This weekend I have the pleasure of returning to tranquil Oaks, PA for Comic Con For Kids! The show is being held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at 100 Station Ave, Oaks, PA 19456 from October 12th – 13th. Show hours are from 9 am – 5 pm both days.
Hopefully I have better success driving to Oaks than I did last time when I attended Too Many Games. For those of you who don’t remember, a gang of roving cannibals (The Pennsylvania Turnpike People-Eaters) laid a spike trap down on the road in an effort to snare as many innocent travelers as possible. Once I succumbed to their trap, I had to fight my way out of there with only dental floss and Where Shadows Slumber commemorative pins. It went about as well as you’d expect, but the important thing is that I got out of there alive. Big shout out to the fellow travelers on the road who gave their lives in the Great Battle of Mile Marker 176. (Remember the fallen, etc)
On a more serious note, I want to thank the organizers for giving Where Shadows Slumber indie access at absolutely no cost to us at all! They’re not charging me anything for this show, all I had to do was email the organizers and sign on board. Given the fact that Oaks is only a 2 hour drive away, and AirBnB’s nearby are dirt cheap, doing this show is a no-brainer.
Kids! What About The Violence?
I’m well aware that Where Shadows Slumber isn’t exactly a kids game, due to the complexity of its puzzles and an extremely violent story. I made this clear to the organizers as early in the process as possible. Two points on this topic:
When I warned them about the violent cutscenes, they still said the game was a fit for Comic Con for Kids! They know their audience better than I do, I suppose.
I always warn parents at these shows about the cutscenes, and they’re disabled by default at conventions anyway.
For shows like this, I’m really selling the game more to parents than youngsters. (It’s impossible to get teens to spend money on mobile games anyway) So I’m not too worried about parents getting tricked into downloading the game and then having a horrifying experience when their four-year old watches an old man drown a leopard.
Maybe I’ll just make the booth look as spooky as possible to scare people away? Speaking of which…
I’m trying to spice up the booth since it’s October-ween, so I bought these cool flickering lanterns on Amazon. I’ll give them a try this weekend and see how they do! (See video above to witness the glory) These are so perfect for nailing that Where Shadows Slumber effect.
It probably won’t be dark enough in the hall for these to show up, so I’m considering bringing a pop-up 10×10 tent and setting it up over my table. I only bring that to outdoor shows, and I haven’t done one of those in years, so it’s just collecting dust in my apartment. It’s white though, so I’d probably cover it with a big black tarp or something. Maybe I can bribe them to turn the lights off? If only this was MAGFest…
I’m rambling, so that’s all for now! I’m driving there Friday to set up. See you in Oaks this weekend?
We interrupt this regular stream of Where Shadows Slumber-focused blog posts to bring you something entirely unrelated…
Back in August, Playcrafting gave us an incredible opportunity to take part in a game jam challenge for the NFL and Verizon. Now that we’re allowed to share details about the contest, here’s my full recap of the challenge weekend and the aftermath! Read on for a recap of the Verizon 5G NFL Mobile Gaming Challenge.
The Game Is Afoot!
Eagle-eyed blog post readers will remember seeing this blog post where I described applying for this challenge. I never posted to say we were admitted into the final five, because we weren’t allowed to disclose any of the details of the competition during the past month. Before the jam weekend in August, I got a call from Dan Butchko to tell me that Game Revenant was admitted into the challenge and that I had to put a team of four together.
I honestly hadn’t expected to make it in, so things happened a little last minute. I have to thank Noah Kellman, Brian Intile, and Nicolas Morales not only for their hard work over the jam weekend, but also their ability to drop everything at a moment’s notice and code a game for 48 hours straight.
The stakes of the contest were high. First of all, each team member received $1,000 for their work over the weekend (along with up to $500 in travel expenses to get to Verizon’s Alley on 24th St in Manhattan). More importantly, Verizon and the NFL were committed to picking two teams from the final five – these teams would receive $400,000 to take their prototypes and turn them into game-day ready mobile experiences that will launch at Super Bowl 2020 in February!
There was no time to lose! I put out a call for developers online and reached out to a few people I knew would be perfect. I actually had never met Nicolas before, but he’s an indie game dev from New Jersey who makes a lot of games in short time spans who came highly recommended by Brian. (They’re both veterans of the game jam wars of ’96) Noah is of course one half of PHÖZ, the talented team that composed the audio for Where Shadows Slumber.
The challenge began in earnest on Friday, August 23rd at Alley around six o’clock. Alley was our office for the entire weekend. Each team got a chance to claim some space (we picked the NY Giants Room) and grab dinner before the kickoff ceremony that detailed everything we would do for the weekend.
Our charge was to prototype the idea from my original pitch document, NFL Halftime Blitz, with an emphasis on the gameplay. We were allowed to postpone 5G specific features, which was a sigh of relief. (Getting networking up and running would have been a tall order for a 48 hour game jam.) We would need to still produce a concept for how the networking could work, as well as meet with a 5G expert at Verizon to talk through potential problems with the project.
In retrospect, picking the NY Giants room may have been our downfall.
From there, they cut us loose! We spent the next few days shuttling between my apartment and the Alley, cramming to get something playable up and running from scratch. With a clear idea of what to accomplish, and lots of stretch goals, the team just tackled every objective as soon as possible in order of importance. There was a ton of artwork to do, too – every asset in NFL Halftime Blitz, from the music to the art, was creating during the jam weekend by our team. Of course, the Unity engine made our lives a lot easier too.
The Alley team kept us fed. Well fed! There were three catered meals every day, huge tins of food with plenty of drinks and way too much candy. We were, of course, allowed to leave the building, but we never needed to! I have no regrets. Time is of the essence during competitions like this. I really appreciate that they made it easy for us to keep our heads down and work.
The weekend ended Sunday evening, when it was time to present our work to the judges and our competitors. (The other teams didn’t really show each other their progress during the contest… it had a different vibe than your average game jam) Finally, we got to see what our rivals had been creating all this time. I’m incredibly proud of the work we did on NFL Halftime Blitz, and I know the audience was impressed with our results.
After the presentations, everyone got a final sit-down with the judges to receive feedback on our games. This was pretty tense. We had to get as much information out of them as possible. They also asked us some good questions, like “What about the off-season?” and “What makes this uniquely an NFL title?” We took as many notes as possible during the short meeting and left Alley together. At the end of the day, it’s their money – no matter how much we love our game, if they don’t want it at the Super Bowl, it’s not getting selected.
Technically, our submissions were due the following Tuesday. This gave us another 48 hours to refine the submission pitch PDF and bug test our game. Other than polish, the game didn’t change too much. (It’s hard to work on something remotely once you’ve been in such proximity for so long) We really overhauled the pitch though, converting it into more of a team-based street-football-in-the-concession-area mobile game. Brian even got his father’s friends together for a virtual focus group session all about what they loved about football, and the NFL in particular. Nervously, I submitted the final pitch & build to Playcrafting at 9:15 pm on Tuesday night…
So, what happened?
¡Qué Lástima! [ ︺︵︺]
The winners were announced just recently, and as you can see we were not selected. Qué lástima, indeed. We would have loved the opportunity to work on this game more, and I really believed in the business plan we set forward for the future of the game – not just during the main NFL season, but the post-season and draft periods as well. NFL Halftime Blitz will always be here if they change their mind, though! I’d love to work with the NFL and Verizon again someday.
Want to see more? This images in this blog post aren’t the only ones I shot! I tried to take a bunch throughout the weekend because I knew I’d write an embarrassing tell-all eventually. I put up more photos on the Game Revenant Facebook Page right here.
“It’s an amazing feeling when you can successfully coordinate an idea amongst multiple people and make it come to life in a short time span.“
Nicolas Morales, NFL Halftime Blitz developer
We all really enjoyed the experience. Regarding the challenge, Nicolas said “It’s an amazing feeling when you can successfully coordinate an idea amongst multiple people and make it come to life in a short time span.” I’m just glad to be a part of it, honestly! Being left out of the competition would have felt really bad, and I’m going to make a point of signing up for more of Playcrafting’s challenges.
The contest rules state clearly that those who were not selected retain ownership of the game’s IP. I probably shouldn’t have slapped the NFL logo on there, but I don’t think their lawyers are going to come tracking me down anytime soon. So keep an eye on this space – now that the non-disclosure period is over, I’ll add the game to the Game Revenant itch.io page later this week so everyone can try it for free!
I hope this shed some light on the process. I wish I could have shared more during the contest, but rules are rules. Have any questions? Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!
Google is announcing their response to the Apple Arcade, something they call Google Play Pass. They’re promising developers that it will help them reach new users and get more money as a result.
“Google Play Pass is a new subscription service offering access to hundreds of apps and games, completely free of ads and in-app purchases. Play Pass provides a high-quality, curated collection of titles – with new content added regularly.”
You can read more of the details in their announcement, here.
Did Google Copy Apple?
I don’t think Google just copied Apple. Every platform is doing this these days, and Apple didn’t invent the concept. Besides, it’s different than the Apple Arcade. Apple’s subscription service was for entirely new exclusive games. They made sure that those titles did not appear anywhere else beforehand. Google seems to be taking a note from Xbox, and other console subscription services, since it focuses on existing products as well as new ones.
That’s what makes this so enticing to us… could Where Shadows Slumber qualify for the Google Play Pass? It seems like we could remain on the Google Play Store as we are now, but also attract a lot of new attention.
As far as money is concerned, we have no clue about how developers make money on Apple Arcade. Did Apple buy those games for a flat amount? Do developers get revenue for time played? (Wouldn’t that require a constant internet connection?) With Google they state pretty clearly that we would “earn recurring revenue from Play Pass users who engage with”Where Shadows Slumber if it was available through the program.
As an aside, I would happily be accepted into the program if offered, but I wonder what would make more money? People buying the game outright (in small numbers) or people finding the game and playing for a few hours, to the tune of some kind of fractional micro-payment (in large quantities)
As long as Google wouldn’t demand we take our game off the App Store, it seems like a no-brainer!
A few other things stand out for me. This announcement mentions that you can “highlight your app in a curated section of the Play Store with new featuring opportunities”, which is something Google Play definitely focuses on less. Opening the Play Store on my Pixel 3 always feels like a bland experience: same-y games in the “New Games” section, and some games “Recommended for me” that don’t look appealing. I have been hoping for Google to emulate Apple more here, in the sense that every good game gets its 15 minutes of fame eventually. (I still tell people about when Where Shadows Slumber was Game of the Day on December 10th, 2018) I’m looking forward to that as an optimistic developer, but also as a gamer.
It’s not clear how this integrates with the Google Stadia streaming technology. But it does make sense to have a library of prepaid games ready to go if you’re launching a streaming-only gaming platform. I suppose that although they haven’t announced a clear connection yet, it’s pretty obvious. And this makes Stadia more appealing to skeptics like me!
As far as actually paying for Play Pass – would I do it? I don’t know. I didn’t even subscribe to Apple Arcade yet, and that already launched. I guess I don’t game on my phone too much? Interested to hear your thoughts in the comments!
*Don’t* Sign Up Here
I shouldn’t mention this, but I will – you can nominate your game for the program here, and if Google likes it, they’ll accept you into the program… one day. That is, if they read your application. I can’t even imagine how many forms are being submitted at this very moment. It must be hell on Earth over at Google right now.
If you sign up, you’ll just make it harder for us to stand out. But you should do it anyway! If we hear back from Google and we’re allowed to talk about it publicly, we’ll announce the good news here. I really hope we get in! Where Shadows Slumber is perfect for the Google Play Pass.
Wish us luck! If you decide to sign up, good luck to you too!
After missing this show multiple years running due to totally forgetting about it, I finally got a chance to see Boston FIG through the eyes of an exhibitor! This past weekend, on Saturday, September 14th, two gyms in the Harvard Athletic Complex were filled with games by independent creators. Where Shadows Slumber was one of them! Read on to hear my first impressions of being an exhibitor at this show.
The schedule for this short show was pretty straightforward – setup on the Friday night beforehand, with a show from 9 am to 6 pm on Saturday followed by an award show. It’s worth mentioning the Friday setup was mandatory, and no setup was allowed the day of the event. (If you have a long drive to get to the show next year like I did, keep that in mind! Friday night traffic in Boston is brtual.)
I was next to the very chic and awesome looking Sole by Gossamer Games, and I definitely took notes on booth aesthetics. Look at those lamps! Tom always goes to shows in full white attire too, it’s very striking. I might have to come up with a Game Revenant uniform…
The Figgies took place in the other gym (where tabletop games were) at the end of the day. During the show, people could vote for your game by slipping a raffle ticket into your little box. At the end of the day they awarded the Audience Choice award to 1 tabletop and 1 digital game. They also awarded games based on juried categories like Compelling Game Mechanics and Best Visuals. (More on that below)
My legs were killing me at the end of the day, but I had a great time!
Show Analysis: Pros
As always, everyone who came to the booth absolutely loved the game! It was a busy day, too – I counted 135 demos (that is, people who stayed and played on a device for at least a few levels). Journalists from Hardcore Gamer and the Nerd Entertainment Hub approached the table, and the Hardcore Gamer coverage is already online! (Scroll down to read James Cunningham’s thoughts on Where Shadows Slumber)
The show is very affordable, too. You’re not guaranteed to make it into the show, but an application only cost me $63.69. If you don’t live near Boston you’ll have to drive, but parking was only $10 so travel wasn’t an issue. As far as lodging is concerned, that could make the show more expensive for you. (I lucked out because I have family that lives in the suburbs outside the city.)
Since it’s a curated show, you’ll receive detailed feedback from judges about what they thought about your game. This actually benefits work-in-progress titles a lot more, so consider going to Boston FIG pre-launch. Since Where Shadows Slumber has been out and finished for a year, it’s less helpful for us. Speaking of judges and feedback…
Show Analysis: Con
The only negative thing I can say about the event was that I never knew for sure if Where Shadows Slumber was eligible for an award or not. For Boston FIG, you need to apply for a specific award in order to be at the show. My understanding was that being accepted into the showcase meant you were also eligible for the award. (For example, we submitted under Compelling Gameplay Mechanics, but Best Visuals was another option)
So… was our game nominated or not? When they read the nominees for Compelling Gameplay Mechanics at the award show, there were only 3 games listed. I would have appreciated an email saying something like “hey so you’re not nominated for the award but you’re still accepted to the show!” Maybe they’re worried that if they do that, people will bail?
In any event, there’s always next year! (Or next game, I guess) If you’re in the greater Boston area and have a work-in-progress indie game, I highly encourage you to submit your work next year. Don’t forget, you can also go to the show as a customer and enjoy a fun filled day of gaming!