Monsters Invade Oz Free-to-Play iOS Game (Shipped)

Enable iOS gamers to experience a pocket monsters role-playing game.

Monsters Invade Oz is an iOS game I worked on with two other very talented guys. It won GDC Best in Play in 2013 and was featured by Apple in the New and Noteworthy Section of the App Store and on their social media pages. Unfortunately the game is no longer available, but you can see some of the work I did on it here.

Announcement trailer



  • 3 Game Designers (myself included)
  • 2 Illustrators (myself included)
  • 1 Animator (myself)
  • 1 Musician
  • 2 Engineers / Game Designers

Time frame

  • 1 year

My role

  • Market research
  • Competitor audits
  • Game design / tool design / event design / level design / motion design (animations) / web design
  • Illustration
  • Level design and world building
  • Marketing (with help from my engineer co-founders)
  • a/b testing
  • QA

Research and game design

At the beginning of the project we did some quick and dirty user research by asking our target audience about their favorite fairy tale. The goal was to decide on the story and theme of our game.

I also spent a lot of time analyzing the major free-to-play games in the market and documenting their systems and processes.

Illustrations animations and music

I illustrated and animated over 50 unique monsters, each of which had multiple angles and multiple stages of evolution. There are close to 250 unique illustrations in the game just for the monsters and game bosses.

The illustrations evolved early in the process. I would post to instagram and use feedback from followers to adjust styles. The project started as an 8bit pixel art game but the cute vector illustrations were wildly more popular.

Monster illustrations
Liquid animation calculations

There are over hundreds of unique illustrations for background tilesets. Here is an example of the tileset created for a cobblestone walkway that shows how each of the seventeen pieces fit together

Repeatable tiles

There are thousands of unique object illustrations and animations. Here is an example of the objects created for a graveyard that appears in the forest world.

Graveyard art assets
Some of the many buildings you can enter and interact with in the game.
We built our own tools to build out the world and quests

Marketing and testing

We marketed the project via Instagram (tens of thousands of real followers), a developer podcast (40,000 average episode downloads), tradeshows like the Penny Arcade Expo and the Game Developers Conference, tens of thousands of stickers, and private celebrity events with our wearable monster costume.

Before Apple approached us about helping us market the game we had over 50,000 unique people ready to download the game on launch. Getting Apple to feature the game was the icing on our cake.

We had beta testers from our podcasts and reddit posts give us early feedback. We also used the trade shows as a large in-person testing opportunity. We quickly learned that the road users followed needed to be much more attention grabbing, as many users were getting easily lost in the world.


A lot of really great people liked the game, like Leo Howard, Cheryl Burke, Tia Mowry,Sean Loweksu, Catherine Giudici, and over 500,000 other users.

Polygon first look at GDC


Creating our own game engine and tools allowed us to customize things the way we want, but it made it difficult to scale to new platforms like Android, Xbox, PC, and more. This decision ultimately hurt us, as we didn’t have the capacity to scale when our product was marketable.

Gamers in free-to-play games consume content very quickly and we were not prepared to continue producing content on a rotational basis.

Back to Ryan’s Portfolio

View Ryan’s Linkedin

Contact Ryan




I’m love crafting impactful products by caring about the user and letting the rest follow.

Recommended from Medium

Don’t Make Yourself at Home in Night City

12/12 News Hoard

Why does a lot of people think playing RPG is GM x Player?

Immersion vs. Mechanics — What game critics (and designers) are getting wrong

Sony’s PS5 Reveal Big On Games, But Missing Key Details

Review — Tandem: A Tale of Shadows

How New Government Policies in China Disrupted the World’s Biggest Games Market

Week 7-Psychology in Games

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Ryan Allen

Ryan Allen

Designer of things | @ryanallen_com

More from Medium

Illustrating, Launching, Reflecting · Issue #2 · 2022

Game Design with Dig

Baby Product Packaging Design

Logo Design and “Media Delay” in VR/Metaverse

VR headset and logos in 3D spaces