Halloween is almost here! The timing is awkward this year because it actually falls on a Thursday, but most people want to celebrate on the weekend instead of a weeknight. (We were so close to getting a Halloween Friday… will that happen next year? Is that how calendars work?) So that means a lot of events are happening the weekend prior, including this weekend!
I’ll be celebrating in style at Playcrafting’s Trick or Play event this Saturday, October 26th. Of course, Where Shadows Slumber will be on display along with a ton of other great indie games from NYC developers. Here’s their description of the event:
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 and fun. All ages are welcome. We hope you can join us for our annual Halloween expo!
Game developers will be showing off their latest games. 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. There will be a costume contest! We encourage everyone to dress (appropriately, no real or fake weapons!) and get into the Halloween spirit.
Lamely, they don’t allow you to bring real or fake weapons as part of your costume. Don’t expect me to dress up as Rocket Launcher McSwordagger like I did last year. (Sailor suit it is, I suppose!) Maybe one of these years I’ll get my act together and dress as Obe. Does anyone have a giant white ball I can fit my head inside and paint eyes on?
Here’s the details:
Date and Time
Sat, October 26, 2019
12:00 PM – 5:00 PM EDT
11 Times Square
New York, NY 10036
Want to join the fun? Get your tickets here while there’s still some left!
Indie devs can submit their games here, but you’d better hurry up…
As I promised in a recent blog post, I’m making the build of NFL Halftime Blitz available to the public to download and play. We’re well past the NDA period, so I’m confident we can release this to the world without any repercussions!
What you will be downloading is a prototype created over the weekend of August 23rd, with some light modifications made in the two days afterward. The whole team is extremely proud of the game!
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!
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!
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!
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!!