Thanks for your patience, trustworthy blog reader, as I took a leave of absence these past few weeks. I’ll tell you all about it once I climb out from under a pile of NDAs, which expire in the year 2030. There’s some exciting stuff to announce in September so I’m sure I won’t miss a week again for a while – until I take up drinking again, that is.
First up, there’s a show this weekend! The Boston Festival of Indie Games is this Saturday (9/14) at the Harvard Athletic Complex. (If you know the area, it’s on Harvard Street in Allston). Let me know if you’re coming to the event or if you live in the area. I’ll be driving up on Friday night to show off Where Shadows Slumber, which was admitted as a nominee for Compelling Gameplay Mechanics in the Digital Showcase.
The show goes from 9 am to 6 pm, with an award show to follow. I’m not sure if the award show is open to the public, but you can get tickets to the actual festival here: Buy Now
Digital Categories: Best in Show, Compelling Game Mechanics, Innovation in Art and Narrative, Multiplayer and Connected Gameplay, Experimental Game Design, Student Games, and Audience Choice Award
Tabletop Categories: Best in Show, Most Dynamic, Most Innovative, Best Game for Social Change, Best Family Game, Best Game in Progress, and Audience Choice Award
I’ve always heard good things, but I’ve never done this show or even attended. I like the one-day format, and it’s also a good chance to see some family that lives outside the city. Hope to see some Where Shadows Slumber fans there!
Wish Us Luck (x 2)
There’s an award show at Boston FIG, so cross your fingers and hope that Where Shadows Slumber takes home the big prize! I believe we’re only eligible to win in the category we’ve been nominated for, which is Compelling Game Mechanics. Of course, anyone can win the Audience Choice Award, which is won by rigging the vote during the day of the event. It’s going to be all hands on deck with that one, so if you come to the show be sure to bring singles. (“See a judge, bribe a judge!” ~Frank DiCola, 2019)
I’m also working on the Independent Games Festival submission for 2019, which is due by my birthday (September 30th). That’s going to be a tougher climb for sure, but it can’t hurt to take a chance on it! I think nominees get to go to GDC 2020 for free?
One more thing…
If you’re on Twitter, tweet “Happy Anniversary” to @blargzor sometime this week [ ^_^]! Jack, programmer and designer of Where Shadows Slumber, got married to his college sweetheart 1 year ago. (Their anniversary was actually yesterday, but this here is a Tuesday blog, damn it.) The couple has requested nice tweets or leaving them alone instead of the traditional “brick through a window with a note attached to it” that is customary for 1 year anniversaries. Respect their wishes!
“BostonFIG Fest returns for our 8th annual celebration of independent games! Join us at our flagship September event and play hundreds of games designed by talented people that may even be your neighbors!
Get inspired by the incredible game creator community that we have both regionally and beyond.”
“BostonFIG Fest (now in its 8th year) is a celebration of independent game development worldwide. The Fest showcases digital and tabletop games, with our showcase games selected from hundreds of submissions from independent game developers, carefully curated by a broad cross-section of game professionals and academics.
Fest attendees have the chance to play digital games, tabletop games, and immersive experience games in a casual environment, for a very affordable ticket price. The games at BostonFIG Fest are as follows: Tabletop games in the Competitive Showcase, Digital games in the Competitive Showcase, Tabletop Exhibitor Games, Digital Exhibitor Games, and even Sponsor Games in both Tabletop and Digital. Other Fest features include the Artist’s Alley, Tabletop Freeplay Area, Boffer Arena, the Figgies (Awards Show) Ceremony, and more!”
We submitted Where Shadows Slumber to this show at the end of April, on the 22nd. After a lengthy process laden with judges and juries, we got the acceptance letter just this week. They also gave us some feedback from the judges about our game. We’ll be in the Digital Competitive Showcase, mentioned above.
I’ve never been to Boston FIG before, but I’ve only heard good things about it. (It also comes during a time in the Calendar where there aren’t a million other game events going on and you can actually focus on this one.)
If you’ll be in Boston on September 14th, come to the Harvard Athletic Complex and check out all of the awesome games on display, including Where Shadows Slumber. Children under 12 attend Boston FIG for free, and there’s a scavenger hunt going on all day around the festival. Don’t miss it!
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!
It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for – PAX East 2019 has arrived! I’m heading up to Boston tomorrow to get ready for the PAX PREGAMER party Wednesday night, and set up for the big 4-day main event. Before I go, I wanted to give a shout out to the other games in the Playcrafting booth with us.
Congratulations to everyone else who will be at the booth with us, whether it’s for all 4 days or just a couple! I wanted to give every game a quick shout-out and a run-down of the mechanics, but there’s no time – I need to pack for Boston and get out there tomorrow by early afternoon for setup. That will have to wait until my triumphant return from the frozen north!
Thanks again to Dan Butchko for this wonderful opportunity. This is our third PAX East in a row, and we hope to keep our streak going!
See you in Boston…
Look out for a real announcement next week that will be life-changing for all of us over on the Where Shadows Slumber team. Don’t sleep on this one. You won’t believe it when you read it… stay tuned to this blog for the big reveal on Monday!!
I’ve just returned from an exhausting trip to Boston for PAX East, where I had the pleasure of demoing Where Shadows Slumber at the Indie Megabooth. In this blog post, I’ll briefly describe what the application process was like, how the show went, and my thoughts on the whole setup.
Applying to the Indie Minibooth
Those who have followed our development for the past year may remember that we went to PAX East last year, as part of the Indie Showcase for 2017. It was an honor to be included in that amazing contest! Reading that old blog post is funny, because it shows you just how far we’ve come in the past year. At that time, the cutscene in our demo hadn’t even been animated yet! (Which is completely my fault, lol) It’s amazing to think that now, a year later, the game is nearly complete.
Anyway, we knew we wanted to return to Boston because the crowd at PAX East is huge, but we had a predicament. How do you get an affordable spot at the show? We didn’t want to be relegated to the fringes of the expo hall, which is where they usually place you when you buy a booth on your own. We obviously couldn’t be accepted into the Indie Showcase a second time, (although we are totally going to try for PAX West’s competition) so what were our options?
We heard about the Indie Megabooth because of last year’s PAX – they were right near us, and the space was impressive. We decided to apply via their website, and on November 6th, 2017 we submitted our application for their booth at PAX East 2018 and GDC 2018. The application was essentially a pitch for the game, complete with images, video, and a build their judges could play.
Although we were denied for GDC 2018, we got an email on February 1st of this year notifying us that we were accepted and we needed to reply as soon as possible. We paid the $1,200 fee toward the end of the month, which covered everything from booth space, shelving, promotion, and electricity at the show. All of this was very secretive, which is why we didn’t mention it on this blog or on social media. They wanted the roll-out to be all in unison, so they told developers not to spill the beans that they had been accepted.
I decided that since the space around the Minibooth was so limited, it wasn’t worth bringing a ton of stuff in my car. Instead, I took the train up to Boston on Friday and began to set up for the show!
The setup for the Minibooth is a vertical kiosk with a table, and a monitor on top. Our setup looked like the image above: just enough room for mobile devices, Where Shadows Slumber pins, and drop cards. The monitor was playing a 10 minute looping video reel I created prior to the show.
Here we are on Friday night, setting up for the weekend. Minibooth was created to be a more affordable way to attend events, so it’s set up in kind of a strange way. The Minibooth arcade had 10 games on Thursday and Friday, and then we moved in to take their spot on Friday night so we could take over for the weekend shift.
I don’t know how this is decided, but I do remember choosing our preferred days on the application form. Personally, I think the weekend spot is way better and I do sort of feel bad for the Thursday/Friday crew. But I guess the logic is that Thursday and Sunday are both slow, and Friday and Saturday are both crazy, so everyone gets one of each. I feel like we got really solid traffic on both days, but Sunday definitely died out at around 3 pm. Hopefully everyone got their moneys worth!
They Threw Us A Party!
This was a nice perk that I didn’t even expect, but there was an Indie Megabooth mixer just a few blocks from the convention center on Friday night. The timing worked out well, since both Minibooth groups were in town at that point. I still kind of feel like an outsider at these events, so I can’t pretend I did a whole lot of “networking” – still, I appreciate the effort to get a nerd like me out of his shell! There was even free food and an open bar. What more can you ask for? [ ^_^]
Let The Show Begin!
The two days of the Minibooth were exhausting, in a good way. Standing on your feet for 8 hours straight two days in a row is not exactly what I’m used to as a nerdy computer artist. But it was for a good purpose! The traffic during these PAX shows is always really consistent. There was never a dull moment, which is exactly what you want. This is probably due to the good reputation of the Indie Megabooth, but it also didn’t hurt that the Megabooth is in the center of the giant convention hall next to two giant avenues. We never felt “out of the way” or like we were in an obscure part of the space.
No one found any errors that we didn’t already encounter at SXSW, since we brought the same build. (The shows were too close together to worry about rebuilding) I also made a point to not really ask for feedback, and instead pitched the demo, our beta, and this blog. It’s good to know going into a show what you’re looking to get out of it. This one was purely about promotion.
(Chris put a grip tape line down between our booths because the crowd was out of control!)
These shelves were super useful, because the customers couldn’t see them and they made good use of the limited space. I might buy some for Game Revenant to use during future shows. Typically when we go to conventions, Jack is the Charger Master and we’re constantly rotating a few devices between a few limited charging stations. (At SXSW, we actually used the MacBook as just a power brick LOL) I was nervous about handling this show on my own at first. However, having power provided for us – along with my power strip and these shelves – made it a breeze! The devices were always topped off and no one had to be turned away.
Overall, the Indie Minibooth seemed like a great investment of time and money, and I highly recommend it. (I even recommended it to other developers while I was at the show!) The caveat is that it will cost you a non-trival amount of money to secure the Minibooth spot and get a hotel, so plan accordingly. If you want your indie game to succeed, you need to take a financial risk like this eventually.
If you found out about this blog because you met me at the Indie Minibooth, welcome! Take a journey backward through time and check out all of our other posts. We’ve been posting a blog every week for over a year, so if you’re curious about anything related to this game, chances are good that we’ve covered it in-depth already. It also goes without saying that official announcements about the game’s release date will be posted to this feed, so be sure to smash that follow button if you have a WordPress account.
Thanks for reading this blog! Stay tuned for more updates and announcements related to Where Shadows Slumber. You can find out more about our game at WhereShadowsSlumber.com, ask us on Twitter (@GameRevenant), Facebook, itch.io, or Twitch, 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.