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  • Exhibiting at GDEX 2018: The Great Postmortem

    [12.06.18]
    - Davionne Gooden

  • What Went Right

    1. "Oh hey, people actually like this game"

    Yeah, this super validating. I got a pretty hefty amount of players who got to try it out, especially on the much-busier second day. People seemed to not only enjoy themselves, but they also got the vibe I was going for, y'know? The simple, yet challenging gameplay, the mysterious, creepy aesthetics, the loose dialogue... it also seemed to really click with people. Not to mention, about 70-75% of people who played it sat down and played the entire demo, which is also a huge plus since I was really worried about that. It helps that most players were RPG fans, so they were used to that kind of experience.


    2. Lots of valuable feedback

    It's one thing to get player feedback via email and Google Forms - it's a completely different thing when you're watching someone play in person. You can actually see how they're playing, both on-screen and through their facial/body expressions. Even if they weren't saying anything, there was still valuable information to be gained by simply observing and taking notes.

    Most of the time, I remained quiet and stood a good few feet away from players as they went through the demo. Occasionally, they'd strike up a conversation as they played, so I was happy to chat with them. I had a lot of great conversations this way, not only about the game itself but also about totally random stuff too. Which leads into my next point...


    A scene from the character-focused section of the demo.

    3. The people (and the other games!)

    Man, I met a ton of awesome people here, from expo-goers to fellow devs alike. There were a lot of unique games, and I especially loved talking to people from all walks of life. It's always inspiring to meet with people who share your enthusiasm about gaming, y'know?

    I even met Rebekah Saltsman, the CEO of Finji who gave me tons of great advice about bizdev, so major shoutout to her. I also "met" Scott Benson, the co-writer/co-designer of Night in the Woods, one of my favorite games of all time, so that was dope. (I use "met" lightly - in reality, I didn't know it was him at first, so then I walked over to say hi but he was in another conversation with another woman and his co-writer, Bethany Hockenberry... but I already walked over so I stayed and listened for awhile as he acknowledged me a little bit but we never actually talked and it was a lil awkward and probs a bit creepier than I wanted it to be and why am I like this ahsjahsjahsfjw)

    ...Anyway.

    The people there were dope.

    On that awkward note, it's time to start the roasting session and discuss-

    What Went Wrong

    1. Awkward booth space

    So here's the thing with sharing a booth with other devs - when it comes to table space, it's first come, first serve (in our case, at least). Sadly, I arrived later than I intended, so I didn't have a ton of room to maneuver my stuff around. It was made even more awkward since I couldn't even fit my laptop on the table, meaning it had to chill out on the floor and risk being (more) damaged. The second day was a bit better since I came earlier, so it wasn't nearly as awkward as before but it was still pretty cramped.

    This is by no means anyone's fault - mine, maybe, for not waking up earlier - but definitely not my other boothmates (again, they're amazing). It was always going to be cramped, nothing you can really do about that except getting your own (expensive) booth.

    2. Lack of awareness before and during the show

    Other than a brief mention in the last blog post, and three social media posts (one of them during the show itself), I didn't really advertise my presence there. I also didn't have any "booth" signage or an attract mode installed, so people didn't even know what the game was called unless they took a look at the tiny business cards under the monitor. This was all partially due to expo inexperience, not being sure how large the event was really going to be, the fact that space was limited and also, y'know... general brokeness.

    Still though, there really needed to be a more physical presence at the booth. One of the other Cleveland devs had a flashing marquee atop his monitor in addition to these dope, colorful water speakers. Kids, he's doing it right. Be more like him. Not like me.


    The demo setup. Note the Starbursts to lure those hungry gamers in. Otherwise, not very interesting and attractive, yeah?

    3. Gameplay issues

    Even though I had a lot of players, very few people played the "I want to talk to people" party scene, and those that did ended up not finishing it. While the narrative and dialogue got a lot of positive comments, gamers at an expo generally wanted to just get into the core gameplay, which is totally fine.

    There was also a MAJOR choke point in the combat demo - midway through it, there's a battle against two fairly challenging enemies while Thalia is still alone.

    Everyone and I mean literally everyone died at this part. Multiple times even. Thankfully, most players were so invested in the game that they retried it and eventually got past it, but I still cringed every time it happened. Unfortunately, something else went wrong with this battle, but we'll get to that in the next section...

    Finally, and I'm still on the fence about this, but I think the demo still might have ran a little too long. Maybe. I don't know, I overthink this kind of stuff way too much, and none of the players mentioned or seemed to mind the length. Again, maybe it's because they're used to RPGs. I'm gonna ask around and see what other devs think about this one, I'm very interested to see what they have to say.

    4. Glitches

    So back to that choke point. The game uses on-map encounters for battles. Currently, there's a major glitch where if you die, retry, and win again... the game doesn't clear out the on-map enemy from memory, so the moment you exit the battle, you go right back in. If you beat it again, the game proceeds as normally, and the player is free to run away if they really didn't wanna fight, but most people fought anyway. Again, not a huge issue after the fact, but it's still pretty embarrassing. Definitely one of the bigger bugs I need to fix ASAP.

    Also, due to the way RPG Maker MV weirdly handles audio, there was a glitch where if you died, the game wouldn't play any audio until the player went into a new room. Again, not huge, but definitely awkward and a handful of players noticed. Still gotta figure out how to fix that one. Thanks Kadokawa!

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