Jennifer and I recently returned from a trip to the Rezzed game show in Brighton. We had an utterly fantastic time, and cannot thank Eurogamer enough for putting on such a great show. The organisation and support they proided was top notch throughout the two days, and the whole show had the feeling of being amongst a large extended group of friends.
This was the first show we had been to since beginning Nyamyam over 18 months ago, as well as being the first time that we showed Tengami in a public setting. So it was full of trepidation and excitment that we set off on Thursday morning. In all honesty we didn’t really know what to expect. Being an iPad game we didn’t have much setup to do for the show but we wanted to get there on the Thursday to get our access passes and we were so excited to see what the booth actually looked like. Eurogamer had posted a grainy picture of the booth on Facebook which just got us all the more excited. When we arrived at the Brigthon Centre we weren’t disappointed by the booth; it looked stunning. We were however a little surprised: we had thought we were only going to get a half booth but we in fact got a full size booth. With only two of us to staff the booth we knew we were going to be in for a tiring two days.
Neither of us could really eat or sleep on the Thursday night as we were running through all the scenarios in our heads: what if no-one comes to play the game? what if everyone hates it? Although we have complete faith in what we are doing with Tengami, you can never be sure how a game will be received until it faces the test of real players. It turned out that our worries were unfounded. From the time the doors opened on Friday morning until they closed at six in the evening, the booth was more or less fully occupied. There was a lull period between 11.30 and 12.30, presumably for lunch, and for some of the developer sessions, but apart from that we were delighted by the turn out. Saturday was a little slower for us in the morning, but then picked up significantly from lunch time onwards, even busier than the Friday.
It was a delight to meet and talk with so many varied people. What particularly made me happy was to see the diversity of people playing our game; we had players across all ages, genders and from lots of different backgrounds. I’d say on Friday we had more industry people: fellow developers, journalists and bloggers, whilst on Saturday we had more gamers. We met so many wonderful people and made lots of new friends, which I think was one of the most enjoyable things for me. There really is no greater pleasure than seeing people enjoy what you have made, and then being able to talk with them about it afterwards. I’ve been to many shows before with Rare, but never been so directly involved, and it was a pleasant surprise to engage with lots of friendly and knowledgeable players.
When we had first contemplated attending Rezzed, we were unsure of whether we could really afford it or not and whether the money would not be better spent elsewhere. Reflecting in on it now, we both categorically feel that it was well worth the time and money. We got tonnes of great play-test feedback, both through observation and through talking with people. This is data that would have been really tough to get any other way as it’s not easy to get a hundred odd strangers to come and play your game under normal conditions. Not only that but we made lots of new contacts and friends across the spectrum of fellow indie developers, journalists and amateur bloggers.
It was a really hard couple of days though, both physically and emotionally. As developers we get very attached to our games and that can place a significant emotional strain on you when you watch other people playing. Fortunately, all in all Tengami was very well received, but you have to be as objective as possible about these things and accept that it will never be the case that everyone likes your game. Learn the most lessons you can and figure out how to make your game better.
Physically speaking it’s way more tiring than you might think, and if you want to get the most out of it you have to be prepared to engage with every single person that comes to play your game. We quickly got into a routine of giving a quick intro to each new player, to set expectations and help them get the most out of their experience. We only had the two of us staffing the booth for eight hours each day and because of this we never got to take any breaks other than to dash to the toilet and to grab some lunch (which we ate at the stand whilst continuing to watch). We knew this would be hard even before we started, but we couldn’t manage to find anyone else to help us out. Ryo (our arist) would have loved to come, but he lives in Japan so that wasn’t possible. We had other friends who would have helped, but for one reason or another weren’t able to. However, despite the hard work, it had its benefits too: because we are the creators of the game, we know it inside out, and I hope our passion and enthusiasm came across to everyone we interacted with.
Finally, it was an inspired idea that Jennifer had to bring along a monitor. Because we were on iPad it was much harder to generate attention for the game. Although the booth art was stunning and attracted a lot of attention on its own, people really want to see the game. By mirroring one of the iPads to a monitor it allowed many more people to be drawn in when they were just passing by.
On a personal note, the programmer in me was extremely proud that during the entire two days we had no crashes, and only one very minor bug which we fixed on the Friday night. I’ve always believed that quality must shine through in all aspects of a game and none more so than the sometimes overlooked stability.
Now we’re back at development HQ, we’re all really excited to take the pages and pages of notes we accumulated and to start improving the game. We can’t wait to share our next version in the not too distant future. Thanks to everyone who came to our booth to play Tengami and to talk with us. You made it all worthwhile.