Blood Alloy: Reborn has been in development for almost 1.5 years now, and this years’ BFIGS was our first public showing of the game.
Here’s a brief rundown on how I prepared, how the event itself went, what kind of feedback we got, and what I’d do differently next time.
So, we actually showed off Blood Alloy not as part of the digital game showcase, but as a Sponsor - at the time of submission, we just didn’t have a high enough level of art polish (the entire level was a graybox), but I wanted the playtest feedback so I splurged $200 on a Sponsorship table.
This meant that physically, we were going to be slightly removed from the Digital Showcase games, as Sponsorship tables were in their own cluster of tables about 50 feet away from the Digital Showcase, but it was better than nothing.
Here’s a list of things I brought:
Laptop with a playable build and an mp4 video
40” LCD TV
Two mice and a mousepad
Wired Xbox 360 USB controller
500 business cards - Game art, title, and website address on one side, personal contact info on the other
Self-standing “How to Play” placard made of folded poster board
Printed banner with the Game’s logo on it
The actual BFIGs festival happened on Saturday September 13th, but they allowed exhibitors to come in to do a preliminary setup between 4-7pm the day before, the 12th. Setting up the day before the event was amazing, as it enabled me to verify that I actually had all my equipment and that everything worked appropriately while still giving me a good time window to fix any problems that arose. I originally planned to just come really early day-of, but man am I glad that I did the Friday setup instead.
Everything set up great and functioned without a hitch.
I got some tutorial level art in really, really late on Friday, and I honestly was too exhausted to implement it, so late Friday night I just disabled
the playable tutorial, thinking that between my presence and the “How to Play” placard, people would be fine. This was a huge mistake. More on this later.
Day-of - Execution
So I was the only one demoing the game - the entire development team works remotely, and nobody else could make it up to Boston for the day.
This turned out to be murderous. By the end of the day my legs were jelly, my voice was a raspy whisper, and I was ready to simply collapse and die.
Even if you have to pay a friend to exhibit with you, do NOT exhibit by yourself!! I lucked out because my wife decided to show up and just hang out at the booth and play her 3DS - this meant that at the very least, I had someone to watch over my stuff while I took bathroom/water/lunch breaks.
Because the Sponsorship area was somewhat removed from the Digital Showcase, for most of the day we saw much lower traffic than the rest of the festival. To try to combat this, I actually turned my TV about 45 degrees so that the screen was that much more visible if you were in the Digital Showcase area itself, and that seemed to improve foot traffic.
It seemed that I’d either get really enthusiastic individuals who’d stay and play for 10 minutes or more, or groups of 5-8 people at a time who’d all
watch while one person played.
Without a playable tutorial, I wound up personally explaining the controls to everyone who played. For the most part this worked okay EXCEPT for explaining my boost mechanic - “Hold down on the left stick so you’re crouching, then hold LEFT trigger. No, left trigger. Yeah! Now WHILE you’re doing that, you can press RIGHT trigger to shoot”… yeah, it was terrible. Many people contented themselves just with basic jumping and shooting, and with younger kids I’d just show them how to equip the sword so they could just whomp on enemies with the sword. Which itself is something to consider - consider having different segments or elements of your game easily accessible by people with lower skill levels. If there’s even a very minor, but easy-to-perform gameplay loop that’s satisfying, showing that to lower-skill people will make them happy and satisfied.
When foot traffic died down, I’d pause the build and alt-tab the laptop to a looping trailer.
Right in the day when I got the hungriest for lunch - about noon to 2pm - was the busiest foot traffic. I was starving and had no choice but to put up a “Lunch break” sign on the booth, put the looping trailer up, and go get myself some food, and in doing so I missed out on a big chunk of potential players. Luckily, it turned out that the whole time people were grabbing and taking my business cards, even if they didn’t get to play.
Overall Game Feedback
It was an enormous, enormous relief to see that I wasn’t stone-cold-crazy, and that my own personal thoughts of “I.. THINK my game is fun to play” were not unwarranted. People were genuinely excited to see the game - they loved the swordplay and the art, but teaching people how to boost and how to fire the charged hyperlaser always resulted in cries of “Oh shit!” “Awesome!” I had a huge box of 500 business cards going into the event, and at the end of the day that number was halved. I made sure to tell as many people as possible about the Greenlight page, and so with some media push in the next couple weeks hopefully we’ll see some dividends in that regard.
I also gleaned some great feedback about the game, including:
- I STILL need to improve the camera code, as it still swings pretty wildly and can get the player right up to the edge of the screen.
- The act of crouching and THEN holding left trigger to BLAST along the floor is fairly complicated. I’ll have to either look into a better
tutorial system, or possibly investigate simplifying the controls.
- Of course a few invisible collision bugs made its way into the demo that I’ll have to fix
- The UI was simply not visible or noticeable enough - I’ll need to implement some sort of color-flashing to make it more attention-grabbing.
What to do differently
- Have a playable tutorial that teaches players each movement and attack mechanic and gradually stacks them. The structure of my game is currently an arena-score-chaser (think Geometry Wars or Luftrausers), but given the complexity of possible movement and attack, I really need to implement a mandatory training mode to ensurethat players have an opportunity to practice basic movement without getting slaughtered by an immediate onslaught of enemies.
- Don’t show a game without having at least two people throughout the day to man your booth.
- Bring a snack so that you can push through the lunch-hour/afternoon rush and survive until a late lunch.
- Drink even more water throughout the day.
- If at all possible, have some merch to sell or give out. People love pins, tshirts, and posters, and having that stuff available gives your booth “credibility.”
Overall, it was a great experience, and I’ll definitely be showing off the game more in coming months!
Thanks for reading, and if you’ve gotten this far, I’d love it if you could check out our Steam Greenlight page
and give us a vote!
Follow me on Twitter @FraynkWash