Mind the Trap

2016 Sacramento Indie Arcade Gaming Expo


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This was the first time we’ve demo’ed at a community event for game developers and it was an awesome weekend. Hands up to Gabriel GutierrezBriana Aea and the rest of IGDA Sacramento for such a great job and for giving us this opportunity!

The event was held at the West Sacramento Community Center and featured four large rooms of video game developers, board game designers, cosplayers and shops. Despite a rainy day, a lot of people came to play, which included elementary school kids, college students, parents and other developers. It’s also been a few months since the team has gotten together and even played the game with each other. The handsome devils from left to right:

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Chris Ng, Conrad Fay, Kenneth Ng, Michael Lee
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Conrad Fay, Kenneth Ng, Jordan Henderson, Chris Ng

It was exciting to see the creativity and variety of games from the Sacramento community alone. The players, which was an even mix of developers and casual gamers, were also really supportive and shared a lot of constructive criticism.

You would occasionally hear Gabriel on the microphone: “CALLING ALL NERDS.” We saluted back.

Studio Formal Sheep was our neighbor and demo’ed their game The Rabbit and the Owl, a surreal puzzle game that cleverly uses positive and negative space to move two characters around. The game was engaging, challenging and clearly in its final stages of development. They also had arguably the most outstanding display; just look at their table! They won the secret judging contest and will be attending Casual Connect in San Francisco this year. Congrats to them!

The business cards also turned out to be a big hit because they were like “trading cards.”

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Screenshots

The UI is using placeholder assets, a.k.a. Googled images.

Preparation

What we brought:

  • Desktop PC for playtesting and debugging
  • Laptop for email sign-ups and feedback
  • 2 mirrored monitors so that we could watch people play on the other side of the table
  • Extra power cables, video cables, extension cords and surge protectors
  • 4 Xbox 360 controllers
  • Speaker and audio cable
  • Monitor stand so that standing players would be more comfortable
  • 50 business cards
  • Camera
  • Water and breath mints to stay hydrated and smell good
  • Snacks, lunch, and coffee

What we plan on bringing next time:

  • Giveaways like print-outs, posters, candy, stickers, buttons, etc.
  • Large studio banner
  • Decorative tabletop accessories to make our table stand out from the rest

Positive Reception & Responding to Feedback On-the-go

Players were astounded by the new vibrant art direction, which attracted a lot of attention right off the bat. Gameplay for the most part was fun and made friends want to punch each other in the gut, and the progression of dungeon crawling and puzzles reminded them of Triforce Heroes, which was a huge winner for us.

Going into this event we knew that unforeseen issues were bound to pop up. The worst thing that happened was forcing players to restart or leave because of game-breaking bugs. Players were also met with frustrating gameplay elements, such as misleading tooltips, awkward character movement, indistinguishable player colors against the vibrant background, and incoherent cues in the mini-games.

We decided to go with an iterative debugging approach where we took care of bugs and responded to feedback on-the-go, even if it meant turning away some players that were clearly interested in playing our game. After all, what’s the point of receiving feedback on reoccurring frustrations?

Final Words

When you’re a developer working on the same product every single day, the good and bad aspects of the game begin to blur. Chris and I playtested the build a million times these past two weeks thinking that the mechanics were solid, yet it wasn’t until we had strangers play the game did we realize that there was so much that needed to be changed. That’s why going to these types of events are so important. The customer is always right and it’s their opinions that you should value the most—not your own. The player’s reaction is what we work for everyday, and seeing people smile, laugh hysterically, and even walk away frustrated were our biggest drivers to make the best game we possibly can.

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