Casually Connecting in London

I’m typing this from the lively lobby of the Smart Russel Square Hostel, after Day 1 of Casual Connect has wrapped. Rarely, an event will land directly on my Tuesday blog spot, and these posts go out late. Apologies for anyone waiting by the phone!

This day has been a blur and I’m exhausted, but here are some scattered thoughts about Casual Connect London. I hope this blog post is helpful for those who are considering applying to a future Indie Prize, purchasing a ticket to Casual Connect, or just traveling to London.


First Impressions

Architecture: Loving the stately buildings in London. The convention center is across from Westminster Abbey, the church where every English monarch has been crowned since 1066. It’s incredible to behold! And London is filled with awesome old buildings like that.

Power Warning: I woke up this morning feeling screwed, because I realized late last night that the UK has different power outlets, and I couldn’t plug any of my devices in to charge. That’s always a terrible feeling, especially abroad. I felt even stupider because I have an adapter at home from my trip to Australia, but just forgot to bring it… Luckily, the man running the Smart Russel Square Hostel front desk was nice enough to let me borrow one for the week. What a gentleman!

Thank you Mr. Hostel desk manager [^_^ ]

Pips and Dip: At the venue, we began to set up at 8:30 am for a 9:00 start. The QEII Centre was nice enough to provide free morning tea, proving that some stereotypes are wonderfully true.

Yes, it’s a tea station! (Crumpets not pictured)

Indie Prize: The game developers who are here have been included in the indie game showcase because they’re eligible for the Indie Prize, a title given out on the final day of the show. Apparently it’s an audience favorite vote, similar to how SXSW does it. That seems silly to me since everyone would obviously vote for their own game and there are few outsiders, but what the hell, why not?

Small Stations By Design: The setup is very tiny – the smallest I’ve ever seen – with just half of a table, a chair, and one socket in a shared power strip. This is on purpose, though. Your table is more like your office space than a demo area. You’re supposed to use it as a headquarters to hold meetings, store your stuff, and chat up other devs.

Oscar’s coffee mug is basically the dividing line. Tiny, right?!

Indies, Everywhere: There are a ton of indies at this show from all over the world! Below is a shot of what the main game room looked like during the busiest hours of Day 1. Believe it or not, all of the people shown there are game developers! Jack and I have talked about this idea before – the notion that the most important thing about these gaming conventions is who you meet, not how many sales you get. Casual Connect puts that theory to the test by putting you in a room with 75 – 100 other developers and giving you a chance to mingle!

Afterparty: I got a chance to catch up with some devs I recognized, and meet a few new ones. To be totally honest, I didn’t stay long. These are early mornings, and my travel woes are still gnawing at me. Even so, kudos to Casual Connect for throwing two parties for us. What better way to connect casually than a party?

Ok, these posts are never intended to just lavish fawning praise on the conventions I attend. Let’s get into it.

Making The Most of B2B Shows

As a premium game, these B2B shows can sometimes be pretty irritating. (B2B as in, business-to-business) Casual Connect isn’t a consumer show like PAX East or Playcrafting. You won’t find random people walking around that could be potential customers. That doesn’t mean that your fellow game developers won’t buy your game, just that the show isn’t meant for that. You’re supposed to take the opportunity to connect (casually) with businesses that can help your game succeed.

The companies seem to be getting the better end of the deal here, since not all of us even need to work with ad management systems. Because of that, it’s hard to avoid the feeling of being “sold to” at Casual Connect. Having said that, there are some companies I’ve met that could be useful for a future project. There are even 1 or 2 that could help Where Shadows Slumber out of our current slump.

There is good news, though! The staff has promised that the show is undergoing some massive changes. “We’re evolving! Come see what’s next!” Tomorrow’s afterparty is called the “Last Ever Casual Connect Party” which probably means the show’s name is changing and the business model will shift. Maybe future shows will have more indies, less companies, and the presence of off-the-street enthusiasts? If that’s the new proposition, I’ll keep returning to as many Casual Connects as they invite me to. If not, this might be my last one for a while.

In any event, I’m making the most of this B2B show. There are some translation companies here, some big ad networks, Unity, a Microsoft booth, and tons of awesome indies from around the world. We may even be able to get Where Shadows Slumber on a cool game streaming service that operates similarly to Netflix, but for games. (Stay tuned)

After the show ends, I’ll post the results of the Indie Prize and a roundup of some of the coolest games I found. Thanks for reading!

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Where Shadows Slumber is now available for purchase on the App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store!

Find out more about our game at WhereShadowsSlumber.com, ask us on Twitter (@GameRevenant), Facebookitch.io, and feel free to email us directly at contact@GameRevenant.com.

Frank DiCola is the founder of Game Revenant and the artist for Where Shadows Slumber.

MAGFest 2019

Sup peeps! You may have noticed that I haven’t written a blog post for a while, but this week is different! This past weekend was MAGFest 2019, and, as Frank mentioned last week, he was unable to come. Since I ended up flying solo for this show, it only makes sense for me to touch base to talk about it!

MAGFest, and MIVS in particular, is always awesome, but this year was a little different. Frank and I usually drive down together, man the booth together, and basically work together on anything that needs to be done. With someone else there, it doesn’t seem that daunting, but it’s a pretty big task to take on alone – I feel bad for all of the conventions I’m unable to attend that Frank manages alone!

 

So It Begins…

After getting up at 4 am to catch my bus down to Maryland, I set up shop in the MIVS showroom. People started filtering in, and the convention had well and truly begun!

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Come play Where Shadows Slumber!

The first thing I noticed was that it felt like fewer people were coming over to the Where Shadows Slumber booth. At first I attributed this to the fact that it was the first day of the show, but it ended up being a theme throughout the weekend. I quickly figured out what it was – because I had taken the bus down, I didn’t have room to bring everything we normally bring to shows, including our banner. Without it, the biggest piece of marketing on the table is no larger than a normal piece of paper. Because of our unique art style, actually seeing a screenshot of the game is what makes people approach the booth – since there wasn’t anything large showcasing the art, a lot fewer people decided to engage. A lot of fellow indies at these shows lament about how hard it is to showcase a mobile game, but this was the first time that I really felt it.

That was made a little more sour by the fact that the game next to us, One Step From Eden, was really awesome, and their booth showcased it very well. People were crowding in front of it, which was both a blessing and a curse – sometimes people waiting for a turn to play would trickle over and play Where Shadows Slumber, but other times the crowd would spill over and block the view of our booth. Of course, I would never begrudge them for it – they’re fellow indies, and they managed to make a great game that people love, so I’m glad they got so much attention!

That small speed bump aside, the show was pretty awesome. Our player to bug ratio was the highest it’s ever been, almost everyone who sat down and gave the game a chance ended up loving it, and we actually had a few people buy the game on the spot, which was a new (and really awesome) experience. Overall, it’s this fact that made this weekend, and pretty much all of the shows we go to, worth it – people love the game.

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Image credit: xkcd.com

In fact, for the first time, someone came up to the booth, started playing the game, and ended up actually beating it. To be fair, she played about half of it on Friday and picked up where she left off on Saturday, but it’s still quite an achievement. Any slight annoyance I might have felt about someone playing the entire game without buying it was salved when she brought not one, or two, but three more people over to the booth to come play her favorite game of the weekend. In fact, on Sunday, before I left, she stopped by again and asked if she could have some extra buttons and cards, so she could give them to more people. I either didn’t catch her name, or I forgot it, but thanks for your help, kind stranger!

 

Lonesome Jack

When Frank found out he couldn’t come this past weekend, I knew immediately that I would still be attending; MAGFest is too big a show to give up. The reality of it – running a 4-day show by myself – didn’t hit me until I sat down to do it on Thursday morning. It really wasn’t too bad – I’ve given the Where Shadows Slumbers pitch a thousand times at this point – but there are a lot of logistics involved in these shows (making sure devices are charged, answering people’s questions, enticing passers-by to come and play, etc.) that get a lot easier when there are multiple people at the booth. One of the biggest differences was that I couldn’t really leave to get food or hit the bathroom, because there would be no one to watch the booth!

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Day 3: Look at this guy, all ready to help out

After a somewhat lonely Thursday and Friday, I decided to call in reinforcements. A friend of mine from the area was free on Saturday, and we had an extra ticket to the show for Frank, so he offered to come in and help out. Even though he didn’t have any experience running a booth, and had only played the first few levels of the game it was a huge help! After watching me talk to the first few people who showed up, he knew enough of the sales pitch to handle a newcomer if I was already in conversation with another player. In fact, just having someone there to talk to during the downtime made the day run a lot more smoothly.

I also want to throw a shoutout to Brian Intile and the team from Touhou Microgame, whose booth was immediately behind ours. We actually know them in real life, so it was fortunate that they were set up so close to us – in the stretches when neither of us had too many people to talk to, we could chat, or play each others’ games, or watch each others’ booths. Their game is also awesome (moreso if you’re invested in the Touhou Project), so if you get a chance, give it a shot!

 

Bugs and Improvements

One of the biggest differences between a show before the release of a game and one after is how we can handle things like bugs. When we’re still squarely in development, a lot of things tend to be in flux. At a lot of the shows we’ve been to previously, a bug would come up, and our reactions would fall into a couple of camps:

  • That bug’s fixed in a more recent version.
  • That bug will be fixed when we make some change that we’re planning on making.
  • That bug has something to do with X, which we’re gonna update soon, so it’ll probably end up being fixed.
  • We know about that bug, and we’re gonna fix it as soon as we get a chance!
  • I’ve never seen that bug before – if we can reproduce it, we’ll try to fix it if there’s time!

A lot of these cases have a decent amount of guesswork, and the majority of them don’t actually involve going home and fixing the bug directly.

Once the game is actually released, however, it’s a different story. There’s really only one camp that the bug can fall into:

  • We didn’t know about that bug, but we’ll fix it as soon as we get back!

Since there aren’t any big changes forthcoming, and there’s not a huge amount of work that we’re doing day-to-day, it’s a lot easier for us to figure out what’s causing the bug, we know our fix isn’t going to be invalidated by a future change, and we have more time to actually fix it! With that mindset, I kept a list of all of the bugs that I saw over the weekend (along with any places where the level and/or visual design could be improved), and I’m gonna start heading back into the code and fixing them! Fortunately, none of them were game-breaking or heavily impactful, so we don’t have to rush out a new build.

 

In Summary

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Players love Where Shadows Slumber!

All in all, MAGFest was a great show, even if I was the only one of us who was able to enjoy it. It’s well-run, and it has a good crowd – I was glad that we were accepted to the Indie Videogame Showcase, and I would totally recommend that any other indies give it a shot for 2020!

 

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Where Shadows Slumber is now available for purchase on the App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store!

Find out more about our game at WhereShadowsSlumber.com, ask us on Twitter (@GameRevenant), Facebookitch.io, and feel free to email us directly at contact@GameRevenant.com.

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

Who’s Going To MAGFest 2019?

Happy New Year, everyone!

This is a quick blog post update to remind you that MAGFest 2019 is this weekend at the Gaylord Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. I can’t say I’ve ever been a huge music fan, but MAGFest is exciting because of MIVS – the MAGFest Indie Videogame Showcase.

Even though they spell “video game” weird, the convention is awesome! Where Shadows Slumber has been given a complimentary booth in the MIVS section along with a bunch of other awesome indies. I unfortunately cannot attend due to an unexpected family tragedy, but Jack is still going. Say hi to him at the Where Shadows Slumber booth. (Not sure where it is yet, this convention is usually by-the-seat-of-your-pants.)

The festivities begin Thursday afternoon! MIVS core hours begin at 1 pm.

 

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MAGFest Has Been Good To Us

If you’re a long time reader of this blog, you don’t need the whole speech again. You survived 2018’s Bomb Cyclone with us, and you remember the first time we were invited to MAGFest in 2017. It’s a great show, and we’re happy to return. I regret not being able to personally attend for the third show in a row, but I’ll be there next year. We can finally show off the finished product of Where Shadows Slumber, so who knows – maybe next year we’ll have another game in the works to show off?

I don’t have a lot of time on my hands right now sadly, so that’s it for now. Wish Jack good luck and expect some pictures of the event to be posted here next week!

 

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Where Shadows Slumber is now available for purchase on the App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store!

Find out more about our game at WhereShadowsSlumber.com, ask us on Twitter (@GameRevenant), Facebookitch.io, and feel free to email us directly at contact@GameRevenant.com.

Frank DiCola is the founder of Game Revenant and the artist for Where Shadows Slumber.

Merry Christmas (Sale) 2018!

Merry Christmas, everyone! Instead of the usual Tuesday blog post, since today is Christmas, I don’t have too much for you. (My family is going to be here in about an hour) I guess that’s sort of underwhelming for the last blog post of 2018… sorry!

But Where Shadows Slumber is on sale for Christmas until New Year’s, so I wanted to take a second to let everyone know about the upcoming deals. We’re offering the game for just $1.99 USD (or regional equivalent) for two weeks! It’s a little different for each platform though, so pay attention:

 

App Store (iOS) Christmas Sale: December 25th – January 6th (link)

Google Play Christmas Sale: December 27th – January 3rd (link)

Amazon App Store Christmas Sale: December 22nd – January 6th (link)

 

That’s going to be it for 2018, so take some time to play our game and relax! We’re heading to MagFest 2019 next weekend to kick off the new year, so I’ll see you all on New Year’s Day to give you some updates about it.

Hope you had a good 2018, everyone!

 

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Where Shadows Slumber is now available for purchase on the App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store!

Find out more about our game at WhereShadowsSlumber.com, ask us on Twitter (@GameRevenant), Facebookitch.io, and feel free to email us directly at contact@GameRevenant.com.

Frank DiCola is the founder of Game Revenant and the artist for Where Shadows Slumber.

We Were Game of the Day!

Every once in a while, we’re going to use this space to just brag about something awesome. We hope you don’t mind! Yesterday, Where Shadows Slumber was featured in the Today tab on the App Store as the “Game of the Day.”

Every day, the App Store Game editors pick a game they feel deserves a moment in the spotlight. The impact it had on sales was pretty severe, as we’ll show in our upcoming financial tell-all blog post. But more importantly, it’s a nice ego boost to some struggling indie devs. Someone out there cares! Thanks, Apple.

Unfortunately, you can only read the official article if you’re on an iPhone or iPad. So just to make sure everyone gets a chance to read it, I’ve copied the text below as best as I could. What follows is the full text of our “Game of the Day” article, which was written entirely by staff at Apple and not by us. How cool is that?!

 


 

 

History-GameOfTheDay2018-Snippet

Most games treat darkness as a threat. In the melancholy Where Shadows Slumber, shadows shed light on perplexing spatial puzzles.

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Magically repair a broken bridge by passing the right combination of light and shadow over it.

You’re Obe, an old man equipped with a mystical lantern that can change and morph each mazelike level. As you progress, objects and other light sources create shadowy patterns. Activating switches causes objects to slide and move, altering the location of the shadows and revealing previously unseen paths – and dangers.

Obe eventually has to coax other characters to press buttons and switches. It ramps up quickly; within a few levels, you’ll have your hands full puzzling out the right patterns to open the way forward. It’s typically brief, however. Where Shadows Slumber is filled with aha moments when the solution suddenly becomes evident. You won’t be stuck in the dark for long.

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What’s wrong with all these people? It gets pretty creepy.

With an evocative animation style and stark use of color, Where Shadows Slumber paints a dreary, beautiful picture. A strange, rhythmic soundtrack amps up the tension, while brief, menacing cutscenes featuring mean-spirited beasts give glimpses into the game’s mysterious narrative. Where is Obe headed, anyway?

It’s all a bit hazy. But while the story is deliberately ambiguous, Where Shadows Slumber’s unique, shadow-manipulating mechanic shines clear as day. Step into the light.

 


 

We’re so thankful to the staff at Apple for featuring our game. Please share this article with your friends if they haven’t purchased the game yet – what more proof do you need that our game is awesome?!

See you next time!

 

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Where Shadows Slumber is now available for purchase on the App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store.

Find out more about our game at WhereShadowsSlumber.com, ask us on Twitter (@GameRevenant), Facebookitch.io, and feel free to email us directly at contact@GameRevenant.com.

Frank DiCola is the founder of Game Revenant and the artist for Where Shadows Slumber.

Upcoming Patch: Review Requests

In a patch that will go live later this week, we’re adding a small pop-up window to the game that asks the player if they would take a moment to review the game. I would have put this update through last week (Jack finished this feature a while ago), but my laptop was on the fritz and I just got it back this morning.

I realize it’s a bit odd to talk about a patch before it goes out, but I wanted to explain our thought process behind this addition. This patch will be a bit different than the others. We’ve just been fixing bugs for the past few weeks, but this is an addition that might rub people the wrong way. Read on if you’re an indie developer, because this totally affects your business…

 

No one likes “barriers to fun.”

Why We Didn’t Launch With This

Jack and I spent a long time working on Where Shadows Slumber. During that time, the user interface went through quite a few iterations. The “user experience” was even more important to us than the interface itself. We always asked ourselves what we wanted the player to feel when they first opened the app, or when they opened the app after closing it, or when they returned to the app after not playing Where Shadows Slumber for a few days.

One of our core principles was “don’t annoy the user,” and we took that very seriously. For you old-timers out there, did you ever notice how our free Demo jumps right into the first Level straight from the Splash Screen? Or did you notice how the final version of the game goes right into the Level 0-1 title card after the Splash Screen? We tried to take out as many “barriers to fun” as we could to make the experience as painless as possible. I think we did a great job! So far I’ve only seen one complaint that the game “has no Main Menu,” and that was on a 5-star review. So it wasn’t that big of an issue after all!

Anyway, when the topic of review requests came up, we weren’t enthusiastic about the idea. Sure, every mobile game does it – but we were worried it would annoy people so much, they would give the game a bad review, and say something like “too many pop-ups!!” People are weird. You never know what might set them off.

But it’s a classic Catch-22, because if we don’t ask for reviews, we might not get one at all. Less reviews & ratings mean that our game won’t become popular, which leads to less downloads, and the app goes into a death spiral. Furthermore, right now people who don’t enjoy Where Shadows Slumber have a lot of motivation to leave a bad review. But people who did enjoy the game have no motivation to leave a positive review. Think of it this way – when is the last time you left a great review for a restaurant you love? Have you ever done that? But I bet if you had a terrible experience at a restaurant, you couldn’t wait to go outside and write all about it on Yelp. It’s human nature to ignore the positives in life and let negative experiences motivate our actions.

Our old Demo got a ton of ratings (6,000+) compared to our final production release on Google Play. I realize that version was free, and it’s been out for two years, but I think a review request also had something to do with it. The problem is that the Demo’s review request was at the very end of the experience after the last Level. I don’t really want people to have to beat the entirety of Where Shadows Slumber before they get a message asking them to leave a review. Instead, we’re putting the request towards the middle of the game.

Overall, I’m pretty optimistic. If we get this feature in before the next time Where Shadows Slumber goes on sale, and then drive a lot of downloads / installs with that sale, we might get a nice review bomb to bring us higher up the charts.

In conclusion, we’re hoping this addition:

  • Won’t annoy people too much
  • Will lead to more ratings overall
  • Will increase the rate of positive reviews to negative reviews

Wish us luck! Better yet, wish us 5-stars…

 

Eat an entire megaphone, as shown above. (No chewing!)

Make Your Voice Heard!

Once this launches, you probably won’t even notice it. Jack set a timer that’s pretty lengthy, so it’s rare that you’ll be asked twice or three times to review the app. Besides, if you haven’t done that already, what are you waiting for?

But seriously, if you have any comments or concerns, leave a comment on this post or on Facebook! We want to know what you think. Especially if you have any marketing ideas for us, because we want to do everything we can to get Where Shadows Slumber out to the whole world.

See you next week! A financial update article is in the works, so you won’t want to miss out. Keep your eyes peeled on this blog…

 

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Where Shadows Slumber is now available for purchase on the App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store.

Find out more about our game at WhereShadowsSlumber.com, ask us on Twitter (@GameRevenant), Facebookitch.io, and feel free to email us directly at contact@GameRevenant.com.

Frank DiCola is the founder of Game Revenant and the artist for Where Shadows Slumber.

The Reddit Roundup

Now that our game has launched on Google Play, I’m making the rounds on Reddit showing it off to as many communities as possible. Do you have a Reddit account? Would you mind giving these posts a boost?

I realize this is kind of scummy – the whole point of Reddit is that the community decides what to upvote and downvote based on their hive-mind interest. But… we’re part of the community too, right?

Also, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to brag about how popular our game is on the /r/IndieGaming subreddit after posting just one GIF. Read on, and thanks in advance for the help!

 

 

Boost These Reddit Posts!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to upvote the following posts:

/r/IndieGamingMy friend (dev) and I (art) made a game where shadows change things

We did really well here already. Shout-out to Grant for recommending we post here and giving me advice about how to get on the top page. My initial post was boring, long, and corporate – we shortened it to basically just a website link and let the game speak for itself. Nearly 5,000 people viewed this, and it only cost me a few minutes of my time. I’ll have to come back to this sub more often!

/r/GamingNew mobile puzzle game where shadows change the environment

This post was dead on arrival, sadly. For a community as large as /r/Gaming, you’d expect more upvotes and comments. I doubt your help will get us on the front page, but you’re welcome to try. The front page of this sub is usually gaming memes or really popular titles.

/r/AndroidGaming[DEV] Where Shadows Slumber (Creepy / Puzzle / Adventure) just launched on Google Play!

This one didn’t do too badly, though I was hoping for more from a sub with this many subscribers. Plenty of comments though!

/r/IndieDevOur indie team made it to Google Play! [Where Shadows Slumber]

Solid engagement here from a community that I confused with /r/IndieGaming. This sub is all about the developers, and the process of making games. People seemed to like our trailer!

There’s more where that came from. Comment below with your favorite subreddit – if I can somehow tie it to the game, I will. Next up, I’m going to post rainy GIFs to /r/ImaginaryRain and see if there’s a snow subreddit too. (I’m not kidding! Tell me your favorite subreddit and I’ll work a plug in somehow. As long as it isn’t a NSFW subreddit…)

 

 

BONUS: Robert Adams of TechRaptor Reviewed Us!

We met Robert a loooong time ago during Playcrafting’s Spring 2016 arcade event. He’s kept in touch with us all this time, eagerly awaiting the game’s release.

I feel bad that it took so long to get a build out to him, but he’s on Android instead of iOS. So when our game launched on iOS first, it took a while to get him a copy. Now that we’ve released the game on Google Play, he published his thoughts on TechRaptor. Here’s a sneak peek:

Where Shadows Slumber is a game that I’ve been following for some time. I first saw a tiny poster with intriguing art at a Playcrafting event and got to talking with one of its developers. Since then, I’ve anxiously followed the game’s progress and was finally able to get my hands on the final release. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely.

Check out the full review here:

Where Shadows Slumber Review – Colorful Cliffs & Dark Depths

Thanks for your patience all these years, Robert! We hope you enjoyed the game [^_^ ]

 

We have some cool marketing stuff in the works right now, but nothing to announce yet… stay tuned, and thanks for your support!

 

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Where Shadows Slumber is now available for purchase on the App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store.

Find out more about our game at WhereShadowsSlumber.com, ask us on Twitter (@GameRevenant), Facebookitch.io, and feel free to email us directly at contact@GameRevenant.com.

Frank DiCola is the founder of Game Revenant and the artist for Where Shadows Slumber.