Category Archives: Building A Company

Spreading the Word

Marketing is in full-force here at Reactuate Games. With a little over a month until Kickstarter, the team has had idea-fever (it’s a thing), and our marketing to-do list is growing.

One idea that we’re extremely excited about is our new podcast series. Since our first weeks at RG, we’ve aspired to produce a gaming podcast, but we felt too much time would be taken away from other, more important projects. At this stage in our journey, however, it’s vital to collaborate with other gaming-industry influencers, build our community of supporters, and spread the word about our game.

pixels
imdb.com

With the movie Pixels coming out this Friday, I saw the debut as an opportunity to introduce our company to those who enjoy or enjoyed gaming in Abilene. This Adam Sandler film is about aliens misconstruing feeds of classic video games as threatening, so the extraterrestrials send arcade-faves, like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, to destroy earth.

Epic. Just epic.

I’m planning to see the movie this weekend, so while I’m out I’ll pass out flyers about our game, hopefully letting a few interested strangers know that a video game company exists right here in town. Fingers are crossed on this one!

Another project we’re working on is an incentivized survey for our email subscribers. Sharing by word of mouth is still a crucial part of marketing, so we’re offering subscribers to choose what we do next here at RG, and we’ll do it … once we get a certain number of subscribers. This will encourage others to share the website and our work. Some of the choices include me writing a flash fiction piece involving the colonists and streaming a special Youtube video for the subscribers.

I’m always trying to learn more about my job. Therefore, I’ve been going through YouTube Creator Academy, a helpful video series that teaches the fundamentals of sustaining and popularizing a YouTube channel. Tips on titles, thumbnails, and talking to your audience are all included. For those wanting to grow an audience on this site should look over these short clips and take notes.

I’m also reading Made to Stick, a marketing book that specializes in getting people’s core ideas to stick with the public. Using the acronym SUCCESs, the authors breakdown the techniques to having good concepts being remembered. Simplicity, Unexpectedness, and Concreteness are just a few of the strategies to consider. This book can actually work for many professions and not simply marketing (teachers, I’m looking at you).

madetostick

 

Finally, Ron and I spent a little time (like two hours) writing up our target audience avatar, Caleb. This imaginary man is a representative of the people we believe will buy and enjoy our game.  It’s crucial to understand Caleb as we market our game and company. We’ll share an in-depth post on Caleb later.

Are you marketing a game now? What ideas have seemed to help? Let us know in the comments below!

 

The RG Team does Civilization V

Last Friday for our Play & Learn we wanted to play Star Trek Online … but, unfortunately, I am inadequate at remembering passwords two minutes after I create them. So, we played Civilization V instead.

Here’s our video of the Retrospective and Play & Learn:

While Katey took over observer mode, Austin and I played. An hour of game time flew by as we established our empires, conquered brutal bandits, and waged war on Germans who didn’t want to be our friend.

Here are some pros we found for the game:

  • Animals move like real animals! We noticed that whales jumped from the surface of oceans and horses seemed to do horse-like things, too. These small details make the game play more realistic and fun.
  • Viewer mode. The observer mode that Katey was on is similar to a feature we hope to implement in our own game. Like our Colony Cam, this position allows the person to look at the game play in a new and unique way.
  • Automatically takes you to the action. This feature helps prioritize the big battles that occur during game play.
  • The mini-map is clickable. Katey could click on where she wanted to go using the mini-map. (However, she had mentioned that clicking on the users’ names would be more helpful.)

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  • Enlarged images. These large-scaled images help players understand what to do. A huge group of cattle or giant glittering minerals give players a hint at what’s supposed to take place.
  • Option to change pace. This is nice in that various personalities or gamers can play at their own speed.

And here are ALL of the cons we came up with:

  • It can get dull if pacing is too slow. Sometimes I found myself clicking “Next Turn” just because …
  • Observer can get lost. If you’re the observer, you won’t really know what’s going on with your friends. No info is available on them, and you won’t be able to see political relations. (But this may be a good feature because you certainly don’t want a spy helping out an opponent.)

Have you played Civilization V? What did you think?

Remember to join us next time when we do another Play & Learn on Twitch!

“Checkpoint”- Week 8 Recap

Last Friday, our company let go one of our digital artist. We were saddened by the decision, but it was one that the company felt needed to be made. The RG team shared a tearful goodbye with the artist and then tried to get through the rest of the day.

This is the ugly side of business. Sometimes things just don’t work out.

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Guardian’s colony portal

Though we are one man short, we still have a dedicated team working hard on getting Guardian’s demo out by September 1st to begin our Kickstarter Campaign. Austin, our programmer, has been implementing the UI into the  game and creating the introductory missions that will advance the player through different levels. Katey, our digital artist, has nearly completed one of the most important pieces in Guardian— the colony portal. This gigantic contraption will transport humans from earth to the foreign planet by  using tremendous amounts of electricity. Because so much energy goes into this process, colonists won’t be able to come and go all willy-nilly.  The decision to populate this new world will not be an easy one.

Katey also revamped our hydroponics farm, a building that will act as a greenhouse for agriculturally-inclined colonists. More windows= more sunshine = happier plant life. (Katey will be doing a majority of the artwork from now on, except for a few graphics that will be contracted out to other artists.)

Hydroponics farm
Hydroponics farm

This last week I focused largely on finding new blogs and bloggers that are primarily interested in indie games.  From Kickstarter’s website, I searched for other indie game companies’ campaigns and saved their games’ images. After using Google image search, I found a few blogs that covered these games. Eventually, I will reach out to these bloggers in hopes that they will want to write about Guardian, too. It could be a long shot, but there isn’t any hurt in trying, either. This marketing strategy stems from Tim Ferriss’ article “Hacking Kickstarter: How to Raise $100,000 in 10 Days.” It’s a great read if you or your team are planning to do a crowdfunding project.

The RG team faced a difficult week, one that stretched us as game developers and as individuals. But a new week is upon us, and we’ve taken the time to rejuvenate, refocus, and reset our mind on the ultimate prize.

“Halfway Point” — Week Seven Recap

We’ve spent 7 weeks on our game.

We have 7 weeks until Kickstarter.

And that is terrifying.

kickstarterpig
mashable.com

Last week, it finally hit me how little time we have to get to a playable position with Guardian AND to build a fanbase for our Kickstarter campaign. Forty-nine days. I may or may not have had a mini panic attack.

Our Twitch followers have asked if we are on schedule, and to a certain extent, we are. Colonists’ structures and worker units are being put into the game every couple of days, ominous beasts are being reimagined and designed, and new ideas, like Colony Cams (an interactive option for gamers that allows them to watch their colony grow at ground level), are popping up every day.

Support for our game and the company is not where we wished it would be, unfortunately. Exactly how long does one need when marketing a video game? I’m not sure. But a few months certainly doesn’t seem like enough time. Even then, the finish line approaches with more haste.

Inspiration personified visited the Command Center last week, easing our anxiety some. His name is Angel Rodriguez (@dirOFawesome). Angel is a professional gamer who travels the world to compete in game tournaments and gives inspirational talks related to the benefits of gaming. Oh, he also works full-time in the U.S. Air Force AND has a family.

Angel reminded us why games are so important; besides simply being fun, video games teach us about problem-solving, making decisions, and taking on pressure. After our chat, I realized that Guardian will be more than just an entertaining, intriguing, and addicting hobby. It could make us better at life, too.

***

In Guardian-related news, the team has made great strides in their own work. Katey (@BluelKatey) conquered curves while modeling more luxury houses in Blender, Austin (@Austin_Graham24) worked on navigation, having builder units move across rough terrain, and Ron (@rondavis007) created a new UI for the game that follows our futuristic theme.

Our current UI
Our current UI (Click to watch in action)

I also did an interview with Austin, our code artist. In the video, he talks about programming, the foreign language of coding, and what someone should do if he/she wants to become a programmer. There’s tons of great information, so go check it out on YouTube or click here.

 

 

Can You Be Too Hyped for Your Game?

Over the past month, I’ve contacted numerous Abilene reporters and news anchors about Guardian and the company. Unfortunately, I’ve received  little interest back. Feeling defeated, I wondered why our own city didn’t want to cover us. Were abandoned kittens being mothered by a terrier that much more newsworthy than Reactuate Games?

For a brief time, I decided to take a break from the rejection and work on things that did get noticed, like our YouTube videos or blog posts. These marketing strategies were at least being viewed and retweeted in the Twittersphere. Except for one of my blog posts getting put on a website,  I wasn’t getting anything from the press, and I wondered if perhaps I was trying too hard.  Maybe I was becoming a pusher rather than a promoter and annoying all of our followers and friends on our social media pages by my constant plugging.

As Chris Hecker (@checker) says in his GDC video presentation “No One Knows About Your Game,” being an enthusiastic promoter isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Hecker states:

“You can’t overhype a game; you can only underdeliver.”

If you focus on creating a really interesting and fun game, then you shouldn’t have to worry that you talked-up your game in the first place. And if you believe in what you’re creating, let the gamers of the world know!

So we’re excited about marketing again, and plan to do it whenever and wherever.

1. We have joined Abilene’s Chamber of Commerce, a collection of local businesses that get together and network and support one another. Hopefully we’ll meet other Abilenians who are interested in what we are doing.

2. We’ve also made flyers that we hand out at local universities. One school has a Digital Entertainment Technology program that turned out to be a great place to discuss our company with potential future game devs. We also plan to leave these flyers at video game stores and gaming hangouts around town.

3. Just today we booked an interview with our local TV station’s community-oriented series called 4U. Later this month, Ron will talk about RG and Guardian so that others in the area can support the first video game company in the city.

Eventually, our marketing scope will be larger. Our end goal is to have a fan base that stretches across the globe, but it’s important to start with a foundation and grow from there.

Check out Hecker’s GDC video:

“All the Small Things” — Week Six Recap

I’m not a morning person. Before I have some swigs of highly sweetened coffee, I hardly open my eyes to acknowledge the existence of anyone or anything. And by the time I get to the office, I’ve probably growled and groaned thirteen times at helpless inanimate objects that did nothing wrong except get in my way.

These mornings continue into the Command Center, where I check and update our Follower Tracking spreadsheet. This document tracks our subscribers on YouTube and in our email system, our likes on Facebook, and our followers on Twitter. Each day since the start of Reactuate Games the total has gone up. Some days it’s 17 new people interested in what we are doing here, and sometimes it’s only 2.

Though it’s still early and my coffee hasn’t fully kicked in yet, every morning I look at our spreadsheet, I smile.

When you’re working for a company, and a humongous goal is plopped in front of you, egging you on, teasing you to catch it, the small accomplishments seem to fade in the sidelines of the race. But it’s important to celebrate these little victories, like our follower-count, too.

For example, last week RG was added to a few game developers’ lists on Twitter. When I read the notifications, I cheered at my desk, stoked that people were beginning to see us as a real game studio– a working and thriving video game company.

Now, in the world of Twitter, an addition like this may seem trivial, but I was honestly and pleasantly surprised! Of course, this whole time I believed in what we were; however, this validation from others felt good. (Yes, Momma always said not to care what others think, but this here is about marketing, and it’s all about the fans and support). Reactuate Games needed that acknowledgment … I needed us to have that acknowledgment, though it be a small one.

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Sam’s sandworm

Other little wins occurred last week as well. More and more graphics are emerging from the imaginary and being transferred into Guardian. Sam completed a builder unit that will construct buildings for the colonists, and he also designed a beastly sandworm (which personally reminds me of something from Starship Troopers). It’s scary for sure, and the colony’s controller will have to try his best to protect the people from this disastrous threat.

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Moving particles / Luxury housing

Austin worked on particle effects for the game, as well as the construction process, which will include choosing a location to build on and having a unit construct the building. Katey also made headway by creating a luxury home model that colonists will reside in once on the new world. These skyscraping structures will help the ex-earthlings keep their extravagant and polished lifestyle while away from their native planet.

The saying holds true: it is the little things that count. And it’s the big things. And the medium-sized things. All the things count. Because with each step we take, we are farther than we’ve ever been before.

And that’s worth getting a little giddy about.

… even at 9 a.m.

 

Marketing a New World

Convincing others to like something has never seemed like a difficult task before. With two degrees in English, I’ve studied the art of rhetoric and persuasion, and I get why I’m more tempted to buy the shampoo bottles that are pink and sparkly than the plain-looking ones. Before, marketing seemed simple: find out what people like and give it to them.

As the marketing producer for Reactuate Games, however, I’ve realized it’s a bit more intricate than that. A lot more actually.

The truth is it’s hard to market a game that hasn’t been fully created yet in a city that I feel more comfortable calling a town. The RG team is making progress daily, of course, designing other-worldly graphics, fleshing out the backstory of the game, and considering future game advancements, but without any product to show audiences, we seem to be at a marketing standstill. And this lack of attention can be discouraging.

So when does our game become news? When does Guardian become relevant enough to the press and gamers of the world?

Or in other words, when will people care?

I’m not sure when this will be. And when it comes to a startup, the risk is high that we may not get the publicity we need. But even though we may not have much of the game to show people at the moment, it’s important for us to still get the word out and to share our ideas. As Robert DellaFave says in his blog post, “Marketing Your Indie Game: The Single Most Important Thing That No One Knows How to Do,” you must:

“Begin your marketing campaign the moment you have something that illustrates the fundamental mechanics and look of your game.”

Creating hype as soon as possible is vital to the survival of the game. Even if you don’t have a workable game right then. I’ve been posting to Facebook and Twitter updates and screenshots of the game, and I’ve also created quite a few interview videos about the team and  uploaded them to YouTube. Showing the public our game in progress presents some humility to the audience– because most of our work isn’t flawless or complete the first time around. Slowly, a small following has developed as we get better and faster at creating parts for the game.

Last week, I put together a press kit— a small file that includes a press release, some screenshots and video, and the most up-to-date company info (game description, company bio, our goals, etc.). It’s a light folder, Screenshot 2015-07-02 11.06.13yes, but I believe it’s a start. When the press is ready to write about us, this folder is able to be downloaded from our website. This kit makes it easy for others to write up a story about us and use our own pictures and logo. And making life easier for reporters, bloggers, and journalists can be beneficial for your company.

We also started talking about our audience for Guardian and who truly will play and support our game. From a marketing standpoint, a target audience should be defined by asking who will be our main followers and who will ultimately purchase this game.

This is important to figure out because no company wants to waste resources or time on marketing avenues that won’t be fruitful. My initial conclusion was that males in their 20s to early 40s would enjoy our video game the most, but upon mentioning this in our Twitch stream last week, a viewer told us that his company was well over 50 years of age, and they all played video games still. The statement stuck with me. Was my estimated target audience offensive to those outside of it? Was I making a mistake in being too specific?

Of course, Reactuate Games is creating a game for all individuals to play and hopefully get addicted to, with no strict gender-based or age-based influences placed on the design or intended game play. But, at the same time, I need to know who our supporters will be and direct my attention towards them.

Marketing is a constant job that may not result in immediate satisfaction; I’ve learned this. I’ve also realized a devoted fanbase will take time to accrue, so I’m here for the long-run, trying to get the word out wherever and however I can.

 

How are you marketing your game? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

“The Meaning of Life” — Week Five Recap

If earth became a utopian world where progress was no longer needed, peace claimed the nations, and prosperity allowed all humans to be satisfied with life, why would you want to leave?

I asked this question last week, while writing up a game description for our press kit . I realized as I was writing that I didn’t fully believe the backstory. Why would people want to leave our planet at its pinnacle point in history?

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Our new world

The premise of the game (developed more in our Super Secret Game Design) revolves around the idea that people will no longer face hardships or worry about life’s circumstances or struggles– life is pretty much perfect. And yet, our game involves people wanting to discover and inhabit a new world.

So what is missing from the people’s lives back on earth?

Ron, our founder who designed the game,  says the earthlings have no sense of purpose now, and they have lost their motivation for life. Hence why they seek adventure on another mysterious planet.

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Sandworm that will threaten the lives of our colonists.

As pointed out to me, life can be adequate for most of us in the world today, and yet groups still travel to space on occasion or send rovers out to Mars. Why? A review of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, explained here, helped me better understand  why these futuristic beings would leave a near-heavenly place to teleport to an unknown world and face possible death.

This theory proposes the basic needs of humans — food, shelter,love, and esteem. But one important necessity will be missing from our colonists’ lives. Self-purpose. The earthlings have everything they need and want, and yet, they will be bored with their lives, merely surviving their days on a dull, predictable world with no real reason for living. Therefore, they yearn for something more. They yearn to be more.

maslow
Photo from acompli.com

Of course, most of our psychological discussion on the backstory of Guardian is not extremely relevant to gameplay. Does it matter exactly who these colonists are or when they decide to venture to another planet to rebuild mankind? Not really. But by ruminating on the psyche of our colonists, we learned more about our game and the new world we are creating.

 

What do you think about our backstory? Is a video game’s plot critical to game play? Let us know!

 

“Figuring It Out” — Week Four Recap

It all starts from the spin of a chair.

Topics emerge from the ether of our minds while in the RG Command Center, and the next thing you know, we’re discussing feminist film theory or the cuteness factor of opossums and chirping moths. Sure, our talks here at RG can seem completely off base sometimes, but, on occasion, we actually talk about serious game stuff.

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The RG Command Center

For instance, last week we pondered on subscription options for the game, now codenamed Guardian. We asked ourselves a lot of questions: Can we offer a free demo? Should we ask for a monthly payment? If people cancel their subscriptions, what will happen to their colonies? Will we auction off their items, like in the real world?  Pivoting our chairs, we traded thoughts back and forth across the room, offering suggestions and weighing in on them, trying to nail down some fuzzy details.

While the subscription issue is still up in the air, we did  flesh out a lot of other ideas about the game.

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The graphics for the game  have been thus far generated from the artists’ whims, but now we have a distinct architectural theme. This new world in Guardian (read our Super Secret Game Design 2.0 for details) is a fresh start for colonists, so the buildings will appear more updated and futuristic with pronounced curvature throughout the designs. And because this discovered planet is foreign to the ex-earthlings, we will also be creating alien terrain– purple and pink landscape, black sand, and weird plant life. “Normal” items we find in our reality will be twisted and transformed into alien concepts.

I also sketched out a marketing plan for the next two months, up until we start our crowdfunding campaign. RG doesn’t have a marketing specialist on the team per se, but we have found some great resources like PixelProspector’s website where they take you step by step into how you can promote a video game. In our own marketing plan, we discuss the company’s current situation, our strengths and weaknesses, our target audience, our goals, and some of our marketing strategies.

And if you’re still wondering who the heck we are and what we’re about, we created an introduction video that explains the backstory of RG and what we see for our future. You can watch that here!

A lot was figured out last week, but there is still a ton to do before we can sit back and relax. So here’s to week five!

“Show and Tell” — Week Three Recap

Stephanie Whitlow

When we were six-years-old and brought that smelly, plush teddy bear to our kindergarten show-and-tell, we were utterly proud of our artifact … despite the Kool-Aid stains and bits of questionable gunk clinging to its fur. It was ours, and we loved it.  We weren’t afraid to show others our most-prized possession, even though it was flawed.

As we age, however, some of us become more self-conscious and aware of what others think of us. We learn to present ourselves to the world daily, sometimes worrying about how we come across.

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Our daily meetings are streamed live.

At Reactuate Games, we’ve chosen to film, stream, and document our entire development process from day-to-day. Our goal is to share a behind-the-scenes look at how a video game evolves, as well as the company who creates it. But as we have found out, it’s not all rainbows and lollipops inside a startup company. We have run into roadblocks and gotten embarrassed or nervous about our work, too.

We first encountered this last week. I interviewed one of our digital artists, Katey, for a clip on YouTube (You can see that awesomeness here). While editing the material, though, I became super self-conscious about my video-producing skills. At one point, the video bothered me so much I almost wanted to scrap it and re-film.

Also last week, our artists created some amazing graphics for the game (a command center, some mineral shards, a builder unit), but as with most creative products, they were first rough drafts. So rough, in fact, some questioned whether or not to show our followers.

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Mineral shards with bottom half of Command Center

The temptation to only report the good news is strong here. After all, we are representing a company. But we are much more than that at Reactuate Games. We are dreamers, and students, and gamers who are trying to create a video game that people will love and enjoy for years to come. And we want to share with others our experience.

So how do we ignore these self-conscious tendencies when we are devoted to recording the good, the bad, and even the ugly?

Ron constantly reminds the team  of what digital artist Feng Zhu says in this GDC video session (you should take a look–it’s pretty inspiring). Shown to us on week one, Zhu’s video encourages game developers and artists to not be scared of the blank canvas or making mistakes. Because if someone is scared to try things, learn, or produce imperfect work, then he/she is also afraid of progress.

Though we aim to show our successes, inevitably struggles will occur along our journey. And that’s okay. We’ll document those, too. It’s all a part of the process. Plus, we’re proud of our game and our company. Even if it does have some gunky, imperfect parts.