Dev Log

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RossD20Studios

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Re: Dev Log
« Reply #15 on: September 06, 2018, 05:13:03 PM »
What fantastic recap of your experiences at PAX West, Ross! Your enthusiasm can be felt in every word you're writing here. I'm super excited to hear it was such a success, and I can only imagine the boost it's given your motivation to carry on. You're living your dream, even if it means fighting through lots of unexpected hardships. A big KUDOS to the great work you're doing and the personal touch you're weaving into every fiber of the game.  :D

Cheers,
Daniel

P.S.: With these experiences, I guess you're already planning a rename of the game, right? "Squirrel Army's Fate [or how I learned to love that mutant rodent]".  ;D

Wow, thank you so much, Daniel, that's so kind of you to say! Now, we've got to do something about that missing avatar of yours *WAVES MAGIC WAND* and *POOF!* there you are!

Squirrel Army's Fate: How I Learned to Love that Mutant Rodent <- Genius! Have you considered a role in marketing? That's one the press can't look away from. I'll have to find a way to work into a future press release ;)

Scribe

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Re: Dev Log
« Reply #16 on: September 06, 2018, 10:20:12 PM »
We can feel the excitement in every sentence you wrote, Ross.  Thrilling!
It also makes me want to put my hands on that demo. Will you make it available to testers? I'm eager to try it, and to show it around!

RossD20Studios

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Re: Dev Log
« Reply #17 on: September 07, 2018, 08:10:03 AM »
We can feel the excitement in every sentence you wrote, Ross.  Thrilling!
It also makes me want to put my hands on that demo. Will you make it available to testers? I'm eager to try it, and to show it around!

You, bet, Scribe! I'll try and get a build update out as soon as possible with the new intro sequence we showed at PAX. So many of the improvements were the direct result of your feedback, so thanks again for taking time to do such a thorough assessment of our first tutorial and share your thoughts with us.

RossD20Studios

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Re: Dev Log
« Reply #18 on: November 28, 2018, 11:43:18 AM »
Dev Log 8: Highlights & Data of Summoners Fate at Dreamhack 2018



For those following my indie game marketing, this is the third article in that series (see part 1 and part 2 for our experience and data on PAX West). It’s my aim to capture both the subjective highlights and empirical data of our experiences so that myself and others can learn what to expect and how to improve our marketing. In this article, I share our marketing strategy, budget, event highlights and data of our Dreamhack Atlanta 2018 showcase of Summoners Fate.

What is Dreamhack and why did I showcase at their 2018 Atlanta Expo?

Dreamhack hosts several conventions internationally each year focused on eSports and multiplayer gaming. If you’ve ever experienced a LAN party where a group of friends all bring their gaming PC’s to play multiplayer, Dreamhack is like that except with thousands of people.

Dreamhack presented several key opportunities for us:
  • Free 10x10 Ft. Booth as a featured game in their Indie Playground
  • 15 Minutes to present on the Indie Stage streamed live on Twitch
  • Finalist for Best Game Pitch (Potential to win $2500 prize)
  • Additional 15 Minutes stage time for pitch finalists
  • Chance to create fan momentum by handing out our early access keys and getting gamers to play our multiplayer on their own personal PC’s in the LAN gaming party

Our awesome booth setup

My teammate Peter and I made the trip. To maximize our potential, we planned a 4 demo screens booth consisting of a 39” TV main monitor w/laptop, iPad Pro, iPad Air on tripod stand and a Surface Pro. For signage, we leveraged our existing horizontal banner from PAX and purchased a new vertical standing banner. Since the event allowed attendees to bring their own computers with internet access, we brought 300 keys for our early access multiplayer demo and hosted a contest to motivate players to actually play our game on the showfloor with their friends. Additionally, we held a social media contest, asking players to take pictures playing the game together to win one of Peter’s hand-crafted armored squirrel plushies.

Budget Breakdown:
  • Airfare: $792.80
  • Hotel: $190.05
  • Car Rental: $136.01
  • Power: $120.00
  • Food: $193.05
  • Parking: $56.00
  • Vertical Banner: $129.80
  • Total: $1617.71

This is how we get you pumped to play Summoners Fate
Event Highlights
  • Stage Time - We rocked our indie stage performance with feverous passion and energy.
  • Fanatical Fans - We made a strong personal connection with players and even inspired a new streamer to choose Summoners Fate as the game for his first-ever live stream.
  • Game Pitch Competition - We made it to the Final 5! Check out the stream here.
  • Comradery - We enjoyed beers and brats with fellow indie developers at Der Biergarten (thanks to Josh Delson for organizing).
  • Friendship - We traveled through underground cities, hordes of Falcon fans, and the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at airport security (among other trials of travel I can’t mention here). I wouldn’t have made it without Peter, and it’s my greatest gift of this experience knowing just how far a true friend will go to support me.

Indie dev comradery at Der Biergarten


Data and Take-Aways

Here’s the summary of the data we collected with our demo analytics. For more information and a comparison to our PAX data, see here.


Foot traffic was half what we expected, so we took a proactive approach of drawing players in by enthusiastically asking them “Would you like to throw a squirrel at your enemies?!” This was effective at turning heads “What?! Did you say throw a squirrel…?” Coupled with a friendly handshake and a personal introduction, we perfected the process of getting players in the demo seats and were among the most effective indie teams at maintaining an audience.

I’m continually seeking to learn how to effectively mobilize our fanbase to action. I think we had the right creative ideas with our multiplayer contest and squirrel giveaways, but we could have done a better job communicating the actionable steps and making it easier for players. This is a recurring lesson for us with all things marketing: continuous, clear and repetitive communication is key. I’ll sometimes think our message is obvious, but the data says: “Hit folks over the head with it!” I think of that Simpsons episode where Bart joins a boy band sponsored by the Navy. You need to use the subliminal, liminal, and superliminal: “Hey, YOU! Join the Navy!”


Peter and Ross are pumped!

All together, Dreamhack was a great stepping stone and learning experience. We succeeded in attracting passionate new fans, gaining valuable experience pitching our game in front of a live audience, and made another milestone towards raising brand awareness amongst the gamer community.

RossD20Studios

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Re: Dev Log
« Reply #19 on: April 04, 2019, 08:02:42 AM »
Dev Log 9: “Go all in” to succeed as an Indie Dev at PAX East 2019


The camaraderie and brotherhood shared among fellow indie devs at events like PAX East never ceases to lift my spirit. Indie game development is the gem of the games industry where your market competitors passionately root for each others success. It’s a badge of honor to share our experiences with each other, openly and honestly, to solve our paramount problem of discoverability: what works and what doesn’t work to capture an audience? Who do we need to be speaking with to secure funding or publishing support? What crazy new ideas haven’t we tried yet?

PAX East 2019 marks my third major event showcase of Summoners Fate, and my second time showcasing as part of the Indie MEGABOOTH. I continue to learn from others with each experience and pay it forward by sharing here. So, here’s three things we did different to stand out as an indie at PAX East this year and the data we have so far on how it compared to our previous showcases:

1. Demo Hydra
A key take-away I learned from showcasing last year at PAX West with the MINIBOOTH is that a single screen demo heavily bottlenecks potential plays. Space at the MINIBOOTH is limited to a single monitor kiosk, but exhibitors are allowed to embellish it with decor provided it respects the space of your fellow miniboothers. So, I expanded on the existing idea of lateral signage by substituting mounts that could support tablets and phones. Each of the devices connects to a 15 foot braided charge cord which allowed us to extend our reach into crowds that would gather to play and simultaneously keep everyone engaged and entertained.


The Summoners Fate “Demo Hydra”. Cut off one head, two grow in its place!

I lovingly named this concept the “Demo Hydra” for its likeness to the mythological beast of many serpent heads. In total, we had 8 screens with us including our personal phones which we handed out as needed to keep the hydra fed. It should be considered a scientific fact that “success breeds success” and likewise “a crowd brings a crowd”. Whereas folks previously breezed past the MINIBOOTH, our perpetual crowd pulled them in, curious to discover what all the fuss was about. By virtue, this had the collective effect of drawing more audience for our fellow indie MINIBOOTH showcasers as well, allowing us all to share in the success.


Our demo tracks telemetry so that we can learn and improve from our experiences.

All in total, we had 149 sessions and 42 total email registrations for a total budget under $2660 (including booth, hotel, travel, food and marketing materials). By comparison, our PAX West showcase had 76 sessions, 37 email sign-ups, so the hydra had the effect of doubling our total sessions. Our conversions are more similar to our Dreamhack showcase. There we had 142 sessions and 49 sign-ups, but with a 10x10 foot booth over 3 days instead of 2. My theory is that a more crowded booth creates a less intimate experience where folks are less inclined to register their email. However, I prefer to let the game speak for itself. Time spent with us is an investment that raises brand awareness and breeds familiarity and likeness with our game. In aggregate of all three showcases, I believe our data may also suggest our demo is about 2 levels too long and that we could increase completion and conversion by shortening the experience and adjusting the difficulty on the earlier levels.

2. Branded Marketing Theme
Not unlike the vast ocean of games released daily on Steam, the waters of PAX are overloaded with games all competing to get prospective player attention. Showcasing with the Indie MEGABOOTH supports the first step of marketing by putting us in a school of fish strong enough to have a presence from afar and allowing folks to find us. The second step is creating a memorable impression that stands out and will last with players following the conference. Our previous showcases taught us that players respond well to a mix of familiarity and weird, and our signature hook became “Would you like to throw a squirrel at some orcs?”

We don’t want to be typecast as a game just about squirrels, though, so we expanded our marketing with a broader theme of “WE LIKE WEIRD.” and showing how our game connects emotionally to the characters and cool things you can do in the game. Varieties of these messages were looped constantly on a dedicated screen in the hydra. Here’s some examples:

   

My teammate, Peter, took the concept a step further by devising a way to make an immediate personal connection to passerbys. Honestly, I was hesitant when he first shared his plan… “Hmm, that might be perceived as offensive, no?” but the real shocker was that it was actually extremely effective. Peter casually approached folks walking past the booth and said “Hey, you look weird.” ...pause… “We like weird.” … smile… Players considered it an honor to be recognized for their weirdness, and why not, right? What is PAX if not a celebration of the weirdness in all of us? Bonus tip: Bring a new teammate with you to showcase. Their perspective may lead to the discovery of the most effective way to connect with your audience.

3. Player Testimonial
A key benefit of showcasing with Indie MEGABOOTH is their Mixer event where you get to party and network with key industry folks including reps from Sony, Microsoft, Kongregate and more. One of the most interesting folks I had the pleasure of meeting that night was Alex Engel, a product manager with vast experience releasing AAA games in the industry. Word of advice: If you ever have the opportunity to strike up a conversation with a PM, listen carefully and absorb everything. They are among the most brilliant minds in the industry.

I asked Alex about how to make a wave connecting with our audience and a key piece of advice he shared was to use the convention as an opportunity to give our players a voice: let them communicate what excited them about the experience. That is what will excite new players, and that is what you should focus on. Real simple: Ask them what they enjoyed, then, create a compilation of their responses. So, the next day we did just that:


If you’re using Google Photos, you can create a clip like this in about an hour using your phone. Select the all the clips, then use the auto-assist to make a movie. Then, adjust the clips so they reflect the most interesting parts of the interviews. To improve this in the future, I would bring personal mics to help filter out the background noise of the convention and have the voices be more clear. Even with just basic phone audio capture, though, I think this is a powerful takeaway of our experience.

What unites us all as indies?
Regardless of the tips, tricks and luck we all hope for, one sentiment was constant throughout all the fellow indies I spoke to: we “go all in” giving every ounce of strength and energy we have. Failure never deters us. We never consider the consequence of “What if this game doesn’t succeed?” because we perceive every opportunity we have as a gift from which we can learn and grow. Perseverance is the standout character trait of those who ultimately succeed because every moment of life is lived passionately to its full potential.


DEMO HYDRA!!!
« Last Edit: April 04, 2019, 08:14:23 AM by RossD20Studios »

t_lark

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Re: Dev Log
« Reply #20 on: April 08, 2019, 01:58:26 PM »
I really appreciate the details as always. I've been trying to do more demos myself, so its great to compare results. At Berlin Talk and Play (http://berlingamescene.com/talkandplay/), a developer focused twice a month meetup, I get avg. 4 emails for 3 hours of time (and it costs 2 beers on average). I've demoed twice and I expect I will saturate that niche fairly soon but it seems good low hanging fruit due to its locality.

I love the demo hydra, I was concluding a similar thing myself that the bottle neck is the number of devices. I'me getting a chrome cast to send the main device to a HDMI, for the passives, and a few extra devices would help too.

Awesome stuff Ross, thanks for taking us on this journey.

RossD20Studios

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Re: Dev Log
« Reply #21 on: June 14, 2019, 11:53:52 AM »
Dev Log 10: Creating Original and Exciting Single Player Adventures

The path ahead unfolds...

Recently returned from Dreamhack Dallas, it's clear the most important next step we can make is to deliver on our promise of procedurally driven single player campaign adventures. We gained a lot of insight and ideas from our time at Dreamhack listening to player aspirations and learning from fellow indie devs showcasing games of like-minded spirit to Summoners Fate. Shout out to Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mask, Wildermyth, RoundGuard, Rogue Empire: Dungeon Crawler RPG and Bound by Blades for the opportunity to play your games and learn from you.

We've shared our big-picture vision of the single player campaign here in our Kickstarter page and here in our development blog . I'm pleased to say that vision remains consistent with where we envision the path forward. What's changing as a result of our learning are the particulars of how we intend to implement that vision. The games that excited us at Dreamhack were those that exhibited unique and original mechanics. The parts less exciting were those that felt derivative to other titles and implemented to satisfy perceptions of trends in the current market. This gave us pause to question our own design - Why were we implementing systems like our saga-style map, and would players perceive these mechanics as original and exciting or derivative and out of place?


Branching saga maps are trending in the market, but we learned we aren't doing ourselves a favor standing out by making derivatives.

Peter and I discussed the underlying motivations from a player perspective that make us feel compelled to move forward. Making a choice was the most prominent factor - but, not just any choice. It has to be a meaningful choice. It has to be a fair and informed choice. The choice must contribute to sense of progression and development of the ultimate character destiny we aimed to play out in our fantasy. Furthermore, at what starting point can we roll out our single player experience incrementally so that we can start getting player feedback as soon as possible to test our assumption?

Our first breakthrough was questioning why we were using certain mechanics in the first place. When I thought about our over-arching saga map, I reasoned it was there to provide break points and present choices to players - but were these choices meaningful or rudimentary? How informed is the choice I make on the path I take, and what can I do if I don't like the outcome (especially if the outcome is an unfair challenge I cannot overcome)? The saga map also directly conflicts with one of the unique and compelling aspects of Summoners Fate - our ability to tie tactical grid levels together as a seamless world.

What if we cut this feature and put our focus on what makes us unique?

We built an engine that supports seamless transitions between levels. Why aren't we doubling down on this?

It's amazing how an experience followed by some heartfelt discussion can change your perspective. Once we realized our mistake and let go of it, other pieces of our design started falling into place and got us excited about how we can deliver on choice. Here's a quick synopsis:

  • The world is generated procedurally by placing tactical grid maps that connect together to form a continuous landscape. Key objectives such as treasures, new characters to recruit, and bosses to defeat are scattered throughout the world.
  • We assume players desire to explore the entire world - but if they do, their choice on which path to take becomes less meaningful (since they are not choosing to lose something, simply the order in which to see everything). To give weight to player decisions, we add a survival modifier: The longer you explore the world, the more difficult enemies become until they ultimately overwhelm you.
  • You get only one life and your resources (health, cards, number of rest points) are limited, so you have to make careful choices about where you want to explore. Make a wrong turn and stumble on a dragon? That's ok. Retreat and fall back, but remember that the longer you take to find the right path, the more imminent your defeat as the doomsday clock ticks down.
  • Players progress their Summoner by over-coming challenges one room/area at a time. Upon completion, you make a choice about how to develop your character by picking a new card to add to your deck, choosing a new companion to join you, or resting to recover health or used cards.

Incrementally, we believe we can quickly turn-around an initially linear/non-back tracking dungeon with player progression through deck building choices as a first iteration, giving players a chance to provide feedback. Then, we expand the experience by adding a mini-map overlay that allows you to see/choose paths to explore in a non-linear fashion (including backtracking).

What do you think?
We're eager to hear what you think about this design. Feel welcome to share your feedback, questions and concerns here and on our Discord. We love hearing from you!