Promoting at GDC
Within the final month of development, it’s now marketing prime time.
Through I Need Diverse Games, Dames Making Games and the GDC Narrative Summit, I was able to attend the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Conveniently, GDC was taking place during reading week, so we did not miss out on any meetings. Going there is obviously the perfect opportunity for networking, so I wanted to come up with a way to advertise Disco is Dead! despite the fact that the game is incomplete. A few weeks before the conference, we did not have enough time to produce more art and most of the cutscene art was planned to be started until after reading week. So I had to act fast. Business cards would have been the cheapest and easier route to go, however it was also harder to design those within a short amount of time. I wanted to offer something to attendees that would be fun, memorable and practical.
So I decided to make stickers!
Stickers had exactly what I was looking for. They’re enjoyable, make a better impact and they are more likely to be used than thrown out. So I designed two stickers that had the first images of our player-characters, Reggie and Kenny. One of the challenges was to figure out how to incorporate the title of the game without sing the logo, since at the time we were considering redesigns. So I added the title around the stickers, giving it a patch-like feel, and also included the characters’ names to help establish these characters outside of the game.
Something I was indecisive about was adding the game’s twitter handle. I definitely wanted to include it like how a business card would, but at the same time, I want people to enjoy the sticker the way it is, and not make our advertising approach noticeable. In the end, I finally decided not to include it. Sure, we would have gotten more followers, but I didn’t want to make us look like try-hards. Fortunately, our twitter did get more followers from GDC because of the stickers. At the conference I handed out about a hundred of my personal business cards. That card has my personal twitter, which links to Disco is Dead!’s twitter. So handing out my business card and a Disco is Dead! sticker exactly worked hand-in-hand, since people can find out more about the sticker by using the information on my card. IT almost seems like they were on a like a treasure hunt, making the experience of finding our wacky gem of a game more unique and special. I’m very happy I chose to spread awareness of our game with stickers, because it put a smile on everyone’s face when they received it. Especially drunk people. Actually, pitching our weird crazy game to drunk people got over-top and expressive reactions!
Here are the stickers we printed. We’ve printed about 48 of these and only handed them out to anyone we’ve mentioned Disco is Dead! to.
Playtesting for Exposure
Post-GDC with only a few weeks left, it’s time to apply to showcases. Our game was designed to be played at showcases exclusively due to our unique controller set up. Currently, I’m working on a new updated trailer that will show off our newer controller designs as well as our polished art and gameplay. Since we want to show our interesting game to the public, we did some public playtesting at Gamma Space before GDC.
Gamma Space held their monthly Play Games With Friends event in February, and we decided to bring our game out for a test-run. Only our level designer, creative director and I were going, and unfortunately our UI lead (who made the controllers) could not attend.
Which meant we had to set it up.
Of course, this being our first time trying to set up without our UI lead to help out, we spend about 45 minutes trying to assemble it together properly. Our game plays well when players are standing rather than sitting down, which means we prefer a bar-height table so taller players are not insulted or excluded. However, for this session, we had to use regular height tables, which does not offer the best playable experience. We tried using a long table but that proved to be weak with our controller rigs. So we resorted to a round table. We initially thought it wouldn’t clamp down on a rounded surface, and surprisingly we were wrong. The next step was to connect the wires to the right controls, which took some trial and error through testing on Notepad. Soon, we got some testers wanting to play, and as they played, some parts of the controller weren’t functioning properly. Throughout the night (and with so much pressure on us) we recreated some of the foil tape tabs that helped connect the circuit together. Eventually, we recreated so many of the connections, that the controllers started working perfectly and the game was running smoothly. After about 2 hours of panicking, the game was working and we got a few more testers the enjoy the game without interruptions or technical difficulties. With this experience, I learned that we need to have practice set ups for future events, time ourselves, and think of every possible thing that could go wrong and prepare for it. It was a really good night in the end. We got lots of great feedback and even got ourselves some Disco is Dead! fans!
There have also been plenty of moments of failure when setting up. Such as when we have guests visiting our labs and we are unexpectedly told to set up our game for them. Through these failures, we are taking notes and making checklists of what needs to be done when preparing for future showcases like Level Up in April. We are even trying to find our own table that fits our exact requirements (in height and stability) for the controllers so we can offer players the best playable experience.