Wednesday, September 9, 2015

[Eon Altar] Post-PAX, Post-Release, and Developer Empathy

I promise that soon I'll talk about other games (I've been playing some Diablo III and Armello in my spare time), but I did want to touch on how our PAX weekend ended up.

PAX and Early Access Release

Four days is a long time to be standing and talking with folks. I haven't done that much hawking my wares at people since I worked retail back in University like a decade ago. While I was extremely excited all weekend, by day 3 I was pretty strung out, as the Aggrochat podcast mentioned. Day 4 I ended up doing an interview on video with some lovely folks, and the only thing I remember from it is that I'm pretty sure I came off as a little manic and under slept. I don't think it's up yet for perusal, though.

I'm in the upper-left here, demoing our build. This was a relatively quiet period.
I'll be honest, when my coworkers suggested that we release the game on Early Access Steam just before PAX Prime, I thought they were nuts. We're all at PAX, who's going to be on support if things explode in a bad way? Thankfully, the launch went quite smoothly, excepting a crazy bug I had in my server discovery code. The good news is thanks partly to Fierydemise, I figured it out quite quickly and had a workaround up for folks, and then we patched it on Android immediately. Still waiting for Apple to say 'yes' on the build on iOS though.

We ended up playing support in the evening when we weren't on the floor, and it worked out pretty well. Being able to say to folks at PAX that "hey, we're on Early Access right now for $5 US," was a pretty decent draw for folks, so I think it was worth it in the end, even if I was more than a bit frazzled from the attention split by the end of the weekend. Add to that the emergency patch for the IP Address issues the Tuesday after PAX.

Slightly different angle here, getting more of the convention in frame.
I didn't really get to enjoy much of PAX at all as a con-goer, though. I spent 90% of my time at our booth. I got like 45 minutes to wander the floor and get a quick look at the other indie games (which there were some pretty sweet ones there). I also did a lunch with a bunch of other blogger friends from Twitter, some of who are on the aforementioned Aggrochat podcast. And I ended up taking an evening to myself and hung out with Fierydemise, which was a total blast just talking about various things, from eSports to philosophy to programming.

Developer Empathy

If folks follow me on Twitter, or read my blog, you'll know that I'm usually a strong developer advocate. Communication, bugs, game design, etc. I find myself defending devs more often than loud consumers, but now that I'm in the hot seat, I feel I can defend both sides a bit better.

Eon Altar is basically multi-platform in a way nobody else is. You need to have iOS/Android mobile devices to play the PC game. It's a bit weird, and trying to message that hasn't been easy. We've certainly goofed on the message before.

So when we started getting forum posts from people angry about our game requirements, I suddenly got why WoW devs often mention that level of passion might be a good thing, somewhat. These are folks who want to play our game, which is great, but are frustrated that they can't because they don't have the prerequisite equipment, which isn't so great. To be fair, one could post a game that requires the Oculus Rift and get the same sort of response, but the mobile/multiple screen thing really does throw folks for a loop. Again, comes back to maybe we're not communicating why we use mobile devices well enough.

Once I figured out that, it totally changed how I approached people at PAX. I'd very quickly dive in to not only what made our game unique, but why we used multiple screens. I found that turned around the interest factor significantly on the PAX floor, even for folks who don't normally like RPGs or games like D&D.

Active Development

We're back to fixing up the game, and incorporating some feedback we got from PAX itself, as well as folks who've written about or played the game already in Open Access. The feedback has been absolutely fantastic. Some things we need to improve, and a few places where we've nailed the experience. The next month promises to be busy, but I can say that manning the booth at PAX, and doing Early Access on Steam? Both immensely worth it already. #EonAltar, #PAXPrime, #EarlyAccess

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