GDC 2013: Navigating Live Events – From a Big Studio to a Studio of One


Image courtesy of GiantBomb
Antichamber booth, PAX Prime 2012, courtesy of Giant Bomb

Day two of the Indie Game Summit at GDC 2013 placed me in the audience of a discussion called Navigating Live Events: From Big Studio to Studio of One, which was held by between Alexander Bruce, creator of Antichamber and Greg Rice of Double Fine. Covering a broad base of topics, they illustrated a list of best practices to make it as an indie and get not only your game, but your name out there.

Bruce began with three key points, the first of which was simply “Have a plan.” “Making my game and selling it on Steam is not a plan,” Bruce continued. The third was “How about marketing materials? How early will you display your title?” Basing his strategy from life experiences, he found that the more people he met, both industry professionals or otherwise, the more perspectives he had to work with. From there, he could establish a plan of attack.

Greg Rice of Double Fine, courtesy of Crushable

Greg Rice of Double Fine.
Courtesy of Crushable

“Talk to these people. Over time you’ll have a network whom you can trust and whose opinions you value.” This tied into his second key point, which was finding reliable feedback. This can most easily be established at locations where you have a booth to showcase your game. During his first booth experience at IndieCade 2010 at E3, Bruce quickly realized that he would have to do more than just stand there in order to attract viewers. In the sea of business men and frazzled journalists, he understood that this wasn’t the proper location for his title, at least not yet.

Rice’s discussion touched on finding the appropriate venue to display your work. PAX is key for getting the word out there to the press and consumers, but sometimes feedback from fellow developers is key, so in that case GDC may prove to be more beneficial. Fashioning a suitable demo is key as well. Timing is essential: “Show of exactly what is important about your game, and nothing more. And obviously don’t make tweaks to your build just before the show! This bit us in the ass, as did bringing the incorrect build on one instance,” Rice stated.

Spending hours on your feet to exhibit your labor of love can be grueling as well. “Hydrate, get off your feet, and sleep! These all seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people fail to do this,” Rice mentioned before stating that the last three days of work at PAX had taken its toll on him as well.

Alexander Bruce IGF

Alexander Bruce

You’d be amazed at how often developers are ill-prepared to handle the media attention when it finally arrives. Rice offered advice on how to do exactly that: “Have contact info, press assets, and a way to follow up available immediately.” You only have a moment to keep the press’ attention, so be ready, should it actually happen.

Having a selling point, or story is essential for coverage as well. “What makes you, or your game unique,” Bruce asked the audience. He continued: “I would speak about my experiences of screening Antichamber in locations like China and Japan, and how those affected me. Writing about the game soon became an afterthought for most, because the story was instead about my experiences.”

“Follow up with the press!” was Bruce’s next point. Add them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. See if they are going to an industry event that you are also attending, and say hello. Not having to establish cold contacts as your game is being updated is essential for keeping your title in the news stream and in the player’s mind.

Most of the key points covered during this talk are essential for the success of any indie developer in this over-saturated market of games and talented developers. Crafting an exhilarating or unique experience often isn’t enough, so that’s when marketing and personal connections can take over and allow for the exposure to sustain your adventure. Check back throughout the week as we continue to provide cover of the Indie Game Summit talks at GDC 2013, and let us know below if you found any of these tips to be helpful.

Posted on by Dave Voyles in Features

About Dave Voyles

Dave is located in Philadelphia, and works as a Tech Evangelist at Microsoft. He's coordinated the Indie Games Uprisings on Xbox Live, wrote the UnrealScript Game Programming Cookbook, Made an XBLIG game, and is currently doing JS / HTML5 dev for browser base games. You can follow him on Twitter, at @DaveVoyles