Roto Color Runners was selected to be part of the Indie Showcase at the Causal Connect conference in San Francisco from July 18 to 20th, which meant a few things. First off, I got to head back to San Francisco, a city I do have a special fondness from (as I imagine most people who visit). After an early flight and stopover, landed and met with Alberto Santiago of Studio Canvas – another Sydney developer – who was also showcasing at the event. We had met a few times in Sydney last year but it wasn’t until SXSW this year that we properly got to hang out and talk about games and other stuff. That started a relationship that has seen some force bring us together as festival buddies, since we were both selected at Casual Connect, as well as Tokyo Game Show and we will both be heading to PAX Melbourne at the end of the year (sadly (or coincidently) we both didn’t get selected for their showcase). If you haven’t heard of his game Goat Punks, go check it out here. It will be in early access soon and a great multiplayer game that always has a crowd around to play.
We both headed to the hotel and then met with Randall Robbins, VP of Austin IGDA who was to give a talk at the conference as well as a mentor to me on the business side of games. What better way to spend a sunny afternoon than heading down to a local brewery and getting a taste of the city.
Onto the conference. It was a far different feel and experience than I was expecting. This was my first developer/industry conference and I had planned on it being similar to a consumer conference like PAX or SXSW. As such, the previous week had been spent rushing around making promo material, getting (expensive) stickers made up and having a solid build. Since it was not open to the public, there was almost no traffic coming through to play the games as those who were there for the conference were generally in panels or part of companies wanting to ‘help’ you monetise, advertise (through their network), drive user acquisition, retention, and blah, blah. I draw on because every one of these companies were mobile based and all of them were trying to sell on the services of the same thing. Ads, analytics, in app purchases, etc. Then in the middle of this was a bunch of indie devs with non mobile games that could get nothing from the only people that were hanging around in the convention hall. So it turned out to be a slow first day. The majority of people who did play the game were other devs also waiting for people to play their games or standing idly by. It did lead to some great networking and making new friends so that was probably the biggest takeaway from it.
There seemed to be a lot of money thrown around by these big companies who were at the convention, none more so evident than at the opening night after party which was held in the San Francisco city hall. It was the kind of party straight out of a bond film. Huge extravagant building with a grand staircase, marble throughout and a high domed interior. Inside were all sorts of casino games, from black jack tables to poker, roulette and craps. We were all given a set amount of chips and the person at the end of the nigh with the most would win a prize. Well, I love poker but I guess my skills need some work as I went bust 3 times and was consistently bailed out by Alberto. Ha. Still it was all in fun times and the open bar was definitely a contributing factor to the headache the next morning.
On the final day, I was informed that Roto Color Runners was nominated for an award. They didn’t say which category but I assumed it to be visuals. At the ceremony, it was revealed to be in the best audio category (which I suppose is somewhat logical now that I think about it). It did not win the category but being nominated was definitely something to be proud of.
The award ceremony pretty much wrapped up the event and I left with mixed feelings. I felt that the format of the conference was not well suited to the indies that it bought to it, and in terms of the amount of people coming through to play the games, it was certainly lacklustre. I overspent in preparations for it with the merchandise but thankfully that just means that I don’t need to do that for TGS or PAX. However, there were some good connections made and nuggets of information I got from some panels that I did sneak off to see that justified being there. If I had to fly from Australia to get there I would have been a bit more scathing but the cost and time from only having to get there from Austin made it worth attending. In the future though, I may choose to just go to the consumer shows as they have a larger amount of games coming through from all backgrounds and you can get a better sense of who your audience is and what needs improvement in your game through watching the general public play your games.
I look forward to taking what I have learnt from this conventions, as well of previous conventions to Tokyo and making sure that the momentum of the game starts to build again with a new audience. It will also be the time that the beta is ready and you can finally get your hands on Roto Color Runners.