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PAX Wrap Up

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For not having a booth or going to any sort of official demo event, I would say that our overall success with PAX was outstanding. We achieved our objectives. We are still in the middle of development of our VR game, but we were able to get about 100 PAX people to come in and play through our game and give us feedback on what worked and what didn't work.

As far as project organization goes, there were several challenges and mistakes. I thought that we'd have about 300 people come through and see our VR game and that we'd have to do some serious crowd management with lines and such. From what I heard, every other VR game had really long lines. The HTC Vive demo truck took people by appointment only. If you wanted an appointment, you needed to get in line at 8am, stand there for 90 minutes, and then get a 15 minute time slot. They were constantly booked. So, you'd think that I'd be slammed too, right? It turns out that I was totally wrong.

1. You need to spend a lot of time and effort marketing your intent to people. Give people a heads up a week or two in advance so that they can plan to see you.

2. You need signs. I made three sidewalk sandwich boards which advertised what we were doing, but I think the message on the signs was wrong, so they were largely ineffective. I wrote the following copy:

"2 local indie studios!"

"Virtual Reality Wizard Game"
"Ritual of Shadows"

What's wrong with this message?
First, the words "Virtual Reality" need to be big, bold and the first thing you read. That's the attention grabber and interest generator. If you don't care about virtual reality, then nothing else on the sign is important. If you do care about it, then the rest of the sign can elaborate.
Second, who cares about "2 local indie studios"? That's irrelevant.
Third, I placed a map on the sign board on how to find my studio. The map was small and only listed an intersection. If you don't know seattle, you might not know how to get there.
The graphic was a mock ingame screen shot. It looks pretty, but looking at it doesn't convey what you'd do within the game. I should have drawn diagrams of a wizard throwing fireballs at zombies or something instead.
There was another disaster with the sandwich boards as well: Severe wind. I had used wood glue on laminate to secure the poster. It was extremely windy over the weekend, so wind would both knock over my signs and rip off the posters.
I also watched who looked at my signs. 95% would glance for about 1-2 seconds and keep walking. They had other places to be and didn't seem to care.
So... signs are a good idea, but the message needs to be big, clear, succinct, and the placement needs to be strategic -- if you're going to do signs.

3. The most effective way to get people to come play my game is to have experienced and outgoing people stopping people on the street and talking about the game. Be careful on this though. I had an advertisement on craigslist looking for volunteer help and I got some weird old lady to help out. I appreciate her help, but people were put off by her appearance and thought it was kind of sketchy. Next time, I'll do paid labor and run a quick meet and greet with the helper.

4. Social media was somewhat effective. I posted on the PAX reddit group, a meetup group, and on twitter. People saw my posts and came to visit, so that was thrilling. It actually works!

5. For the post-game interviews, I should have also focused on creating my initial community of followers. I wasn't really ready for that, and I should have been. I should have advertised my twitter handle, my website, my youtube channel, my dev blog, etc. Give people who are interested some way to follow what we're doing! You want to be able to reach out to your community and tell them when you're pushing your game out to greenlight or launching!

Last night I went to the "Seattle Indie Expo" (SIX) which featured about 18 indie games. It was well marketed, free to the public, and featured free beer as well as indie games and their developers. The whole place was PACKED with pax people, games and developers. I ran into a few people I knew, and talked to several of the developers and made some great new contacts. I would have probably done very well if I had brought my game there, but I wasn't really prepared. I did learn that Oculus was funding some very select VR developers to be feature releases. I will have to look into that more to see if I'd be eligible.

On the positive side, we got a LOT of good feedback and validation on our game. We asked people how much they'd pay to play our game. People were willing to pay $30-$60 for my game! What?! I was expecting a $15-$20 price point at best. People also wanted to see the narrative, which wasn't available in the demo. They also asked for multiplayer and replay value. That may not quite make the cut for a first release, but I'll keep that in mind so I can add it in later. I think, most of all, people responded very positively to the game design, game genre, and how we were using the Oculus Rift with the hand tracking hardware. Nine out of ten people said that they would buy our game after playing it, so that's really, really encouraging.

For the next few months, we're going to be focusing on finishing the game play and resolving the issues we've identified with this play test session. Our budget is going to start getting a bit more tight though as the months progress, so... it's going to be an ultimate race against a bank account coming up on empty. I think we can do it as long as we work hard, stay focused, and keep the scope under control. If we just finish the game as it is and spend a lot of time polishing, we can release a complete game. The total game play would be about 20-30 minutes, but... that's about all people can handle within VR at the moment anyways.
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