Blind Auction Game Format
The ethos of DRAFT has always been providing innovative and fun new ways for sports fans to play daily fantasy. When we learned in summer 2018 that our parent company, Paddy Power Betfair, was acquiring FanDuel, we shelved our plans to create a salary cap game format, which would have competed directly with FanDuel’s existing game offerings, and decided to pursue a blind auction format.
For those unfamiliar with it, the auction format is common in season long fantasy football leagues. The basic idea is that every contestant gets a certain budget to bid on players and contestants then take turns nominating players to bid on. However, this format had not been used in mainstream DFS prior to our launch, and we were going to build it as a blind auction, where each contestant would only be able to place one bid, not knowing what everyone else had bid.
In this type of format, strategy is key as you try to calculate how much to bid to get the players you want without overspending, which could leave you unable to win players in later rounds of the auction. As such our initial thought as a design team was to create a slower-paced strategy game that would let the user explore multiple tabs within the draft interface to check available players, view teams, etc. This type of game format would also allow us to build off of the existing user interface of our snake draft game format, saving design and development time.
THE DESIGN CONCEPT
However, our CEO and company cofounder, Jeremy, pushed back, referencing HQ Trivia and asking for something that would be fast-paced, take place essentially within one screen view, and make users sweat. With that in mind we went back to the drawing board to think about how we could make the game a single screen experience that would be optimized for fast, continuous action.
Low Fidelity Designs
HOW IT WORKS
We decided on a concept that kept the athlete currently up for bidding as the centerpiece of the action. The user’s team and opponent teams would display as small cards below the bidding header that would show a user’s unspent budget, current won players, and open roster slots. The user’s nomination queue and the list of available players would slide up from the bottom of the screen without covering the player currently being bid on. In fact, the only view that would truly obscure the full screen would be a player detail card, which would appear as a full screen modal if the player being bid on or a player in the queue was selected by the user.
Bidding in Blind Auction
THE UI AND UX DETAILS
When a player is up for bid, a user's default bid is set to $0 and the user has the opportunity to pass on that player, place a max bid, use the arrow keys to increment the bid up $1 at a time, or tap the value field to bring up a keyboard and enter a custom amount. Once a bid is placed, it is locked in and cannot be changed. When it's a user's turn to nominate, he or she can either quick nominate the player at the top of the queue or can select the primary nominate button to open up his or her queue and manually select a player. If the user doesn't make a selection, the system will take the first player in the user's queue and if no players have been added, the system will nominate the player who is projected to score the most points.
Nominating in Blind Auction
With our design mostly nailed down, we decided to do some internal user testing with other parts of the company. After many rounds of auctions over a four hour window, we came to some key realizations. We needed to help users understand the strategy behind an auction draft. For example if all your opponents have filled a position, you only need to bid one dollar to fill it. We also needed to do everything we could to speed up auction drafts without making them more chaotic for users, and we needed to visually reinforce everything that was happening to make it very clear what was going.
User Testing Synthesis Workshop and Whiteboarding Session
With that in mind, we made three key changes. First, we implemented an onboarding experience for users entering an auction for the first time. Second, we added a carousel of tips that would display while users were waiting for a draft to fill or load. Third, we implemented some smart gameplay rules to speed things along. Once all bids are in, even if time remains on the bid clock, the bidding automatically closes and the player is awarded to the highest bidder. Similarly, if a user nominates a player for which only he can bid (for example all other users have already filled that position), the user is automatically awarded the player for the minimum bid without having to manually enter a bit or wait for the bid clock to count down. Lastly, we added in a variety of animations, including having the won player’s headshot fly down into the winning user’s team card and a countdown animation, to help visually reinforce to the user what was happening.
PROVIDING EXTRA CONTEXT TO USERS
Even with the extra context of the play tips and the onboarding screens, we noticed something interesting in our own internal play testing sessions of the game. Users got better over time. Just understanding the mechanics of the game was enough to navigate the UI and complete an auction, but the nuances of strategy that are inherent to a game like blind auction take time to master. So we asked ourselves a simple question - how do we speed up the time to mastery to deliver a better usser experience more quickly?
We settled on three strategies. The first was overlaying user team cards with critical messages as bidding action unfolds. For example things like position full and team full tell you that team isn't a threat to bid against you while bid locked lets you know an opponent has submitted a bid - which can be crucial if you bid the same amount on a player because speed is the tiebreaker when identical amounts are bid on a player. To better explain that tiebreaker, we alsso added messaging to let both the winner and loser see why they did or did not win a particular player in the case of a tie. Our final piece of context was providing an auction recap screen, filterable by position, to let users get a better sense of appropriate price points for players and positions so they can refine their strategy for the next auction they play.
Providing Extra Context Throughout the Experience
Blind auction did not become as big as DRAFT’s classic snake draft format, but it generated over $1 million in entry fees from over 46,000 unique users who completed more than 72,000 auction drafts over the course of the 2018 NFL season. More importantly it complemented our snake draft format without cannibalizing entry fees. You can play a blind auction by downloading the DRAFT app and selecting one from the lobby. Blind auction is currently only available on iOS and Android not on the web product.