Where Shadows Slumber will be returning to the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, CT this September for the RetroWorld Expo!
Here’s their description of the event:
RetroWorld Expo (RWX) is an annual convention that encompasses all things video games, music and tabletop gaming. The event will be held on September 28 & 29 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, CT.
Returning for it’s 5th year, RWX is known for its massive marketplace, expansive gaming tournaments, free play arcade and gaming area, live video game music and Youtube and industry guests and panels. Our marketplace has over 80 vendors selling video games, crafts, artwork and much more!
Children ages 10 and under free with a paid ticket purchase
(Paid parking available at the garage attached to the Connecticut Convention Center)
All tickets are non-refundable. If you have any questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can purchase tickets here and RSVP on Facebook here.
I had a blast at ConnectiCon last weekend, so I’m excited to return to Hartford with Where Shadows Slumber! If you live in the area or you’re attending RetroWorld Expo, let me know ahead of time. Spaces haven’t been assigned just yet, but I’m sure we’ll be in some kind of indie games section.
Feast your eyes upon it and cower in fear, plebians!
In all seriousness, the entire Where Shadows Slumber team would like to extend warm thanks toward the CT FIG team for this wonderful prize. Thank you for selecting us to show off at CT FIG, and thanks to the judges for recognizing our work!
Where Shadows Slumber, available now on iOS and Android, is certainly innovative. It may be similar to other games in style and tone, but it’s impossible to find another game that uses shadows the way we do. (We dare you to try! Helsing’s Fire doesn’t count.) If you know of another game that uses our mechanics and was published to the market prior to our 2016 demo, let me know in the comments!
Below you’ll find my scattered thoughts on the show, and some photos of the event. Thanks for reading! [^_^ ]
Shots and Thoughts
This show was less busy than last month’s TooManyGames. I suspect it’s because the Hartford Convention Center was divided into two Halls, A and B: A was for Connecticon, and B was for CT FIG. The divide is a bit strange, and I kept wishing more people would come over from that side during the weekend. But I understand CT FIG is still growing – the last time I went to this show, it was held in a board game shop in Newington!
I conducted 100 demos with people during the weekend, which led to 11 confirmed downloads, mainly on Android. I also think I’m going to switch from giving cards away free to giving pins away for free. People REALLY love those cards (obviously, because they have screenshots from the game on them!).
The setup, above. This is the first time I’ve shown off Where Shadows Slumber using a round table. (CT FIG began as a tabletop show and I was only 1 of 8 digital titles at the show!) I actually really liked that. It made way more sense than having an awkward rectangle table. Keep note, showrunners!
Everyone loved the game! That one guy on the right was at the table for nearly four hours on Saturday [o_o ] He beat EVERY puzzle! (And found a few issues… they’ll be fixed once the big July patch launches later this month.)
An intimate award ceremony, held after the show ended on Sunday.
Last but not least, shout-out to my boothmate Promote Pluto who has an adorable card game / webcomic about restoring Pluto to it’s former glory as a planet. So cute!
We can’t wait to see how CT FIG grows over the next year!
Back in April, I had the pleasure of showing off our game Where Shadows Slumber at AwesomeCon in Washington D.C. (Click here for the recap.) While I was there, someone mentioned a convention called TooManyGames and asked me if I was going. I had never heard of it before, and the deadline to apply as an indie had passed just a few days earlier. Despite that, I applied anyway because it sounded fun, and it was an even closer drive from Hoboken than Washington D.C. since TooManyGames is in Oaks, Pennsylvania.
I ran into a ton of problems during the weekend, but TooManyGames itself is a blast! This blog post is a recap of the convention, but the short version is this: if you’ve never been before, you should really check it out!
The Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Revenge
I thought I’d save money on my AirBnB costs and drive to TooManyGames on Friday morning (Day 1 of the show) instead of the night before. In theory, this made total sense. Hoboken is two hours from Oaks, the drive isn’t bad at all, and the show didn’t begin until 2 pm. My spartan setup for Where Shadows Slumber takes all of 15 minutes to prepare. I don’t need an entire night to set up beforehand like some people do!
This plan would have worked if not for one thin piece of metal that came loose on a bridge somewhere along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This piece of metal, when it encounters tires moving at 70 mph, rips them to shreds. My car wasn’t the only one that got rekt, either. The moment I heard the loud BOOM and I felt my back-right tire disintegrate on the highway, I looked to my right and noticed that tons of cars had pulled over on the side of the road.
They were all changing their back-right tires. The cops were there, a bunch of mechanics and tow trucks were there, and I had to pull over. The mechanic who helped me out said that so far, 30 cars had gone over the same exact spot on the bridge and got flat tires! The government accidentally set up a drug-cartel style nail-trap across the road. (This is what your toll fee goes to, I suppose – democratic nail-traps) Suffice it to say, we had to throw a spare on there just to get to Oaks and I was 2 hours late for the first day. Not an auspicious start! Pennsylvania is totally paying to fix my tire now that I’m back in Hoboken.
In truth, I’m just glad I’m ok. I didn’t get hurt, I didn’t see anyone else crash, and being a little late is not the worst thing in the world. (But I’m definitely going to remember this the next time I get into an argument with someone about taxes and roads.) Shout-out to Ford Roadside Assistance for offering me free access to a mechanic who came to me on the side of the Turnpike and swapped the spare out! The government mechanic was charging $60.00 and told me to just wait for Ford to come [<_< ]…
The theme of TooManyProblems continued, when on Sunday morning I awoke to see this wonderful push notification:
So Google does this a lot – they randomly check the apps on their store for this one specific thing, and then take your app down without checking with you first. [ /o_o]/
We went live again yesterday morning, so hopefully those who liked the game over the weekend were able to find it!
Sorry, I had to get those stories off my chest. The truth is, I had a great time in Oaks! This show was awesome and I’m definitely going back to TooManyGames next year. How about a look on the bright side? Here’s 8 good things that happened, in absolutely no coherent order:
1.) I conducted 200 personal demos with attendees (yes, I keep track of this stat at conventions!)
2.) About 20 people bought the game right there at the booth, and some left reviews over the weekend. I think this is due to my new policy on pins – no freebies! Cards are always free, but the pins are exclusively for those who have purchased Where Shadows Slumber. (More details on that below…)
3.) Speaking of cards, I got to debut the new slate of Where Shadows Slumber business cards. There are 8 cards, since we have 8 different Worlds in the game. Everyone loved them, and they drew lots of people to the table.
4.) Someone asked for my autograph on one of the cards… LOL
5.) I ran into some of my old friends from the Stevens Game Development Club as well as some indies I met a few months ago at AwesomeCon, and tabletop developers I’ve known since the Mr. Game! era.
6.) The AirBnB I stayed at in Phoenixville had a cat.
7.) I got the chance to hang out with Nando and Emily, old friends from Stevens, in Philadelphia on my way back home Sunday night. (Nando is the host of the extremely popular channel NandoVMovies on YouTube. Like and Subscribe!)
8.) Finally, before I left Pennsylvania on Sunday night, I had the distinct honor of walking into a Wawa for the first time in my life. The scales fell from my eyes, I was comforted, I felt accepted, and I experienced true luxury. All other pretenders to the throne (7-Eleven, and other atrocities) revealed themselves to be false gods and I know the truth now.
Two Lessons Learned
During TooManyGames, I spent most of my time trying to learn what drives people to purchase things. For the longest time, Jack and I were been in “marketing mode” – which is to say, we wanted to tell people about our game. But since launch, we’ve transitioned for the first time into “sales mode”, and I’m still not used to that. It’s strange knowing that every new person is a potential $3.00, or a potential 5-star rating. In some ways it was easier before. We could always say “the game is a work in progress!” and be happy with people that thought it was cool and promised to check it out later.
After this weekend I have a new convention strategy, based on these two principles. I strongly encourage you to adopt these ideas as well if you are in “sales mode” like us!
“Later Isn’t An Option. Buy It Now!“
It’s tempting to use these shows as a chance to hand out as much swag as possible, show the name of your game to as many people as possible, and demo the game as many times as possible. But I’m focusing a lot more on sales and other quantifiable stats, because the truth is that the people at these shows are being bombarded with about a hundred other games at the same time.
If they don’t buy your game in front of your eyes, they probably won’t buy it later when they get home unless they are highly motivated already or were prevented from purchasing it during the show. So I’ve been thinking of ways to ratchet up the pressure and persuade people to pull the trigger while they’re at my booth. I recommend doing some kind of promotion / deal that only lasts while you’re at the con. (Reducing the price doesn’t count, by the way! That will not encourage an impulse purchase.) This is connected to the next piece of advice…
Make It Physical
When selling digital products, you are at a disadvantage. A tangible item like a cup of coffee will always seem more real / justifiable as a purchase than a non-tangible item like music or video games. (This is why free versions of those go further – such as Pandora, Candy Crush, and piracy) If you’re at a convention, you have the ability to do something that Internet ads can’t do – you can make the purchase physical. That’s why I only gave buttons out to people who purchased the game on the store. I needed to make the purchase physical for them to persuade them to buy the game in front of me. I also didn’t feel like selling pins because I’m not in the pin business, I’m in the gaming business! And I know for a fact that this lead to more sales. One guy literally said these words:
“So to get the pin I just buy this?” (And he held up his phone with Where Shadows Slumber’s app page loaded on it)
“That’s right!”, I said. He bought the game and I gave him the pin. It seems so backwards, right? But that’s just how humans are, and you shouldn’t fight our human nature. The next time I do a show like this, I’ll have more physical stuff to sell. Not exactly merchandise (logo tees, plushies, etc) but stuff like Google Play codes printed on cards. I saw one guy selling Steam Codes as physical cards that were about the size of Magic: The Gathering cards. That’s genius!
This week, I couldn’t resist talking about my favorite games from E3, so here goes nothing! I should really be working on the upcoming Where Shadows Slumber patch, but I took a break to watch 37 consecutive hours of press conferences. (Not really.) In the interest of time, I cut the list down to just eight. Here’s my top 8 anticipated games from this year’s conference!
SPOILERS AHEAD: If you haven’t watched the major conferences yet and you don’t want to hear this cool news from me, close this blog post and run away! You’ve been warned!
I saw this game during Microsoft’s press conference. It looks beautiful! The game mechanics seem to be a mix of boat-building and gathering, but I’m more interested in the premise. Your character’s job is to ferry the living to the land of the dead. It’s a subject that’s obviously near to my heart, as you can see echoes of that theme in our game Where Shadows Slumber. I can’t wait to try it!
Well just what the heck is this? I love the Clue aesthetic going on here in 12 Minutes, coming soon from Annapurna Interactive. It’s not clear how much gameplay there really is – you might be mostly watching the story unfold and making decisions – but that’s fine, because this game looks really well done. Its top-down Groundhog Day as a game, where you can be tied up and beaten by a bald man. Sounds like my kind of game!
I have been waiting one million years for this stupid, terrible game to come out in the West. I loved the copy of PSO Episode 1 & 2 we had for GameCube back in the day, so when I heard about the sequel I knew I would have to try it. Unfortunately, the game has been marooned in Japan for like seven years or something ridiculous. It’s finally getting an English translation and support for U.S. servers! We think. Honestly, they might pull the rug out from under us again, who am I kidding.
A while back, Paul and I came up with a game idea that involved multiplayer Animal Crossing on a big island with survival elements. You would each set up your own town, there would be wilderness in between, and players could clash violently or live peacefully. The new Animal Crossing title seems to be 1/3 of that idea, since the multiplayer is shared screen co-op like always and there’s no real danger to the player. But you can craft stuff in this game and decorate your town! I’m loving this design. AC is my guilty pleasure… there’s nothing like building up a ton of relationships and then vanishing suddenly, leaving everyone to wonder where you went and why you won’t leave your house. Just like real life.
As a long-time Smash player who wanted Banjo back in the Smash 64 days, I can’t believe they finally did it! I also can’t believe it took this long, so I’ve been bouncing back and forth between exasperation and elation. Also, DragonQuest or whatever. But Banjo-Kazooie is finally in a Smash Bros. game! My new main arrives in the Fall, and the Season Pass purchase has been vindicated.
I have never played any of the games in the Watch Dogs series, so when I heard about the third entry I wasn’t too excited. But the premise sounds interesting! I’m mostly watching this game to see if it’s filled with lies, or if it’s as awesome as Ubisoft promises it will be. Apparently your team of freedom fighters is whoever you want it to be – you can pick your team from any of London’s virtual citizens.
That’s crazy though, right? What if I picked a team of 16 old ladies? How could they all possibly have their own origin story mission, their own voice acting, and character interactions that make sense? Maybe the game’s main story is really short, and they recommend playing it a few times with a diversity of team compositions… we’ll see!
Last but not least, CD Projekt Red showed off an awesome cutscene of their game Cyberpunk 2077 that revealed Keanu Reeves as a story character. Sold! Give me the game now! There’s no new gameplay that I’m aware of, so if you already saw this clip from last year, keep waiting until August.
Personally, I don’t want to see too much of the game because it’s probably very narrative driven and I don’t want to get it ruined for me. It’s disappointing to see that some of Cyberpunk 2020’s wackier character classes won’t make an appearance (RIP Rockerboys) but so far this title looks like a must-buy. They even got it to launch in the actual year 2020! I don’t even want to know what it took to pull that off…
I come bearing good news, and apologize for posting this blog so late in the day. Jack and I are doing a panel at PAX East 2019 all about Where Shadows Slumber. If you read our recent tell-all about the company financials, you already got a taste of what we’ll discuss. This blog post is actually somewhat of a plea for help, though. Read on…
First: See You at PAX East?
Jack and I are definitely attending PAX East this year, though we haven’t figured out the exact details yet. It’s one of the biggest shows in the U.S.A. and it’s within driving distance, so we can’t miss it. Recently we applied to be part of Playcrafting’s booth at the show. It’s not a sure thing (since we could get passed over) but we’re optimistic. Playcrafting has been so good to us over the years, so it would be an honor to represent them and the NYC game scene at PAX East. Remember, kids: #HobokenCountsAsNYC
Even if that doesn’t work out, we’ll probably pay for a booth way out in hell. Some booth spaces at PAX East are just plain terrible, but it’s better than sitting at home doing nothing that weekend. Besides, we’ve got a panel to run! Speaking of which…
We submitted the following talk to PAX East, and it was formally accepted yesterday:
What Do Premium Games Really Make?
Saturday, March 30th, 1:30 pm in the Arachnid Theater
Description: Everyone knows Monument Valley made a zillion dollars, but how well do other premium indie games perform on the market? How much money do your favorite games make? We’re baring it all as we discuss the financials of our game Where Shadows Slumber (a PAX East Indie Showcase 2017 Alumnus) and speak openly and honestly about the state of the market.
It’s an uncomfortable topic to talk about, for obvious reasons. We’re pretty nervous that it might make us look like failures (since we just recently hit the breakeven point, but haven’t made profits) or frauds (since we really only know our own story + haven’t done much research yet, so we lack data). That’s why we need your help!
If you or someone you know is a developer, contact us directly at contact@GameRevenant.com. We’re looking for indie game devs who don’t mind showing off their financials and letting us show the crowd. It would be good to have more than just our numbers on screen.
We also could use more panelists, so hop on if you’re coming to PAX East! Dan Butchko of Playcrafting is a tentative maybe right now, along with Jack and myself. Obviously, if you’re an indie dev or a community organizer, this panel is a free way to tell a room filled with people about your project. What do you have to lose?
Just be ready to bare all – I don’t like keeping this stuff a secret. My mission statement for this talk is something like “customers ought to know how games do, so they realize that the games they support with cash will reproduce and the games they don’t will fade away.” Still working on that. And no, you don’t have to agree with me to be on the panel. (Jack probably doesn’t even agree with me!) I think if we debate on stage it might actually be fun for the audience. We can sort everything out during the Q&A at the end, too.
So, to wrap up:
Email me if you are 100% coming to PAX East, you have knowledge on this topic, don’t mind revealing embarrassing things about yourself, and want to be on this panel. Do it ASAP!
Leave a comment if you know of other devs who have already made their financials public besides Monument Valley!
We’ll Always Have Boston
Are you going to PAX East? Comment below so we can meet up at the show! (We’ll look like those guys above, only more jaded and edgy) Please attend our panel as well, to show your support for premium games and indie developers.
Hello, loyal readers! If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I’ve been teasing a money post for quite some time. The fateful day has arrived! Spreadsheets, I summon thee!
If this is the first time you’re reading this blog, thanks for tuning in! My name is Frank DiCola, and I’m the CEO of Game Revenant. I was the artist and animator for Where Shadows Slumber, a premium indie puzzle adventure game that released late last year on the App Store and Google Play. We have a whole archive of posts going back two years if you want to take a look at our design process! However, this post is dedicated entirely to examining the financials of our launch window on the global mobile market.
Why put this information out for the world to see? Well, something that impressed me about Monument Valley back when it originally launched was how open the developers were about their income & expenses. Jack and I vowed to do something similar once Where Shadows Slumber launched. Of course, at the time, I hoped to also make as much money as Monument Valley, but as you’ll see below that didn’t exactly pan out. Even so, I expect this blog post will be really informative for indie developers who are just starting out. I wish I could tell you once your game hits the store, you’ll be rolling in money. But it’s probably better for you to hear the truth, in plain black in white.
This blog post will chronologically address the income and expenses related to publishing Where Shadows Slumber, covering the following:
Our pre-marketing budget
Our development costs
The revenue Where Shadows Slumber made
Our break-even point
The marketing effort going forward
This is going to be a dry one if you came here for art, programming, music, or other fun game design stuff. The part no one tells you about running your own indie studio is that you spend a lot of time examining old bank account statements and crunching numbers in Excel to get your taxes in on time. Read this post if you want to know what it’s like spending money to promote your game!
DISCLAIMER: The income and expenses here are 100% related to Where Shadows Slumber. Costs related to running a business (paying an accountant, office supplies) are not included in this post!
2016: The Early Days
If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ve heard us talk endlessly about how we started our development with a demo / vertical slice version of the game. Because that didn’t launch until late 2016, this year was mostly spent in heads-down development mode. And since Jack and I were working together on the game for free (well, for future revenue share) there were no salary-related expenses either.
In fact, there were so few expenses in 2016, I can just list them in a sentence: we paid for an IndieCade submission, bought a standing display banner, entered into the PAX East Indie Showcase, bought the Where Shadows Slumber domain name, and started an Apple developer license, for a grand total of $402.15 for the year.
2016 Expenses: $ 402.15
2016 Income: $ 0.00
With nothing to sell, and no ads in our (unexpectedly popular) free Demo, we didn’t pull in any money during 2016. That’s fine though, because we weren’t expecting to make anything that year! Things get exciting in 2017, though…
2017: Hitting The Road
This was the year we started to really spend money on the game’s development, as well as pre-marketing. We spent a few thousand dollars, so it’s worth going category-by-category to discuss where we allocated money. The largest categories by far were Contract Labor and Travel Expenses, as you can see below:
Our Advertising budget was mostly spent on physical stuff we hand out at shows, like drop cards and Where Shadows Slumber buttons. The reason Contract Labor cost us so much is because Alba and Noah came in during the end of this year to make the game’s audio (worth it!), but we also paid our friend Zak Moy to make the logo and got our Demo professionally translated into multiple languages.
The number you see quoted here for Events actually reflects event submissions, as the only event that really cost money was the original PlayNYC at Terminal 5. You can see how team Meals really stack up over time, but the big culprit for doing events is Travel Expenses – it’s hard to get hotels and train tickets for cheap! Between travel, hospitality, and then stuff like parking and Uber receipts, we racked up a small fortune in travel expenses. The totals for this year were:
2017 Expenses: $ 10,456.74
2017 Income: $ 0.00
Once again, we didn’t do anything that would generate income. The game would still need another 9 months of development before it was ready for prime-time, and Game Revenant didn’t sell anything related to Where Shadows Slumber like T-shirts or plushies. No income yet, none expected!
2018: Finally… Money!
2018 was the year we finished development and launched the game on the App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store. Our marketing efforts before launch consisted of a ton of travel, as you can see below. Contract Labor and Travel Expenses dominate once again, making up nearly $12,000 of the budget!
The Contract Labor section is dedicated entirely to paying our hard-working musicians, and the other categories fall into predictable camps (internet ads and swag for Advertising, full game translation for Professional Services, and Event fees for spots at Play NYC and Gameacon) The reason we racked up so much in Travel Expenses is because in 2018 we went to MAGFest, SXSW, and PAX East. Actually, most of the cost is from SXSW because of the flights to and from Austin. Driving to shows is really important!
2018 Expenses: $ 15,105.04
2018 Income: $ 21,229.24
We finally had some income now that the game was made available to the general public! While it felt good to have income for once, the total amount was sort of underwhelming. Premium games are a dying breed, and we knew that going in. Lots of people told us to fill the game with scummy ads and videos instead of charging up front, but we didn’t want to do that to you. Integrity comes at a steep cost though – our income from 2018 left us still at a deficit, meaning the game cost more to make than it made in revenue! I’ll talk more about that in the next section, but first let’s examine some details about the launch.
We launched on iOS on September 20th and then on Google Play on November 20th of 2018. I expected the App Store to make more money than Google Play, but since we released two months earlier on the App Store these numbers are a bit skewed. Apple got a head start, no fair! Even so, my gut tells me that Google Play will continue to under-perform the App Store as time goes on. As you can see in the Tasty Circle chart above, iOS dominated our sales and it wasn’t even close.
But what really disappointed me was the abysmal performance we had on the Amazon App Store – I knew it would be bad, but I didn’t think it would be that bad. The number shown there is from two sales, one of which is me. (I needed to get the game onto our Kindle and that was the quickest way)
The area graph above gives you an idea of the bumps in sales we got, as well as their impact. Don’t be mislead – although the line is hugging the bottom of the graph and sales are poor, we get a tiny amount of money each day. I don’t think we ever had a day where no one bought the game, which is good.
We hoped the buzz from Launch Week, where we were featured on top of the Games Tab, would extend forever. But once we left that prime-time slot, sales plummeted and never recovered. We were able to boost sales with events like the Halloween Sale and Cyber Monday, where the game was offered at a discount. Then we got surprised with the Game of the Day announcement in early December. Kudos to Apple – they really did a lot to promote our tiny indie game, and I’m sure they’ll include it in a few articles sporadically throughout the coming year. But it’s really hard to get eyes on the game without them holding our hand, as much as I hate to admit that.
(There isn’t enough interesting data to show from Google Play yet, so I’ll have to put a chart up for that sometime later this year once there’s more to see.)
2019: Break Even, Break Out
Starting on January 1st, 2019, Where Shadows Slumber needed $4,734.69 to hit our break-even point. It doesn’t pay to list that number in terms of “units required to break-even” because sometimes the game is on sale, and other times people buy the game in other currencies that don’t convert neatly into $5. Here’s a better way to put it into perspective: Apple is going to send us $2,764.77 on January 31st, and Google already put $879.87 in the company account on January 15th. So we’re already down to just $1,090.05 before we break even, which I predict will be reached by the end of February.
Of course, breaking even is pretty lame since sales are just barely trickling in at this point. Ideally, we would have broken even a long time ago and found a nice rhythm where our daily sales can lead to a good projection for each quarter’s revenue. We’ll break even without any extra effort just because people are randomly finding out about the game – but in order to break out of this slump, it’s going to require more effort. One cause for optimism is that we haven’t launched in China yet, though a publishing deal has been in place since 2017. (Not their fault at all, obviously!) Now that the blockade on new government approvals seems to be ending, we’ll get up-and-running in that country hopefully by Q3 2019.
As far as the rest of the world is concerned, I recently told the team my plan to re-invest the money Where Shadows Slumber made back into marketing so we can escape the doldrums. Only this time, that money won’t have to be paid back to the company. Game Revenant isn’t in debt or danger of bankruptcy, so we can use this money to boost the game. Then, each quarter’s revenue will go directly toward profit sharing so that everyone (including myself) can finally get some money in their bank accounts.
So, if you haven’t purchased our game yet, please do so! Hopefully our next financial report will be a bit more exciting. For those of you who are already super-fans, be on the lookout for some related merchandise coming from us in the coming weeks…
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!