This weekend I have the pleasure of returning to tranquil Oaks, PA for Comic Con For Kids! The show is being held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at 100 Station Ave, Oaks, PA 19456 from October 12th – 13th. Show hours are from 9 am – 5 pm both days.
Hopefully I have better success driving to Oaks than I did last time when I attended Too Many Games. For those of you who don’t remember, a gang of roving cannibals (The Pennsylvania Turnpike People-Eaters) laid a spike trap down on the road in an effort to snare as many innocent travelers as possible. Once I succumbed to their trap, I had to fight my way out of there with only dental floss and Where Shadows Slumber commemorative pins. It went about as well as you’d expect, but the important thing is that I got out of there alive. Big shout out to the fellow travelers on the road who gave their lives in the Great Battle of Mile Marker 176. (Remember the fallen, etc)
On a more serious note, I want to thank the organizers for giving Where Shadows Slumber indie access at absolutely no cost to us at all! They’re not charging me anything for this show, all I had to do was email the organizers and sign on board. Given the fact that Oaks is only a 2 hour drive away, and AirBnB’s nearby are dirt cheap, doing this show is a no-brainer.
Kids! What About The Violence?
I’m well aware that Where Shadows Slumber isn’t exactly a kids game, due to the complexity of its puzzles and an extremely violent story. I made this clear to the organizers as early in the process as possible. Two points on this topic:
When I warned them about the violent cutscenes, they still said the game was a fit for Comic Con for Kids! They know their audience better than I do, I suppose.
I always warn parents at these shows about the cutscenes, and they’re disabled by default at conventions anyway.
For shows like this, I’m really selling the game more to parents than youngsters. (It’s impossible to get teens to spend money on mobile games anyway) So I’m not too worried about parents getting tricked into downloading the game and then having a horrifying experience when their four-year old watches an old man drown a leopard.
Maybe I’ll just make the booth look as spooky as possible to scare people away? Speaking of which…
I’m trying to spice up the booth since it’s October-ween, so I bought these cool flickering lanterns on Amazon. I’ll give them a try this weekend and see how they do! (See video above to witness the glory) These are so perfect for nailing that Where Shadows Slumber effect.
It probably won’t be dark enough in the hall for these to show up, so I’m considering bringing a pop-up 10×10 tent and setting it up over my table. I only bring that to outdoor shows, and I haven’t done one of those in years, so it’s just collecting dust in my apartment. It’s white though, so I’d probably cover it with a big black tarp or something. Maybe I can bribe them to turn the lights off? If only this was MAGFest…
I’m rambling, so that’s all for now! I’m driving there Friday to set up. See you in Oaks this weekend?
We interrupt this regular stream of Where Shadows Slumber-focused blog posts to bring you something entirely unrelated…
Back in August, Playcrafting gave us an incredible opportunity to take part in a game jam challenge for the NFL and Verizon. Now that we’re allowed to share details about the contest, here’s my full recap of the challenge weekend and the aftermath! Read on for a recap of the Verizon 5G NFL Mobile Gaming Challenge.
The Game Is Afoot!
Eagle-eyed blog post readers will remember seeing this blog post where I described applying for this challenge. I never posted to say we were admitted into the final five, because we weren’t allowed to disclose any of the details of the competition during the past month. Before the jam weekend in August, I got a call from Dan Butchko to tell me that Game Revenant was admitted into the challenge and that I had to put a team of four together.
I honestly hadn’t expected to make it in, so things happened a little last minute. I have to thank Noah Kellman, Brian Intile, and Nicolas Morales not only for their hard work over the jam weekend, but also their ability to drop everything at a moment’s notice and code a game for 48 hours straight.
The stakes of the contest were high. First of all, each team member received $1,000 for their work over the weekend (along with up to $500 in travel expenses to get to Verizon’s Alley on 24th St in Manhattan). More importantly, Verizon and the NFL were committed to picking two teams from the final five – these teams would receive $400,000 to take their prototypes and turn them into game-day ready mobile experiences that will launch at Super Bowl 2020 in February!
There was no time to lose! I put out a call for developers online and reached out to a few people I knew would be perfect. I actually had never met Nicolas before, but he’s an indie game dev from New Jersey who makes a lot of games in short time spans who came highly recommended by Brian. (They’re both veterans of the game jam wars of ’96) Noah is of course one half of PHÖZ, the talented team that composed the audio for Where Shadows Slumber.
The challenge began in earnest on Friday, August 23rd at Alley around six o’clock. Alley was our office for the entire weekend. Each team got a chance to claim some space (we picked the NY Giants Room) and grab dinner before the kickoff ceremony that detailed everything we would do for the weekend.
Our charge was to prototype the idea from my original pitch document, NFL Halftime Blitz, with an emphasis on the gameplay. We were allowed to postpone 5G specific features, which was a sigh of relief. (Getting networking up and running would have been a tall order for a 48 hour game jam.) We would need to still produce a concept for how the networking could work, as well as meet with a 5G expert at Verizon to talk through potential problems with the project.
In retrospect, picking the NY Giants room may have been our downfall.
From there, they cut us loose! We spent the next few days shuttling between my apartment and the Alley, cramming to get something playable up and running from scratch. With a clear idea of what to accomplish, and lots of stretch goals, the team just tackled every objective as soon as possible in order of importance. There was a ton of artwork to do, too – every asset in NFL Halftime Blitz, from the music to the art, was creating during the jam weekend by our team. Of course, the Unity engine made our lives a lot easier too.
The Alley team kept us fed. Well fed! There were three catered meals every day, huge tins of food with plenty of drinks and way too much candy. We were, of course, allowed to leave the building, but we never needed to! I have no regrets. Time is of the essence during competitions like this. I really appreciate that they made it easy for us to keep our heads down and work.
The weekend ended Sunday evening, when it was time to present our work to the judges and our competitors. (The other teams didn’t really show each other their progress during the contest… it had a different vibe than your average game jam) Finally, we got to see what our rivals had been creating all this time. I’m incredibly proud of the work we did on NFL Halftime Blitz, and I know the audience was impressed with our results.
After the presentations, everyone got a final sit-down with the judges to receive feedback on our games. This was pretty tense. We had to get as much information out of them as possible. They also asked us some good questions, like “What about the off-season?” and “What makes this uniquely an NFL title?” We took as many notes as possible during the short meeting and left Alley together. At the end of the day, it’s their money – no matter how much we love our game, if they don’t want it at the Super Bowl, it’s not getting selected.
Technically, our submissions were due the following Tuesday. This gave us another 48 hours to refine the submission pitch PDF and bug test our game. Other than polish, the game didn’t change too much. (It’s hard to work on something remotely once you’ve been in such proximity for so long) We really overhauled the pitch though, converting it into more of a team-based street-football-in-the-concession-area mobile game. Brian even got his father’s friends together for a virtual focus group session all about what they loved about football, and the NFL in particular. Nervously, I submitted the final pitch & build to Playcrafting at 9:15 pm on Tuesday night…
So, what happened?
¡Qué Lástima! [ ︺︵︺]
The winners were announced just recently, and as you can see we were not selected. Qué lástima, indeed. We would have loved the opportunity to work on this game more, and I really believed in the business plan we set forward for the future of the game – not just during the main NFL season, but the post-season and draft periods as well. NFL Halftime Blitz will always be here if they change their mind, though! I’d love to work with the NFL and Verizon again someday.
Want to see more? This images in this blog post aren’t the only ones I shot! I tried to take a bunch throughout the weekend because I knew I’d write an embarrassing tell-all eventually. I put up more photos on the Game Revenant Facebook Page right here.
“It’s an amazing feeling when you can successfully coordinate an idea amongst multiple people and make it come to life in a short time span.“
Nicolas Morales, NFL Halftime Blitz developer
We all really enjoyed the experience. Regarding the challenge, Nicolas said “It’s an amazing feeling when you can successfully coordinate an idea amongst multiple people and make it come to life in a short time span.” I’m just glad to be a part of it, honestly! Being left out of the competition would have felt really bad, and I’m going to make a point of signing up for more of Playcrafting’s challenges.
The contest rules state clearly that those who were not selected retain ownership of the game’s IP. I probably shouldn’t have slapped the NFL logo on there, but I don’t think their lawyers are going to come tracking me down anytime soon. So keep an eye on this space – now that the non-disclosure period is over, I’ll add the game to the Game Revenant itch.io page later this week so everyone can try it for free!
I hope this shed some light on the process. I wish I could have shared more during the contest, but rules are rules. Have any questions? Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!
After missing this show multiple years running due to totally forgetting about it, I finally got a chance to see Boston FIG through the eyes of an exhibitor! This past weekend, on Saturday, September 14th, two gyms in the Harvard Athletic Complex were filled with games by independent creators. Where Shadows Slumber was one of them! Read on to hear my first impressions of being an exhibitor at this show.
The schedule for this short show was pretty straightforward – setup on the Friday night beforehand, with a show from 9 am to 6 pm on Saturday followed by an award show. It’s worth mentioning the Friday setup was mandatory, and no setup was allowed the day of the event. (If you have a long drive to get to the show next year like I did, keep that in mind! Friday night traffic in Boston is brtual.)
I was next to the very chic and awesome looking Sole by Gossamer Games, and I definitely took notes on booth aesthetics. Look at those lamps! Tom always goes to shows in full white attire too, it’s very striking. I might have to come up with a Game Revenant uniform…
The Figgies took place in the other gym (where tabletop games were) at the end of the day. During the show, people could vote for your game by slipping a raffle ticket into your little box. At the end of the day they awarded the Audience Choice award to 1 tabletop and 1 digital game. They also awarded games based on juried categories like Compelling Game Mechanics and Best Visuals. (More on that below)
My legs were killing me at the end of the day, but I had a great time!
Show Analysis: Pros
As always, everyone who came to the booth absolutely loved the game! It was a busy day, too – I counted 135 demos (that is, people who stayed and played on a device for at least a few levels). Journalists from Hardcore Gamer and the Nerd Entertainment Hub approached the table, and the Hardcore Gamer coverage is already online! (Scroll down to read James Cunningham’s thoughts on Where Shadows Slumber)
The show is very affordable, too. You’re not guaranteed to make it into the show, but an application only cost me $63.69. If you don’t live near Boston you’ll have to drive, but parking was only $10 so travel wasn’t an issue. As far as lodging is concerned, that could make the show more expensive for you. (I lucked out because I have family that lives in the suburbs outside the city.)
Since it’s a curated show, you’ll receive detailed feedback from judges about what they thought about your game. This actually benefits work-in-progress titles a lot more, so consider going to Boston FIG pre-launch. Since Where Shadows Slumber has been out and finished for a year, it’s less helpful for us. Speaking of judges and feedback…
Show Analysis: Con
The only negative thing I can say about the event was that I never knew for sure if Where Shadows Slumber was eligible for an award or not. For Boston FIG, you need to apply for a specific award in order to be at the show. My understanding was that being accepted into the showcase meant you were also eligible for the award. (For example, we submitted under Compelling Gameplay Mechanics, but Best Visuals was another option)
So… was our game nominated or not? When they read the nominees for Compelling Gameplay Mechanics at the award show, there were only 3 games listed. I would have appreciated an email saying something like “hey so you’re not nominated for the award but you’re still accepted to the show!” Maybe they’re worried that if they do that, people will bail?
In any event, there’s always next year! (Or next game, I guess) If you’re in the greater Boston area and have a work-in-progress indie game, I highly encourage you to submit your work next year. Don’t forget, you can also go to the show as a customer and enjoy a fun filled day of gaming!
I wanted to take a break from the usual Where Shadows Slumber news to talk about an exciting opportunity I discovered through Playcrafting. Verizon and the NFL have teamed up to challenge game developers across the country to create an awesome mobile experience that uses the new 5G Network. I’ll let them do the talking here:
Verizon has partnered with the NFL to re-think mobile gaming in a 5G world. That’s why we’re searching for the next big idea for a football-themed mobile game that leverages the power of Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband.
The Winning teams will be awarded $400,000 to develop a game that will debut at Super Bowl LIV events.
5G infrastructure will take gaming to a whole new level. The high bandwidth and low latency of Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband will enable technologies like cloud gaming, multiplayer experiences with ultra-low latency, and more.
On Sunday I submitted on behalf of Game Revenant to create a game called NFL Halftime Blitz. In this proposed game, you are a football fan who is trying to push through the Super Bowl crowds in order to get your favorite snacks before halftime ends. Dan Butchko of Playcrafting was kind enough to help me with the submission even though he was also dealing with his massive game convention in New York City this weekend, PLAY NYC. Thanks, Dan!
Sometime by next week, I think I’ll know whether or not this proposal was accepted into the next round. If it’s accepted, Verizon will host Game Revenant (as well as the other finalists) at a paid game jam in the Verizon 5G Lab. From there, I’ll have to prototype the game over the weekend in order to impress the judges. Only the best game prototype can win, receiving $400,000 to develop the game in advance of its launch at the Super Bowl.
Whether or not I make it past the pitching round, I had fun designing something so zany, i with a bunch of really specific constraints. That’s the best way come up with truly awesome ideas, whether you’re talking about games or some other form of art. Good luck to all of my competitors, especially those that make it to the next round!
After PAX East this year, Jack and I spent the entire car ride taking a critical look at our game based on the feedback we received. It may seem weird to continue iteration on a game that’s already been released, but we wanted to make the game as perfect as possible before it heads to new platforms later this year.
Many of these changes are substantial – altering the solutions to puzzles, the artwork, and even the order in which you solve puzzles. Some changes are so small you wouldn’t notice unless I told you, which is precisely the point of this post!
Here’s all the changes you can expect in the latest patch, which we hope will go live sometime early next week:
10 Artistic Changes
Some of the design problems with Where Shadows Slumber are actually just bad artistic cues – which is to say, these are things I made that looked cool to me but ended up communicating the wrong ideas to our players.
Most of these fixes are focused on the beginning of the game, since that’s the “make or break” period for gamers. If players aren’t impressed after the first five minutes, or the game is frustrating, we’re destined for a 1-star review. So here’s a visual walk-through of all of these changes, with the old versions on the left and the new versions on the right.
The Forest Levels
Forest Level 2, “Bridge”
This is the player’s first interaction with the design pattern we use for Draggable objects, but sadly it’s on two Non-Draggable objects that appear Draggable. (The ancient, crumbling bridges in the water) We decided to cover them with moss so they don’t look interactable.
The Jail Levels
Jail Level 1, “Light”
Before we changed this puzzle, it was very difficult for players to tell when the bridge was being repaired by the shadow. Now the bridge is much longer, which gives you more space to explore and see what the shadow is doing to the bridge.
Jail Level 3, “Lock”
This Level badly needed clarity and simplification. My earlier attempt at color-coding the different gaps in the bridge with really dark, indistinguishable colors and incredibly small little gemstones did not work. The new version has bold colors, big pieces that still connect the bridge even when it’s broken, and one fewer draggable light source.
Jail Level 5, “Pressure”
Similar to the puzzle I just mentioned above, 1-5 needed a lot of color to clarify what’s going on with different shadows affecting different objects. I like how it turned out!
The River Levels
River Level 1, “Docks”
The corner of the land mass above is not traversable. As you can see in the old version, it’s not clear that there’s a gap in the walkway. (We put a gap there because we only want players to see this shadow illusion in a specific way) This fix makes the gap more obvious.
This Draggable raft was giving players a lot of trouble, too. The square pieces are halfway into the water, so it’s not obvious that you can drag them. We want to try the new design, where the Draggable squares lie on top of the surface so they’re visible.
River Level 3, “Guide”
This Level featured a large tree that had some kind of light inside of it, and you could close the shutter to hide the light. This shadow was used to change the bridge in the center. Ultimately, this puzzle had too many elements going on in it. We can keep the same design without requiring players to figure out what’s going on with the tree.
River Level 4, “Ebb”
The shadow-casting wall in this Level is really big now, because it was awkward how you could shine your light as you walked down the steps here. Some people accidentally solved the puzzle on their way down the staircase!
The Hills Levels
Hills Level 5, “Rest”
This Level received a huge change, as well as numerous small ones. The most noticeable change is that the center island is no longer one big draggable, but instead is a platform with a draggable pillar on it that slides freely. We feel that this will allow players to more easily solve the puzzle, though the solution remains the same. There are also a bunch of small changes to where pillars come up to stop you along your path.
The Summit Levels
Summit Level 2, “Blind”
This one is super subtle. Can you see it? We added some footsteps for the invisible ghostly Knight who is patrolling around inside the shadow realm. (If you’ve never played the game before, I’m sure that made no sense at all.) We hope this helps players determine where he is as they try to solve this difficult puzzle!
Six Design Changes
Not everything we’re changing in this patch has to do with artwork. One of the largest changes is really subtle – you’d only notice it if you played the game a lot. New players would never even realize what we did.
These changes were made based on lots of user feedback with the final product, as well as in preparation for a future version of Where Shadows Slumber that’s free to download and has paywalls interspersed. Here are six non-aesthetic changes happening in Patch 1.0.10…
No More Riding Draggables
The largest change, and one that spawned a whole bunch of other changes, is a clarification to the way draggable objects work. Obe can no longer stand on these while they move, so a few puzzles had to be updated. Now you’ll always see the image above when Obe is standing on a draggable bridge, and we hope this is less confusing.
Forest Level 3, “Monolith”
The draggable pillar now begins raised out of the water instead of submerged. We felt like it was not obvious that it could be dragged, since it was so well hidden by the rock and moss.
World 1 Order of Levels
We’re rearranging this World in order to make the introduced mechanics flow better. (The actual screen won’t look as it does on the right, that’s just a diagram I made to show you how the puzzles are moving around.) The previous section used the old World 1 numbers.
River Level 3, “Guide”
In this Level, you used raised walls to cast shadows on the center bridge. This involved “dipping” the center in shadow briefly either by letting the walls go up and down, or by walking Obe in and out of the corner to see the change. In the end, it was a relic of a way shadows used to work very early on in the game’s history. We eventually changed the walls into pillars you can walk around, to be more consistent with the rest of the game.
Title on Device
We’re changing the build name from Shadows to Where Shadows Slumber. I chose “Shadows” because I knew it would fit nicely on everyone’s phone screens. But it seems like poor branding to have everyone refer to our game as “Shadows” from here to eternity. We also considered “WSS” but that seemed to cryptic. Let me know how it looks on your phone screens!
Paradise Level 5, “Gates”
Last but not least, the most difficult puzzle in the game just got a whole lot less tedious. Now there are doorways to any of the four colors in this puzzle, available from any color area. No need to keep going back to the yellow zone!
Coming Soon To A Phone Near You…
I had hoped to get the patch out already, but there are still some tiny fixes left to do and a lot more testing. But once it’s all ready and this patch is uploaded to the App Store and Google Play, you’ll get a push notification to notify you that it’s been downloaded. Please try it and let us know what you think of the alterations!
I am happy to announce that Where Shadows Slumber has been accepted into the 5th annual Connecticut Festival of Indie Games (CT FIG), which is taking place within ConnectiCon XVII this July! They have an indie showcase of board games and video games that were offered at a discount to those who applied early and submitted the game to their judges. The show is in Hartford, CT next month (July 12th – 14th) at the Connecticut Convention Center.
I’ve never been to ConnectiCon before, but I went to a CT FIG event back in 2016 during the Mr. Game! years and met Jason Miceli of Geek Fever Games. The event was quite small, and very board game focused, but apparently their offerings have expanded to digital games as well! (There’s not many of us, but we’re growing…) I’m glad to hear they have connected with ConnectiCon to reach even more people! I wish Jason the best as they expand the CT FIG brand.
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.