The Silly Meter (Toontown)

Toontown's Silliest Expansion

The Silly Meter is a large content update for Toontown Rewritten which released in March 2019. The development process took roughly one year. As Creative Director for this update, I fulfilled the following responsibilities:

  • Designed new mechanics for the Silly Meter which added new depth to Toontown’s core dynamics, and encouraged teamwork.
  • Wrote project proposal and design documents.
  • Worked with artists and programmers to ensure that the update met a high bar of quality and fun.
  • Analyzed gameplay data and player feedback to improve the very delicate balance of the Silly Meter.
  • Led marketing efforts for the update’s launch, which included an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) to build up to release.

Adding Interactivity

In Toontown Online, The Silly Meter was one of the final major updates added to the game. It was a showpiece that demonstrated efforts to modernize the game, and the developers had exciting plans for it!

Unfortunately, due to management changes happening at Disney Online, Toontown’s future changed course. The Silly Meter, while visually fantastic, was mostly a static object that was controlled by scripted sequences. Every “Silly Meter Maxing” event was scheduled, rather than caused by the actions of players in the game. While fun, these events became fairly predictable once players figured this out.

My primary goal for the Silly Meter was to add a level of interactivity that would make it as fun to play with as it was to look at. We wanted the Silly Meter to be more than a visual spectacle, and instead truly dynamically track the “silliness” throughout Toontown. The new gameplay we designed was extremely well received by players, and ultimately became one of our largest and most successful updates.

One of the graphs used to analyze Silly Meter points. Specific dates, categories, and numbers have been obscured.

Collecting Data & Feedback

Due to the complexity of the Silly Meter, our team had to rely on a lot of analysis of data and feedback in order to fine-tune the update’s balance. Using our internal software for data collection, I created several tools that would allow our team to track individual portions of the Silly Meter (pictured left) so that we could compare it to player feedback and adjust the balance accordingly.

In order to have our design perfected for launch, we deployed a “silent” version of the Silly Meter weeks ahead of time. The Silly Meter ran in the background on the production server so that we could see how the it fared with thousands of players doing many different activities throughout the day, which we couldn’t accurately simulate in a testing environment. This proved to be extremely successful, allowing us to make balancing changes prior to launch that we would have previously had to make post-launch.

Feature Comparison

Disney's Toontown Online Logo
  • Visit the new Toon Hall to view the Silly Meter, available during certain times of the year.
  • Get help in battle from Hydrants, Mailboxes, and Trashcans which have come to life on the streets of Toontown.
  • Watch the Silly Meter rise during scripted in-game events, often coinciding with the “April Toons Week” holiday.
Toontown Rewritten Logo
  • Visit the new Toon Hall to view the Silly Meter, which dynamically tracks the silliness around all districts of Toontown based on player activity.
    • At any given time, Toons and Cogs are both putting their own points towards or against the silly level of the town like a gigantic tug-o-war match.
  • As the Silly Meter rises, Hydrants, Mailboxes, and Trashcans will come to life on the streets of Toontown to help in battle.
  • After reaching a certain amount of Laff Points or gags in the game, Toons can talk to a “Scientoon” to receive a ToonTask, which will give them a page in their Shticker Book to track the Silly Meter.
  • For every Silly Cycle (from when the Silly Meter begins to when it reaches the top), Toons who have completed the ToonTask are able to choose one of three random “Silly Teams” to support.
    • When a Toon chooses to support a Silly Team, all the points they earn will be counted towards a certain reward.
    • When the Silly Meter hits the top, everyone will receive the reward from whichever team had the most support.