We took the game to the EGX Rezzed 2015 event this month, held at the sprawling location that is The Tobacco Docks in London. This is the biggest event we have had a booth at to date, so we were excited and nervous in equal measures.
Weeks of preparation, artwork creation for the booth and flyers as well as build polish culminated in our glorious dual-booth setup, ready for Day One of the event. We were sharing a 4-slot setup with two other Brighton indie game devs, Sock Thuggery with their excellent ‘Mighty Tactical Shooter‘ and Knifey Spoonie showcasing their unique take on the match-3 genre with ‘Pro Puzzle Wrestling‘, as part of the Brighton Game Collective non-profit indie games group.
We arrived to set up after a painless journey up to London and the venue, to discover that the PCs allocated to us weren’t quite the specification we’d been informed would be in place. Never-the-less we got the Oculus Rift Runtime installed on both and the builds up and running to test performance. We weren’t overly happy with the framerates in places and managed to get the organisers to swap over the machines with higher end hardware. Unfortunately this happened late in the day so we had to re-install everything in a rush early in the morning of Day One. But once up-and-running again, everything was running smoothly so we donned our freshly printed Radial-G t-shirts, ready to welcome the first players!
The first day was supposed to be more of a Press Day with lots of journalists expected to be around, as well as the general public who had the 3-day passes. That evening was the BAFTA Games Awards 2015 being held onsite, so in the afternoon we were demoing the game to people wearing penguin suits with coiffed hair and cocktail dresses before they headed off for the ceremony. Sorry to all those who had spent time and money on their hair for the evening, the Oculus Rift DK2 headstraps aren’t the best for these hairstyles! Overall everything went off without a hitch and we rode the adrenaline high to bed, ready for Day Two.
After quickly realising that we had to run both booths with VR to keep the queues down, and having had Thursday to get our patter nailed down, Friday went well even with larger numbers of visitors to the event and booth. Unfortunately we were two people down with other commitments and illness so just two of us worked tirelessly all day, talking to those in the queue and getting players strapped into the VR headsets etc. Lunch? Who needs lunch!? With the day wrapped up, everyone happy but starting to feel the effects of standing up all day, a quick couple of beers and dinner with the rest of the team who had arrived to help on Day Three, we happily collapsed in our beds once more, ready for the final onslaught.
Day Three, being a Saturday, was always going to be the busiest and boy we weren’t wrong! From 11am when the doors opened to 6pm when the burly, grumpy security guards bundled everyone out, the queue was a constant 1.5hr waiting time. Fortunately we had more staff to cope with the increased numbers so 2 were busy getting players setup, explaining the game and taking the headphones and headsets off etc when they had finished their demo slot, another 2 were chatting to those who had just come off their turn as well as those who had been patiently waiting and were next. Others were managing the entrance to the queue whilst chatting with people in the queue about the game, our development and generally keeping people happy whilst they waited.
Then as soon as it had started, it was suddenly all over, the visitors were ejected from the building by the security staff and we had to tear down the booth and travel back home to our welcoming beds.
So what went right? What went wrong and what could be improved, or handled differently next time?
Things That Went Well
1. The Positive Reaction
Pretty much every single person who played the game was utterly blown away and was very, very enthusiastic about it, raving about their experience to us, their friends and others waiting in the queue. We cannot begin to describe the sense of pride and appreciation we have for everyone who was able to play, talk to us and give us their honest feedback. To see people as stoked as we are is such a great feeling, something that only indies with direct connection to the players can really understand and enjoy. We saw over 500 people play the game over the three days and apart from one person who felt a little worse for wear afterwards, everyone else LOVED IT!
2. The Resulting Coverage
See below for all of the videos, articles and lovely things people have said about the game, the team and the event itself. Whilst we missed a couple of journalists we would have loved to have been able to get in front of the game, overall we are really, really happy with the coverage we’ve had so far as a result of the event.
3. Meeting Other Indie Devs
As some of us come from a AAA background, a lot of the time at events you are faced with faceless PR and marketing machines rather than the actual people who make the games, so EGX Rezzed was a wonderful opportunity to meet and talk to other people in the same boat as you, facing the same struggles, dilemmas and experiences of game development, design and promotion. This was a welcome breath of fresh air and a really nice change being surrounded by so many talented, open and honest people who are actually making the games.
4. The Team Effort
Whilst we’ve done a lot of events now as a team, this was by far the largest and required the most coordination and cooperation amongst the team. As you will see from some of the coverage and feedback listed below, everyone marvelled at being open, honest, friendly and approachable at all times and never let it show how tired they were or how sore their feet were. We were all as excited to talk to you as you were to us! By the time Saturday came around, it was a military-precision-like effort, whilst still allowing for the free flowing interviews, chats with whoever wanted to talk to us and more.
Things That Didn’t Go As Well
1. Queue Wars
Because of our location next to a large booth for I Am Bread, we initially had a bit of an organisational quandary how best to manage and position our queues with theirs, since both game titles were popular every day, all day long. They were giving out lots of freebies which obviously attracted attention from visitors but only had one playable pod set up, reducing their potential through-flow rate. But after a bit of rearrangement, we found a layout that kept everyone happy. However because of our queues and the positioning, we ended up creating a bottleneck around our area and had to constantly send people back who were just trying to cut through to get to another booth. Also massive thanks to our booth partners Sock Thuggery and Knifey Spoonie for their patience and apologies for any issues it caused them. We were obviously hopeful to be popular but hadn’t expected it to be that crazy!
2. Getting Journalists to Play
Of course the main onus of the event is to get the game in front of indie game players but we were also hopeful to pick up some coverage of the game on the larger websites through the various journalists we’d approached previously or who were roaming the rooms looking for new games that caught their eye. We were told on many occasions that the game had created something of a buzz in the press room so were hopeful for a good number of inquisitive members of the press to come check out what all the fuss was about. To give credit where due however, many did come up but saw the queue and didn’t want to jump in ahead of those who had been waiting 1.5hrs and just got to the front. So lots to follow up with after the event…
3. Not Being Able to Showcase the non-VR Version
There is a lot of buzz around VR at the moment and a large percentage of visitors were very keen to try it out for the first time, or get their hands on the game in VR. However we have always struggled with making it known that you don’t need a VR headset to play the game, and focus on our non-VR version now to help spread the word and our reach overall with indie gamers. We saw this event, with two slots on our booth, as a perfect opportunity to have the non-VR version up and running in the public eye to ram this message home but it quickly became apparent we needed both running VR headsets to keep the queue down. Hopefully we got the non-VR aspect across to everyone waiting in the queue before they had their turn but knowing about it is very different from actually trying it.
4. Lack of Freebies
We totally underestimated the appeal of freebies and giveaways, even if it was a badge (everyone LOVES badges) or silly paper hats. But freebies cost money to make, something that is usually in short supply for indie developers; however you cannot underestimate the power of thousands of visitors walking around with your game logo strapped to their head giving you free advertising. So next time, pilot masks for everyone! (Maybe, if we can afford it.)
What We Would Do Differently
Whilst there isn’t a be-all one-fit-all template for events, as each one has their quirks and nuances, next time we will cater more to the event attendee based upon the type of show it is. If this means dropping showcasing the VR aspect altogether, then we will have to do this but we know VR itself is still a big draw for the crowds. We would also have a schedule and try to pre-arrange further in advance with the press time slots when they can come and play the game, or have a separate machine available just for them so we avoid the issues we had this time around. Finally we would probably try to find out in advance which other booths / games are located around us if possible so we can better plan layout and queuing areas to reduce any grief for all involved.
As mentioned, there were a couple of journalists we were disappointed not to finally get in front of the game after failing to at previous events (you know who you are :)), those who had press passes and were able to have some play time have created some wonderful articles and genuine excitement around the game. We strongly believe that the game speaks for itself and we don’t believe in fostering any potentially controversial relationships between devs and press, so to randomly meet so many members of the press and see the resulting articles and videos as a result is a great, positive boost for us.
See below for some of the video interviews and articles that have been created since EGX Reezzed (will be updated as more appear online):
Our game producer has appeared in an article for VICE UK looking at the future of gaming and VR previously, so it was nice to get them in front of the latest version of the game as well, making it onto their “Best Games of EGX Rezzed” list article, which was the first bit of coverage that appeared.
Then Ian from Eurogamer included us in his list of the Most Wanted Indie Games of EGX Rezzed (skip to 3 minutes 10 seconds for Radial-G):
Having recently announced that we have received our PS4 dev kit and Sony Morpheus VR prototype HMD, there has been an increase in interest from the press who cover all things PlayStation, so it was great to meet and then hear the guys from PSGamer getting very exciting about our future platform support (from 12 minutes onwards).
Next up we have two videos from Danger Gerbil, one where we are listed as one of the Top 5 Indie Games of EGX Rezzed! (Skip to 2 minutes 5 seconds for Radial-G)
and then a preview of the current Steam Early Access version of the game:
Now we aren’t the only ones starting out in the world of indie games so we’re more than happy to help others and give exclusive video interviews to help boost their own reach, this time with JJKM:
Here’s a glowing review from FV:Review who became instant fans of the game. Just goes to show being able to talk direct to people pays off
Time for another podcast discussing games from EGX Rezzed, this one from the guys over at Big Red Barrel, where they have indie legend Rami Ismail as special guest as well (skip to 01:05:30 for Radial-G)
Another Podcast “Taste My Game Face” talks about their experience in VR at EGX Rezzed too and how the game is a system seller! (skip to 18:45 for the game discussion)
We had a great time chatting to Cazza Gaming on the day and did a follow-up interview with him afterwards, which you can watch below:
So a massive thank you to everyone who has covered the game and our appearance at EGX Rezzed. If you have written an article or recorded a video, let us know and we’ll add it above! See you all soon at the next event!