Tag Archives: indie games

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.

Screenshot 2015-07-06 13.42.05
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?

5 Things You’ll Learn When You’re New to Gaming

Stephanie Whitlow

Time to be honest: I work at a video game company, and I haven’t played a ton of video games. I’m what some would call a Noob. But while working at Reactuate Games, I’ve learned a lot. For example …

 

 

  1. People like to talk in three-letter terms: GUI, RTS, MMO, RPG. WTF?
conceptdraw.com
conceptdraw.com

As with most fields, knowing the jargon is essential. Whether you’re developing a game for an app or just learning to play, it’s best to figure out what some of these acronyms mean. You have a GUI (gooey), a graphical user interface, for instance, on your cell phone now. It’s the section of icons where you can tap Facebook or Pinterest. RTS or Real Time Strategy is a genre in which the player focuses on tactical solutions to conquer or defend something. Society is shortening terminology all the time, and in the gaming world, it’s no different. Here’s a pretty conclusive list of game terms to check out.

 

  1. You find out the “standard” keyboard keys for moving are W, A, S, D and not the arrows.

Some PC games call for finger-action on the keyboard, and instead of the four arrows moving the character or camera, the letters W, A, S, D do the job. Why is this a thing? Way back in ancient days, some arrow keys weren’t available on keyboards, and even if you did have them, the space between left and right hand was awkward, and you couldn’t access the space bar quickly, etc. Before you jump into a PC game, check the controls, or prepare to be killed, eaten, or, worse, look stupid in front of your friends.

 

  1. You learn there is such a thing as inverted control playing. But even after you learn that you are, in fact, inverted, it doesn’t really help you anyway.

What’s that? You’re pushing the joystick up thinking it would make the camera go down? You’re probably an inverted game player. Or a pilot. There’s a division between gamers who are inverted and those who play non-inverted controls. Neither is wrong; however, switching controllers among friends may call for extra time getting used to it if y’all are a mixed batch. Aiming is still hard regardless.

 

  1. You realize characters can become much more interesting than Mario and Luigi. No offense to them.

A pair of plumbers who wear overalls and suspiciously have a secret life fighting for a blonde princess is just the beginning of unique characters and story arcs in video games these days. Game developers are creating humorous, smart, and intriguing characters all the time– take Tiny Tina for instance. This thirteen-year-old with quick wit and a knack for blowing stuff up is a favorite in the Borderlands series because she is so unusual. Watch a montage here. Caution: she’s a mess.

tinytinawp
saynotorage.com

 

  1. AAA suddenly means more than car help.

AAA (triple A) refers to the top stars of the video game industry. These games are the ones with the highest budgets and have the most people working on their development. These types of games take a long time to create because of the high quality produced. While none of this means these particular games are the best, a lot of time, effort, and money has been put into them, and some titles, like Call of Duty, Halo, and Final Fantasy,  tend to stick out even if you’re not a big gamer. Here are some previews of the top 30 games in 2015, which may give you an idea of what AAA means.

Are you new to the gaming world? Or do you have any suggestions for new gamers? Let us know in the comments below!

“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.

Screen_Shot_2015-06-18_at_10_16_44_AM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 2.23.22 PM
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.

“Danger Zone” — Second Week Recap

Nothing pumps us up more than Kenny Loggins’ 1980s hit “Danger Zone.” Sure, Tom Cruise has gone a little cray since Top Gun, but most of us at Reactuate Games can still get a rush from the adrenaline-inducing tune, which is a part of Ron’s special morning playlist. And as the second week got under way, we learned more about Ron’s music tastes (hint: he has the Xena theme song in there, too), our game, and each other.

The Reactuate Games team received more info on the game this week and shared the Super Secret Game Design document with email subscribers. This file explains the backstory of Colony Manager (possibly changing to Colony Maker) and how the player advances through the game. We shared this as a thank-you to our subscribers, so if you’re interested in the original design for the game, sign up here.

We’re actually creating graphics for the game now, too! Sam drew up a spiffy rocket ship, Austin played around with some terrain, and Katey created a monkey for scale purposes. Slowly but surely, the RG team is moving along.

monkeyOnMountain
Katey’s monkey on a mountain. Cute, huh?

Last week, we also took a field trip to The Gathering Place, an Abilene hotspot for gamers to hang out, compete, and play all kinds of games. We met with them in hopes to sponsor an event in the near future or at least get the word out to our Abilene audience. Afterward, we stopped by 7-11 for much-needed Slurpies to rehydrate and refuel before getting back to the office. Because work is hard and stuff.

FullSizeRender (1)
Katey was crowned victor of the first RG Game Bracket

On Friday, we had some Internet connectivity issues, which hindered our Twitch stream some, but that didn’t stop us from battling in our NBA Live 15 bracket and meeting a few new followers when we were broadcasting. Katey came out on top (*cough*… it was her game…*cough*), but it was a fun team-building experience, and we learned a lot about how gamers should get to skip tutorials, i.e.,  we spent thirty minutes watching our fearless leader learn to dunk.

Our second week together came and went quickly. The constant sound of mouse clicks filled the office, as we accomplished many of our week’s goals and  built a sturdy foundation for our game and our company. And I personal can say it’s all due to Kenny Loggins.

Thanks, Kenny.

Now on to week three!

P.S. Need some motivation? Watch a 1986 Cruise fly really fast.

 

The Agile-Scrum Methodology

Confused about what we mean by Scrum Master? Here’s a look at how we’ll be working at Reactuate Games.

What is Agile-Scrum?

The Agile-Scrum methodology is a new workplace-development process. Using this method, employees have more say over how long it will take to complete a task, and they will get feedback more often. The Agile-Scrum system encourages frequent check-ins at Scrum Meetings so that others may help their team members when a task-problem arises.

What is a Sprint Planning?

First off, a sprint is the duration a team has to accomplish tasks. These periods of time can be a week long or longer, depending on how much work the team has on its plate. The Sprint Planning involves the product owner and the employees listing their upcoming tasks, ranging how large the tasks are, and ordering them based on priority for the company. These meetings take place on the first day of the sprint.

What is a Scrum Meeting?

A Scrum Meeting is a five-minute gathering of the team where all employees answer three simple questions:

  • What did I work on yesterday?
  • What am I doing today?
  • What is standing in my way?

It’s a time to briefly meet and check on each other and his/her progress throughout the week. Team members are also able to offer help to others by eliminating what is standing in his/her way. This speeds up work flow and promotes team building.

What is a Sprint Retrospective?

A Sprint Retrospective takes place at the end of the sprint, and it allows the staff members to discuss what each one accomplished that week. The team can also talk about what is to come in the next week.

What is a Scrum Wall? 

A Scrum Wall is a place where the team’s tasks are shown, usually on sticky notes. Three categories split the flow of production– To do, Doing, and Done. As an employee works on his task, he moves the sticky note to the corresponding slot. This technique displays the progress being done in the office and where each teammate stands on their tasks.

Who is the Scrum Master?

The Scrum Master is the MC of the Scrum meetings; however, this person does not always have to be the boss. Scrum Masters can vary daily, and everyone can end up being the scrum master at some point. The main purpose of the scrum master is to resolve any issues standing in a team member’s way.

Our First Week

The first day of any new job can be nerve-racking. Five individual first days with a brand new company … perhaps even more so. But that didn’t keep the Reactuate Games (RG) team from expressing their eagerness to start building a video game from scratch. On the fifteenth floor in Abilene’s tallest building, the Enterprise Tower, Ron introduced the team to the RG command center, a two-room office with red couches, five Ikea desks, and a great view of West Texas. Here we would develop a game from nothing. Here we would create what was once only a mere thought.

abileneskyline

For most of us, our first week at Reactuate Games was a learning experience. Not only is working in a business environment with elevators different for some, but producing a game of this magnitude with a handpicked team is a special experience some of us have only wistfully daydreamed about until now.

Throughout the week, we studied design tutorials, coding, andIMG_6847 photo-editing programs, learning skills we will need for everyday tasks during this intensive summer launch. Humbly, we even looked to the Google-gods for help with a few of our problems. After our Agile-Scrum development training, (a relatively new workplace methodology we will discuss in another post), we transformed the office into a productive and “stream-friendly” atmosphere. We moved around the furniture, created a Scrum Wall, and had our first Scrum meetings, which were a lot less painful than any Rugby player may presume.

We had a lot of questions at first– Where do we start? How does this game development stuff work? What are our goals, and how long will it take to reach them? It seemed as if we had more questions than answers.

But questions are not necessarily a bad thing, especially for our new company. Asking means that we care. It means that we are excited and willing to work. It may even mean we are all a little anxious about the journey ahead of us. However, despite not knowing the territory we will venture into in these upcoming months, we are all packed and ready to go.

Ready Player One, Our First Fiction Library Addition

I can’t remember the last time I purchased a paper fictional book. I’ve gone totally digital for a number of reasons that I won’t go into here, but tonight, with much help from a friendly staff member at the Abilene Books a Million, I found and purchased two copies of Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One.

ErnestCline&me
Ernest Cline and me at 2012 Austin Comiccon

I already own both the Kindle version and the Audible version — which is read by Wil Wheaton, who is the perfect reader for this book. Matter of fact, when I met Ernest at an Austin’s comic convention a few years ago, I didn’t have anything for him to sign. So I got a picture with him instead.

Why is this the first book added to the company fiction library? Well if you are asking that, you haven’t read the book. It’s an obvious addition and the OASIS is an obvious influence on Colony Manager. Just like how Snow Crash would be.

And why do we have a fiction library? Because of the article, “No Dickheads! A Guide to Building Happy, Healthy, and Creative Teams.” That was the first article I made my team read.

Interestingly, the things I remembered out of the article were the “wall of fame,” as I called it, where you print and post work people do in the studio, the cooking, the families, and the meetings where people can listen in. Stephanie remembered the books and the reading. She’s the word-lover in the company. I have little doubt she’ll be the first to pick up one of these codexes and read it.

If you haven’t read Ready Player One, let me include the words on the back here. It does a much better job of telling you about the book than I normally do.

         In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

If you haven’t read it, go out and do so now.

My 2012 Review of Ready Player One