This year was our first large expo experience for me. Two members of my team attended as well, and the other two had fun elsewhere, like at the children’s museum and library.
The first step through the Exhibit Hall was breathtaking. It was so big and all the big names were right there before our eyes. This expanse remained breathtaking even on the last day. It offered me hope for the future—they started somewhere; we are starting with a single table.
We got to talk to potential customers, media and fellow developers on our released game Stinky Snake and our new game in the early stages of development.
What did we learn?
1) Eye catching effects are important—something that is above head level, so when the crowd gathers there is still a marker for your spot.
2) You have to engage and talk to people that come to your table—some may not want to talk and that is okay too.
3) Have multiple people on shift so that there can be breaks because standing and talking for 8+ hours straight is no fun.
4) Be prepared to talk about your project and have a sharpened pitch.
5) Get a good night’s sleep before each day at the expo.
6) Wear comfortable shoes—despite any desire for fashion.
7) Dress in layers—some days may be warm or even cold at times. Have your lowest layer be a t-shirt.
8) Pack food and water—these things cost way too much inside the expo; plus, you can avoid the long ass lines that happen with the large crowds.
9) Pack an extra t-shirt in your freshen up bag just in case there’s an extra sweaty day. Also, I would say pack a first aid kit. Never know when an unexpected cut might happen.
10) Check that all your cables and device chargers are packed.
11) Pack a roll or two of black duct tape. This can be used to secure the cables running through the booth where many folks are moving around.
12) Business cards and other marketing materials—I think this is crucial. A retractable banner with a carrying case is a good addition.
13) Review the expo rules ahead of time of event to be prepared for any issues that may arise. In our case, what ages can have certain types of badges.
14) Be sure to note where the bathrooms are to make things easier in huge crowds.
15) Know the security rules/protocols ahead of time, which includes what tools you are allowed to bring into the expo. You may need to leave your Swiss Army knife at home, even if you need it for setting up.
16) Get familiar with the parking options around the expo location if you don’t have a ride.
17) Know about the traffic patterns in the area of the expo. We drove in from NH and we planned to be ahead of rush hour traffic—arriving ahead of the heavy traffic and heavy expo lines. If you are early, plan accordingly and have stuff to keep you busy. The quiet of the expo in the early morning was a peaceful time to read a book or talk to other developers.
18) Always have a backup plan for backup equipment, just in case something goes wrong.
19) Take tons of pictures—have someone on hand to take pictures for the event.
20) Spend some time recovering when it is all over.
21) Follow up with the contacts you made during the show.
Just some things that we learned on our first large expo experience.
Isabelle and I attended Winter Play where Stinky Snake, our first game, was featured. The whole team would have attended but being my first time–I wanted to test the waters with my right hand at my side.
Some pictures Isabelle took at the event:
It turned out better than we could have expected. We had initially thought that nobody would show up, but many people came up to us, willing to play our game and give feedback. In addition, many people were willing to join our mailing list. The act of meeting and talking to new people about our game has also sharpened our pitch.
Things we did right and learned from this experience:
Have a backup travel plan. Uber or some other car service can be your best friend instead of battling busy city traffic.
Have a few cardboard cutouts of your game characters nearby to grab people’s attention. We will get a couple made for use in future events, and make sure they can be broken down into smaller pieces ideal for travel and proper storage.
Bring a bag full of essential items such as bottled water, extra cables, paper towels, granola bar or some other snack, etc.
Knapsacks for transporting the laptops, and other small devices.
Bring marketing material including your mailing list signup, business cards, flyers, and pins. These fit great in the knapsacks.
Wear layers, especially during the winter time. However, you should probably wear a light top since the room will soon heat up due to the abundance of machines and humans.
Eat a light meal before the event; not like me, too stressed out to eat all day.
Celebrate with your team the day after.
Rewrite you game pitch in the day following the event while it is fresh in your mind. With all the practice one goes under during the event going over what your game is all about; this sharpens the pitch and maybe even prompt you to rewrite the press release you were planning to put out for an upcoming product launch.
Make time the day after to recover.
Have a team member responsible for taking pictures throughout the event.
In conclusion, going to that first game event is important to gain exposure to the world as a developer. I am happy that we did this and also for bringing Isabelle along to experience this. I guess my only regret would be that I have not done this sooner in the process of building Stinky Snake.
A pictorial glimpse into the journey through the Emerald Isle to free the ones he call family from Skunk, the leader of the skunks. With the ability to throw coconuts by one or more with the coconut cannon, to clear out the nearest ten skunks with a loss of health, to bump into skunks, to push skunks off the platforms without getting punched by skunks, and stomp on skunks–Stinky Snake is on the way to victory in finding his family and eliminating Skunk and all of his followers.
Six months ago, when Stinky Snake made its transition from a comic strip to a video game prototype was a milestone—an internal milestone that now six months later I feel confident in sharing. This was the first time the characters—Snake and Skunk met off the paper for the first time. Granted they were simple 8bit characters, they were beautiful like newly fallen snow.
Fast forward six months later, the world they lived in on paper had come to life in a 2D-platformer world. Along the way Snake evolved into a more detailed pixelated character. Skunk remained the boxy-look until yesterday, our artist recreated him in a most elegant fashion. The new Skunk has more personality and spunk to match his comic strip origins.
These past six months has been filled with learning, experimenting and experiencing these characters come to life—from the design document that created the backbone for a massive binder containing the game bible—to the sound recording sessions that burst into laughter. We are a small team—sometimes of one and this massive binder has been an essential tool to keep on track to completion. The game went through many looks until we landed on the one we currently have—this came from getting halfway through the game creation and feeling that it did not have the right feel. With an overhaul with consistent backgrounds and platform design, the whole game was redesigned with the original idea in mind.
While this game is not a combat game it still can be intense depending on the difficulty level chosen. This came about when I upped the intensity and had our youngest tester who is seven years old give it a try. I immediately realized that the concept of losing everything when you die in the game was too much for a younger player and created a difficulty system where a player’s coin count would be unaffected by death. The purpose of this game is enjoyment and not learning harsh realities that come with life, and the difficulty choice was added that an interesting feel to the game. Initially only three levels of difficulty will be included in the first release and potentially two more with subsequent releases. These three levels are easy, normal, and hard. With easy difficulty, coins are not lost upon death, damage from saws is reduced and some game objects don’t appear. With normal difficulty, half of the coins are lost and with hard difficulty, all coins are lost. These three levels include easy for the younger player or gameplay without loss of coin and amount loss gotten from the impact of saws or appearance of some game objects, normal and hard where you die you lose the gold coins.
This experience has allowed the artist and the computer scientist within me to come out and play together and it has been beautiful.
Describe big picture and then drill down as you go. In creating a features, describe the feature and what you expect it to do. Then break it down in components, describe those components and drill down further if necessary. Finally describe the look, maybe even include some concept art.
Use plenty of diagrams and examples.
No duplicate text. Best to have a single copy and link to it from the design document you are working on.
Keep as short and to the point as possible. Sticking to the idea of only the most relevant information should be included.
Find a balance between no documentation and too much.
Maintain documentation keeping up to date as the project progresses. Two ways that I have used on current projects is either a change log in the document or version control.
Everyone on the team should have input.
Add a glossary.
These are some tips that I use working on documentation for current projects for projects like Penny.