LOOKBACK: Picnic Day @ UC Davis

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Beautiful sunny weather, pollen infested air, itchy eyes and college students dressing like they’re at Coachella or from SoCal… ahh… best day ever…

Sarcasm aside, Picnic Day was an exhausting but really fun day. Having only slept 3 hours the night before after watching 4 episodes of Game of Thrones (GREYWORM NUUUUUUUU!!!!), I got my ass up early to meet my brother on campus. In fact, we got there so early all the booths were empty; so we set up right at the corner near the hallway where we could get the most attention.

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Chris doing some last minute debugging.

We were also super excited to give away our special business cards featuring art from our artists. Too bad they couldn’t come to our booth :(. I have yet to meet them.

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From Yes, it came with those Superstar and Angel cards. I didn’t ask for those! I swear!!!!!


Chris went to GDC a month ago and got a good taste of what it takes to set up a booth. We prepped days in advance to make sure we would have the most impressive setup and avoid any logistical hiccups while being as cost efficient as possible. That included:

  • Having 2 monitors (1 for gaming, 1 for trailer), all brought from home
  • Bringing my hardcore desktop to prevent any lag or pixelated graphics
  • Extra power cables and video cables that are long enough to go from table to floor
  • Used Xbox 360 controllers
  • Cheap over-the-ear headphones from Fry’s

What we could have done better:

  • Bring candy or some sort of obvious freeby that can be utilized. The business cards were “neat” and “cool” but are not physically useable in any way, especially at first glance.
  • Flip some of the business cards around to show that they were business cards. We only showed the backside of the card featuring the artwork.
  • Bring chairs. Holy cow. 5 hours of standing is just…ugh…
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Our first tester!


The prototype was designed to be simple and to make sure that at the very ground level our gameplay concept would be fun and worth pursuing. The prototype level is inspired by the 3rd level of Shadow of the Colossus: As the Behemoth is about to strike, run away at the last minute. We placed mines across the area that required stepping on a button to activate. Leave the button too early and the bomb would deactivate. Only when the bomb is activated and is struck by the Behemoth does it explode and cause damage. High risk, intensive gameplay.


Going into Picnic Day knowing that it was more of a playground for drunk students high off of marijuana, we didn’t expect to get much constructive feedback on our game.

A major issue that came up was that it took a while for some people to figure out how to use the mines. A third of them even rage quitted; we realized then that it was a poor mistake on our part for not giving instructions or having more obvious indicators in the arena. We had to explain the concept to every single person that played, which was tiring for us but can also ruin the experience for them. They just want to play, not have someone breath on their back telling them what to do. This is one of the primary ways of losing your customers right from the start!

Other than that, people had fun. Testers ranged from little kids to high school students to parents. Once in a while we would have an avid gamer tell us right off the bat that this game reminded them of SotC. It made our hearts flutter because it signaled a good first step. It reminded us that our path moving forward is to make our game more unique, and even better than SotC.

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Extra Screen for Trailer

Having an extra screen showing the trailer was such a good idea. While people were playing the game, other bystanders could watch the video. It’s easy to look at a game at a superficial level and dismiss the amount of work behind it. With the fancy transition effects showing our workflow (concept art –> 3D modeling –> animated gameplay), people were immediately engaged. The video stimulated conversations on execution, tools used, roles and responsibilities, people management, and even career advice.

We got comments like “Whoa! That is so cool! There’s no way they made that!” which is so true (thank you Friendship Club Films).

What’s Next

We’ve changed our gameplay a bit since then but have concluded that our gameplay concept is good to go. Starting today, we will design our first Behemoth.

Although this is still up in the air, we are potentially looking into finding a full-time artist. It depends on our budget for the rest of the year. We may even just do the art ourselves, but we’ll keep you posted.

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