if it was worth it: the cocktail and Zoosk-Cupid's hammer.

It took almost a month for them to arrive due to COVID delays, but they look great! The cocktail drink, however, doesn't have the shiny finish that the hammer has. It couldn't be tumbled and polished because of the delicate features. I expected other tokens can't be tumbled as well.

Close up of two game tokens

Overall, the quality was good, so I ordered the rest of the tokens. Quite a splurge, but they turned out well.

Close up of all game tokens on the board Gifts from the Zoosk gifts store plus Cupid's hammer and the boost rocket

Mission Complete

I'm very happy I got through this project. It became painful, but now it's very satisfying. Right around the time I was designing this game, Zoosk was bought by a German company. I knew they were going to close down our San Francisco office, which was where it all started, and my Zoosk family would be no more. That devastated me.

So this project inspiration came at the right time. The game captures the hard work our teams (pre-acquisition) poured into our product. And we poured a hell of a lot into it. I have almost eight years of testimony. Others even more.

Zooskopoly, and by extention the app it represents, belongs to us. It always will, because the new company will eventually change things. That's not our legacy. Zooskopoly is.