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?
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.
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting London for the Indie Prize contest at Casual Connect Europe! (If you want my thoughts on the show itself, you can check out the previous blog post on this feed here.) This post is exclusively a roundup of some of my favorite games from the show, regardless of who won the actual Indie Prize contest.
Don’t feel bad if you’re not on this list, I only got the chance to play a few games out of all the ones there! Plus there are still some on my list for later, like Holly’s Home Design. You didn’t think I’d forget about you Holly, did you?
Number #3 on this list will shock you!
Morkredd by Hyper Games
Morkredd instantly caught my eye because the aesthetic looks like our game Where Shadows Slumber, and I just had to know what the mechanics are. Whenever I see another game that uses shadows, my gut reaction is “Did they copy us? Did we copy them? What is this game?!”
Well it turns out no one copied anyone! Morkredd is a co-op game for Nintendo Switch where you play as little shadow dudes. If your character ever falls into the inky-black shadows, he dies and the group loses. This forces a restart. It’s tricky, because you don’t normally pay attention to the shadows being cast by yourself and other objects. (I finally understand the initial frustration everyone has when they first play our game!)
I don’t think Morkredd (which is Norwegian for “afraid of the dark”) is available for the Nintendo Switch yet, but you can follow their progress here.
Unbroken Soul by Oscar Ruiz
Although I didn’t get to play Oscar’s game too much, I appreciate how:
It looks like Dead Cells on a phone
Oscar is making use of this ridiculous, awesome control rig
Yes, that’s an iPhone you see in the image below. I have no idea what the controller rig is called, but it’s really cool. (No, you don’t need it to play – but you probably need it to be good.) Gameplay video below:
Oscar has had a lot of success in the indie space already, so it was good talking with him. I wish him luck on Unbroken Soul!
Hellrider 3 by Andrey Chernyshov
Andrey has a really sleek looking motorcycle game that’s the third in the series. The first two were pretty different, so I’m assuming this is the kind of gameplay he’s always wanted for Hellrider and he finally made the game he was dreaming about. It’s amazing what people can make for mobile devices these days! Check it out:
I really love the art style for this game. Everything fits together so well in a cartoony, low-poly indie way. This game is not available to the public yet, but he has all of his current releases available on his website here.
Pico Tanks by Panda Arcade
Not only is Pico Tanks an impressive online mobile game with cute art and fun gameplay, their setup at the Indie Prize was incredible! Look at the effort they put into this display. Indie Prize gave us the smallest amount of space I’ve ever had at a show – essentially just 1/2 of a table and 1 chair. Using that limitation, Panda Arcade created a themed display that blocks out other competing games from taking up your attention, and invites you into the space. I’m impressed… now I just need to ask them how they did it!
I’m definitely taking notes for future Where Shadows Slumber shows…
Honorable Mention: Last Pirate
Finally, this pirate game was a little odd and I’m not really sure what was going on, but his setup was pretty good. A pirate pistol, a box of gold coins, and plenty of signs – honorable mention for you, pirate game! Last Pirate is a survival game where you’re stuck on a deserted island, forced to survive using only your rusty hook-hand and your wits. (The developer showed me the game and chopped down a tree with his hook, then got killed by a wild boar. 10/10 would be a pirate again)
The pirate’s life for me! Check it out on the Google Play store, it has a ton of downloads so far.
This Saturday there’s a huge Playcrafting event happening at the Microsoft Center in Times Square. We’re going to be showing off Where Shadows Slumber, and perhaps doing a bit more PC testing… don’t miss it! If you’re a fan of indie games and local businesses, you can get into this event entirely FREE! You just need to register for the event, which you can do here.
Video games are taking over the Microsoft office in Times Square for an all-out Expo celebrating local developers! Join us for a day of games, pizza and fun. All ages are welcome. We hope you can join us for our biggest seasonal gathering!
Over 100 game developers will be showing off their latest games one-on-one to a crowd of up to 1000 people. For developers, this is a great opportunity to show off their games (finished or unfinished) and get direct feedback from players. For everyone else, it’s a unique opportunity to try out the biggest collection of games made in and around NYC all in one place. More games being added daily.
Robert Adams of Tech Raptor has a good article about what you can look forward to at this event right here. He also mentioned us specifically!
I can’t say enough good things about Playcrafting. If I keep promoting them, Dan’s going to have to bring me onto the payroll at this time. But seriously – even if you’re not ready to show off your game yet, I strongly recommend these events for developers. If you can get into New York City by car, train, or bus, then GET HERE! It’s never too late to join the community.
It’s never too early, either. Jack and I have been going to these since 2016, if you can believe that. It was this very event (Spring Play) where we first showed off the Where Shadows Slumber Demo and started to get noticed. Robert says as much in one of his many articles about the game:
“…a game called Where Shadows Slumber had caught my attention at the 2016 Playcrafting Spring Expo. I got a card from the developer and decided to keep an eye on the game while it was under development.”
Robert N. Adams of TechRaptor
You never know who will be at these events, or what connections you’ll make with unlikely people. Hope to see you there!
Don’t forget to RSVP on Facebook too, and share the event!