Thursday, January 12, 2017

Battle High 2 A+ @ Magfest!

So as I previously mentioned, I entered Battle High 2 A+ on a whim into MagFest's indie game showcase.  MagFest is an game and music festival near Washington DC.  Since there was no entry fee, I figured entering was a win-win.  If I got the game into the show, I'd get an awesome opportunity to show the game off; however, if it were rejected, I'd be able to enjoy the conference without the stress of presenting a game.
Fortunately for me, it was accepted!  It was a great learning experience that I would like to share.

 

What I Did Well

Since this wasn't the first indie showcase at MagFest, there was plenty of useful resources out there to prepare.  I believe I was pretty well prepared and did the following well:
  • Be comfortable and have food and water:  Being at a booth for 4+ hours a day can be rather tiring, especially if you're standing a majority of that time (fortunately, I had extra chairs), but I made sure to dress comfortably as well as have food and water.
One of the "delicious" snacks I had
  • Have a carpet! (or make your space presentable):  I had banners, a carpet -- actually an outdoor floor mat which wasn't too soft and conflicted with comfort a bit -- and two setups.  I think my setup could have been nicer, but it was acceptable in my opinion.

  • Get help!:  As a solo dev, manning a booth can be rather difficult.  Fortunately, I had some coworkers and friends come to MagFest to help, even briefly for bathroom or lunch breaks. 
  • Have back-ups!:  I had my Xbox One with Battle High 2 A+ on it as well as my Microsoft Surface.  I also brought 3 monitors and extra cables.  Having 2 setups was great -- allowing more people to play the game -- but it was also good in case something broke!

 

 What I Could Have Done Better

This was the first time I had really shown off the game at a gaming venue, so there were a few things I could have done better.
  • Bring a dolly cart!  I recently bought a new car with a lot of room, which made transporting all of the monitors and other gear easy; however, taking it from my car to the hotel was rather frustrating.  A dolly cart would have made this a lot easier.
Would have helped so much...

  • Make it easier to see you worked on the game.  The first and second days of MagFest I wore Battle-High-related gear; however, on the 3rd and 4th days, I didn't, so people didn't know I had worked on the game and thought I was just watching or waiting for my turn to play.
A photo posted by Matt (@mattrified) on

  • Give credit better:  Though I work primarily alone, a lot of talented people worked on Battle High, and I wish I had better information about them when asked.  A lot of people would ask about the pixel artist or the graphic designer, and it was awkward trying to explain the situation of those individuals with people.  Having their business cards -- with their permissions of course -- would have made this easier.
  • Better print materials and swag:  This is mixed.  People liked my buttons -- which I'm practically out of -- and business cards.  I also had post cards -- which were the best thing to give out -- however, the post cards didn't have accurate or enough information.  For one, it only listed that the game was out for Xbox One and itch.io.  Unfortunately, right after printing, I published Battle High 2 A+ on Game Jolt, so I had to tell people this directly.  I wanted to print out a new post card with the additional platform, as well as information on the back about Battle High 2 A+'s history (pictured below), but I procrastinated -- THANKS, CHRISTMAS. 

  Another thing I did is I get pencils printed.  Though I thought this was a neat bit of swag, they didn't go as well as I would have thought -- and now I have over 300 pencils! Regardless, the misprinted postcards were probably the most frustrating part of this.

A photo posted by Matt (@mattrified) on

  • SPEAKERS!  I bought really nice BenQ monitors for MagFest that had built-in speakers; unfortunately, I didn't realize till later that they were rather quiet.  I should have bought speakers as well.  No one could hear the sound design, voice acting, or music, which was especially embarrassing when the sound designer showed up to player -- SORRY!
  • Let people play themselves.  On the first day, some people wanted to play and instead of letting them play Arcade, I would volunteer to play them in Versus, probably scaring some of them away.  Though, and this was a bit awkward, a lot of people would ask me, "Hey, can I play?" to which I sometimes looked at them like a confused dog.  I guess maybe they thought I was in line to play or something and not the dev, but still, I wasn't sure what to say.
I think I nearly did this at least once.
Overall, showing my game off at MagFest was a great learning experience.  I met with a lot of people who were enthusiastic to play the game as well as its future and some that even showed interest in working with me in the future on updates or new titles.  Sure there were some people who weren't interested or poked fun at the cheesy dialogue, but nothing heinous and nothing directed at me like "Go jump off a bridge!"  The worst comment I heard was "Oh geez, I never heard of this game before!" which mostly made me realize my lack of marketing.
I got to see people play the game in a competitive setting which is probably the best way to learn about the game and I learned a lot.  For example, I learned that Beat has a nasty high-low mix-up, and that Jada's Lightning Whip's are overpowered.  I also got to witness the first (that I'm aware of) Battle High 2 A+ tournament!  Sure there were only 12 entrants and 4 of them didn't show, but it was still awesome to see!

Footage of the Battle High 2 A+ Tournament in Action!

I also got to see the game played at MagFest Versus -- a Nick Arcade-like gameshow held at the festival.

Footage taken from MagFest Versus!

Now, I've heard developers complain that sometimes cons aren't worth it, that a lot of people will say they like your game and will buy it but then "forget" to after the show, but you know what?  I don't really care.  I had a great time, learned a lot, and would love to do it again either at MagFest or another similar con with Battle High 2 A+ or another game!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2016 In Review

So it's over a week into 2017, and I realized I haven't written much about 2016.  I wanted to take some time now and write a (semi) game-development-related retrospective of 2016, its highlights, lowlights, and maybe a midlight.

Lowlight:  Rushing a Game for IndieCade

Though it was a learning experience, the year did start off a little rough.  I had just come off of releasing Battle High 2 A+ on Xbox One in December of 2015, so I was taking a bit of a break from game development in the beginning of the year.  Soon though, I was trying to finish a game for IndieCade, an independent game festival.  The entries were due in May, so I figured I had enough time to get at least a competent prototype done.  I was working on a merfolk themed tactics games with fighting game elements.


Though I made some good progress, I still felt I was rushing and was unhappy with what I came up with.  I wrote about this on Gamasutra.  Since then, I've decided to start the idea over.  One issue with it was that it was starting to feel too copied and unoriginal.  I don't want to use the grid-based system for movement.  In addition, I just wasn't happy with the art.  I want to try something else and I don't want to rush the game for some contest.  Though I think deadlines are important, setting one that is too soon can make the project feel insurmountable.

Highlight:  Patching Battle High 2 A+ Successfully -- Twice!

After taking a break from the merfolk game, I decided to do a small Battle High patch.  I was pleased, once again, with how easy it was to update it through the ID@Xbox program.  In fact, later in the same year, I decided add a new character to Battle High 2 A+ named Beat -- which I wrote about in previous blog posts.


Lowlight:  Oral and Other Health Issues

Before the Beat patch, however, I had some drama.  Around July, one of my teeth started bothering me.  The dentist didn't quite know what was wrong, noticing that the tooth was wiggling a bit.  Because I had trips coming up in October, I was nervous about doing anything major, especially after being told by the endodontist that nothing seemed problematic in the x-rays.  Fast-foward to mid-October, right before Unite (one of Unity's yearly conferences), I go in for a checkup and my dentist discovered the tooth wasn't cracked but that the crown was loose.  She recements it, and the problematic pain returns the following weekend.  I then go through a root canal retreatment -- essentially a root canal on the same tooth.

Imagine having this done on the same tooth...twice

Overall, this isn't very game development related, but things like tooth pain are distracting.  From July to October I was worrying about my tooth, seeing if it was a gum infection or a cracked tooth, using an over-the-counter bite guard, not wanting to have an unnecessary extraction done, but worrying about it nonetheless.  At the same time, I was also having lower back pain back in February when I was working on the tactics fighter which made working a bit distracting -- this was mostly due to bad posture while working for long hours.  This made me come to the conclusion that I need to be more assertive when it comes to self-care.  I need to be less afraid to get something done instead of waiting-and-seeing, and I need to exercise and do more preventative care.  I need to sleep more and eat healthier.  These are all resolutions, and I've made progress on some.  I've starting speaking to an e-therapist to help with my depression, and I bought a treadmill (though I should have bought an elliptical machine) so I can jog (or at least walk) when it's ugly or too hot outside.


Highlight:  MagFest!!!


Another good thing that happened though is that around August, I decided to enter Battle High 2 A+ into the indie game showcase at MagFest -- a music and games festival near Washington DC.  It was accepted, which was a great -- yet rather stressful -- experience.  I'll write about that more in detail in my next posts.

MidLight:  Featured Blog


Admittedly, I can be a bit of a scrub at time...
I wrote a blog article about accessibility in fighting games, which got featured on Gamasutra.  I was excited to have it featured; however, some feedback on Twitter was rather harsh and made me worry that I had tarnished my reputation somehow, that if I were to release fighting games in the future, the genre's communities would see my name and ignore it.  I realized a lot of the criticism wasn't correct though, that people focused on one small argument while ignoring the a good majority of what I wrote.  What I said is that better tutorialization and simpler inputs could help with fighting game accessibility, not that they were the ultimate or only solutions.

Resolutions

FILL THEM OUT!
Despite knowing that they are cheesy at times and almost none of them happen, I'd like to make some resolutions or goals for 2017:
  • Practice better self-care -- eating habits, exercise, sleep schedule, etc.
  • Prepare a game that I feel comfortable publishing before May of 2018
  • Write more blogs -- both here and on Gamasutra
  • Organize my web presence / social media accounts -- instagram, twitter, tumblr, etc. -- better
  • Don't let criticism hurt my progress or confidence and instead learn from it
Thanks for reading!