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Bringing a game to a larger scale convention is an extremely intimidating task. There is an insurmountable pressure that makes you feel like your game is never polished enough right up until the first day of the event. When you take a break from your booth and begin walking around the hall, you see some unique and creative examples on how to properly showcase a game with a fixed budget. I will discuss three games that stood out to me on the weekend that my team and I were with our game at PAX East 2018.
“Mowin’ & Thrown’”, I’ll just get this one out of the way. I was such a fanboy of it the entire weekend and you would rather not hear me ramble about it for an eternity. Anyways, this game stood out right off the bat. It was an exciting game that has the potential to be a really fun relationship ruining experience, and I mean that in the best of ways. Being able to yell at your teammate and opponents for throwing a rock at you or launching balls of grass sabotaging your lawn brought back memories of Mario Kart 64. What really made this whole setup special was we managed to get three rounds of the game in despite having a line of people waiting to play. After my turn was up, I managed to get into a conversation with the Producer of the game and he told me about the changes they made. At PAX South that took place a few months prior, they had a booth set up right near the entrance to the exhibition hall. Tons of people poured in and they wanted to get as many people to play their game as possible. So they would sit a group of four down, have them play a round, and then made room for the next group. At PAX East, they decided to let the players play two or three rounds instead so people have more chances to get a feel for the game. It was the small difference in play testing and spreading the love that allowed for onlookers to understand and enjoy the game more. It definitely helped build their fanbase.
“Deathgarden” was a game of the all versus one variety. Five people need to work together to complete objectives so they may leave the area without being taken out by the hunter. Players have three lives to work with and no time limit, so they can be as cautious and slow as possible. The only thing is they can’t kill the hunter, only stun for a short period of time. A lot of stealth play is needed to win or else a skilled hunter will easily take everyone out. The way the developers had it set up was to have this giant booth look and feel like the arena the players were fighting in. The walls were gray and sleek while the ground was implanted with grass and some foliage. The way they conducted play tests was putting the team of five players on their computers inside the booth. On the outside separated by a wall was the hunter. They made the player who was fighting on their own, feel isolated. It felt really immersive being in the same physical proximity as the other players and working together. The image Deathgarden was portraying was fantastic and showed by doing that, they care about the players and their experience in the game. Other booths should strive to achieve what they did that weekend.
“Witch It” was another personal favorite of mine. It’s a prop hunt game where it’s witches who can change into pretty much any object to blend in and fly around versus villagers who want nothing more than to eliminate them with rocks and chickens. The witches have powers that can distract the villagers to get themselves out of tight situations. It’s a different take on the prop games but stands on its own two legs. This booth was the same size as ours, 10 by 10, and they utilized every inch of it wonderfully. Just like a typical lan set-up, they had two long tables next to each other with two computers on each. One side were the witches and the other side were the villagers. To set the booth like that was smart and allowed the developers to walk around the tables with ease to observe the carnage of witches getting hunted down. What was a really nice touch was they brought headphones for the players. Just a quick side note, these conventions and exhibitions are almost always high in volume because of the people and all the games. Once I sat down and put these headphones on, I was able to hear everything in the game perfectly. I consider this a perfect example of image and spreading the love. The way they set the booth up with limited space was very smart and showed how organized they were, while bringing the headphones provided the player with a more immersed experience and felt like a break from the conventions madness.
It’s the small things and attention to detail that really make all the difference when designing a booth for your game. Take notes, if you are ever interested in showcasing a game at a larger conference, these three games set the tone for three different levels of budget.