Exciting news for you dedicated weekly blog readers – Where Shadows Slumber has been accepted into the Indie Prize at Casual Connect Europe this year! The event will take place May 28th – 30th at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London.
We applied earlier this year on a whim and I honestly didn’t know if we’d go, even if they accepted us. But Casual Connect has generously provided to pay for our spot on the show floor as well as a hostel, so the trip just costs a few business days and plane tickets. Worth it! (Tickets to the show range from 200 – 800 GBP [o_o ])
You can find out more about the contest here, and buy tickets here.
Of course, if you read this blog and you live in London, let me know! We can do a London meetup at Casual Connect or something.
I’m not sure what to expect from this show. I’m glad we got into the Indie Prize, and seeing London again will be nice (even if it’s just the Exhibition Center) but it’s not clear to me who the audience of Casual Connect is. Sometimes these shows are mainly populated with ad networks looking for customers.
That’s not us at all, so I’d be disappointed by that turnout. With any luck, Casual Connect will invite some potential customers who love indie games and I can coax them into giving our game a 5-star review [^_^ ]
Regardless, you can count on me to provide a critical look at the show once it’s over. I’m always pretty honest on here about that sort of thing. Wish me luck at the end of the month!
I just returned from a trip to AwesomeCon in Washington D.C.! It’s my second time at the convention – the previous trip was in 2017. Since our game was still in development then, the theme for this past week’s marketing has been “blasts from the past.” I had a lot of fun with that and plan to do quite a bit more. It’s always shocking to see what the game looked like before it was ready for primetime…
AwesomeCon is a D.C. based comic convention held in the Walter E. Washinton Convention Center. As for the show itself, I’m very glad I went – mostly because the crew that invited us runs MAGFest’s Indie Videogame Showcase, and they footed the bill for space. It was very generous of them to invite us, and I always take the opportunity to do shows like that. It cuts down on the cost of showcasing tremendously. For this one, I only had to pay the cost of an AirBnB, gasoline, and tolls to D.C. from Hoboken.
The audience wasn’t there exclusively for games – in fact, many people playing the game had to suddenly leave in order to make it to some signing or another scheduled event. But for those that stayed and really toured the arcade area, I felt a real sense of admiration for the indies and their games. It was a good group of people! Many of them even purchased the game right in front of me. On Saturday morning, one woman literally bought it because I said there were no micro transactions in the game, and she said she wanted to support our team [^_^ ]!
The album of images from the Awesome Arcade can be found on Facebook right here. Enjoy them!
Costs vs. Rewards
It’s so hard to quantify whether or not these shows are “worth it,” but that’s what everybody always asks. Was it worth it? How many sales did you get? How much money did you make? Does that make sense given the 3 or 4 business days it took to do the show? Does that make sense given the money spent to get there?
I won’t try to quantify things like (1) meeting other indies (2) getting the game in front of people who don’t yet buy it, but still might (3) having a banner up that people see out of the corner of their eye, subconsciously reinforcing the product in their mind (4) doing the MIVS crew a solid by adding another game to their arcade (5) giving attendees a fun thing to do for a few minutes, etc. But what can you quantify?
Well I did something different this time, and actually counted the number of “plays” I witnessed while I was running the booth. I defined a play as “they sat down, played past the first 3 Levels, and I gave them the convention spiel.” Here’s the numbers:
Total plays by day
Friday (11 am – 7 pm)
Saturday (10 am – 6 pm)
Sunday (10 am – 4 pm)
Total plays by device
Fire HD 8
So, over the course of 3 days at a cost of around $300.00, I personally introduced Where Shadows Slumber to 123 people. Even if all of those people purchased the game, the trip wouldn’t really pay for itself.
This isn’t an indictment of AwesomeCon, just something I’m going to start doing now to sate my own curiosity. I love going to shows, and I would return to AwesomeCon in a heartbeat. But they always tend to feel more impactful than they probably are. At the end of the day, my duty to the developers who built this game (as well as my duty to the studio itself) is to get the biggest bottom line we can each quarter. So this gives me a new goal for internet advertising and social media use: beat that time/cost return on investment!
Check Out Crescendo!
One of my favorite games at the Awesome Arcade happened to be on the next table over, Crescendo. I had never heard of it before, and without something like the Awesome Arcade it’s unlikely I ever would have. But the developer, Nate Largo, is very talented and he’s created something really polished and impressive. It’s a rhythm-based stealth platformer where you have to march in tune with the beat so that sound-sensitive laser robots don’t shoot your character’s face off. Check out his free demo here!
What’s That Strange iPad With a Keyboard?
This con was also special as it marks the first public test of a computer version of Where Shadows Slumber. Though we haven’t really announced it publicly yet or decided on a date, if you’ve spoken with us in the past few months we’ve probably discussed it.
Stay tuned for more news about that, and thanks again to Lexi and the MIVS crew for inviting us to D.C. for a great time!
Since AwesomeCon 2019 is in just a few days, I wanted to do something different this week for our Tuesday blog post. This isn’t really an article – instead, it’s an awesome gallery of images comparing Where Shadows Slumber 2019 to Where Shadows Slumber 2017. The 2017 images are from the last time we went to AwesomeCon, which you can see in their original form in this ancient blog post.
These pictures are old! This is back when our character was essentially a bald Wii Fit Trainer with a lantern. For each set below, the top image is from 2017 and the bottom is ripped from the game as it is now on the App Store. If you haven’t purchased the game yet, please do so before reading the article. Otherwise, enjoy a trip down memory lane!
The AwesomeCon 2019 build had an entirely different first Level, which proved to be just too much for testers. It was replaced with the walking tutorial below, which is now the game’s initial level.
On the other side, the second Level hardly changed. We did shorten the second rotating bridge to add another small puzzle, where players have to rotate the bridge while Obe is standing on it. The previous iteration just had two bridges with three blocks each.
This Level impressed us and didn’t really need that much alteration.
I kind of prefer the old model I used for light towers here. It was more obvious what was happening. I regret covering the fireplace inside the tower so much…
This Level is so old, it was in our 2016 demo. We were pretty sure it would get into the game as is, it just needed an artistic makeover.
This Level didn’t change, but it probably should have. Those spinning draggables still give people a lot of trouble. Expect them to change in a future update!
Look at that old button! Circles were too hi-poly. We made this much more symmetrical, to my delight. It’s also now the fifth puzzle in the Jail instead of the fourth, though Jack and I discussed rearranging the order again in a future update. Stay tuned…
As I mentioned above, this is now the fourth Level in the Jail. Notice how the orientation changed entirely! I wasn’t happy with where those doors at the end led. Looking back now, I think the old design made it more obvious what you’re trying to do. Too late now… [<_< ]
The big change in “Docks” is that the goal space was moved much further down the screen so that I could hide it and say that Obe was taking a different exit out of the Level. In the 2017 version, Obe lands on a magical square and the Level just ends, but it isn’t clear where he actually goes or how that gets him to the next Level. An old concept we had for this World was that Obe was trying to get his raft past a series of locks in the River, which we abandoned due to the difficulty of making it work across multiple Levels.
Another Level where we shortened a bridge from two spaces to three in order to prevent unwanted behavior from the Walker.
In this puzzle, the Walker actually used to be on the same pathways as Obe. He eventually ended up getting in your way more often than not, so we put him all the way at the top of the screen in his own private hell.
This Level went through too many changes to show in just this image, but one of them is obvious. The goal space moved higher on the screen and required you to get past yet another timing / Walker / shadow / bridge puzzle.
We knew this would be the second puzzle in the Aqueduct, meaning that our first Level was probably still in production and not ready for testing. This Level underwent a big change in orientation, as you can see from the position of Obe and the button below.
This Level lost some unnecessary blocks in Obe’s path as we streamlined it. You can see here that buttons didn’t have the functionality of being pressed down yet, as Obe’s legs are piercing through the ugly button as if it was a huge block of yellow Jell-O.
I need to explain this because it isn’t obvious from the images below, but in the 2017 version of this Level you could drag the torus whenever you wanted! (Hence, why it is slightly askew in the top image but perfectly aligned in the bottom one.) That change was made to make the puzzle more challenging.
I was never a fan of the crazy colors on this Level, but I ended up adding even more to the final version so that players could tell what was going on with the shadows. Note that we added the functionality for draggables to “go dark” when you aren’t allowed to drag them.
See You Soon!
Thanks so much for checking this blog out. It’s awesome to look back in time at how far the game has come now that it’s finished. I hope to see you this weekend for AwesomeCon 2019 [^_^ ]!
Are you going to be in Washington D.C. next weekend? The Where Shadows Slumber Global Tour™ continues with a trip to AwesomeCon 2019. The lovely organizers of MAGFest’s Indie Videogame Showcase were nice enough to invite us to AwesomeCon once again. Why is it a triumphant return, you ask?
The last time I went to AwesomeCon, our game was still in development. Returning again reminds me of a few blast-from-the-past AwesomeCon moments, like this dorky video I took at the show:
Look at those screenshots! The game was so early in development just two years ago, I can hardly believe it. We were still testing a lot of those designs and none of the art looked good yet.
I hope you enjoy that quick trip down memory lane. If you’re new to the blog, keep reading – our archive is full of embarrassing Where Shadows Slumber history like that.
Most importantly, if you’re going to be in Washington D.C. next weekend, we can’t hang out because you need a badge to get into AwesomeCon. But if you’re at AwesomeCon next weekend, stop by the table and say hello! We have the full version of Where Shadows Slumber for you to play, and you can ask me war stories about the game’s development.
The show was a full week ago, but PAX East seems like yesterday! Jack and I are still exhausted from our travels to Boston, but I didn’t want to let too much time pass without recording our thoughts on the trip.
Day 0: The PREGAMER Show
This year’s PAX began differently than in recent years. I’ve never made it up to Boston a day early for Playcrafting’s PREGAMER party, but I’m glad I went for it this year. (The regular fee was included with our booth) Dan got a bar at the convention center hotel and covered the whole room in indie games! It was a nice way to start the show – essentially like a Spring Play esque Playcrafting event in a different city, the night before PAX East!
Your setup is pretty simple – two bar tables pushed together with a chair for each one, and a power strip behind you. I was next to an adult party card game (similar to Cards Against Humanity) so I don’t think the games are sorted into categories, it’s kind of a free for all. The event had a lot of people in it, but not too much traffic – meaning that I didn’t see too many people at the table as the night went on. Maybe that’s my fault for not bringing my cool Where Shadows Slumber banner? In any event, the people that played it really enjoyed it. One dude even bought it in front of me!
I got to chat with some young developers who are basically where Jack and I were at two years ago – they just graduated college and have a beautiful demo of a promising indie game, with a lot of work ahead of them.
Next year, if you’re going to be in town for PAX anyway, you ought to at least show up to the party before the real convention begins! Also, if you happen to be at PAX but you couldn’t get a booth, this is a nice way to still represent your game and maybe get some media attention before the news storm hits.
Days 1 and 2: Showtime!
When the show began in earnest, I was shocked at how busy the event was from the moment it started. In recent years, Thursday has been a terribly slow day. Almost one of those days that makes you say “man, why does PAX even start on a Thursday anyway?” But this year Thursday felt more like a Friday, which was great!
It’s hard to quantify crowd sizes. Every year, Where Shadows Slumber has been at different spots on the show floor. (PAX East Indie Showcase in 2017, Indie MiniBooth in 2018, now Playcrafting in 2019) You don’t just want “a lot of people at the show”, but rather “a lot of people who come to your table excited about your game, eager to engage.” It would do us no good if 1,000,000 people came to PAX East but only cared about Roblox.
I can’t put it into hard numbers, but we felt busy all through the show. Tons of people remembered the game from last year’s spot at the Indie MiniBooth. A few diehards remembered the demo days, which is always heartening. And we bumped into some old friends from Stevens, too! There’s a suprising amount of them that either live in Boston or make the journey north just for PAX. The more of these shows I do, the more I look forward to just making connections with devs, industry people, journalists and old pals.
Our placement at the Playcrafting booth was perfect, too! We were facing out toward the aisle near a corner, with nothing in front of us. And since we were next to the Bose AR-cade (also run by Dan) we got a lot of spillover traffic from them, too. Jack joined the fun Thursday night, which was just in time, because I was already feeling tired. PAX East is a marathon, not a sprint!
Day 3: How Our Panel Went
Before we even had a booth at PAX East, I took the liberty of submitting a few panel ideas to the show just so we could talk about Where Shadows Slumber. This would be a special PAX, since it’s the first time our game is available on the market for sale instead of just as a demo or beta download. Some of my more selfish ideas didn’t fly, such as an entire 1 hour lecture on the greatness of our game, how beautiful it is, and how handsome the developers are. However, our panel “How Much Do Premium Games Make” was accepted!
It was scheduled for 1:30 pm on Day 3, Saturday. We didn’t get to pick the time, and I wouldn’t normally miss the busiest time of the show to do a panel, but we ended up getting a great crowd! Here’s a shot I took from the podium of them coming in:
The panel was a fantastic success! Jack and I were joined by Dan Butchko of Playcrafting, Kati Nawrocki of Dots, and Adriano Valle of OrcPunk. (Though, to be honest, I know all of them through Playcrafting!) It was a frank and honest conversation about how difficult it is to be a premium indie game in a crowded marketplace. We talked about changes in consumer patterns, and new business models that can appeal to today’s phone gamer. The short version is that free-to-play isn’t just a “good idea” – it’s a requirement on mobile. Or… don’t focus so much on your game making money!
I want to thank our fellow panelists, everyone who came to the panel, those who asked questions, and Matt our theater manager for making the event so successful! We’ve all leveled up and become “game devs who do panels sometimes” which I’m sure is just a few steps from “game devs who are incredibly successful and happy.” So close!
BONUS: I think Night 3 was when we got to try an awesome party bluffing game called Pluck Off! that is still in development. It’s a card game, so don’t expect to see it at too many video game events in the future, but if you can get a print & play it’s totally worth it. (Warning: don’t play with Jack, he’ll destroy your face)
Day 4: An Exhausted Success!
By the time Day 4 rolled around, I had basically checked out and spent most of the day collapsed in a chair in the back of the booth. This ended up being a mistake, as I actually missed a lot of people who planned to stop by the table but hadn’t scheduled a time. (Sorry people!)
We can call the weekend a success though, because we nudged so many people to buy & review our game that it brought our Apple rating up from a 4.4 to a 4.5! This may seem insignificant, but it brings us past the threshold that Apple uses when deciding which games to feature. Some games, like our muse Monument Valley, are featured at least once a week. If we climb the ranks, Apple might give us at least a feature every month. Bring on the Today tab, boys!
I don’t know about Jack, but I’m still recuperating from the weekend. I have no idea how some devs did three shows back to back in March… (This is the SXSW / GDC / PAX East Trifecta, sometimes called March Madness or dying.) I’m hoping to get back on the wagon soon though, because we have a lot of little changes to make to the build in response to your wonderful feedback. Jack and I spent the entirety of our 4 hour drive back to Hoboken planning what we can do in the short & long term to improve Where Shadows Slumber. I’m excited to put the plan into action!
Thank you to everyone who visited our table, bought our game, gave us a review, or attended our panel! You helped make a good PAX great. Wish us luck finding the energy to keep going!
We just teased this at PAX East over the weekend, but now it’s time to make a formal announcement: the Where Shadows Slumber team has been hard at work on an exciting new mobile game, and it’s available as a free download today! Read on for details…
Life Simulators Are All The Rage
Jack and I can be stubborn in our own ways, but everyone has to adapt eventually. We can see the writing on the wall – puzzle games are out, life simulators are in. Why solve cerebral brain puzzles when you could live vicariously through a digital avatar? Why go on a daring adventure when you could play as a character that eats, sleeps, showers, goes to work, and dies of old age?
That’s why our next game is SlumberLife™ – a life simulator based on the deep, specific lore that lies at the heart of Where Shadows Slumber. Starting today, you can embark on your own journey through the eternal nightlands seen in Where Shadows Slumber.
It all begins by customizing your very own character. Choose your biological sex, age, ethnicity, and vague religious affiliation. We hope that choices like the one between “Old” and “Geezer” are compelling decisions for the player!
Since the game is still in development, some options are limited. Check back later for more exciting paths!
Live The Life Of Your Dreams
In SlumberLife™, you can live the life you’ve imagined. But nothing in life is free, so nothing in life simulators should be free either. Whereas most life simulators use money or “gold”, we have Lantern Fuel. Use your hard-earned fuel to pimp out your ponchos, lanterns, and hats!
You collect fuel by working at various jobs. Then, if you work hard enough, you might get an exciting promotion!
Prison Guard (promotes into Prison Warden)
Thief (promotes into Kidnapper)
Ferryman (promotes into Murdered)
Knight (promotes into Corpse)
Walker (promotes into Torch Walker)
Rebel (promotes into King)
Lumberjack (promotes into Tombstone)
…and “many” more!
Everyone needs a place to live. But your character begins as a homeless wanderer, lost in the woods or whatever. Spend that fuel to give him an awesome new home to live in while he wastes away!
Choices include squalor, a swamp cage, a desert hovel, an “abandoned” mountain cottage, a desert palace, a winter fortress, a floating Bermuda house, and more!
Some of the better dwellings cost lots of fuel. Get ready to grind! This isn’t a premium game – it’s going to cost a lot of your time if you want to really get the most of it.
It’s not a life simulator if you can’t make difficult choices as you navigate your strange old person through a shadowy, unforgiving world. Our thrilling menu-based gameplay lets you choose between living a stable life, or doing something funny.
From the menu, select Crimes to make your character do something unhinged. If you weren’t worried about the mental state of the game developers before, you certainly will be once you choose one of these options!
After you play long enough, your character eventually dies!
Our Development Partners
Everyone is thrilled to be working on this game! Just listen to these real testimonials from the crew:
“When Frank told me about this game, I said ‘what?'”
Jack is the lead developer and designer of the original Where Shadows Slumber.
Me too, Jack. Me too!
“This is a real game we’re working on, and this is a real quote.”
Noah is one half of PHÖZ, along with Alba S. Torremocha. They created the beautiful audio of the original Where Shadows Slumber.
Classic Noah right there.
We’re also bringing SlumberLife to the newly announced Apple Arcade! Here’s a confirmation email I can share with you, straight from the source:
But we haven’t even told you the best part yet…
There’s no need to wait before jumping into your new life as a strange old man. You can download the open beta for SlumberLife™right now! (You’ll need to be approved for the TestFlight build if you’re on iOS) Links below: