Looking back at Amaze part 1

I was hoping to write about Amaze as each day went by, but unfortunately that was simply not possible: there was simply an energy at the festival that would keep you going far longer than one should have kept going, I think it was by some miracle that I managed to drive home and make it to my bed — I was extremely tempted to simply sleep in my car on Saturday night, but then it was 4:30am. And I had just got home from playing ninja on the streets of Braamfontein; well I wasn’t playing ninja myself as opposed to getting Rami to do some really weird thing. But hey it was all a load of fun and urge sooooo much to write about. So I feel like I need to start of by rectifying something in the last post. The whole list thing. I wasn’t happy about it, turns out no one was. The list was imposed by the venue at the last minute for some god knows why stupid reason. Ye don’t think I would have seen that coming if I was organizing the event. So starting off on Friday morning I managed to make my way to the Alexander theatre and hopped along to the venue. We weren’t using the downstairs of the theatre, but the back of the stage for the games. This was a rather good choice as it gave easy access for foot traffic, and there was ample room for the games on display. Later on the board games were moved into the same venue as the video games, this was a really good decision since I honestly didn’t know where they were to begin with. I also heard some rumors of there being physical games at some other venue, but I wasn’t too excited for running in the sun with my bag-o-tech — that thing is heavy.

Eventually it came time for the talks, I unfortunately missed the first minutes of Peter Gardner‘s talk (The Psychology of Why We Fail to Fail) but he has kindly put the talk up on his website — or at least the slides, I’ll update with a video if one becomes available. The talk was on our failure to fail. The topic was exceptional: I have often dealt with the expectation that something has to be perfect and been afraid that I might screw something up. Well actually I probably still am I have a project on ice that I just don’t really feel comfortable working on aside for building the odd bit of tech for it (yes I am building tech in Game Maker.)

So why was I late for such a talk I mean just the premise sounded really cool? Well I was talking to Oli from Game Stick, and showing him zX — see carrying that heavy-ass laptop around has its uses, actually Indie tip at a gaming event always have your game on you so that people can play it. It was true at GDC and it was just as true at Amaze. So to keep this part brief it seems like there are going to be some really cool things happening with zX, and I have to say that I am really impressed with the Game Stick so far: the controller is really good, and that they came out to a small fest to speak to devs kinda speaks quite a bit (as opposed to certain ads filled with puke.) Though one of the coolest things with the Game Stick stick was the eternal horde of little kids around it, like there were always around 6 around it. So I was kinda sceptical about micro-consoles, but I have to say I think they will fit really well in Africa. So back to the talks.

Next was Ruan Rothman (of FreeLives) talk (Greenlight is a Path, not an Obstacle.) A talk about Greenlight was most informative since zX is currently sitting there — so go vote! With Broforce doing exceptionally well on Greenlight there were some key insight into the success Broforce had. Firstly it was a fun game to to make a video about: it has a good narrative and gameplay hook. It is an action game which makes for fun videos. Videos are important since well that is what goes onto YouTube, and YouTubers bring more votes than your normal websites. So I give you proof from the Bro’s themselves

The comments section

Who said nothing good comes from YouTube


So what else is good besides making your game easy for YouTubers to show?

Well making your own YouTube video, the BroForce video is rather excellent.


Notice that part about asking people to vote for the game on Greenlight and then saying the link is in the description? That means if a website that posts the video doesn’t want to look silly they should also post a link to the Greenlight page.

Ok so people people can watch people playing the game, and people know where to vote for the game, but wouldn’t it also be nice if they could ye’ know play the game? Well Ruan attributes quite a bit of the BroForce success to the fact that the game was playable in a web browser so with a single link people could send their friends to the game to play without any hassle. Beyond the the page has links twitter facebook, and Greenlight when it was still on there. In addition to the links after completing a number of missions in Broforce the game would ask if you voted for it on Greenlight, the game gave 3 options: Go vote on Greenlight, I have already voted on Greenlight, or that you let Terror win. So it’s okay to ask players to vote, and nag them a little, but make sure they are having fun and that you are nice about it. It’s a minute of their time so it’s not major not like you are making them spend money so they can get past a nag screen.

The important thing though is giving your players a good experience so instead of making them download a zip and then launch the game from that one click on the web makes it easier. And if it easier to play then there will be more people that like the game, and the more people who like the game the more people who will tell other people about the game, and the more people who are tell people about the game the more fan who will advocate the game there will be. Advocates are great since they do marketing for you, but they are also invested in the game and will help you bring it to places you might not have thought about.

So that was basically the talk on Greenlight. Or was it? Next was Evan Greenwood (founder of Freelives) who talked about Let’s Plays.

Wait wasn’t the last talk about how you use YouTubes to market your game and some such thing. Well yes, but really this was a great talk. It had a bit of a weird focus in that it was only applicable to a certain subset of games, but it was a fascinating exploration of a culture that goes along with the people that use YouTube as a means of communication with their focus being on gaming experiences. Evan took a very good example of The Binding of Isaac the game started out with the normal sales and then the slow tale off, but about 6 months later the sales started increasing: they went up to 500 a day. The next month or so they were up to 1000 or so sales a day, and then two weeks later they were up to 1500 a day (sales numbers are what I can remember from a talk and are not to be taken as definite fact.) This is very unusual since game sales normally go down the longer the game has been out (not count Steam Sales and such) but Isaac was selling better as time went on the the game had yet to go on sale or something like that. Well it turns out that there was an avid community of Isaac player who posted lets play videos of the game on YouTube, which people watched and got more people playing and those people also wanted to post videos of playing the game on YouTube. It certain was an interesting perspective on the ways players interact with games, and that it is not always in the context of only playing the game.

Another aspect of Machinima is that is allows the creator of the game to have a dialogue with the players without actually being there. Working on a game means that you are constantly looking for feedback because there is a constant feeling on myopic game design. So when you get the chance to watch someone play your game you tend to stand over their shoulder and write down everything that they do. And no matter how fast you write or how much detail you add there are things that you might miss if you could just watch a video of the gameplay over again. So open game development  + games that make good machinima = a good way to make games.

After these marvelous talks it was time for some food and socialising and to let my brain wonder off for a bit. Also it was a good opportunity to talk to Evan and Ruan about some improvements that we could do on zX. The key advice is simply put: MORE SCREEN SHAKE. In fact the rule as they told me “If it doesn’t have screen shake it is not a game.

So by the time I came back it was already a good way into Ahmed Samaea’s talk (Being Different Creating Meaning Through Indie Games.) So I decided to go hang out in the arcade for a bit, and to my surprise a rogue Rami was in the arcade setting up Wasteland Kings. I have two very important comments on Rami: I can tell that he is really well travelled with game devs simply because he give the best hugs even if you are wearing a huge ass backpack. And wasteland kings is soooooooo fucking win. So I kinda sat down to play it before the arcade got busy again, and I kinda missed Simon’s talk 😡 I am feeling really bad about missing all these talks.

But I did manage to tear myself away from wasteland kings to go to Sos’s talk which was really great. And it would be a complete shame for me to even try and write about it since it would not do justice to the essence that is Sos which is what the talk was about. So I will say this I am looking forward to the day that Sos makes a game that is truly Sos: that embodies all the small quirks gestures and charms that make him who he is. All his games are a part of him but there is just so much potential in him to make something that will truly move people in a way that I doubt they will expect.

Next there was the keynote by Jepchumba “A new form of revolution: African creativity in the digital space.” The talk focused on a collaboration of  African digital artists in a space of presentation on the, mainly on African Digital Art the talk was certainly interesting, but I don’t feel like I walked away from it gaining much inspiration: I don’t really believe that human should be defined just because they were born in a certain geological region, or anything outside of their own choosing, but still there were some really great pieces of art!

After the keynote I did some more wandering and talking about, and missed the panel. So if I learnt nothing else from Amaze is that I really need to set a timer for when I go out for ‘five’ minutes, or at least if I am with people and having a nice little conversation. But I did duck back into the panel near the end. So from my slim gleamings of the panel it dealt with the development of games, and gamification systems, in Africa, which is really cool and I feel terrible for missing.

Perhaps Amaze needs some more downtime from talks, or some work on scheduling. When I was GDC I didn’t really miss talks that I wanted to go to, and still had quite a lot of time to just go around and talk to people. But talking about talking: after the panel we Katamaried around Braamfomtein to this rather cool pizza place, they had a pizza that was chocolate and fruit: which I duly ordered. And there was much regailing of stories, and talking of topic varying from the recent debacle of PAX and dickwolves, to Rami’s aeroplane karma, and really we are at about 2200 words some I am not going to sit here and write out the entire conversation. I still have the next day to write, and that one only ended at 3:30am on Sunday. So part two coming soon-ish.

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