Last week, we went to Indie Prize which was part of a larger event called Casual Connect in San Francisco. There were about a hundred other indie developers showing their games, and they were all awesome. Coincidentally, we ended up exhibiting right next to the team we were next to during the Sacramento Indie Arcade (one guy, Chris, is in the background with the blue shirt - they actually ended up winning best multiplayer game with their game Mind the Trap)! We also exhibited next to Radu who is making the beautiful Semispheres, who is an amazing and insightful person by the way.
The event itself was interesting to say the least. Indie Prize is held multiple times a year internationally in places like Singapore and Tel Aviv. In the US, they choose to be hosted by Casual Connect. Without considering indie games, Casual Connect seems to be a lot about advertising agencies and ad networks, especially for mobile which didn’t apply for many of the indie developers here. Entry to the event was also expensive so there weren’t tons of people.
Despite this, there were still quite a few people who showed up specifically to see the games (usually sponsored from larger companies like NVIDIA), especially on the second day. We were also able to connect more deeply with a lot of the other indies there, which I found invaluable. We hadn’t gotten much of a chance at previous events to do that.
Casual Connect also seemed to be very well funded. They sponsored a lot of parties, including this one at San Francisco City Hall:
Who knew you could rent out government buildings to party?
On the last day, the Indie Prize Awards were held and some fantastic games won; well deserved! You can check out the list here. At the end of the day, we took a heartwarming picture with some of the remaining indie devs (most had left by this point):
Here’s to hoping the bonds we forged there won’t be broken any time soon!
Now we are gearing up for PAX West. We’re planning to make a lot of visual improvements to the game by then. We’re also planning to launch a Kickstarter campaign at the beginning of September to line up with PAX to hopefully fuel some momentum. Looking forward to a stressful month of preparation!
In a surprise email we received last week, we found out we are going to PAX West in Seattle (September 2-5) to exhibit The Rabbit and the Owl. I couldn’t believe it at first, but it appears we are indeed confirmed! We are going to be part of a program called PAX Rising. Quick Googling doesn’t reveal much about the program except that it just started last year at PAX Australia for small indie developers to showcase their games. I believe this will be the first time PAX West will have it. We will be one of twelve (!!!) developers exhibiting in the middle of the fourth floor. It’s completely unreal how amazing the journey has been so far for our little game and that we would be selected. Along with Indie Prize, we are very much looking forward to this summer and to be back in Seattle. If you’re going to PAX, swing by!
Demo now available!
The demo for The Rabbit and the Owl is now available here, for Windows and Mac. This is still from a mid-development stage, so everything is still subject to changes and improvements.
It consists of twelve levels, which include tutorial levels and a few handpicked levels to showcase some cool puzzle combinations and mechanics. In addition, there are ten story snippets (not finalized, there’s definitely room for improvement) which will hopefully give a taste of the game's narrative.
Check out the second trailer for The Rabbit and the Owl, which showcases a few new things that weren't present in the announcement trailer:
Also here’s some introductory gameplay with commentary from Justin and me:
We've got some big news: we will be showcasing The Rabbit and the Owl in the Indie Prize area at Casual Connect in San Francisco from July 18-20! This is great because this will be the first time we exhibit the game at an event that curates its games. We recently found out that part of the grand prize at the Sacramento Indie Arcade was to be "nominated" for Indie Prize. Casual Connect and Indie Prize looks amazing, and we can't wait to see how people will react to the game!
iFEST and Power of Play quick post-mortem
We were recently in Seattle last month showcasing at two events, iFEST and Power of Play.
At iFEST, it was actually held in the middle of a food court at the Seattle Center Armory. We fortunately had a booth facing inwards at a pretty prime location, so we were busy throughout the day. There was a ton of foot traffic. Many people who checked out all of the games didn’t even know about the event beforehand. Because of this, there were actually a lot of families who came in and tried the game. This was our first time testing local co-op with two controllers, and I think it went very well - the reception was very positive.
One memorable moment was a father and his young son (maybe 6 years old) playing the game. In the game, most of the time the two characters have to constantly help each other to get to where they want to go. The father, trying to rush ahead and leaving his son behind said, “I’m trying to get myself up here!” The mother, watching from behind, scolded him and said, “What are you doing? You have to wait!” while she playfully hit him on the arm. It was a sweet interaction that reflected the dynamics of the game onto the players, and made me feel really happy to see the game providing a fun moment like that.
Power of Play was a bit more of a professional setting, being held in a convention hall called the Meydenbauer Center. The first day was mostly seminars which were very useful. The second day was just showcasing all day, and we received a lot of valuable feedback from there as well. Many people looking to get into business with game developers were also there, so the event was a nice mix of exhibiting and networking.
While there, we were also able to show the game to representatives from both ID@Xbox and Nintendo, who all said The Rabbit and the Owl was definitely in a good spot to apply to get onto Xbox Live Arcade and Nintendo eShop. I did plan to want to release the game on consoles, so I will be applying to those soon when I’m ready! It’s very exciting knowing that the game is far enough along to be considered on consoles.
Update on game features
Based on extensive playtesting and feedback from iFEST and Power of Play, We’ve decided to cut yellow blocks from the game (being able to attach blocks to boundary edges). You might’ve seen those in the original announcement trailer. They were at the root of causing a lot of tedium in certain parts of some levels, and wasn’t used enough throughout the other levels to justify keeping in. Overall, we’ve found a lot of little things that were causing unnecessary, annoying movements in the game. I’m happy to say the game feels a lot smoother after about 15 hours of playtesting at those Seattle events.
We’ve also added a few environmental effects to the game: rain, snow, wind, leaves, and birds. They look pretty awesome (check out Trailer 2 above to see the effects in action)!
Finally, we’ve started to add some contextual UI to remind players how to do certain actions, like pulling blocks for example:
Fingers crossed for getting into IndieCade, PAX 10, Indie Megabooth, and/or the Seattle Indies Expo! Still waiting on results for those events. We unfortunately did not make it into the Media Indie Exchange @ E3, but there’s always next time!
It’s been about a month since the last blog post, so from here on out I’m aiming for more consistency.
As we’re trying to get our name and game out there, we’ve begun to try to find and apply for as many exhibitions and competitions as we can.
On April 9, we were fortunate to be given the opportunity to participate in our first exhibit of The Rabbit and the Owl thanks to the wonderful Briana Aea of IGDA Sacramento and Gabriel Gutierrez of Nascent Games who both ran the Sacramento Indie Arcade, an event celebrating all aspects of game development in and around the Sacramento area.
It was 8 hours of bliss. Hundreds of people showed up at the event, and every booth had people lining up. The energy was high all day, and it was amazing seeing so many people enjoy the game and offer feedback. I also didn’t even think that so many families would come, so there were children aged 5-12 playing the game. What a different perspective! To be among those who can create the games I would’ve loved as a child and actually see children play the game was priceless.
There was a hugely positive reception towards the game. This has definitely inspired me to work even harder at the game and boost my confidence in the game. What really took the cake was what happened at the end of the event. Unbeknownst to us, there were 2 secret judges going through all the games and checking them all out. Out of around 35-40 developer teams, The Rabbit and the Owl was named as winner of that contest. We were awarded an all-access pass to Casual Connect, so we’ll be attending that on July 18-20 in San Francisco!
Now I’m working in preparation for a wave of events coming up. We plan to submit to IndieCade and IndiePrize which are due on May 15 and May 31, respectively. Also, we are set to exhibit again at two separate events in Seattle - iFEST and Power of Play. It still feels unreal we’ve finally reached the point of actually showing the game to people. The Seattle Indie Game Competition is also at Power of Play which we’ve already applied for. Fingers crossed for becoming a finalist for that!
That’s it for now in terms of upcoming events. As a side note, we’re working on T-shirts which I hope will come out awesome. We will definitely order enough to give away as prizes and whatnot. Hopefully things will continue to look up!
I submitted The Rabbit and the Owl on Steam Greenlight on March 11 at 2:03 pm, and it was greenlit today, March 24 at 8:29 am! In just under 2 weeks, there has been an outpouring of encouraging comments on the Greenlight page. I am overwhelmed at the response and feel even more inspired that the game is going in the right direction and that it will be something that people will really enjoy. My team and I will do our best to deliver an amazing game. Special thanks to Andrew Chen, the one and only artist on the game, and David Huff who solo composed the song on the trailer. They brought the game's vision to life in an audiovisual bliss!
Before going to sleep last night, I checked that we were #24 in the top 100 of games trying to be greenlit. That ranking seems to no longer show up after the game has been greenlit.
Here are the game's stats:
The "Avg. Top 50" stats surprised me. Even though we were #24, we couldn't meet the average on visitors or votes. My take is that this is the average over all games ever on Greenlight, which includes viewership that was much higher in Greenlight's past - and of course outliers and games which already had a sizable following before launching their campaign. The average top 50 stats feel misleading to state of the campaign - I feel that games are only compared to other games currently or recently on Greenlight otherwise we would not have had this rank.
Here are the views and votes over time:
As you can see, there is a major spike at the beginning of a campaign. In order to keep Greenlight fair, there are only 2 lists: recent submissions and your voting queue.
Games in recent submissions are listed in the order they were posted so that there is roughly equal exposure at any given time to games. I'm sure there's an optimal time during the week to post a game with the least amount of new games being posted so yours would stay on page 1 for the longest amount of time before inevitably being swept away to the later pages. This is probably where the majority of votes happen.
The voting queue recommends games based on what you've voted on or categories that you want to see, so this is the only way people on Steam will likely see your campaign as time goes on (excluding external sources). Maybe the game's campaign performance will affect how likely it will show up on someone's voting queue?
I think we got no more than 300 votes (being very optimistic on that) from friends and family and their friends and family. Since we had no presence or following before, I can only conclude that the vast majority of visitors and votes came from Steam itself.
That's it for now, time to do the Greenlight paperwork and continue hammering away at the game!
The 2016 Game Developer's Conference was a magical event that exceeded every one of my expectations.
After 2 years in a development shell, GDC was my first foray into connecting and networking with the gaming community. Although there were awesome games and demos exhibiting at GDC, it was the people who made this an unforgettable experience. The energy and the atmosphere was amazing. For the entire week I was out on my feet at the conference during the day, then off to some event, party, or meet-up in the evening.
Everyone whom I showed The Rabbit and the Owl offered a plethora of feedback and criticisms including level design, feel of the game, and especially control scheme (which I'm working on now!). I garnered a lot of knowledge and experience from other game developers as well. Most importantly, I simply was able to meet many awesome individuals from all corners of the game industry and connect with them on our shared love of games.
Although the week is behind me, I'm now driven with a fiery inspiration. The game is doing very well on Steam Greenlight (at this time, it is #29 out of 2057 games currently trying to get Greenlit; more about that later in a post-mortem) which is an encouraging sign that I'm on the right track. I hope GDC is just the first of many gaming community events that I will attend.
When was the last time I wrote a blog entry? Probably back when Xanga was the coolest thing among youngsters everywhere.
This is the first official entry into my blog as Formal Sheep about my upcoming game, The Rabbit and the Owl - and hopefully future titles as well.
Naughty Dog. Concerned Ape. Exploding Rabbit. Formal Sheep. I didn't realize how common adjective + animal schema was in naming game companies until after I decided on this name (basically when I found it was ripe for SEO, it was very available on knowem.com, and it was remotely related to me - I was born in the year of the sheep). It feels like the whole -ly startup company naming pattern.
It's been quite a journey since I first started going down the indie game dev path. After graduating college in December 2013, I figured I would spend a year trying to make a game. I've always wanted to be a game developer and have full control over the design as well. Many programmers for games at large companies just implement what they're given, while the design is left to people with marine biology degrees and such. I could've tried to find a startup company or a group of people who were trying to make a game, but total freedom was too enticing.
And so I spent almost a year and a half trying to make games that never saw the light of day. I've probably started, worked on, and abandoned at least 8 different game ideas (and wasted a lot of time as well).
The idea for TRATO first came about in April 2015 when I was messing around with trying to make some really cool (i.e. I thought it was cool) action platformer game about pirates and a pirate lord named Bootydamus (a Google search shows 1 result for that name - is it really that unique?). As I'm sure many other prototypes go, I was using programmer art, also known as black squares. I had a white background, and was creating rudimentary terrain and and characters with just the black squares. At some point, I inadvertently created a silhouette-like profile of a face (it looked kind of like Jay Leno), which made me think of a Rubin's vase.
Okay, so I thought what if we control two characters - one in black and one in white? And what if the environment could be manipulated? I looked this up on to see if the concept had been done. I found that it was relatively unexplored, so I had an opportunity here.
Now I had this cool idea that I didn't really dedicate myself fully to for months because at this point I was a bit burned out, and it felt like a daunting amount of work to start over again for a very uncertain future. I was considering just finding a nice job and move out of my parents' basement.
After a few demotivating months of tinkering on the game here and there, I watched Indie Game: The Movie. Watching the trials and tribulations of the makers of Super Meat Boy, Fez, and Braid inspired me to come back to this idea. It was then that I decided to apply for the Independent Games Festival as a goal and see where I stood by then to decide if I wanted to keep pursuing the dream. It was already the beginning of August at this point and the deadline was just under 3 months away.
I was fortunately able to find friends who were willing to help me make this something resembling a real game. After intensely hammering away at the game, I made the submission date. It felt so good. Then not so good when I found out I wasn't selected... but I think I always knew it wasn't going to make it, not in that early state.
I knew I had something though, and the dream was more alive than ever. Early play testing with friends and family was very positive. And so more months of working on the game. I've made a surprising amount of progress since then. I've reached a point where I'm now comfortable with trying to get myself and the game known out there. Now I'm doing what many other indie devs do these days - writing developer's blogs. Since I haven't written a blog since I was 13, I had no idea how I'd feel about this, but in fact, it's very therapeutic. Knowing that someone, somewhere might see this makes me feel a bit validated. It's a bit scary putting my thoughts out there. I have to admit I don't really know what I'm doing. Well, I suppose everything's an experience.