Our first public demonstration

Last week Julian, Matt, and myself demo’d Ashi Wash in a public space for the first time. In this blog post I’m going to talk about the event, how we prepared for it, and what we learned in the process. Hopefully it’ll be helpful and interesting, especially those new to the world of indie game development.Juegos Rancheros is an indie game event that happens here in Austin, TX. Every month, an indie game is presented and is playable on a large projector and there’s usually a small presentation. There are also a handful of of smaller spots on the periphery for local indie game devs to show off their game. The community is really supportive and the atmosphere is very relaxed. There’s no fancy booths or TVs or anything, you have to bring all of your own stuff, but there’s also zero cost. For small indies working on a super small budget like ourselves, this situation is perfect for us. We sent the kind folks at Juegos Rancheros an email and they said they would have a spot for us to set up our Vive VR rig. Yay!

Up to this point in Ashi Wash’s development, we hadn’t really taken into consideration to present the game publicly, and we only found out a few days before the event that we’d actually have a space to show it off, so we scrambled to make ourselves look spiffy. The first thing we did was get business cards made up. Julian was able to crank out a nice design really quickly. I had planned to order the cards online, but the fast shipping options were pretty expensive. Instead, I looked around for a place in Austin that could print our cards. The cost was pretty low, there were no shipping costs, and I was able to pick up our cards the next day. Supporting your local businesses is good for everybody!

I was wrapping up a freelance project and, frankly, also procrastinating a bit. So I spent the day before and the morning of the event putting in new audio and making last minute tweaks. Juegoes Rancheros starts in the evening around 7:00, so around 4:00 we all got together to make last minute changes and playtest the game. It was definitely more last minute changes than playtesting.

So there we were, watching the clock ticking down as we’re trying tweak and fix all of our stuff, but we’re it’s looking like we’re going to make it. We’ve made our changes and feel basically satisfied with what we have and all that’s left is to build the lighting on the level.
Oh my gosh it’s building at like 1% a minute and we need to leave – now.
In a flurry of cleverness and comprises, we were able to significantly reduce the time it took for the lighting to build, but it still kept us from leaving as soon as we wanted. To save some time, Julian and I packed up the VR gear and computer setup after the lighting had been built and we drove down to the event while Matt made the actual playable build of the game on another computer and joined us later.

We arrived a little late to Juegos, but like I said earlier, it’s a very relaxed environment so that wasn’t too big a deal. Julian and I set up our stuff in our little corner and Matt arrived not long after. The space we had was a little cramped, but that was totally fine. The biggest issue we had was that the floor would often shake significantly, which would make the Vive Lighthouses shake a little. That can make for an annoying to nauseating experience in VR. We also seemed to have an issue where the VR headset tracking seemed a little flaky. It certainly wasn’t a deal breaker, but it was a little annoying and it didn’t give our game the best first impression.

The people who played our game that night seemed to have a lot of fun with it, though! We got some good constructive feedback about various things, but it was all supportive. Most people just seemed to have a good time and enjoyed the silly humor of the whole thing. We even had a couple of young kids try out our game and they enjoyed themselves a bunch, which felt really good for us. We took a lot of notes on how people played the game and those notes are going to result in valuable changes that will make Ashi Wash more intuitive and fun. Overall, the night proved to be a nice ego boost and is giving us some extra motivation to finish the game and get it out into the world.

The next time we present we’ll try to account for shaky Vive Lighthouses. One person suggested using sandbags to weigh down the bases of the beacon stands. Another thing we intend to do is to simply have our game in a publicly presentable state early on and have at least one full day for playtesting. The last day and half turned into a light crunch period for us, which we’re not okay with. The final thing we learned was that presenting a game from the editor works really well. Early on in the night we decided to ignore the build and just play from the editor, and that allowed to make a lot of changes to the game on the fly based on our observations or on people’s feedback. On future projects, I imagine we’ll do our early public demos in the editor, and then later in development we’ll switch over to reliable demo builds as the project nears completion.