Earlier this year I got a rather excellent email notifying me that I’d been selected to show EXO ONE in EGX Rezzed’s Leftfield collection, a curated selection of indie games. I had set my expectations and hopes for Rezzed to go something like this:
- Have some fun at the event
- Meet some cool new people
- Hopefully appear in at least 1 or 2 articles
- See old friends and family
All of those things happened + more!
The things as they happened
The day before Rezzed, things started off super rocky. As I arrived to set up and test the game, it was rendering with a pure black sky. I had backup builds, but this appeared to be more a bug or incompatibility with a graphics card. Luckily, I checked the build logs and pasted the error line into Google and one other person reported the same issue, solved by downloading the 2010 Direct X SDK.
The phew’ing was deafening. Almost paid $1500 for a ticket to Rezzed to look at some other people’s games! Hard to know if I should have brought the entire project over somehow, incase this was a problem I needed to fix in Unity, then rebuild. I’d of had to fix it on the PC that was running the game (remember I flew to London from Australia), download Unity, etc, then only have a few hours to get it working before the show.
Hard to know if I should have brought the entire project over somehow, incase this was a problem I needed to fix in Unity, then rebuild. It’d be awkward to fix it on the PC that was running the game (remember I flew to London from Australia), download Unity, etc, then only have a few hours to get it working before the show.
I put my poster up, chatted with a few people from Leftfield and grabbed food with Jai from FINIFUGU.
Here’s the poster at my station, drawn by Tim McBurnie:
Bumped into Andreas of Promoter app fame, who thought I was the event organizer, David Hayward (this seemed to happen to numerous, different people throughout the event, which was odd). Andreas was also showing his game, Future Unfolding. I had some really amazing moments after playing it for just 10 minutes. His description goes like, “Future Unfolding is an action adventure that is all about exploration. Your goal is to unfold the mysteries and solve the puzzles hidden in the beautiful landscapes around you. There are no tutorials, and no one is telling you what to do.” I definitely advise not to look at trailers or anything before playing.
We had breakfast/coffee here on all three days and I really enjoyed chatting game dev, promoter app/biz stuff and events in general. It was nice to start each day at Rezzed with such great food, coffee and company! Andreas is a real dude, and his app looks quite good too, I’ll probably try it on the lead up to EXO ONE’s release.
This was just one of many real-dude encounters I had during the show. I’m not sure what it was about all the people in Leftfield, but I seemed to get along really well with everyone. In particular, since they shared my wall/opposite wall, I got to chat a lot with Jai, the guys from Alpixels (A Place for the Unwilling) , Joe from Four Last Things, Richard Boeser from Chalo Chalo , the PjamaLlamians who are making Flotsam, and the girls from Oniri Islands. Some of these peeps I felt an instant connection with, and it makes me kinda sad they’re now on the opposite side of the world.
This first day was kinda quiet, and there was occasionally some down time, but it was nice to be able to ease into things.
I had one press meeting that went well and resulted in me appearing in this:
— Jay Weston (@JayWeston) April 2, 2017
After the first day I went and met an old Londonian friend for drinks, but I was so dead from not taking a break all day that I had to return to home base and eat, immediately followed by sleep. Didn’t seem to get much in the way of jet lag, luckily.
This was a little busier than Day 1, got lots of good feedback, ideas, etc, all of which I wrote down during the day. Had another press meet up today which resulted in EXO ONE being included in this article, which painted the game in quite a glowing light!
— Waypoint (@waypoint) April 3, 2017
Then this happened:
This is the Outside Xtra trio who came and hooked up their gear to do a bit of an impromptu Let’s Play of the game. The video isn’t out yet (and there was some sound technical issues) but I can’t wait to see it. Outside Xtra have quite a fan following, and during a ‘meet’ event at Rezzed I heard they had a line that stretched half of the building.
After the day was over, there was the The Rock Paper Shotgun drinks night, and a bunch of the Leftfieldians went out for dinner beforehand, which was at an old pub overlooking the Thames. Then I met and hung out with another old friend from when I used to live in London, who introduced me to some cool people. I didn’t do much in the way of networking with press, though. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’m trying to befriend them partly to improve my chances of them writing about my game. Maybe a missed opportunity, I dunno. I seemed to do fine regardless.
This was the busiest day, and I’d often be standing a couple rows deep behind my game. I’m still told Rezzed is a pretty quiet event in the scheme of things. Again, nice to just ease into my first big event instead of DIVE in the deep end.
Met up with and hung out with a couple more friends and contacts on this day as well. Despite the larger numbers of people, I possibly talked to players less because I was just pushed back (or wanted to get out the way so others could watch). So it wasn’t manic or anything.
— Jay Weston (@JayWeston) April 3, 2017
Had dinner after with some Leftfielders again then I was convinced to attend the after party, which was good fun with yet more games in every room. Checked out some of the retro games and played a bit of Joe Bain’s new game, Yucatan, which was super madness fun! There was some crowd based game in another room I think, but didn’t get to see it!
I think my press strategy was pretty ‘normal’. I suppose I often thought I needed to be doing some secret tricks or ‘know people’ or something special to really get noticed and stand out, etc. But now that the event is over and I got basically the best response I could have ever hoped for, I guess the basics worked pretty well.
Before the event, I made the following Rezzed trailer that I pinned to my Twitter, saying I’d be at Rezzed, along with my email address (no it wasn’t even spammed):
I emailed around 20 writers/game sites/YouTubers with somewhat personalized emails (more so if I knew more about them) saying essentially, “come play EXO ONE at Rezzed Leftfield”, and included the above, very short video. Got 2 solid meeting times, maybe 2-3 “I’ll come over at some point, whenevzies” and a bunch of ignores. Some ignores ended up turning up regardless, but I don’t know whether that was from my email or just because they happened to be in Leftfield. I talked to a handful of other developers in Leftfield about their press outreach efforts, and most did nothing at all, so if that was common within Leftfield or Rezzed in general, then contacting the press potentially puts you a step ahead just by pressing send.
I ordered 3 t-shirts online which I could have spent too much time on, but ended up just using my EXO ONE logo on the front and back, with “developer” written on the back, so if anyone was looking to chat with the developer, they could easily spot me.
Press Stealth Abilities
Something I noticed about press at the event was that almost all of them (unless I’d set up a meeting) liked to fly in under the radar and play without me spotting/recognizing them. That worked for a few people who I saw write/tweet about the game afterward, but otherwise, if I recognized someone I just said so. Otherwise, I’d risk being weird (sorry, person I was totally weird to!). I imagine this is done so the developer doesn’t bug them too much or affect their play experience any more than it should. Generally, I just said something like, “the tutorial is kinda bad right now, so if you need any help lemme know”, then I left them to it.
I definitely felt that fan-boy factor a little with some people I met, but I had some great chats with press, gamers and devs alike. For the most part, with press, they’d come play the game, ask between 0 and a dozen questions then take off pretty quickly. Wasn’t overly hard, and while I practiced a bunch of practice answers to questions, many never came up.
After the event, I wrote and thanked anyone who wrote about EXO ONE, if I had their email address/Twitter.
Tweets ‘n Articles
Here’s most of the press/tweets I got during the event and after:
Rezzed people. If you've not seen Exo One, go see Exo One.
— inside number nein (@MikeDiver) March 31, 2017
— Electron Dance (@ElectronDance) March 30, 2017
— Gliphyx (@gliphyx) April 1, 2017
— Matthew Reynolds (@Crazyreyn) April 1, 2017
— Terry (@terrycavanagh) April 1, 2017
Damn it, I didn’t meet Terry! Terry is one of these darned people who don’t use a photo on their Twitter profile, I didn’t recognise him! I do recall seeing he was showing his game before flying over, but slipped my mind once I was there. I may have met him or Ruari as I recall one of the State Machine (his game) devs chatting to me. Tried to go play before open one day but someone was on it. Huge fan of Super Hexagon, so would have liked to have gone and been a weird fanboy/say hi briefly :P
— Rock Paper Shotgun (@rockpapershot) April 3, 2017
Rezzed 2017: the 12 most interesting games on show at the festival https://t.co/v1AAPLWtJa
— The Guardian (@guardian) April 3, 2017
— Laced Records (@Laced_Records) April 5, 2017
— Jay Weston (@JayWeston) April 2, 2017
Ordered about 500 and used a quarter of them, mostly taken by gamers. I put a screenshot on the front and some words (game name, my name, contact details) on the back.
One small error perhaps I could have improved would have been some way to sign people up to the newsletter at the event. The Flotsam guys had some kinda small iPad with a sign-up form on it, others went for the handwritten method. I guess the handwritten way stands out as being a mailing list quite obviously due to the email addresses on it, while the iPad kinda requires prompting (“hey you, sign up for our newsletter?”).
I’m not sure how many people went home then signed up for the EXO ONE mailing list, but over the entire event I added about 80 people to my list. Really don’t know if this is “good” or not.
Resources I Used
I’m a big fan of both Thomas Reisenegger’s games PR/Marketing videos on GDCVault, and Indie Game Girl, who did a specific games event article/slide show.
Maybe just search for Thomas on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=thomas+reisenegger
Emmy’s site is http://www.indiegamegirl.com
Before the event, I asked everyone I knew for advice, including some people I didn’t know. This resulted in a couple of meetings that might not have otherwise happened, various tips/tricks for events, who to look out for (I hadn’t heard of OutsideXtra for example), introductions to press, how to keep my expectations realistic for a single, small-ish event and more.
What did I learn about EXO ONE?
The biggest stand out problem with the game was the first tutorial level, which is going to be getting some major love and redesigning soon. The camera I’m using hates the kinds of movement you can do in the starting level, and I throw a bunch of controls at the player and pray they remember (they never do). So this resulted in many players not ‘getting’ the game as they were missing pieces of the puzzle. Most people that I helped out ended up getting the hang of it, and luckily all press did too.
I got mixed feedback on the story, but I’d say fairly overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the story as-is, but also some very convincing “you should make it less literal” arguments.
Also received a handful of comments that there were too many controls. Mentioned this to some other Leftfielders and of course heard the opposite, “I had no problem with the controls”. Simpler is definitely better, but I feel like I might be able to remove at least one control combo (like holding two things to glide up for example).
Thankfully most of the feedback hit exactly the mark I was going for, with comments like:
- That was super relaxing
- It was mesmerizing
- The sense of speed and feeling you get when you reach the clouds is amazing
- I could just watch it all day
Like the Adelaide games event before (AVCON), people sat to play and didn’t want to get off. I should have forced an end timer on the demo as people had to wait ages to play in some cases. I was lucky the musician, Rhys, told me to shorten the first level, since even after doing so, people sometimes asked me if they could ever reach the transport structures in the distance. A classic example of the game developer being too good (fast) at their own game.
Quick Notes on Other Games
Since this post is getting long… Quick bullets on other games (I mentioned Future Unfolding above) that were near me and I played in Leftfield.
- Oniri Islands
- Great multiplayer iPad game that uses physical chess-like pieces (cute little figures) to move characters around on screen. Great for playing with kids.
- While seeming pretty early days, I’m super pumped to see where this ‘floating base builder’ goes.
- Four Last Things
- Very charming, funny writing and simple point n click adventure, using classical/famous artworks.
- A Place for the Unwilling
- Intriguing ‘mini-society’ and village full of characters whom you interact with and have influence over/effects on during ‘end times’. Great spooky vibes!
- Chalo Chalo
- Super fun party multiplayer game that isn’t instantly recognizable as being hilarious fun, but totally is!
- Those rolling quadrupeds… I saw some really, really weird stuff happen in this game during the event! I jumped on for 2 minutes, but think I need to have a proper go and hear the narration/music to really get into it.
…to David Hayward for organizing the event, it went off without a hitch! And thanks to SEGA for sponsoring Leftfield.
It really was an amazing event, surrounded by awesome people and great games! With any luck, I’ll bump into some of my new friends again at another games event… *sniff*!
I’ve left the best till last! I’m wildly excited to announce that next month (May) EXO ONE is getting a 2-page preview in Edge magazine! So pumped! I’m not a huge games magazine reader, but whenever I do pick one up, it’s always Edge!
Next – Kickstarter
I’ve increasingly gone from ‘maybe doing a Kickstarter’ to ‘probably doing one’ to ‘doing one’ to ‘most likely doing one in May’. It takes time to build up the courage, you see. I’m going to get some advice on exact dates, but that’s my current thoughts. I’ll be announcing an exact date soon, so if this is something you’re interested in, you can sign up to my newsletter below: