How To Not Die at Conventions

I’m typing this one day after returning from a productive Mr. Game! trip to San Antonio, Texas for PAX South! My brother Paul and I are terribly ill, exhausted, and jet-lagged. Our reintegration to polite society is moving at a snail’s pace. The snowstorm outside isn’t helping. If I recall, the aftermath of our trip to MAGFest 2017 for Where Shadows Slumber just a few weeks ago was pretty similar.

If you’re an indie developer, independent craftsman, musician, speaker, or entrepreneur, you’re aware that there are many conventions that happen every year around the world related to your trade. But you’ve probably asked yourself an important question before every single one: how do I go to a convention without dying?

Since I already mentioned how sick we got at PAX South, I’ll go ahead and tell you that I don’t always take my own advice. There are best practices, and then there’s real life. Here are four things I would do if I wanted a stress-free convention exhibition where no one dies.

 

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1. Reserve Hotels A Year In Advance

“One entire year in advance! This is madness! I don’t even know what I’m having for dinner tonight!”

~ You

Listen, hotels fill up fast. If you’re traveling to a convention, there’s a good chance you’ll need a hotel. I lucked out with the upcoming New York Toy Fair because I’m in Hoboken – all I need to do is hop on a ferry and I’m at the Javits Center. But this is not common.

If you’re not in the main convention hotel, you’re missing out on the action. This is where people network. It doesn’t even feel awkward – it just feels like a big party. You can hang out in the hotel with everybody even if you don’t have a room there, but you’ll still need to waste a crucial 30 minutes in an Uber going back and forth every day.

Do you think I’m crazy? OK – try to book a hotel for PAX South 2018 right now and see if you have any luck. I bet they’re already full.

 

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2. Prevent Disease At All Costs

When I usually pack for a trip, there are a lot of things on my “short-list” of items to bring. But I think it’s time for some new items to make the coveted must bring list. Those items are:

  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Throat Lozenges / Cough Drops
  • DayQuil (or other day-time cold remedy)
  • NyQuil (or other night-time cold remedy)

I usually end up buying this stuff anyway. Jack and I had to make do with whatever cough drops they had at the hotel convenience store during MAGFest… but in the future, cold remedies should just be part of show preparation. You will always get sick with some kind of “Con Crud” at these things – the human body can only handle being around strange other humans from other parts of the globe for so long. But you can stave off the effects of the cold long enough to survive the convention. Then you can die at home, which is much more convenient!

Also, for you hardcore survivalists, consider wearing gloves and a SARS mask. This can be part of your cosplay to make it seem less weird. When I see someone with a surgical mask at a convention, it’s always a little off-putting, but I have respect for their dedication.

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3. Drive If You Can

Driving is 100 times easier than flying, especially when you have a lot of booth equipment to bring to a convention. Packing your stuff in the trunk of your car and leaving whenever you want is more time consuming than hopping in a plane, but way cheaper. The biggest unexpected cost of these shows is shipping things back in forth.

Fortunately, at PAX South this past weekend, I sold out of my stock of Mr. Game!, so I didn’t have to ship games back. Between you and me, I only brought 4 cases just for this specific reason! I brought 11 to the Chicago Toy and Gaming Fair and had to bring tons of it back.

If your booth setup is super simple, you might get the best of both worlds – flying to a convention with your stuff in a checked bag. For the most part though, I recommend you drive. Figure out parking ahead of time. You’ll be happy you have a car in a strange place, especially if you grew up in an urban area and you aren’t used to everything closing early or having to drive far for basic needs.

Driving lets you set your schedule and gives you important freedom abroad. You may think it takes longer, but let me ask you this – what takes more time? A 4-hour car trip, or a 2-hour flight? When you consider the time you need to be at an airport and the time it takes to leave and get to your hotel, flying sometimes take longer. Save it for really long journeys, and maybe plan to do only local conventions before you have more money to burn.

 

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4. Don’t Let Anyone Kill You

Self-explanatory.

I hope this advice was helpful! Like I said before, this isn’t stuff I do – it’s stuff I wish I did. It takes a full year of jet-setting before some of these lessons sink in. To date, the only thing on this list I’ve done consistently is #4. But the year is young… perhaps my assassin is just around the corner?

 

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Follow this advice and you won’t die at conventions. I might have missed something, though – so if you’re looking for more sage wisdom, message Game Revenant on Facebook or Twitter. I also have a Twitch game development stream and an email for you email types (contact@GameRevenant.com).

Frank DiCola is the founder of Game Revenant, the creator of Mr. Game!, and the artist for Where Shadows Slumber.

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Make Mr. Game! Great Again

Hey everyone — Frank DiCola here, creator and current publisher of Mr. Game! I’m about to get on a plane to head to San Antonio, TX for PAX South and I wanted to jot down a few ideas that were buzzing around in my head.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering two things:

  • How many Donald Trump references will there be in this blog post?
  • What is the plan for Mr. Game! in 2017?

The answer to the first one is easy: 1. One reference, and that’s all. I promise!

The answer to the second one is a bit more complicated, and serves as the subject for this blog post.

 

 

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Mr. Game! is Already Great, Right?

There are two ways to look at Mr. Game! – optimistically and pessimistically. On the bright side, a completely unknown group of college kids came together in 2013 and created a board game. Through the magic of Kickstarter, we raised over $17,000 in 2015 and manufactured copies of Mr. Game! that could be shared with the world.

That’s pretty awesome… but it isn’t unique. Part of growing up is realizing that although you’re a unique snowflake, it’s also the dead of winter in the middle of a blizzard. You are constantly surrounded by other unique snowflakes, and from far away they all look pretty much the same. There are a ton of board games funded through Kickstarter, and they are just a subset of the approximately 800 tabletop games and expansions that are released every month.

The pessimistic view of Mr. Game! is that our Kickstarter didn’t cover all the expenses related to publishing a game. Because of this, a lot of my own personal money has gone into promoting the game… so much that even if all of the games sold, I wouldn’t make my money back. (Forget about even making a profit!) Running low on money means that I can only go to certain conventions, and I can’t do as many Internet ads. It’s a downward spiral.

Mr. Game! may have started out great, but its less-than-stellar sales record doesn’t make it an appealing target for publishers. Combined with the fact that there is still inventory from the initial Kickstarter run to sell off, the game is in serious need of a great-again strategy.

 

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When EVERYBODY bumps into each other and falls over, it’s less embarrassing.

Two Possible Expansion Packs

 

If you’ve spoken to me in the past few months, or if you’ve been paying attention on social media, you are probably aware that I am designing an expansion pack to Mr. Game!

Two, actually. Since the summer of 2016, I’ve been spinning my wheels about adding a bundle of cards to the game. Tentatively titled “Mr. Trolling!” and “Mr. Strategy!”, these expansions would simply be tiny foil packages of 25 – 40 cards each, designed to be shuffled into the main deck of the base game.

Is your game too chaotic, and players feel like they can’t make any decisions? Add in “Mr. Strategy!”, which has plenty of Badges that you can use to plan your great escape.

Is your game too dull? Figured out all the best interpretations for every rule? Add in “Mr. Trolling!”, which has ridiculous cards and effects that will leave even the best Mr. Games at a loss for words.

That’s the plan, anyway. Two expansions at once is probably a stupid idea, but I just had too many good ideas for cards. If you’ve got a good idea for a card, you should stop reading and submit it to the website, already! If I’m going to consider it for an expansion, I’ll add a prototype version to the official Facebook album.

 

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Just make sure you don’t lie about the size of your crowd…

Bringing A Crowd To Kickstarter

Before I do any kind of expansion to Mr. Game!, it’s important to first check off a few boxes. I have no interest in running a Kickstarter campaign that just barely scrapes by at the end. That won’t make a profit, and it won’t help the future of the game. It will just create another hole that I need to spend a year digging myself out of.

There’s a good expression when it comes to crowdfunding: You bring your own crowd to Kickstarter. That means that the 30 days of a campaign are not meant to grow your audience, but rather you should mobilize an existing group towards a specific end. Since that’s the case, I intend to hit the following social goals before I even consider launching a second Kickstarter for Mr. Game! See the image below:

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The status of the Pre-Kickstarter Social Media Goal project as of January 26th, 2017

Pre-Kickstarter Social Media Goals

  1. 1000 ‘Likes’ on the official Facebook Page
  2. 200 individual ratings on Board Game Geek, overall average rating of 7.5
  3. 100 Subscribers to the Game Revenant YouTube channel
  4. 50 Reviews on Steam, overall average Positive rating

Now you might be saying to yourself at this moment “Frank, don’t bother measuring numbers like this on social media – they mean nothing!” I agree, and that’s why the numbers are intentionally pretty high. Achieving these goals would represent a huge departure from the audience Mr. Game! has currently, even if some people end up being ‘duds’ who do not engage on social media. A larger audience means a bigger network of friends and family who will support the game, back the Kickstarter, and ensure the expansion “sells through” at a fast pace.

This is the way to make Mr. Game! great again, but I can’t do it alone! In fact, I can’t do it at all. In order to make these expansions happen, I need people in the community to take a few minutes out of their day and do me a serious favor.

The Facebook Page is the main social media hub of Mr. Game!, so if you haven’t invited your friends and family to Like it yet, do it! Play the game with them first. Show them this blog post. Then ask them to Like it and follow along. (You should Like it too!) Small businesses can’t succeed in a vacuum – it’s essential to have a dedicated fan base!

Board Game Geek is a very strange website, but immensely popular. Navigating it is a pain, but if you review the game on that site you’ll strike a serious blow against the Board Game Establishment. (Well, not really… but if you like to think of it that way then I won’t stop you.) Please make a BGG account, give the game a positive review, and tell people about your experience with the game.

The YouTube Channel is a bit of a new venture and could use a boost. It’s going to be the main hub for every game I create from now on. Gotta start somewhere!

Steam is currently hosting Tabletop Simulator and the Mr. Game! Downloadable Content bundle, but sales could be better. Solid reviews from people who own the game would really help out! Tell people about your experiences with both the digital and physical versions, perhaps highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each.

 

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If this overlapping mob of early 2000’s phones can do it, so can you.

 

Contact Me Directly

I think that’s enough navel-gazing for one blog post. But there is one more thing – if you have an idea for how I should promote Mr. Game! and my business, reach out! Message me on Facebook. Tweet me @Yoshgunn, the official Mr. Game! account @WhoIsMrGame, and my studio @GameRevenant. Email me using contact@GameRevenant.com if you feel it’s something best discussed in private.

I’m very new at this and I’m taking any and all suggestions into consideration. So, if you’ve ever thought to yourself…

  • Why wasn’t Mr. Game! at [insert show name here]?
  • There should be a video about [topic] on the YouTube channel…
  • Frank should post about [topic] instead of [other topic]!
  • Mr. Game! should be available at [insert store name here], why isn’t it?

That means you should contact me directly and tell me that! I won’t criticize your ideas or call you stupid. In fact, my reaction will probably be “oh man, why didn’t I think of that a year ago!?” and I will be forever grateful for the advice. As my friend Jack Kelly wrote about earlier this week in his blog about adversity, constructive criticism is the key to success.

So get out there, tell the world about Mr. Game!, and let’s get ready to (maybe) do a Kickstarter for this thing at some undisclosed point in the future! Wooo!

 

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I’m going to need your help if we’re going to make a successful Mr. Game! Expansion Pack Kickstarter happen. Let me know if you have any questions or feedback! The game’s official website is WhoIsMrGame.com, where you can purchase a copy for yourself.

Frank DiCola is the founder of Game Revenant and the creator of Mr. Game!

Where Shadows Slumber: Adversity

FRIEND. Hey Jack, what’s up? You’re usually up to something interesting – are you working on anything right now?

JACK. Hey man – yeah, we just started working on a mobile puzzle game based on shadows! Basically-

FRIEND. Mobile? People are still doing that? I thought that mobile gaming was over [and anyone who decides to make a mobile game is a complete idiot!]”

 


 

I don’t think I quoted the above conversation exactly right, but I will say that it is exactly what you do hear as a game developer when these types of conversations occur. Deciding to go into indie game development can be a big risk, and while these conversations are important, they really aren’t that much fun.

In this post I’m going to delve into the concept of adversity and how to deal with it. This will be the first in a three-part series of blogs, all about staying focused and productive.

 

Dealing With Criticism

Criticism is one of the most important aspects of game development, especially for indies. You need to know what people don’t like about your game, so that you can fix it. As such, people tend to be very forthcoming with their criticisms.

However, after endless hours of hard work, it’s easy for a developer to have trouble dealing with criticism. And it’s easy for a friend, intending to offer constructive criticism, to end up simply insulting or demotivating a developer.

Throughout the development of a game, us developers put a lot of thought and work into creating something we can be proud of. When someone else picks apart our creation, we often wonder – why does everyone make sure that us developers find out everything they dislike about our game?

Game development is a field that lives and dies by the opinions of players. The best way to find out what you need to change about your game is to ask your audience. And the best way for a gamer to ensure that a game ends up being good is to tell the developers what they don’t like. This relationship is a very good one, so don’t take it for granted.

 

Types of Adversity

How can game developers prepare to deal with adversity? By knowing what to expect.

Handling Detractors

 

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This was an early review of the Where Shadows Slumber demo for Android.

This is the most obvious type of adversity, and the type we have come to expect. No matter how awesome your game is, there will always be people who simply do not like it, and you will always hear from them. Something about your game is not good enough for them, whether it’s too short, or the graphics aren’t good enough, or the gameplay is too simple.

“You game is a big ol’ stupid!”

– Some dude who hates your game

The best way to deal with this type of adversity is to learn what you can from it, and then to let it go. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to please everyone. You game may be made for many different people to enjoy, but you still have a target audience, and a lot of people will fall outside of that audience. If you focus too much on trying to please every person who says something bad about your game, you’ll just drive yourself crazy. Just accept that this person will probably never love your game, and continue trying to make it the best it can be for those people who will enjoy playing it.

 

Handling Constructive Criticism

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(Above) The  incorrect way to respond to constructive criticism.

Constructive criticism is the lifeblood of the indie gaming community, and any developer who really wants to do well is always on the lookout for it. Constructive criticism tells you what parts of your game need improvement, and it comes directly from the mouth of your target audience.

This is a very important point – I can’t tell you how many times we implemented a feature that we thought would be cool, only to find that our fans didn’t like it. Sometimes you make the wrong decision (especially when working in a small team), and constructive criticism helps you find out what things you need to change before it’s too late.

“Tell us what you hate about our game. We have thick skin, we can take it!”

– Frank, at every convention we go to

This is the easiest type of adversity to deal with, since we are constantly seeking it. This person likes your game, and they’re just trying to make it better, so they can enjoy it even more! The most important thing about constructive criticism is to always be ready for it, and to always listen to and learn from it. The player told you exactly what they want – try to give it to them!

 

Handling Friends Who Are Trying To Help

“You can do this, but to be more accurate, you probably can’t.”         – Barney Stinson

The third type of adversity I’ll talk about today is one that I wouldn’t really have expected, when I first went into game development, and is the main reason that I decided to write about this topic. That is the adversity that you receive from your friends.

“But wait, didn’t we just talk about that? Your friends are giving you constructive criticism, right?”

Yes, your friends are often a good source of constructive criticism. Maybe my friends are just the worst, but I’ve also noticed another, more sinister type of criticism.

“I’m only saying this because I care about you – you are literally the worst.”

– Your ‘friends’

Your friends love you, and having them in your life is awesome. However, they don’t always share your passions, specifically about game development. Many of them might think that you’re getting your hopes up and stressing yourself out for no reason. Maybe you don’t spend as much time with them as you used to. Maybe they’re just jealous of how awesome your game is. Whatever the reason, they’ll probably let you know.

I’ve heard a lot of different comments, but most of them begin with some form of “I’m saying this because I care about you…” This is the ultimate way a friend will disguise a negative comment. A lot of times you’ll hear something like “You know your game isn’t going to take off, right? I just don’t want you to get your hopes up,” or “Why are you wasting so much time on that – I mean, it’s just a hobby, right?”

Perhaps they are saying it because they care about you, and perhaps they mean well. Game development requires a lot of motivation and momentum, and hearing these things from the people who most care about you can be very disheartening. Sometimes you need to hear these things, but if you’re simply committed to creating something you can be proud of, you don’t need that kind of demotivation.

So how do we best deal with this type of adversity? To be honest, I wish I knew. The easier strategy is to simply nod along with them – “yeah, I know my game isn’t that great, but it’s a fun hobby.” This doesn’t seem fair to you, as you’ve put a lot of work into your game, but it’ll get them off your back. The other strategy is to explain to them that you’re doing everything you can to make this game a success. You’re putting a lot of work into it, and you would appreciate their support. If they have any constructive feedback, you would love to hear it.

Honestly, I think the second strategy is probably better, but as an introverted developer, I find myself utilizing the first more often. This is something I’m working on, but I think this is the type of adversity that is the most difficult to overcome. If you have any tips or thoughts about this one, we would love to hear from you!

 

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Hopefully this post gives you a little bit of insight into some of the types of adversity you will most likely see as a game developer, and how to deal with them. Next time I’m going to discuss another topic that I find plagues me and many other game developers: staying motivated.

Until then, let us know if you have any questions or feedback! As always, you can find out more about the game at WhereShadowsSlumber.com, find us on Twitter (@GameRevenant), Facebook, itch.io, or Twitch, and feel free to email us directly with any questions or feedback at contact@GameRevenant.com.

Jack Kelly is the head developer and designer for Where Shadows Slumber.

We’ve Been Selected for the PAX East Indie Showcase!

Game Revenant can now announce that Where Shadows Slumber is one of 5 games selected to be a part of the PAX East Indie Showcase (PEIS) this coming March.

“Each year we showcase a collection of the best indie games you’ve never heard of available on mobile platforms.”

– PAX East Indie Showcase Team

This is fantastic news! The organizers at PAX know how difficult it can be to stand out in today’s saturated mobile market. They’ve decided to highlight our game, as well as four of our peers, in a showcase they refer to as “a collection of the best indie games you’ve never heard of available on mobile platforms.”

We couldn’t agree more. Our game is unknown and the company is obscure (what is a revenant, anyway?) so we really appreciate this chance to shine!

 

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Where Shadows Slumber

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?

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?

The app we’ve released for free online (via the App Store and Google Play) is a short demonstration of the full game’s stunning worlds, mind-bending mechanics, and haunting story. The full game will be released at a later date, to be determined. The game was designed exclusively for mobile phones and tablets.

Stay in touch and receive regular updates from us through the following links:

Website: http://www.WhereShadowsSlumber.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GameRevenant/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GameRevenant

 

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Artist Frank DiCola (left) and developer Jack Kelly (right) talk with fans. Photo credit: Earl Z. Madness / Instagram; studiomadness / Twitter; MadnessEarl / http://www.pixeljournalism.com

Meet The Developers

Where Shadows Slumber is a labor of love created by the two man team of artist Frank DiCola and developer Jack Kelly. The game is being published by DiCola’s studio, Game Revenant.

Frank DiCola is a life-long lover of video games and gamer culture. He credits his love of gaming to spending long hours as a child watching his older brother Paul beat games on the Super Nintendo. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Art & Technology from the Stevens Institute of Technology, as well as a Master’s in Software Engineering. He serves as the lead Sound and Visual developer on Where Shadows Slumber, as well as Chief Marketing Guy.

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.

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. 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).

 

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PAX East? Never Heard Of It…

The PAX East Indie Showcase is just a part of PAX East, one of many huge shows throughout the year that carries the Penny Arcade brand. PAX East is held in Boston, Massachusetts, which makes it one of the best shows for us to demo at since it’s so close to our native Hoboken in New Jersey. Where Shadows Slumber has not been shown at a PAX event thus far, but I brought Mr. Game! to PAX Prime (now called PAX West) and it was incredible. The PAX shows are always a blast, always packed, and always successful! We’ll be bringing the demo along, as well as some grey-box test levels for you super dedicated fans to try out.

If you have a game that was not accepted, do try again next year. We didn’t give up after Where Shadows Slumber was left out of last year’s IndieCade. (Not to mention all of the times Mr. Game! has been turned down by contests and publishers.) Keep at it, and one day you’ll be writing a press release like this!

Congratulations to the other games that were selected along with Where Shadows Slumber, listed below:

  • Agent A: A Puzzle In Disguise (link)
  • Bulb Boy (link)
  • Ellipsis (link)
  • Tavern Guardians (link)
  • Where Shadows Slumber (link)

Hope to see you at PAX East!

 

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Coming to PAX East 2017? Let us know in the comments below! We’d love to meet with you, whether you’re a devoted fan, a member of the press, or a serial killer. Stay tuned for detailed information about where our booth is going to be in the coming weeks.

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

MAGFest 2017 Rocked!

Jack and I have just returned from a wild weekend at MAGFest 2017, and I have nothing but positive things to say about the experience. Back in late September, we applied for MIVS – the MAGFest Indie Videogame Showcase. After multiple rounds of judging, we ended up making it all the way! We were one of many indie game studios that were invited to demo our game at MAGFest.

By invited, I do mean invited. One of the best parts of this convention was that there was no booth price for indie developers. Ticket sales from the convention were used to pay our way, and it meant a lot. MAGFest ended up being one of the less expensive shows Game Revenant has done so far… by comparison, my dalliance to Chicago for Mr. Game! cost me a number that rhymes with gour-gousand.

The most valuable part of these events is getting feedback from players. It isn’t always easy to hear constructive criticism from your fans, but it is necessary. (Jack is going to be writing about this subject next week!) We specifically asked people at our booth to give us “tough love” as we near completion of the demo and move on to production. Without hearing some negative feedback, you’ll never escape the indie thought bubble.

“My game is the best game that’s ever been created. My game. Me. Haha… everyone else must be stupid for not making it first. Not me though. Hahaha…”

– The Indie Thought Bubble

So just to show you we’re listening, here’s three big lessons we learned about our game’s demo (which you can download) that we’ll keep in mind as we start final production this month.

 

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A blue-haired tester at MAGFest plays Level 3, “Canyon” on our iPhone.

1. Make The Game More Difficult

Right now, the demo is a bit too easy. This was something 90% of our testers told us. People would marvel at our cool idea, beautiful artwork, immersive sound (for those that could actually hear it in the crowded convention hall) but stop short before discussing the puzzles.

The most common feedback was that it felt like we had 5 or 6 tutorial levels instead of the 3 we were aiming for. Players don’t like feeling “led” by puzzle games, whether that leading is overt (tap HERE to move! HERE! Right over HERE!) or subtle. We’ve got a subtle thing going on right now, where there are too many easy levels in a row. Players find that to be boring.

We vow to make the game physically relaxing, but mentally challenging! Just because the game is supposed to give you a “moment of zen” on your daily commute doesn’t mean it can’t really make you think. Harder levels, and more compact tutorials, are on the way!

 

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The booth got so packed we had to use our phones to demo the game as well!

2. More Narrative Elements

This feedback usually came in the form of a question. “Will there be a story?” It was always a hopeful question, like “I really hope you guys have a story planned.” We would tell people that although the demo won’t have too much (we’re working on a final cutscene for it now) the final game definitely will have a cool story.

Our goal is to tell a story without using words. My passion is animation, and I think body language is an incredibly useful tool for communicating ideas. I don’t think we need dialogue bubbles or text to tell the story of a man’s solitary journey through a dark and strange world. The other reason is because avoiding the use of text will make it easier for our game to launch in other regions where English is not the official language.

So, don’t worry! A story is on the way. Once it arrives, maybe the 18+ rating on the game will seem a bit more obvious…

 

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Jack stares off into the distance, permanently scarred by a two syllable word: Grongus.

3. Rename The Game To…

Not all feedback is good. Sometimes, you need to let criticism go. People gave us lots of good ideas, but of course the constant refrain was to rename the game to Where Shadows Grongus. This won’t happen, so I hesitate to even mention it. However it was requested by about 105% of our testers and it seems dishonest not to say something.

The name of the game is final. It performs well on search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and DuckDuckGo, just to name a few. We have a real ownership of the string Where Shadows Slumber and a new logo has even been created for that title.

Please stop asking us to change the name. Don’t tweet at Game Revenant about it, and leave our Facebook Page alone. This debate is over.

 

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The two of us eagerly awaiting the announcement of awards at the end of MIVS.

Thanks, MIVS!

The MIVS Staff deserves a thank-you for giving us this awesome opportunity. You won’t find this kind of sweet deal at other shows, but MAGFest is a strange animal. Here’s the staff members that worked on this year’s show. Thanks, everybody!

Lexi – layout, hotel & badge handling
Joel – judge coordinating, hotel & badge handling
Nate – map artist, video editor, web content
Kat – MIVSY maker, volunteer scheduler
Marc – Awards spearheader
Kotey – Tournaments
Paige – External entity coordination
Peter – LEDs, new Obelisk lead
Nichole – Press, coordination with internal social media

Tronster – coordinating everything!

 

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Do you have feedback for us? Did you play the demo of Where Shadows Slumber? Please try it on your Apple or Android device and then leave a comment for us below! We’d also love to hear from you on the official Game Revenant Facebook Page, or on our Twitter account.

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

Mechanic Spotlight: Shadows, Part 2

Where were we before we were so rudely interrupted by my extreme laziness? In my last post, we went over the basics of how shadows operate in Where Shadows Slumber. This week, we’ll pick up where we left off, and I’ll describe the way I actually implemented shadows, and the reasons for doing so.

Last time, I described two different ways to think about objects changing in shadow. Unfortunately, I did so in a sentence that, in retrospect, looks simply confusing:

[Things] can always change when put into shadow, or they can only change when you move around the object casting the shadow, so you’re on the other side of the casting object, relative to the changing object.

Yeah, that’s no good. So let’s figure out what this means, in a way that’s a little longer, but easier to grasp. We’ll use the classic pillar / bridge problem, where the pillar is casting shadow, and the bridge is changing with that shadow.

If I walk past the pillar, the shadow will overcome the bridge. If I continue walking, the shadow will move, the bridge will be revealed, and at this point, it should have changed. This is exactly what we want.

shadowtransition

Not only is the pillar / bridge problem less violent than the trolley problem, it’s more relevant!

Now consider the scenario where I start to walk past the pillar again. The shadow overcomes the bridge again, but this time, I stop walking, leaving the bridge in shadow. Instead of continuing forward, I turn around and go back. The shadow moves, so we can see the bridge again, but we’re on the same side of the pillar as we started. Now the question arises – should the bridge have changed?

This is a very important question when considering this mechanic. Thinking about it from a ‘pure’ standpoint, of course the bridge should have changed – it was in shadow. After all, that’s the rule, right?

This was exactly my thought process, and is why I implemented the mechanic in the way I shared in my last post. The early prototype we made behaves in exactly this way. However, as I got further into level design, I realized that this is not what we want. In order for many of our level designs to work, the above scenario would need to result in the bridge not changing.

When designing levels for a game like this, there are a number of considerations to make, but one of the most important is to remember that the player will not always do what you want. I may want the player to walk around the pillar, but the player may instead decide to walk behind the pillar, and then turn around. If I need the player to end up on the far side of the pillar (for a story event, part of the puzzle, etc.), that becomes hard to accomplish with the current version of the shadow mechanic.

So, it seems that we need to update the implementation of our mechanic. The way we want it to work has more to do with what side of a shadow-casting object we’re on – the bridge can only change when we move around the pillar.

Fortunately, this is actually an easier problem than the previous one. When we think about it this way, we don’t even need to use shadows – what we’re really checking is when we pass the object. When the light (player), the blocking object (pillar), and the shadow object (bridge) are all in a row (collinear), we can simply know that the object is in shadow rather than checking. This is true when we make a few assumptions:

  • Both the pillar and the bridge are about the same size. This means that we may have to break the bridge up into a number of 1×1 ‘shadow objects’.
  • Each light involved originates from a single point (so point/spot lights, not directional lights).
  • The bridge is further away from the player than the pillar.

When all of these conditions are met, we can ignore the shadow itself, and just change the bridge when the player passes the pillar. It’s a little hard to conceptualize, but a picture is worth a thousand words!

passingshadowobject

Alright, maybe like 500…

At the moment the player passes this ‘collinear point’, we trigger the shadow object to change (note that at that moment, the shadow object will be entirely in shadow). But the shadow is just there for cosmetic purposes, like a magician’s illusion – it’s so you don’t see the trick!

As I said before, this problem is much easier to solve – every frame, we simply compare the angle from the player to the blocking object with the angle from the player to the shadow object. When those angles switch, it means that the shadow object is in shadow and should change.

In this way, we can easily keep track of when a shadow object should change. There are a few ways in which this situation can become more complicated – if there are multiple lights or blockers that should affect a single shadow object, if there are multiple shadow objects that should use a different set of lights or blockers, etc. These are all very important things, but they’re all things that can be implemented by carefully extending the system we laid out above. As such, implementing them is left as an exercise to the reader : )

There are still ways we can use the previous implementation to help out with the shadow system. There are a few cases where we might need to actually know if an object is in shadow, rather than just making the assumption that it is. Thus, our shadow system includes a sort of ‘back-up’ shadow-detection – in certain cases, we fall back on the more accurate, more expensive shadow detection we worked on in my last post.

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That finishes up our high-level overview of our implementation of the shadow mechanic – I hope you enjoyed it. Let us know if you have any questions or feedback! As always, you can find out more about the game at WhereShadowsSlumber.com, find us on Twitter (@GameRevenant), Facebook, itch.io, or Twitch, and feel free to email us directly with any questions or feedback at contact@GameRevenant.com.

Jack Kelly is the head developer and designer for Where Shadows Slumber.