I mentioned that I think we’re the first game developer to ever have a booth at Sac Anime. Now that it’s all over and I've caught up on sleep, I understand why.
The number one thing, something that never would have occurred to me to prepare for--the overwhelming majority of people had no idea what was going on. Maybe a thousand people walked by and looked at our booth. Many of them said, “Granny Wars?! That’s hilarious,” and kept walking. But many also said, “looks like some guys sitting around playing games,” and never bothered to ask us who we were, what we were going there, or what was going on. I heard, “I haven’t seen this game yet,” as if we could have been playing Marvel vs Capcom in the middle of the vendor’s hall and people would have been more accepting of that. One guy even didn't believe me that Granny Wars was a real game so I had to show him I really was controlling Rose with the controller. One guy was even irritated that we didn't have his favorite game nor willing to let him sit and play whatever (other people's) games he wanted to.
While most seemed interested once we actually told them what was going on, I’d say we missed a good 95% of people that didn't stick around to talk to us because they were just so confused by what we were doing or too shy to ask. I thought it was obvious we were game developers showing off our games in development, as we've done before at other (game related) conventions, but I genuinely believe absolutely no one got that this is what’s going on. I think people generally assumed our booth was some kind of rest area provided by Sac Anime and we were annoying people that sat on our sofa and chairs into playing games when they just wanted to rest.
I was really not expecting such confusion. But yeah, I think this is an easy fix. Next time, we’ll have signs posted or make a new banner that states we’re a Sacramento video game developer. Having flyers that are more accessible without people having to talk to us, would also be useful. I'd considered having one TV that just showed off our games like a looping trailer. Maybe we need to do that and mix it in with information that explains what's going on.
The main goal was to make mistakes and learn from them. Mission accomplished. But going forward, we needed to have a better outlined idea of what we were trying to accomplish--Facebook Likes, feedback on our games, Beta testing sign ups, talent recruitment, industry connections, etc.
We got a little bit of all of the above, but again, we could have done a lot more to better attract what we were looking for.
All that aside, we had a lot of other issues. The programmer for Granny Wars made it clear weeks before Sac Anime that he would need a lot of time to get the hit boxes working for each animation and would need time to test it. He got neither. Many of the final animations came in at the last minute by the artists, and the lack of time to test things before ended up meaning a really bad bug where the character from the previous game was not getting destroyed for the next. So if you played 13 rounds, there would be 13 copies of the character moving around. The hit boxes were mostly working, but a bug caused the game to crash due to one of the hit boxes having a problem and so the programmer disabled them all. That meant that the game had to be reset for each round to avoid duplication problems, and that without hit boxes, you couldn't damage each other. If you can't damage each other in a fighting game, the game isn't playable.
Raygun Rocketship was much more stable. It was also the hardest build ever, and very, very few people were able to beat level 1. I did it once. Kaila and Quinlan, who are otherwise fairly antisocial and therefore volunteered to demo the game the whole time to avoid talking to people, beat it about a dozen times each, but even with all that practice, they died a lot. For the “tutorial planet” this is way too hard. This resulted in passer byers watching players die over and over in the same spot and not seeing the other 80% of the game.
I guess the only other negative thing was the lack of press. We got some interest from a game news site and a game blogger, both who were shocked to find a game developer at Sac Anime. I made a couple other good connections. But had this been a game convention, we’d have gotten a ton more press since they would have been ready for us.
So that’s the negative. I think one of the most positive things is seeing the crew actively talking to people and being excited about telling them about the games we’re working on. I’m also glad they got to hear an unending stream of people telling them how hysterical Granny Wars looked and how people can’t wait to play it. When you’re working without funding, it’s hard to keep plugging away at something without getting encouragement from potential fans. So I’m hoping this really helps to motivate the team. It also gave me an excuse to finally buy shirts for everyone.
We’ll have to decide what to do from here. Two other Convention organizers contacted us and asked us if we’d be interested in going to their convention. I have to decide if this is the wisest use of funds. I think that Facebook ads would have likely been far, far more cost efficient if we were only looking for more fans. Then again, some tweaks in our booth presentation could make the difference. So it’s something we’ll have to talk about.