Submitting, Preparing & Showcasing An Indie Game At Indie-Megabooth & PAX!
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
Indie-Megabooth is a showcase of Independent game developers who get together to shed some light to the indie games for the gaming community as a whole. Asura was selected by the Megabooth team with other amazing Indie games. This was our first time at PAX as well as showing our game at the Megabooth hence we thought why not share some insights on our experience of showcasing in Indie-Megabooth at PAX !
Since this was kind of a huge post and I had much to cover, it has been divided into three parts. The submission, preparation and showcasing of our game at the event. At the very end, I have tried to compile the whole experience into points for your ease so buckle up and grab that coffee because this is going be very very long!
We had already made up our mind in 2015 that we were going to showcase Asura in PAX West. We knew that the game had the potential to get selected and it was just a matter of working hard and a bit of luck in our favour. I had attended GDC 2016 where Indie-Megabooth had a presence and I met Christopher Floyd, one of the person in-charge for whole show. I had inquired and gathered up all the requirements and guidelines to get selected for the show from him where I pretty much sucked his brain ( Sorry Floyd if you are reading this!) and was super confident in our mission to be at Indie-Megabooth/PAX.
When the submissions opened up for the show, we already had a demo build of the game ready. We just had to prepare some of the additional assets like screenshots,videos etc. For the selection process, the jury is always looking for game-play more than style. Of course, style and presentation is very important but your submission should primarily emphasize game-play and various interesting mechanics of your game. For the same reason, it is not that important to have an amazing trailer with crazy transitions and text overlays but a clear cut video demonstrating various game-play features of your game. You must also make sure that the video does not extend 3 minute mark.
To keep in check of all the above guidelines, we cut a video where I did a simple run of the first level in the game and later added voice-over illustrating the various mechanics in the game. We actually rendered two versions one with voice over and other one with just the video.
DISCLAIMER- We are from India and English is not our first language, apologies if my accent throws you off. Also, it might seem a bit rush but to cut a video of game with randomly generated level as well as narrate and keep it within 3 minute was a challenge indeed! :)
After compiling all the assets and filling in the submission form, we sent Asura for the selection process. Please note that you can send your game even after the initial deadline, the whole caveat is that you will be then paying the late submission fee. The submission fee is 40$, if late then it inflates upto 100$.
This was pretty much our submission process for the Megabooth. If you want to know more, you can visit the Indie Megabooth Submission page to get detailed information about each and every aspect of the process. Please do not skip any of it if you are interested in submitting your game!
After a month or so, one fine day, I check my mail and there it is! An email stating that Asura has been selected for Indie-Megabooth. After a very brief celebration with Neeraj, other half of the studio, we started our preparation for Indie-Megabooth at PAX!
We are small team of 2 with a self funded company. We earn our bread and butter from doing services for third party game companies where we forge games with as much love as we contribute to our own IP. There is this myth that 3rd party developers are in the industry just to get the pay check and not for the actual love for making games. Well, we defy that expectation by working 18hrs a day and make sure everything we work upon is pretty much our 200% and try to forge everything as polished as ever.
With the funds that we generate from the 3rd party projects, we pretty much reinvest in our studio for development, tours and travel. It these funds which helps us travel to various conventions through out the year. Going to PAX is not a piece of cake when we take finance into considerations. The Air travel from India to states itself digs a big hole in our coffers and we were going to be exhibitors for PAX. With the current situation of our studio, only one of us can go to such events, which means only one person will be in charge of the booth and will be responsible for logistics. This also means that when flying, we have a limitation of 20 KG/45 Lbs + 1 additional hand baggage. Keeping all this in mind, we had to make sure we made the most of the opportunity and prepare our selves for the event to come.
Our booth was sponsored by Intel and we got PCs from folks at Alienware which meant that we din't have to carry much hardware at all which was best thing that could ever happen to us and made this whole deal even possible.
We had already showcased Asura in multiple events like Casual Connect, NGDC, etc and we were pretty confident of the state of the build. The whole aspect which had to worked be upon was the particle effects and ironing our some of the bugs for the demo as well as the recent features we had added in the game. Then we had to also plan the basic layout of our booth and get materials printed for the same.
If you weren't aware, the Indie Megabooth, once your game has been selected, sets up a mailing group with all selected game developers where we are encourage to chat and discuss anything related to games or queries we have regarding the event. This helped us a lot as I pretty much bugged everyone in the group asking them various questions for the preparation of the event.
For the booth, we already had one standee and a big flexi banner but we were pretty sure that the Megabooth was a 10 x 10 sq ft area and we would need some additional stuff. Hence, we got another standee made for the gig. I also had made a rough blue print of our booth. The layout of the floor was provided to us which gave us a better understanding of the dimension and location of our booth!
We also planned freebies for people who would come down to our booth. These were flyers and 3 high quality posters which were handed out to people each as a appreciation for checking out the game and also something they could get their hands on until the game was released. In total, we had produced the following content for our booth at PAX!
750 Poster / 3 designs
1 Flexi Banner
We already had a ton of visiting cards printed so I took of bunch of them with me.
The Indie-Megabooth Team had advised us to not to reveal of our presence at PAX until a certain date. This was to amplify the effect of the announcement by pushing it in various outlets all together resulting in a much more impact. Jess Floyd, one of the Megabooth team member and graphic designer, forged an epic trailer for the same.
There are tons of parties which are hosted during PAX which can help with networking and making new contacts. As an Indie-Megabooth exhibitor you get invites to some of the parties, others you might have to RSVP. In any case, heading over to Event Brite and searching for PAX parties is a good way to check out what is going around during the show and RSVPing to the relevant one's. You might want to do this as earlier as possible as some reservations may run out. In-order to keep tabs of all the parties that I was planning to attend, I made a spread sheet so that in case if my phone battery runs out, I still have something to fall back on. I had also taken print-outs of the same. It is also a good idea to save all your the Invites as PDF on your phone or print them out so that you don't have to rely on the internet to grab any info required.
A ton of e-mails were sent to various media outlets, youtubers, Streamers etc mentioning our presence at the show and inviting them to check out Asura.
I had booked the flight via Bombay. Why? because I am from Bombay and I get a chance to visit my family + It is way more cheaper.
We made tons of announcement in our various channels in social media as the dates for the event got close and eventually, time had come for me to pack and set out for the great adventure in Indie Megabooth at PAX!
It was a 22 hour flight with stop over at Newark and then to Seattle. I was supposed to reach on the 1st September as the event was going to start from 2nd to 5th. 1st was the set-up day and everyone of the exhibitors were supposed to arrive at the venue by 10.00 am. I was late thanks to the delay in the flight and reached the airport at 3.30 PM. After checking in at my hotel and dumping all my personal stuff, I took the standees and banners along with other booth stuff and set forth to the Washington State Convention Centre to set-up our booth for PAX. I reached at 5.00 PM, late but made it for the show, hooraaay!
Everything with regards to the set-up went as planned but with a ton of physical work. I had to first collect our hardware which meant two monitors and PCs as well as setting it all up on the table. Then came the setting up of the booth as the banner was hung on the back wall with the standees erected in the planned position. The Ogre Head Logo was stuck on the side walls. Flyers and posters were neatly arranged on the table and it was now time to test the computers as well as load and play test the build.
Both the systems booted properly without much hassle and I inserted my USB to load the game. To my horror, I realized that what we had was a zip file of the game and the computers had no software to extract it. There is no internet inside the PAX halls and it is only available at the lobby so I rushed with my laptop and downloaded the set-up of Winrar. With the software in my hands, I finally was able to install the game in both the computers.
Now it was time to check whether the game was working smoothly with the audio. I boot up the game and to my astonishment, the Joystick was not working as intended. It was all a mess. I do art and design, tech is usually Neeraj's forte and I was super nervous of showcasing the game with Mouse and keyboard controls. We had an Xbox 360 controller as well as Xbox One Controller and both were not functioning properly. I got an idea of asking the folks at Xbox whether they could lend me a pair of controllers for our booth and without any hesitation, the person at Xbox just handed me whatever I needed. ( I forgot to ask your name but dear Xbox dude, if you are reading this THANK YOU!)
Back with the new pair of Xbox Controls, I plug it in and to my chagrin, it still does not work. Disappointed, I tried asking other developers regarding the issue I was facing. In front of our booth was Monster and Monocule, an amazing game on showcase, and I inquired them regarding the problem. It was then that I realized that the issue was with the old drivers and we had to install the updated once. Lucky for us, he already had the drivers in a USB which he shared with me. Installing it fixed all the issue and build was running smoothly with full power.
With everything working smoothly, Our booth set-up was complete. It was a lot of physical and mental work especially after a 22 hour flight but seeing it all coming together is a great feeling and with that we were ready for our first Indie-Megabooth experience at PAX West!
On 2nd September, PAX began with full glitz and glory. Only Media were allowed during 9AM to 10AM and we were able to showcase our game to multiple outlets freely without any worries of a big line. After 10 AM, the gates opened up for everyone and a sea of people barged in the halls to check out all the available games at the show. PAX, being one of the most prominent games event, garnered a huge amount of crowd. Thanks to the volunteers at the gig, everything was managed very smoothly.
Our booth had attracted a good amount of folks at the show and the game was being enjoyed on both the computers, majority of the time. Being the one man army at the booth was a challenging task as I had to introduce the attendees to our game, then explain the basic controls and reset the game if need be, all while managing the queue for the game. If I would not pay attention to the people waiting in line, they would then move on to check out the other games as many attendees at PAX where only present for a day.
I had noticed that the flyers would keep the people waiting in line busy as they would go through the features of the game. As soon as they read that the game was something akin to their interest or genre, they would then be more then willing to wait in line to check out Asura. One of the key features of our game is that " It has randomly generated skill" & "It is inspired by Indian Mythos". When most of the people would hear this, they would then be intrigued about the game and would wait for their turn. Hence, I started freely giving away flyers to anyone entering our booth and the idea worked like a charm.
90% of the people who played our game had a session of about 10-15 mins and most of them were able to traverse till level 2 after which they would either destroy the boss and stop or they would die. Our game, having a procedurally generated level makes it very difficult for us to manage the demo time and reducing the duration was just not possible. This meant that anyone waiting to play the game had to wait for 15-30 mins depending on how many people were ahead of them in the queue.
Since I was the only one managing the booth, I could only afford to take a 15 min break during the day. Thanks to Ryan Gadz, one of the volunteers at Indie-Megabooth and a game developer himself, I was able to grab a quick bite of my sub sandwich while he took my role and managed the booth. I would either grab a sub or sandwich from a local store on my way to PAX, It was way cheaper and much more convenient than buying anything from the show-floor. Even a 250 ml water bottle is for 3$! TIP: It is way better to scout for a store or super market as soon as you check in the hotel so that you can grab your snacks/lunch etc while coming for the show.
By the end of day 2, I had ran out of all flyers which meant that there was no means of managing the queue. From the 3rd day on wards I could only handle the crowd who were playing the game where as the folks standing in the line just had to wait. I had tried to introduce them to the game but most of the time was spent with people who were playing!
Every evening after the show, there was some party to attend which kept me busy and helped improve our contacts significantly. Got to meet a ton of people from the show floor where we discussed our design process, business etc. As during the day, everyone is super busy managing the booth or checking out games, It is these parties where you get opportunity to further develop your contacts.
We have always made it point to showcase our game conveying as much info to the visitors of our booth and always helping them out if need be. No matter who you are, Media, Publisher or a gaming enthusiast, we always make sure that you have a good time! This attitude helped us a lot. Many of the media folks or the publishers at the show would not reveal their badge, almost making a stealthy move inside your booth. I realized this later in the party when I could not recognize some of the people in there but they would recognize me thanks to the game and then introduce themselves.
I had almost no time to check out the games of other developers but managed to get my hands on some of them around our booth. That is for another post though and it should be out soon!
One of the best thing I realized about PAX is that people who attend, for the most part, are truly passionate of video-games. After finishing our demo, majority of them would then discuss the various features they enjoyed, points they thought needed work as well as some great tips on how to improve the game. Some people were super into the lore sometimes staying back and talking with me for half an hour understanding our process and inspiration. We even had multiple people return again to our booth either with themselves or with their friends. It was one of the first times we have experienced this where in we directly get to meet our customers and to see them enjoy and engage in a conversation about our work truly feels great and inspires us to work even harder!
Showcasing at an event at PAX not only gives your game abundance of exposure but if done right, can help you actually improve the game. At the end of it all, it depends of what you desire from a showcase like this. If your game is all set for release, then tailor it to make sure you get maximum exposure. It was an amazing experience to be in the Indie-Megabooth, among so many great games, in between all the gaming fanatics and working hard with other developers and boy, was it worth it.
It takes an incredible amount of effort and co-ordination to set-up a show like Indie-Megabooth and it is only possible with the super hard work of all the Indie-Megabooth Team including Kelly, Chrisotpher, John, Jess and others. Not to mention, the volunteers who really really work hard to manage everything during the show and make sure the exhibitors showcasing the game are all fine. Being alone at the booth was exhausting but nevertheless the experience and the pleasure of showing your game to literally hundreds of people trumps everything and meeting other developers and playing their games makes it all worth it at the end!
During the show, Asura was selected as Gamespot "Top 10 Favourite Indie Games". It has also been selected as PAX West 2016 Picks by IndieGames website. We have also been featured in a couple of other websites for example, UniqueDrops, HandsomeTrustworthy etc. We also got interviewed by Cohhcarnage, one of the top twitch streamers! It 's just been a week since PAX and there has been multiple news outlets, let's players as well as gaming enthusiasts who have contacted us for interviews, a short demo, as well as other spotlight features for the game. We are in conversation with all of them and lining it all up so that it can have maximum effect on the release of the game. Showcasing at PAX and being a part of Indie Megabooth definitely helps spread the word of your game. It is way early to share a detailed insights on results of attending PAX and Indie-Megabooth and I will be sharing more about this soon but it goes without saying that it has definitely helped us garner a lot of attention and press around the game. Our 2 cents would be that if you get the opportunity then make the most of it!
Before you take leave, We have tried to compile all of the above experience into a couple of points, hope it helps!
1.) Plan the demo to submit for Megabooth way ahead and don't wait for the submission dates to be revealed
2.) Your submission video should convey "GAMEPLAY" and should be on point. It should not be longer than 3 minutes.
3.) Have a strong and honest reason to a part of Indie-Megabooth.
4.) Don't be discouraged if your game is not polished, If you have the core mechanics working, SUBMIT IT!
5.) If Late, you can still submit by paying an extra fee. Do not be late :)
1.) As soon as you receive the selection mail, celebrate and then have a look at your studio finances. If it is good then let's move on to point 2.
2.) Book your flight tickets. Make sure you at least land on the day of the booth setup. Hope you have a visa or else start the process of getting one ASAP!
3.) Book your accommodation as close to the venue as possible.
4.) Visualize your booth setup and plan your marketing assets !
5.) Get all your marketing assets printed at least a week before the show.
6.) Run a search in Event Brite to check for parties and RSVP!
7.) Google map all the location you will be visiting for the parties etc and make a spreadsheet of the address for the venue. Print them out so that it can come handy if your phone battery runs out.
8.) Be good with your communication with the folks at Indie-Megabooth and also other exhibitors in the mailing list. You will responsible for a ton of forms, formalities etc and your quick response will be expected.
9.) When in doubt, Ask! The Indie Megabooth team and the whole crowd are super chill and amazing!
10.) If you are planning for any freebies like flyers, metal Badges etc then make at least 1000-1500 of them.
If you going to use 3rd party hardware then the following points might help!
1.) Bring a copy of Winrar setup file or any file extraction tool along with any essential software you might need.
2.) Bring a copy of the latest drivers for your controller or any specific hardware you might use.
3.) Do not rely on the internet at the show.
4.) If you can design and tailor make your demo to be 5 min to 10 mins and can convey all the mechanics then it is highly recommended!
1.) Get Water and food on your way to the show. The convention food is $ EXPENSIVE $.
2.) Make sure you be at the show by 8.00 am.
3.) Communicate with your Volunteer as soon as you reach the venue and co-ordinate with them.
4.) Every one entering your booth is equally important, whether it be press, an attendee or publisher. Give them equal attention!
5.) The folks coming in your booth feel great when you engage and show interest in communicating with them regarding your game!
6.) When someone has finished your demo, try to hand out the freebies yourself with a closing talk which can be anything from getting their feedback, informing them where can they buy your game or the just showing gratitude for coming to your booth. The point is to send them off with a smile on their face!
7.) Make sure to always ask your fellow exhibitors about their condition and whether they require any help. It's war out there and you might not know which one of your brethren might need help!
8.) Parties are awesome but remember that you are in the show for 3 to 4 days so be in control!
9.) If any trouble, there is always the Indie-Megabooth HQ and the volunteers always more than happy to help!
Congratulations on making it to the very end of this super long post and thanks a ton for dropping by. Hope our experience at Megabooth and PAX will help if you are planning to showcase your game.
If there is anything we would like to say at the end of it all it s that If you are indie game developer, you should PAX, you should Megabooth, YOU MUST!