Last weekend I was at the EGX Rezzed show at the NEC Birmingham.
Since our game is as yet unannounced and in very early stages we weren’t exhibiting any of our own stuff this time round. I was actually there to help out my good friend Byron Atkinson-Jones of Xiotex Studios to demo his fantastic new game Containment Protocol.
Even though we weren’t showing a game ourselves I still found the whole experience extremely valuable and it was a whole lot of fun. Over the weekend I learnt quite a bit from being on the Containment Protocol stand and from talking to the other exhibitors about their experiences.
Here are a few things I learnt, along with some advice:
Exhibiting on a stand is a full time job. You get very little time to nip to the toilet, let alone get food or drink.
With an exhibitor stand you usually get some free exhibitor tickets (I believe at Rezzed you got 5). I strongly recommend you make full use of them.
Make sure your helpers know some key details about your game so they can answer basic questions. At a minimum I’d say:
Elevator pitch for the game? I.e describe the game in 1-2 sentences.
When is the game coming out?
What platforms is the game on?
The air con in the hall made the air quite dry and as such you can get dehydrated very easily if you don’t keep yourself topped up. Make sure you stock up on some water before the day begins so if you’re really busy (you will be) you can at least have a drink in arms reach. It’s thirsty work!
Get some sleep. Don’t stay up too late into the early hours drinking shots with the lead level designer on XYZ game. There are better times for that. It’s a very long day and you need your energy.
Try your best to eat properly. If you can’t during the day, get a proper meal after the show has finished. Don’t eat junk food, your body will punish you.
Get into your stand early every day to make sure everything is running and you’re prepped for the day ahead.
Your exhibitor board is a massive advert. PUT YOUR TWITTER & WEBSITE HANDLE ON IT. Seriously. So many people did not do this and it’s a big missed opportunity. Not everyone will play your game (might be busy or have little time) but by having your key details people will know where to go to find out more if they like the look of it. However keep it simple – don’t overfill your board with all your contact details like Facebook, YouTube etc. I’d recommend sticking to Website, Twitter and the Logo of your game. Make sure the text is big enough to be readable from a distance.
This year at Rezzed badges were a big thing as an alternative to leaflets. I think they’re a great idea but remember that their primary purpose is for marketing. If nothing else put your flipping twitter handle on it!
The number one most valuable thing you will get from exhibiting is player feedback (no it isn’t publicity). Give players space but pay attention and watch them. Learn. Your eyes will open to a huge amount of details that you never thought about. You’ll find out that 75% of players can’t get past the level one end boss because they didn’t understand the bomb needed to be picked up. Or the run speed you spent 5 hours tweaking is too fast for most people and they keep falling off the ledges.
Ideally lock down your public build a few days before the event. DO NOT make changes the night before or god-forbid during the show. Anything can go wrong, and trust me – it will. You could introduce a new bug into the game, it might crash for players on level three because of a typo, or your Engine keys might accidentally get cancelled and your game stops working. If you have time, get some friends to play test your build to make sure any game-breaking bugs are fixed before the show.
The press are everywhere and these events are full of Indie Press teams, YouTubers and the like. Many will just pop by your stand unannounced. Recognise them (at EGX events they usually have white wristbands) but treat them all equally regardless of the site they cover. Even the tiny YouTubers with 100 subscribers should be taken seriously because they can grow, and if you speak to 20 of them who all post footage to YouTube your game’s visibility will grow with them.
Some of the press will arrange interview slots. This is usually (but not always) done by the more professional outfits who have busy schedules. If you do agree on an interview time slot with the press, DO NOT MISS IT. Don’t become that guy that was a no show for a journalist’s interview. They will remember.
Some players will like your game and some won’t. Don’t take it personally but if you can, try to find out WHY. Was it just too slow, too frustrating, or was it not their sort of game? Were they expecting guns and your game is actually about flowers (maybe your marketing message is off?).
Some players will REALLY like your game. In-fact they might like it so much that they won’t stop playing it. That’s brilliant because it means your game is heading in the right direction! But it’s also a problem at the show because you only have a limited number of demo machines and lots of people who may want to play. I would recommend timing your demo to around 10 minutes long. Don’t be afraid to add a small count-down timer if the natural pacing of the game won’t end within that time. As an extra option you could consider adding a option into a debug menu so you can enable/disable and tweak the timer part way through the show if you find people are playing too long.
Well I think that’s it for now! If you ever fancy a chat about my experiences exhibiting or anything else then hit me up on Twitter: @onimitch.