Where Shadows Slumber: Welcome!

Hello! Welcome to the first of many blog posts about Where Shadows Slumber, a moody puzzle game coming to a mobile device near you. We have so much to talk about when it comes to this game, but today I’d like to pause and introduce you to this series.

Have you played our game yet? Download the demo for Where Shadows Slumber using the links below:

The App Store: bit.ly/WSS-AppleDemo

Google Play: bit.ly/WSS-AndroidDemo

Blogging is kind of a new thing for my friend Jack Kelly and I. The same is true for social media. At our core, we’re game developers. This single-minded focus is necessary for creating a beautiful, lasting work of art together. However, it does not behoove us to spend 3 years in a cave making a game and only make our presence known once the game is complete. Trust us – we tried that already. To avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, we’re going to spend some time every week talking about our process as we develop Where Shadows Slumber. I’ll begin today’s blog post by introducing the team, and then answering some made-up Frequently Asked Questions.

 


The Team So Far

 

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Frank goes to bed each night in a full suit and tie, including loafers.

My name is Frank DiCola. I’m a life-long lover of video games and gamer culture. I credit my love of gaming to spending long hours as a child watching my older brother Paul beating games on the Super Nintendo, as well as a fascination with my muse “Yoshi”. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Art & Technology from the Stevens Institute of Technology, as well as a Master’s in Software Engineering. Stevens’ art program is heavily focused on digital artwork, and let me explore skills like digital illustration, 3D modeling, and animation (my true passion!). My Master’s is not so much a “programming” degree as it is a “software team management” degree. I serve as the lead Sound and Visual developer on Where Shadows Slumber, as well as Chief Marketing Guy.

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Jack’s only had tea once in his life. This is the only photographic proof.

Jack Kelly is also a video game lover, growing up with computer games like Diablo II and StarCraft: Brood War. He also graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology, with a Bachelor’s in Math and a Master’s in Computer Science. He spends basically all of his free time acting as head (i.e. only) developer and designer for Where Shadows Slumber.

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Check out the beautiful website Caroline is working on!

Caroline Amaba is a Senior Web Developer, currently hustling at VaynerMedia. She’s a huge nerd, in love with video games, board games, and dungeon-delving. Caroline’s got a B.S. in Computer Science and a B.A. in Art & Technology from Stevens Institute of Technology. In her spare time she’s either writing up table top RPG lore, streaming videogames of all sorts, gathering some friends for board games, or doing web and some production stuff for Mad Bracket Status, a pop-culture bracket podcast (look it up). She got involved with Where Shadows Slumber when, well, Frank asked. Anything for the games! Follow her on Twitter (@clineamb), Twitch (knilly_line), and Instagram (@clineamb).

 


What We’ve Created

Where Shadows Slumber is a brooding puzzle game that takes place in a shadowy, abandoned world. You will aid the main character in his search for redemption – a search that spans numerous worlds and introduces you to a cast of mysterious figures. Who rules this forgotten land? And who will be left once the adventure draws to its inevitable conclusion?

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The only tool at your disposal – besides your intellect – is the chaotic nature of the universe. Anything that is not touched by light has the freedom to change. This governing principle will be your guide in the darkness, but also your undoing. After all, if you are not touched by the light, you have the freedom to change as well. What will you become?

 


Q.T.H.N.B.A. (Questions That Have Never Been Asked)

What website is this?

The Where Shadows Slumber blog series is being hosted on the publisher’s WordPress blog. The publisher (my company, founded November 2015) is Game Revenant.

Why do I see posts about Mr. Game!?

Game Revenant, the publisher, has two few active projects going on at once: Mr. Game!, a tabletop board game, and Where Shadows Slumber, a mobile puzzle game. There will be more projects this company publishes in the future, as well as more projects in the past. (Not true) You can use the search bar on this website to filter out any content you don’t want to see. Every one of the posts in these series will have the ‘where shadows slumber’ tag as well as more descriptive tags like ‘mechanics’ or ‘marketing’.

What’s up with that Dishonored post?

Sometimes opinion articles about gaming and gaming culture will appear on the blog roll too! If you don’t like them, then… keep scrolling!

I thought the game was called Where Shadows Grongus?

No, that’s incorrect. There is no game by that title, and that is certainly not the name of this game, nor will it ever be. Please refrain from engaging in some of the online petitions that have been sprouting up asking us to change the title. We will continue to ignore these requests, no matter the number of co-signers.

What will these blog posts cover?

Everything about the game! If you’re looking for the inside baseball of developing a mobile game in 2016 on a shoestring budget, you’re going to enjoy each and every article. We’ll cover everything you’d expect about the game development process (art, music, programming, working with Unity, testing, project management) as well as some behind-the-scenes things that few developers ever discuss (how to work remotely, our marketing plan, working on a tight budget, user acquisition methods, contract writing 101, time management tracking). No matter your role on the team, you’ll find a post that speaks to you personally.

When can I play the game?

The final game is not ready yet, and it won’t be out for a while. A release date has not been finalized at this time, so don’t expect the game any earlier than end-of-year 2017. However, we’ve created a demo of the game that is available on the App Store and Google Play for you to download and play. This small snapshot of the game is 100% free and always will be.

When will the next post come out?

We will post one article about the game every Tuesday at 1:00 PM EST. Currently, we plan to rotate authorship back and forth between the two of us, although we’re not against the occasional guest blog post. Don’t miss a post! Follow this blog on WordPress and Like / Subscribe / Follow / Chain Yourself to the links below:

Game Revenant’s Official Facebook Page

Game Revenant’s Official Twitter Account

Game Revenant’s Official YouTube Channel

Game Revenant’s Official Email List

 

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That’s it for today’s introduction. Come back next week as we delve into what makes the game ‘tick’ with a blog post by Jack Kelly, the game’s lead engineer!

Frank DiCola is the founder and CEO of Game Revenant, a game studio in Hoboken, NJ.

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Chicago Toy and Game Fair 2016

I’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip to Chicago for the Chicago Toy and Game Fair. Below, I’ve posted my thoughts about the Fair, as well as a bit of a cost-benefit analysis.

Never Been To ChiTAG? I’ll Explain…

When I told some colleagues of mine that I was going to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair (ChiTAG), they told me they had never attended this show and asked me to let them know what it was like. I suppose they are considering attending in the future. Here’s my recap!

ChiTAG begins with a conference during the week that I did not attend (the cost was quite high). The conference was designed as a way to network with big-wig industry professionals. I regret not doing this conference. In fact, if I could turn back time, I would have paid for the conference and not the booth. I found it hard to make industry connections on the show floor as many of these people were busy dealing with the general public. Anyway, I can’t comment on the Inventor Conference except to say that I shall go to my grave always wondering what might have been. (Just kidding. That’s a bit extreme.)

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My final setup at the show. This is a 10 x 10 with a round table, four chairs, a long table, and two banners that I shipped in to Chicago.

The setup day was Friday, November 18th. There was ample time to set up, from noon until 6 pm. We were allowed to stay past 6 pm but the doors were locked, so if you weren’t in the convention hall you got locked out. That night there were two events that I also didn’t attend because of the cost – PlayCHIC (a fashion show…<_<) and the TAGIEs, an award show. The TAGIEs cost $250 per plate! I decided to opt out due to the exorbitant cost and my general exhaustion.

This recap is off to a pretty bad start. I missed a ton of stuff! No wonder it sometimes felt like I didn’t get my money’s worth! I suppose I should have… spent more money?

Last thing about setup – the convention services people seemed professional, but swamped. They were in a bit over their head, and partially screwed up my order. I put in an order for two tables, four chairs, a carpet, 1 tablecloth, and a table skirt. I got most of that, except for the tablecloth. Also the table skirt was the wrong color. Not the end of the world – I brought my own tablecloths, because the Boy Scouts trained me well. But it was a bit annoying. Their offerings were quite expensive! I expected better service. They were nice people, though.

Before the show opened on Saturday morning, there was a breakfast with bloggers and influencers from 8 am to 9 am. I didn’t go to that either – that was reserved for event sponsors. Another paywall! I didn’t quite realize how many things I was prevented from doing at this conference until I started writing them all down. I can’t tell you much about this breakfast, because I didn’t see it. One blogger told me that it was mostly “people pitching their games to us” while they ate. Is that what “continental” means…?

On Saturday morning, the show opened to the public. On Saturday, the show went from 9 am to 6 pm, and on Sunday it went from 9 am to 5 pm.

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The Reception of Mr. Game!

I had 66 games shipped in, which is 11 cases. This number is quite high, but the warehouse team charges for a minimum of 200 lbs of product no matter how much you ship in. So, I thought it made sense to bring just enough in (198 lbs) so the value matched what I paid for it. In retrospect, this was an error in judgment. I also don’t like this system of charging for minimums, and will not do any shows in the future that have this policy.

Regarding sales, I was able to sell 10 games directly to customers, and 20 to a retailer named C&C Games. C&C Games appears to be a reseller that specializes in Rio Grande products. It was cool seeing my game on a shelf with modern classics like Power Grid and Dominion.

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Yes, that’s Mr. Game! on the C&C shelf next to all those Rio Grande games. No, I didn’t sneak it up there!

I gave 6 games (1 case) away to various influencers who approached the booth. Some were educators, and others were bloggers. I hope to reach more online now that the show is over – there were a few who expressed interest but never returned to the booth.

As planned, some of the excess product was donated to local charities to avoid the cost of shipping them back to my apartment. 11 games in all were donated to two different Chicago charities. The other 18 games were shipped back to me. So, the chart looks something like this:

  • 10 customer sales
  • 20 wholesale sales
  • 6 giveaways
  • 11 donations
  • 18 shipped back to me

I expected to sell more on the show floor to customers. It helps to have a third day, usually Friday, to absorb more of the show’s traffic. But we only had Saturday and Sunday to work with. ChiTAG felt like it was ending the moment the show opened on Saturday morning. That’s kind of a sickening feeling – after spending thousands of dollars on a booth, shipping, transportation and hospitality, I felt like I had barely enough time with the customers attending the Fair.

Traffic wasn’t dead, but it was definitely slow at times. It’s also worth mentioning that the buying habits of the attendees seemed rather frugal – I heard a lot of parents discussing the “one game” rule. That’s probably excellent parenting, but hearing that during the show got pretty annoying. I wanted them to buy all the games! Including Mr. Game!, of course…

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I was shocked (and overjoyed!) to see children as young as 8 years old grasping the game and enjoying it. This little girl was Ms. Game and she had no trouble bossing us around!

My sales technique was essentially to run demos at the booth and hope people would return to buy the game. Very rarely (never?) did someone buy it right after playing. Typically, they resolved to come back once they saw everything at the show. I lost a lot of people this way. I’m not sure what I could do to change this customer behavior.

I left the booth a few times to try to show the game to the larger players at the conference (Target, Pressman, North Star, Goliath) but they were too busy with customers to have time for me. I don’t blame them in the slightest – there are other shows (NY Toy Fair, GAMA) that are probably better for doing this kind of behind the scenes business.

Am I Returning Next Year?

At this point, I’m really not sure. It’s always fun to imagine what my schedule would be like if I was making millions of dollars and money was no object. Going to these events is always fun, and you’re guaranteed to meet new people.

But a trip with a $4,000 price tag is hard to justify. I’ll try anything once, but from that point onward I need to see some kind of obvious return if I’m going to become a repeat customer. This number is no exaggeration, by the way. See my costs below:

  • 10 x 10 booth – $1,800
  • Plane tickets – $325
  • Hotel, 2 nights – $360
  • Booth furnishings and game shipments – $915
  • Banner shipping and handout printing – $100
  • Various transportation costs – $135
  • Various food costs – $200
  • Return shipment of games – $125

I was surprised to hear that this show has been around for over a decade. It seemed a bit too small for a show with that kind of tenure. For a long running show in one of the largest cities in America, you’d expect a bit more traffic by your booth. Sadly, that was not the case. I expect that many people cancelled due to the weather, or the difficulty in getting to the show floor itself. (We were on the tail end of the Navy Pier, which itself is on the shore of Lake Michigan and might be a bit out of the way) Before the show, I heard anywhere from 7,000 to 30,000 people were going to attend. Now I see that the lower estimate was a better guess.

At this time, I’m not planning next year’s trip back to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair. There were too may paywalls and not enough people to justify the considerable time and effort I spent on this show. We’ll see if the residual business connections I made at the show pay off. Maybe in the next week or two, people who neglected to buy in person will buy the game online. One can only hope.

My plan for the future is to focus on shows that do one thing well. GAMA is a trade show – you go there to get business deals done. PAX is a customer show – you go there to sell product to customers eager to buy impulsively. Blending the two efforts together may seem like a good idea, but there simply isn’t enough time to do either one effectively and you end up in no man’s land.

For now, this was my first and last ChiTAG. Let’s hope the New York Toy Fair is 100 times better!

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I’d like to hear from you. What did you think of ChiTAG? Where you there? Did I see you? Did you watch me as I slept? O_O!! Leave your feedback in the comments below, and be sure to check out the official Mr. Game! website, where you can purchase the game.

Frank DiCola is the founder and CEO of Game Revenant, a game studio in Hoboken, NJ.

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Like a building under construction, ChiTAG is worth exploring – but not yet stable.