Personal Projects

July 17, 2020


Zooskopoly board cropped to show the logo and Heartfriend

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

There was a lot of planning before I could start drawing the board in Illustrator. I first had to determine which Zoosk features would go on the board, and even harder than that, I had to group them. For the groupings I followed the value premise: property values increase clockwise around the board after the Go square.

This meant I could rank Zoosk features, and this was rather fun. I got to throw shade at some of the more aggravating features based on our user feedback. In the grouping process I also considered if some features were related to each other. This wasn't an absolute requirement since it seems that the Monopoly properties are group primarily by value. But in the end my groupings worked out pretty well. There are a couple of debatable decisions, but overall I was happy with it.

I then had to map out the other squares like Free Parking, Go to Jail, and Luxury and Income taxes. Luckily the Zoosk site has features that fit well with these.

I was also lucky that we had an old mascot I could use in place of Rich Uncle Pennybags: Heartfriend. I had several high-res photos of him at my disposal. (These were taken by Zoosk UX people a long time ago.)

Photos of Heartfriend in costumes

Toward the end of the planning process I decided to designate the currency as coins instead of bills. So instead of Boardwalk (Search) costing $400, you'd have to cough up 400 coins. This is another jab at Zoosk for requiring users to spend virtual coins to unlock certain actions on their website. To get these virtual coins, users have to buy them with real money. As of this writing, there are three packages of coins. They vary in coin quantity and cost. Zoosk users hate coins, but they're a money maker for Zoosk.

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

Zooskopoly board based on Monopoly

Fast forward to early 2020. I hadn't done anything else with this Zooskopoly concept besides the board, but I decided to take on the challenge of making custom Community Chest and Chance cards. Similar to the board making process, I looked at the cards in the standard Monopoly game and tried to map things from the Zoosk user experience to the cards. It look some time, thought, and many revisions, but eventually I had a spreadsheet full of concepts.

So the next part was the hardest. I had to create the original artwork for many of the cards. I could have taken the easy way out and used only Zoosk graphics, but I wanted the cards to be special. I decided to use Heartfriend as the central character on the cards. This made sense since I used him to replace Uncle Pennybags on the board. But Heartfriend had to be a drawing since the photos I had of him weren't going to work. It had been a long time since I did freehand illustration, so I Googled cartoon expressions for inspiration. I sketched many different faces for practice, and eventually I drew my first cartoon version of Heartfriend.

My drawings got better as time went on. The process of creating each card started with drawing the scene on paper, taking a picture of it, then tracing it in Illustrator.

Drawing of Heartfriend sitting in a heap of coins

Some of these scenes integrated Zoosk UI, like Carousel and Smartpick. For some of the cards I chose to use only Zoosk graphics. I was fine with that; drawing these scenes was exhausting, and I needed to give myself a break. I posted the finished Chance and Community Chest cards on LinkedIn and again got positive reactions.

Samples of the Community Chest cards I made

At this point I was hemming and hawing over whether I should take the concept further. Do I make game tokens? And what about the coins? Reluctantly I researched 3D programs and found a web-based one called Vectary. It took me a couple of days to get used to it, but eventually I started making 3D models of the tokens. They're based on gifts in our virtual gifts store. I picked the ones that would make the most unique pieces.

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

Note that the max number of players is eight, but I made two bonus tokens: the Boost rocket and Cupid's hammer. "Cupid" is a character in the Super Send feature but only on Zoosk's mobile site, not the desktop site or iOS and Android apps. He's just some cartoon holding a hammer similar to Thor's. He's been part of the feature since before I starting working at Zoosk in 2012, back when the feature was called Mega Flirt. I don't know who came up with this character, but it's such a silly concept that I had to do it as a joke. And for the record, my design of the hammer is much better than the original cartoon. Below are the 3D renderings of the tokens in Vectary.

3D renderings of a game tokens

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

Renderings of a sample deed card and a few coins

Since I had put many hours into this, I asked myself what the point was if I didn't make this into a physical game. So I researched vendors and found Board Games Maker and Shapeways (a 3D printing company). Both of their sites have great interfaces for uploading your artwork and picking the sizes and materials for the pieces. For everything but the game tokens, I placed an order with Board Games Maker including generic dice and house and hotel pieces.

Now for the tokens I debated whether I'd go with plastic or metal. Metal is quite expensive; the steel option I was leaning toward has a $15 minimum. When I uploaded all my stl files of the tokens to the Shapeways site, the prices in steel ranged from $15 to almost $30 each! Since I had no idea what to expect from them in terms of quality, I ordered two of the cheaper tokens: the cocktail and Cupid's hammer. From there I could decide if steel was worth it.

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 Cupid in the Super Send square below.

Close up of part of the Zooskopoly board

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

The back of each deed card shows a popup over the front design of the card. The Zoosk product loves popups.

Close up of some of the deed cards Close up of some of the coins Close up of the board with accessories on top

It took almost a month for the first two tokens to arrive due to Shapeways having COVID delays, but they look great! They did, however, print the cocktail in the wrong material and finish, so I contacted customer service. They said they'll file a complaint with their production department. I haven't heard back in the last several days. But the quality is good, so I ordered the rest of them.

Close up of two game tokens

So 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 I accepted it since their site was easy to use and provided full-service game making.

The total for the tokens will be over $200. Quite a splurge, but hopefully if they all turn out well, it'll be worth it. Pics of those to come later.


All the tokens have arrived, and overall they look great! Three of them were too fragile to be tumbled and polished, so they're finish is a little rough. That's ok.

Close up of all game tokens on the board