A New Experience
After a long day of travel and a long night of frantically trying to add some much-needed features to our build, we loaded our car, ate some fried chicken, and drove to the Raleigh Convention Center. It was the first day of the East Coast Game Conference.
Pharaoh Hound Games has presented Sons of Ra at a few smaller locations previously, but this was by far our largest showcase to date. All of us on the team had been attendees at game conventions, but never exhibitors. We were excited, but also very nervous.
Our setup turned out really strong, partially due to our luck of placement and partially due to our preparations. We were placed on the edge of the balcony, pushing us away from the foot traffic to the main expo area. However, our booth was directly in sight from the stairs everyone needed to use to access the main expo hall. The first thing everyone saw was our brand-new standing banner and our two large TVs demoing the game.
The two TVs were also a huge bonus. It meant anyone who just walked up to watch almost always had the opportunity to try the game on the second machine. People often crowded around the machines waiting for their chance to play (especially since the wait wasn’t long). Some were satisfied just watching and seeing the outcome to a really close game.
It wasn’t all perfect. The first day was rather busy, but things were interrupted when the power was cut for much of the indie alley. Our friends at Matrioshka Games had their TV blow a fuse when they tried to plug it in. After informing the volunteers, one of the power boxes needed to be replaced and many booths were down or forced to run on battery powered laptops for nearly an hour. We quickly set up a laptop, but the screen was so small and dim, barely anyone used it. Once the power was back up, everyone was able to get back on track (and Matrioshka Games was able to fix their TV, so their booth was up and running too!)
Meeting Cool People
When members of the team weren’t helping at the booth, they were exploring the rest of the expo and talking to other developers presenting. After us visiting their booths and them visiting ours, we had awesome talks with developers like Upside Down Bird, showing Mariachi Undead, and Light Arc Studios, showing off It Stares Back. Both teams and every other developer we met were incredibly nice, super supportive, and just awesome people.
But the awesome people weren’t just limited to the developers. Nearly everyone that stopped by our booth to play and talk were incredibly nice and even the criticism we received was constructive and always directed at making our game better. In fact, many on the team were surprised with how positive the response was. People were often incredibly excited about our game and had a lot of fun playing it. Many even returned multiple times over the convention to replay it and try new strategies. The team was super humbled to see this and hear all this fantastic feedback.
What Went Well?
We heard a lot of great things at ECGC. We heard from a lot of people what they like about our game and where they hope it will go in the future. We heard a lot of great suggestions about what could make our game better. And we heard a lot of people ask if they could go ahead and buy the game. We’re going to really take the feedback to heart and push forward on future development
One of the last changes we added to the build was a demo video when the main menu was left idle. While we love our current main menu, the whole team agreed it wasn’t very interesting to someone unaware of what our game was. The night before the convention, we re-edited the trailer to a much shorter scissor reel that better showcased what the game was and presented much stronger to the casual observer. This addition really paid off. People checked out our booth much faster and players understood our game much more easily. Oftentimes, while talking to members of the team, people’s eyes would be glued to the video after they had already played.
We met a great number of cool developers, artists, composers, and even journalists. We hope to keep up with these connections as we all keep working to release better and better games.
We had some good exposure over the event. On Twitter, despite the month not being over, our analytics are almost double their normal amount. We hope this sort of growth will only continue over the months as we get closer and closer to release.
What Went Bad?
Last-Minute Builds Lead to Last-Minute Bugs
Every day had a new build… and their own unique bugs. The most significant one was the last-minute demo video. While it did really help our presentation, it also appeared to break controller input in certain menus. We were able to fix it during the first day, but we continued to have controller connection issues and other minor input issues throughout the conference. Nothing truly hurt our game, however; it just required some troubleshooting.
No Power Means No Games
Pretty self-explanatory. While we didn’t have power, almost no one saw our game and the team was stuck not wanting to leave the booth in case the power came back but we were otherwise just sitting on their hands waiting.
Where Are We Going Next?
The next thing for Sons of Ra is RPI’s Gamefest on April 27. It’s a free, short, one-day expo in Albany, NY from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. If you can make it, you should stop by.
Beyond that, Pharaoh Hound has applied to the Indie Game Showcase at TooManyGames in Oaks, PA from Jun 21-23. We currently don’t know if we are selected, but we will know by the end of April.
There is another convention we could attend through a competition. But until we know the results, we think it’s best not to get people’s hopes up.
We hope this was informative to anybody who may be considering exhibiting or attending ECGC next year, or other conferences in the coming months. Who knows, maybe we’ll see you there!