De-Rezzed : How Rezzed 2015 went for MTS
The Venue and Stand
The area of Tobacco Dock used for the show is made up of large glass walled rooms, which is a bit of a departure from the usual large fully open spaces of other shows we’ve attended. We weren’t keen on it at first, assuming it would affect the flow of people too much, but needn’t have worried as we barely had a moment to ourselves across the three days.
The stand itself was on the end of an island. Next to us were fellow Brighton developers Knifey Spoonie (Pro Puzzle Wrestling) and Tammeka Games (Radial-G).
Proactively handing out flyers wasn’t something we planned on doing, usually we’d just have a stack of them sit on the desk for people to pick up if they were interested. A few minutes after the show opened we realised that we had no choice, most of the other stands had people out and about flyering. If we didn’t get out there we’d lose the people standing right next to our stand!
Actually venture into the crowd and talk to people? Eeep! I (Johnny) had to steel myself for this. I picked someone in the crowd who wasn’t particularly looking our way, got his attention (I can’t even remember how), said a rather ham fisted piece about the game, offered a flyer, and got this response….
“I’m a backer”
\o/ YAY! Best introduction to crowd flyering ever! :)
In the end the flyering wasn’t adversarial at all. Soon we were all telling people about the other games in the area and giving out each other’s flyers. That’s indie love right there.
Badge(r)s, Badge(r)s, Badge(r)s
Unguarded badges go very fast. Given that we had a fairly small supply for this show we instituted an experimental policy of badge-if-you-play. Quite a few people who I think would have just looked and then moved on were drawn in by the offer of a reward badge. Maybe it was our honeyed words, or they would have played anyway, but it felt like it helped people come to a decision to play and it felt good to give out a reward. So while we can’t call it a true scientifically proven experiment, the anecdotal evidence is compelling (I think my words have gone all lawyery, but I have just been watching Better Call Saul and Daredevil).
Put your Back(er)s into it!
While it had occurred to me that we may meet a backer or two at the show, I wasn’t prepared for just how many of you there’d be :D
I so wish I’d had the presence of mind to note all your names and have pictures taken with you. I would have loved to put those pictures in this update as a special thanks for seeing us at the show. It was a pleasure to chat to you all :)
Third Most Surprising Moment Of The Show
I’ve been staring at the game for many days over the past two years (no-one said making games was quick or easy), and most interaction beyond the team is with our awesome Alpha testers. Together we all know the game really well, so it’s easy for me to forget how unusual it is and how it affects some people.
Nothing reminded me of that quite so much as when someone who wasn’t really interested in playing our game sat down, started playing, and didn’t surface for 30 minutes. It’s obvious they had no idea how long they’d been playing and there’s a certain special look on their face for a few moments when they stop. I know that look, and that feeling. It’s the one you get when you return to the real world from being fully absorbed in what you’re doing. It takes the brain a few moments to re-align with reality.
Our game did that. Our. Game. Did. That. I wish you could feel the sensation in my stomach when I type those words. To know something you’ve created can transport people to a place that fully engages them is a heady feeling. If that had happened just the once I could have rationalised it away, but it kept happening.
For any indie reading this - when was the last time you put your game in front of people who knew nothing about it? Go. Do it!
I (Johnny) was much more relaxed with interviews at this show. I think this newfound outgoingness (totally a real word) has come from no longer de-humanising “the press” and unfairly reducing their existence down to what they can do for us. It is with chagrin that I admit to this, albeit unconscious and fear driven, way of thinking. I think I’m finally less worried about perception and reception of the game and more interested in having a good old chin wag with people who’re as interested in games as I am.
I wasn’t the only one getting in front of the camera, Pipsissiwa got to do an on camera quick-pitch of the game. We haven’t found the footage yet, so if you find it please let us know.
Bugs Like You Wouldn’t Believe!
Given the amount of testing that goes into creating a show build of a game it’s always interesting to see what slips through the net. What broke at this show? I’ll tell ya...
The scrolling broke. This is impossible. The start/stop turn based part of the game is implemented by changing how fast time passes. We simply set time to zero to stop it, and to one to make it go. Everything moves or everything doesn’t - you cannot break the scrolling. Truly, not possible.
There was no time to investigate and fix the build, instead Pipsissiwa kept an eye on players and tried to spot a pattern of behaviour that caused it to occur. “It’s when someone hits restart checkpoint while the replay is still running” - BINGO! Pipsissiwa’s patient player observation gives the answer. The ‘fake’ background used in the replay feature is being left on the screen in front of the real background after a checkpoint reload, leading to the illusion of broken scrolling.
Pilot choice broke. This is impossible. It’s important that the game adjusts to your choice of pilot in the intro, and between us and the Alpha testers we must have been through this process hundreds of times - it simply cannot be broken.
I didn’t get a chance to look into this bug until after the show and a quick glance at the code told me all I needed to know. It should never have worked in the first place. At some point I’d completely broken a section of code that dealt with the choice of pilot, because of that a much older piece of code (that really should have been removed) was running. That old crufty code made it seem like the new code was working - but it only worked once. The next time you restarted the game without quitting it wouldn’t matter which pilot you selected, it would always stick with the very first. None of us noticed this problem because when testing we didn’t generally restart the game without quitting.
Various smaller things broke, many of them equal measures of impossibility and certainty.
We got some good suggestions, some of the highlights being…
- A ‘Hardcore Difficulty’ mode than enforces a minimum move size. I’m intrigued to see if this’ll work - it’s certainly more interesting that just ramping up how much damage enemies inflict on you.
- Ghost replays. Sadly we’re unlikely to implement this due to patents on ghost replays.
- Explanation of why weapons stopped working. If you run out of Gun Buddy power the current weapon stops and returns to the default one. This is only obvious is you already know this is how it works, which no new player will. Now there’s a “Weapon cancelled due to lack of power” notification on screen.
- Continual drifting / cruise control. It’s been suggested and asked for so many times now that I can no longer resist trying it out. Alpha testers will soon get to give me their views on how it affects the game.
- Double click middle marker to end your turn. It’s one of those obvious things that’s not obvious until someone says “why do I have to move all the way back to the end point after bending the path when all I want to do is end my turn?”. Facepalm!
- Health bar for bosses. I used to be dead against this, but after seeing so many people get into a loop of doing the wrong thing it was obvious there needs to be more positive feedback when you’re doing the right thing.
- More tutorial feedback for when you’ve done the right thing. The new tutorial was overall pretty good, but several people mentioned that they weren’t 100% sure they’d done the right thing.
- A ‘New’ weapon available/unlocked indicator in the weapon menu. The menu can be intimidating to a new player, so something to draw their eye to the thing being suggested by the tutorial can only serve to help.
All good stuff, some we expected and some a surprise, and another great reason to get your game in front of fresh eyes as often as possible.
Press Coverage and Second Most Surprising Moment
We got some really nice written coverage from some equally nice people…
- "I was blown away by it" - http://thementalattic.com/2015/03/17/rezzed-2015-mighty-tactical-shooter/
- "I’ve never been excited for a shoot-em-up before, now I am" - http://www.bagofgames.com/mighty-tactical-shooter-preview/
- "Why was it my game of the show? MTS grabbed me more than any other title there." - http://1001up.com/2015/04/02/best-of-rezzed-2015-mighty-tactical-shooter/
- A very in depth interview with Pipsissiwa and I that manages to make it sound like we know what we're talking about - http://gamesfiends.com/2015/03/22/egx-rezzed-interview-with-johnny-marshall-and-liz-henwood-mighty-tactical-shooter/
- "it genuinely feels like something new in a genre that could do with a bit of a shakeup" - http://www.thesixthaxis.com/2015/03/19/indie-focus-at-rezzed-part-one-salt-enter-the-gungeon-and-inside-my-radio/
- "Because the game is controlled entirely by one button, they discovered it is very accessible for people with disabilities" - http://icel.me/en/games/egx-rezzed-part-2-2597
- "He spoke about it with a palpable passion too – that’s how game development should be." - http://www.dajmin.com/so-that-was-egx-rezzed-2015/
And a video interview that I especially enjoyed because it felt like we were just clowning around and, my god, do I really sound like that? Anyway - thank you, McFixer!
Thank you all for such interesting chats, I really appreciate you all taking the time to come and see us and writing and filming such lovely things.
Hang on. There's one more thing in this section... and it's the second most surprising moment of the show...
- The Guardian - “Rezzed 2015 - our 16 favourite games” - http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/mar/16/rezzed-festival-2015-our-favourite-games
For non-UK readers, The Guardian is large mainstream newspaper with a well respected online component. In fact Wikipedia tells me "The newspaper's online edition was the third most widely read in the world as of June 2012". I can't help but feel that the games journalists there should totally get raises and have flower petals strewn at their feet (during working hours).
Most Surprising Moment of the Show
No-one expects to be Indie Legend’ed. Least of all me. So this was my biggest surprise of the show. Thank you, young sir, for referring to me as such and asking for my autograph, it truly made the show for me. One look at your sketch book showed me you are already a game designer (I could tell that solely from your sketches of menus. Who sketches menus? Game designers). I look forward to seeing your games at future shows - I have no doubt you’ll be there.
It gave me the boost I needed to face my fears and attempt to live up to those words. So I applied to present a talk at the next Develop conference. Of course I won’t get chosen, after all - who wants to hear a talk about dealing with fear!? I guess we’ll find out when I give this talk in a few months time. At Develop. Gulp! Now look what you've gone and made me do :P
The Mighty Git
PS Backers, look out for a private backer update with sekrit behind the scenes info and pics about Rezzed.