My Time at Gamer Grace Con
A first time for everything.
On September 22nd, 2017 in St. Charles, IL I had the privelege of being able to run a demo booth for War Ender at the Gamer Grace Convention. Now, I've never even part of any booth before. And I had definitely not run one at any time prior to this. Something like this was a very new experience for me, and I really did not know what to expect. I had told someone early on, just before the doors opened on day one, that I was quite nervous and likened my current feelings to stage fright. But before we can really talk about the results of the convention, we first need to talk about the things I wanted to get out of the convention...
As I was prepping the demo, getting business cards ready, and working on my pitch for the game for those that walked by (among many other things), I concluded that, aside from of course having fun, there were three things I wanted to do at this convention. In no particular order, these three things were see if people enjoy the game, get the word out about War Ender, and retrieve feedback from players of all kinds on what could make War Ender a better game for them. Seeing if people enjoyed the game was the one I was easily the most nervous about. After all, though I think the game is good, I had to wonder if I was blind to some serious issues that I just wouldn't have noticed because I've been staring at it for so long. The last thing a developer wants is to trick themselves into thinking what they have is great, only for the public to tell them on launch day and beyond that they totally missed the mark. I told myself that so long as players enjoy it, then I can really focus on the other two goals. But I had to know what the general reaction was.
The first player came along. The butterflies that were already in my stomach had given birth to more butterflies right at that moment. I watched him play through the first level. I took notice of his facial expressions, his reactions, and how well he understood how to play. To my relief, he got through the first level understanding the game's mechanics very well, and seemed to quite enjoy his time with demo. Then he asked if there was more in the demo (a wonderful question to be asked!), and I told him there was. He started up level 2, and continued to explore what War Ender had on offer. He asked some questions as he played, gave me some helpful feedback, and picked up a business card sitting on the table. Win, win, win!
Shortly after, my nerves calmed, and I went the rest of the convention looking forward to more players. More came, they played, and many did as before. But ultimately what I learned is that people enjoy War Ender. They like what it's trying to do. Knowing that made the rest of my time at Gamer Grace so much more fun and exciting! So we've knocked out the first thing that needed doing, seeing if people liked the game. As far as telling others about War Ender, that of course was done by just being present, so mission accomplished there. Which leads us to our third objective, the one I intend to spend the most time on: feedback. What did players suggest as they played the game? What did I discover just by simply watching them play? In addition to answering questions from players, I encouraged them to leave thoughts in a comment box, and tried to ask questions about their thoughts on the game as well. I took notice of what people were doing as they played, from the way they tried to navigate enemies and the game world to the kinds of expressions they make as they play. Here's what I gathered:
Of course, people were able to find bugs and exploits that I would have never thought of. A couple people managed to figure out how to continuously jump up walls, using that to bypass some sections of platforming. Others managed to unknowingly reveal a bug to me that involved being able to destroy "extra" checkpoints. That one is kinda weird and complicated, so I'll spare you the details. The camera suddenly moves downward whenever you die, turrets were somehow able to float in the air...all kinds of crazy stuff! Some of it was stuff that we all laughed at the moment we saw it. Others made me immediately pull out my phone and make a note of it so I could fix it ASAP.
Inside the comments box that I set out, I learned of some new mechanics and tweaks I could implement to make the game even more enjoyable. A couple players felt that certain parts of the game needed more prevalence and that I should be sure to work on showing the player ALL the different ways they can use the tools they have on them. Some suggested something a bit simpler, in this case the ability to shoot diagonally and crouch. No matter how simple or complex, it's all important to take with me as I go back to working on the game. There's no doubt I'll be implementing many of the things suggested to me, both verbally and in writing.
Of course I also took notes from watching others play. I saw their struggles and made sure to note where it happened, why, and how I could fix it. I gathered up quite a list in doing so, and look forward to seeing how the game comes out as a result. Many of the things I jotted down got me excited to see what War Ender could become. And I suppose that's the fourth unintentional thing I got from the whole thing...rekindled excitement. Don't get me wrong, I have been excited throughout development. There's not been a dull moment for me, and I've yet to look at any part of this and think "boy I can't wait to move on to the next game." But after seeing people play the game, crushing the enemies before them, clearing all the levels, mastering the ins and outs of War Ender, it got me thinking about all the different possibilities that lay ahead for this game's development. When I first got back home, I had said to myself to take a little break and enjoy other games, but that's become increasingly hard to do. I want to get back in there and expand the game, squash the bugs, and more. And that may just be the most important thing I got from this whole event.
So that's what's coming up. New ideas have come home with me that I wish to implement, and I look forward to showing others the lessons learned from here. Over the next couple weeks I'll be taking the time to get a public demo here on the website so all can play, no matter where they are and no matter what time it is. It'll be a very exciting period, almost like starting a new project all over again. The next chapter in War Ender's development started with the end of Gamer Grace. I suppose this isn't the typical dev blog that one would normally expect, but I felt it was important to take time to examine how far War Ender has already come and talk about all the different paths it can take from here. It's been great reflecting on the time spent, for sure. Normally, this is about where I'd start wrapping up the dev blog, but I wanted to share one more thing with everyone reading this. I suppose it's bragging, but this little thing was like the delicious cherry on top of an awesome sundae. Just when I thought I couldn't be any more pleased with the results of the convention, I'm told I got this...
Best of show. I really can't put into words how humbled I am to receive this. I guess all I can really say is simply thanks to all the staff at Gamer Grace for this huge compliment, and of course for allowing me to bring War Ender to the convention and show it off to various other gamers. It was quite an experience, and an excellent first time for me to display what I've been working on for all to see. Needless to say, this won't be forgotten.
With all that said, thanks for checking out this blog. Again, not exactly a typical dev blog, but one I thought worth sharing, and I appreciate you reading through it. Stay awesome.
Until next time!