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!
I just returned from a trip to AwesomeCon in Washington D.C.! It’s my second time at the convention – the previous trip was in 2017. Since our game was still in development then, the theme for this past week’s marketing has been “blasts from the past.” I had a lot of fun with that and plan to do quite a bit more. It’s always shocking to see what the game looked like before it was ready for primetime…
AwesomeCon is a D.C. based comic convention held in the Walter E. Washinton Convention Center. As for the show itself, I’m very glad I went – mostly because the crew that invited us runs MAGFest’s Indie Videogame Showcase, and they footed the bill for space. It was very generous of them to invite us, and I always take the opportunity to do shows like that. It cuts down on the cost of showcasing tremendously. For this one, I only had to pay the cost of an AirBnB, gasoline, and tolls to D.C. from Hoboken.
The audience wasn’t there exclusively for games – in fact, many people playing the game had to suddenly leave in order to make it to some signing or another scheduled event. But for those that stayed and really toured the arcade area, I felt a real sense of admiration for the indies and their games. It was a good group of people! Many of them even purchased the game right in front of me. On Saturday morning, one woman literally bought it because I said there were no micro transactions in the game, and she said she wanted to support our team [^_^ ]!
The album of images from the Awesome Arcade can be found on Facebook right here. Enjoy them!
Costs vs. Rewards
It’s so hard to quantify whether or not these shows are “worth it,” but that’s what everybody always asks. Was it worth it? How many sales did you get? How much money did you make? Does that make sense given the 3 or 4 business days it took to do the show? Does that make sense given the money spent to get there?
I won’t try to quantify things like (1) meeting other indies (2) getting the game in front of people who don’t yet buy it, but still might (3) having a banner up that people see out of the corner of their eye, subconsciously reinforcing the product in their mind (4) doing the MIVS crew a solid by adding another game to their arcade (5) giving attendees a fun thing to do for a few minutes, etc. But what can you quantify?
Well I did something different this time, and actually counted the number of “plays” I witnessed while I was running the booth. I defined a play as “they sat down, played past the first 3 Levels, and I gave them the convention spiel.” Here’s the numbers:
Total plays by day
Friday (11 am – 7 pm)
Saturday (10 am – 6 pm)
Sunday (10 am – 4 pm)
Total plays by device
Fire HD 8
So, over the course of 3 days at a cost of around $300.00, I personally introduced Where Shadows Slumber to 123 people. Even if all of those people purchased the game, the trip wouldn’t really pay for itself.
This isn’t an indictment of AwesomeCon, just something I’m going to start doing now to sate my own curiosity. I love going to shows, and I would return to AwesomeCon in a heartbeat. But they always tend to feel more impactful than they probably are. At the end of the day, my duty to the developers who built this game (as well as my duty to the studio itself) is to get the biggest bottom line we can each quarter. So this gives me a new goal for internet advertising and social media use: beat that time/cost return on investment!
Check Out Crescendo!
One of my favorite games at the Awesome Arcade happened to be on the next table over, Crescendo. I had never heard of it before, and without something like the Awesome Arcade it’s unlikely I ever would have. But the developer, Nate Largo, is very talented and he’s created something really polished and impressive. It’s a rhythm-based stealth platformer where you have to march in tune with the beat so that sound-sensitive laser robots don’t shoot your character’s face off. Check out his free demo here!
What’s That Strange iPad With a Keyboard?
This con was also special as it marks the first public test of a computer version of Where Shadows Slumber. Though we haven’t really announced it publicly yet or decided on a date, if you’ve spoken with us in the past few months we’ve probably discussed it.
Stay tuned for more news about that, and thanks again to Lexi and the MIVS crew for inviting us to D.C. for a great time!
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!
An informal survey suggests the most common questions were “how did you do this?”, “what did YOU do specifically?,” “how much money did you make”, and “what degree would I need to do this.” Fortunately, all of those questions and more are answered on this blog! Just go back to some of our old posts. Also we might not have actually covered the college angle here…
This blog post is mainly to let said students know how they can follow Game Revenant for more news about Where Shadows Slumber, as well as testing information for future games. Due to school rules, no one was allowed to take down the students’ info for use in an email list or anything. So I told them to follow us and look out for this blog…
I enjoyed talking to you all about Where Shadows Slumber, my indie experience, and how to become a game developer. Please feel free to ask me anything, anytime – I’m honest to a fault and I’d love to take your questions. (That goes for anyone else who’s reading this) Leave a comment below or reach out using the platforms above! It never hurts to ask [^_^ ]