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Mightier @ GDC09: An IGF Show Report

A rundown of our experience showing the independent game Mightier at the IGF pavillion during GDC09.


Hey everybody. We just got back from San Fran after showing our game Mightier at the Independent Games Festival, and I thought I'd post a few words about the experience.

Setting up

Mightier was an interesting game to show in this kind of setting. It's designed to be played using a printer and a webcam, but we realized pretty early on that printing the puzzles for each person who wanted to play at GDC would take too long.

Our first idea was to go to Kinkos and pre-print 50 or so pages for each puzzle and 100 copies of each character page. Printing stuff on their color laser is expensive though, and we didn't really want to spend a ton of money on it (fuckin indie!).

Through sheer luck, we laid eyes on a laminating machine and got the idea to print 2 copies of each page, then laminate them. Once laminated, you can repeatedly draw and erase using a dry-erase marker. This worked out really well on the show floor. People could easily correct any mistakes and we just needed to wipe them down between visitors.

The pitch

As a concept, Mightier is unquestionably confusing. You need to print stuff out, use a web camera, draw characters, solve puzzles, etc. When you sit down to play the game at home, the concepts are introduced slowly with pictures and text.

We knew this wasn't gonna work on the show floor. After the first few visitors, we came up with a relatively simple pitch that started with drawing the Actionaut, seeing him run around, then walking the player through solving the first puzzle, activating the laser, and collecting the datagons.

Then, we'd explain how the puzzles got harder and how the game progressed. From that point, most players wanted to solve some of the more difficult puzzles. Nobody had any trouble understanding the concept after seeing it in action for the first level. One brainiac skipped ahead to puzzle 14 (there are 15 puzzles in the game) and beat it after a few minutes.

The peeps

People were very receptive to Mightier. Most passers-by don't want to get sucked into a boring game when something obviously fun like Carneyvale or Musaic Box is a one booth away, so there was some initial apprehension.

I would usually wrangle people with a "hey, wanna play?" if I thought they looked interested. A few people were immediately excited to draw the Actionaut, but others were too cool for school.

Almost always though, when they saw their drawing pop up in 3d and run around, a huge grin would stretch across their face and their eyes would widen like they'd just seen something magical. This happened with hardened old men and hot young chicks and was one of the most rewarding parts of the whole experience for us.

The solutions

A cool thing about Mightier is that the puzzles can be solved in multiple ways. We designed them for a certain solution, but very often, someone would draw a series of platforms we never expected but that worked beautifully.

As an example, in sector 3, we intended players to circle one crystal and one datagon each to make 5 wide platforms. Most players did this, but some went crazy:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157616016388963/

The characters

Ok, we predicted tits and dongs. We predicted lots of tits, and lots of dongs. We were wrong. We got a few pecks, but zero nipples. On the last day in the afternoon, one brave Australian fellow drew the Actionaut with a very modest schlong.

I'm guessing we'd see fewer prudes and more rudes at PAX, but this was GDC. Most people were probably a little self conscious drawing stuff that everyone could see. The crowd was mostly technically oriented and drew pretty simple characters.

There were a few real artists though, including one guy from Argentina that drew a kickin rad tigernaut:

2d: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157616016742395/
3d: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157616203244644/

The ceremony

This was our first awards ceremony in any context. It was a fairly interesting show and we were sharing a table with Peter Molyneux from Lionhead. For the IGF awards, there was a nice mix of rockstar and humbleton developers making speeches.

It was really strange seeing PixelJunk Eden up for both an IGF award and a Choice award. Considering we didn't win anything, the highlights of the show for us were the Mega64 shorts.

The convention

One of the cruel ironies of getting nominated for the IGF is that you get an All Access pass for GDC (worth something like $2200) but you have to man your booth for the bulk of the show. There were a lot of sessions we wanted to attend, but only managed 30 minute lunches each day and one session on Thursday.

We were lucky to be two people though; Keiko and I could switch off to take a small break or use the bathroom. I felt bad for the guys who came alone and had to do everything themselves.

The IGF

Showing the game all day is tiring, but it flies by. We would arrive at 9:30AM to set things up, take a 30 minute lunch around 1:30, and close things up at 6:00. There were only a few opportunities to actually check out the other IGF games.

We both played 24 caret's Retro/Grade, which was great fun and I can't figure out how they're not signed yet. Keiko got to play Musaic Box, which is extremely polished and very engaging. Alexander at KranX definitely deserved the design win with that game.

Misc

Keiko and I printed 50 business cards each. This wasn't enough. All my cards were gone on the 2nd day and I had to write my name on the back of Keiko's cards.

Ok, that was longer than I expected. Three cheers for anybody who read it all. As a reward, here's the lone dongonaut:


- Lucas

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