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Back from PAX Prime, spent about $4,000. That’s a lot of money for an Indie game developer! You got to be prepared to have a good impact over there so here's my few tips!

Simon Lachance, Blogger

September 15, 2014

8 Min Read

Back from PAX Prime.  we've met a lot of game developers, got inspired, had an awesome time.  But you know, everything comes with a price! Our little trip to Seattle cost us about $4,000 for two people. 

That’s a lot of money for an Indie game developer! When you spend money like that, you got to be prepared to have a good impact over there.  Since other great developers gave me some advices, I thought I should do the same. So here are my tips and advices for showing up your game at event like PAX!  

TL;DR Version!

 

Here's the budget of our little trip to Seattle, roughly : 

- Plane tickets ($714.49 x2):  $1,428

- Insurance : $67.00

- Coaster give away $414 

- T-Shirts : $150

- Business cards : $100

- PAX Booth $1,442  

- Misc. (food, taxis, beer...) : $643 

Total $4.244

 

 

First thing first,  when you go to PAX, you got to channel the spirit of the peacock. 

 

...Wut?

Ok what the hell do I mean by that?  When you exhibit your game in events like PAX, your goal is to attract people, to get noticed. At first you'll feel strong in your booth, the name of your game appear on your screen, on your t-shirt, on your business cards.  You are surrounded with your brand in your little territory.  You feel awesome. Then you realize, you are surrounded by the big guys like Xbox, Super Smash Brothers, Sonic Boom, or even big indie like Monaco, Nuclear Throne, Behemoth, Super Meat Boy.  

You are not alone in there. 

So you got to find a way to stand out, to make your game appealing. That's where M.Peacock can help you out. So here’s a few tips to attract people at your booth.  

1 - Don’t leave the title screen up. When people are not playing your game, have a demo that plays itself. It’ll be much more appealing to watch than a static title screen.

In a nutshell : 

2. - Make your game not only fun to play, but more importantly, fun to watch. That is very important because people who are not playing will stick around longer.  Don't expect to have a crowd watching if only the guy playing is having fun. So ask yourself, is my game interesting to watch ? This will also help you get coverage from youtubers. If your game is boring to watch, don't expect YouTubers to talk about your game, not gonna happen.  

3 - Have a little sign with your elevator pitch on it.  When other people are playing, those who wait will get a glimpse of what's it's about.  Plus, after four days or explaining the same thing over and over, you’ll lose your voice, so the sign is very handy. 

4 - Dont be shy to make a different version of your game just for PAX.  People at PAX sees hundreds of games, you got to strike fast.  Peacock!  What we have shown at PAX is not what the game will only be in the end.  In the real game, I'd like to experiment with levels based on sad music. For example, one of my favorite song by Beethoven. I love classical music and I want to share it in the game,  but it's not very peacock friendly.  I won't put that in the PAX version because people over there just want to have quick fun. So instead,  the PAX version only have 4 levels, and they are stupidly hard and I throw players right in the action. 

Another example of this,  in Just Shapes and Beats any player can join the game at any moment,  even if the level is just about to finish.  When a new player join, I stop the gameplay and play an over the top kick-ass animation. We’re not sure if we want to keep that in the final version, but we definitely want to keep it in the Peacock version.  The point is, don't be shy to have 2 versions of your game, one just for PAX.


5 - If you can, think multiplayer. Two weeks before PAX, we had almost nothing. Just a little prototype I did for a game jam in 2 days.  We had to improve that a game that hundreds of people would see in two weeks.  So the first thing that came into my mind : Multiplayer.  I didn't even know if it would fit in the game or if it would be fun,  but I knew that if I could add multiplayer support in that game, we would increase our Peacock level for two reasons.  
Of course more players can play the game at the same time, but more importantly the players will be loud.  They will laugh, they will scream at each others which will attract other people around, increasing your peacock level.  

Now, I'm not telling that every single game should have multiplayer, some are not meant to be that way, like a puzzle game.  But I'm telling you to think "is there a way I could put a multiplayer mode?"  

Consider Super Mario.  For a long time they made multiplayer take turns, but then in Mario Galaxy, they allow a 2nd player just to stick around and interact with the background, collect little stars top help the first player while you’re waiting for your turn.. That's the kind of feature I'm talking about.  Maybe you can twist your mind to add a multiplayer support of some kind.  It's not necessary, but it does help your peacock level a lot. 


6- Bring headphones.  Having headphones was a great move for three reasons : 

  • Players were even louder. They screamed even more when something happened because they couldn't not hear themselves.  "HELP ME, I'M DEAD! HEEEELP!"

  • Players played more : It was harder to quit the game, they were inside the game, they couldn't hear anything else than the game, they were sucked in. 

  • More players agreed to play. Sometime, I could lure hesitant players in by offering them the headphones first, telling them the soundtrack was amazing.  Once they had the headphones on, I simply gave them the controller.  They were now playing and having fun. 

7- This is more about playtesting than peacocking but : don’t explain anything : Let the player learn by himself and spot the stuff that aren't clear.  I had an interview with Mike Suszek from Joystiq and he asked "Can you talk a little bit about what’s going on in this game before we start? ". I replied, "Nope." and gave him the controller. That helped me out to realize some mechanics were not clear enough. 

 

Those are the things we did right, but there's also :

 

Stuff we did wrong!
1 - For example, spending 2 weeks on a level editor instead of boosting the demo.  That was stupid.  I thought I would have some time to show the level editor at PAX, but nope! Not a single time.  I just told players that there was a level editor by showing them the button on the title screen and that was enough. That button could have led the player to a big dancing penis and nobody would have noticed. So yeah, wasting 2 weeks on the level editor was not a good idea. 

2- Players did not remember the name of the game after playing. It wasn't clear enough. We need to find a way to make it more clear. 

3-  At the end of a level, we show a screen to show the score, and people were going away at that moment because they forgot there was other levels.  Especially after seeing "Thanks for playing" What we should have done is to remove that screen entirely, make a transition with the title of the game and throw the players right back in the action.

To wrap this up,  here’s some peacock honorable mention I’ve noticed at PAX: 
   - Vlambeer gave cake to everybody to celebrate their 4th anniversary.  They got 4 monstruous cake for everybody coming by. Thanks for that btw!
   - Daniel Benmergui (Ernesto RPG) gave the right to put a sticker on the panel to sabotage his booth.  Simple, yet I was happy to leave my mark over there. 
- Vlambeer did a contest every hour, if the guy playing finished the game, everybody watching gets a key of the game for free.
   - I saw a guy with a huge pole with a sign that said "you're a twitch streamer?  I have a free cookie for you!"

I hope this was helpful!

Just Shapes and Beats : http://www.justshapesandbeats.com/

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