E3 2016

2 weeks ago, I flew out to LA to begin my convention tour.

I arrived in LA on Sunday, 2 days before E3 started. On Monday, I went to the convention center to upload a new build of Manifold Garden to the show floor PS4. We had submitted a build to Sony a week earlier, but had added additional content and fixed a bunch of bugs afterwards.

E3 was Tuesday to Thursday, and was basically just a whirlwind of press events. My schedule was pretty much completely packed during all three days.

Like last year, I was in the Sony booth, in the PS4 section. This year, the area showing indie games was about a third of the size it was last year. I’m super grateful to have been part of the PlayStation 4 booth this year. I was asked to be in it on the last day, and it is just such a fantastic opportunity.

This year, I was booth neighbors with Night In The Woods, ABZÛ, and Thumper. All beautiful games in their own right. What fantastic company to be a part of!

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Usually at conventions, on the last day is when the press will go around putting “Best Of” badges on the various games they have selected.

This year, Manifold Garden got 4 of them! Thank you IGN, PlayStation Nation, 4Player Network, and LevelCamp!

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Manifold Garden was nominated for IGN’s Best of E3 2016 Awards in the puzzle game section, alongside Batman: Arkham VR and Deus Ex Go. Batman ended up winning, but it was still super exciting to be nominated!

IGN Best of E3 2016

Manifold Garden was also on two of Polygon’s writers’ top 10 games of E3 lists!

The game also got a ton of press! Here’s a list of just some of them:

IGN - E3 2016: 17 Awesome Games You Probably Missed

Polygon - Manifold Garden takes Inception’s twisting architecture and turns it into a puzzle

PlayStation Universe - Manifold Garden is a puzzle gamer’s dream: Hands-on impressions

Northernlion - Northernlion’s Best of E3 2016

Easy Allies - Manifold Garden – E3 2016 Impressions

Arcade Sushi - Tripping Through The Manifold Garden

PlayStation Lifestyle - E3 2016 – Manifold Garden Preview – Be a Witness (PS4)

FactorNews - Premier vertige dans Manifold Garden

IndieMag - Manifold Garden, Le Puzzle-Game Vertigineux, Dévoile Une Vidéo de Gameplay Pour L’E2016

Famitsu - 幻想的かつ幾何学的な世界を舞台に重力を入れ替えながら進むパズルアドベンチャー『Manifold Garden』【E3 2016】

GameSpot - Solving Puzzles in Different Perspectives with Manifold Garden at E3 2016

PC Games Hardware - Manifold Garden: Trailer zum außergewöhnlichen Puzzle-Spiel

Game Revolution - E3 2016: Manifold Garden Is Where Falling Doesn’t Mean Certain Death

Digital Trends - ‘Manifold Garden’ Creator William CHyr Wants You To Think In Three Dimensions

My biggest highlight of E3 this year was that I got to meet Shuhei Yoshida, the president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios for Sony Computer Entertainment! He was a delightful person, and stopped by to check out Manifold Garden!

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He also had some really nice things to say about the game! :D

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After E3 ended on Thursday, I went back to the hotel, then headed straight for the airport to catch a red eye to Indianapolis for Indy Pop Con. I’ll talk about that more in the next post.

GDC Post-Mortem

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Finally back from GDC and fully recovered. I didn’t get the GDC flu that seemed to be quite popular this year, but I was incredibly exhausted the first few days back.

Lots to report on since the last update (about a month ago! I really need to get better at updating this devlog. Just been super busy).

GDC

This year’s GDC was very different for me. It’s my third time going. The previous years, I wasn’t showing the game or giving a talk, so GDC was more about meeting other developers and hanging out in Yerba Buena Park. This year, I was showing Manifold Garden at the Day of the Devs exhibit and also giving a talk as part of the level design workshop. It was a ton of work to prepare for both, and during the week of GDC, I had very little time to do anything else. However, both were incredibly positive experiences and I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to do both.

Day of the Devs

This year, Double Fine and iam8bit organized an exhibition of several games at GDC called Day of the Devs. It was a fantastic venue – right at the bottom of the escalators in Moscone North. It was a prime location for showing the game, as it was right by the registration area, and you basically passed by it on the way to the expo floor.

It was an absolutely fantastic group of games to be a part of:

  • Below by Capy Games
  • David OReilly Game 2 by David OReilly
  • Headlander from Double Fine Productions
  • Day of the Tentacle Remastered by Double Fine Productions
  • SUPERHYPERCUBE by Kokoromi
  • Return of the Obra Dinn by Lucas Pope
  • Dreams by Media Molecule
  • Bound from Plastic
  • Hob by Runic Games
  • ARENA GODS by Supertype
  • Manifold Garden by William Chyr
  • Severed by DrinkBox Studios
  • Line Wobbler by Robin Baumgarten
  • Rez Infinite by Monstars + Resonair

It was a real honor to be a part of this, and I’m so thankful to Double Fine and iam8bit for this opportunity.

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It was my first time showing a game at GDC, and it was great to have a home base where you can chill. In the past, I pretty much just wandered around the convention center. This year, it was really nice to have a comfortable place to sit and chill, and invite people to come and hang out.

On Monday, Double Fine also organized an event at the Alamo Drafthouse Theater and San Francisco. They rented out the entire theater, and each of the devs showing their games got to go up on the stage to present for 20 minutes. It was incredible seeing all of the games on the big screen with the sound system.

Here’s a pic of Lucas Pope showing how the rendering works in Return of the Obra Dinn (it’s quite dark so you can’t actually see Lucas in the pic). The game looked fantastic on the big screen.

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Level Design Workshop

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This year, I was also invited to give a 30 minute talk as part of the level design workshop. It was actually quite a lot of work to prepare for this, but Joel Burgess, the organizer of the event, made the whole process very smooth. We had to have rough drafts of the talk in several months before GDC, and this meant that when GDC snuck up, I wasn’t caught unprepared and actually had a really strong presentation to work with. I also had a mentor, Liz England, who gave me feedback on the various versions which was very helpful.

One thing I did that I found very useful was to record myself giving the talk, and then sending it to people for feedback. This works much better than just sending someone slides, because they don’t know how you plan to use those images to deliver your talk, and it gives them much better sense of your pacing. Liz and Joel both gave me really good feedback based on my video recordings.

I also gave a practice talk at the local Chicago Unity meetup, and also did a dry run on my twitch stream (which seemed quite popular – had around 50 viewers that day, when normally I have 20).

Anyway, if you ever plan on giving a talk at GDC, definitely know that it will mean a lot of work to prepare. Start making your slides early (as in, around October), practice a lot, and record yourself giving the talk.

By the time I went on stage, I actually didn’t feel nervous at all, and the talk went very well. It was also great the the Day of the Devs exhibit was right outside the room where I gave the talk, so I was able to point people to check it out. This was useful as Manifold Garden wasn’t out yet, but it allowed people to experience the game.

Here are my slides for the talk: https://www.dropbox.com/s/87loka5ghy5k3hu/Chyr_William_LevelDesignInImpossibleGeometry.pdf?dl=0

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GDC Summary 

All in all, GDC was very busy this year, but very positive. Showing Manifold Garden at Day of the Devs was an incredibly positive experience. A lot of people I talked to were familiar with the game and seemed excited about it. It was such a great feeling to tell people I’m working on “Manifold Garden”, and to see them get excited. And when people didn’t seem to know the name, I’d show them a picture, and they’d say something like “oh ya, I’ve totally seen this game before”.

The most common reception I got from people was that they had seen a lot of beautiful pics of the game on twitter, and had no idea what the game was about, but were still excited.

I know it’s important not to base feelings on what others are saying, and certainly the crowd at GDC is part of a small bubble of developers, but it was nevertheless a big confidence boost. Some of you might remember two years ago, when I showed the game at PSX in Las Vegas (this was back when it was still known as Relativity), nobody knew about the game and I was super bummed out by that experience. It was almost the complete opposite experience this time around, so it felt super rewarding.

It was also great to catch up with friends in the little free time that I did have. The indie hostel as always was a highlight:

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There was also an “impossible lunch” meeting. A bunch of guys from UsTwo, the makers of Monument Valley, proposed that devs working on games with impossible geometry meet up for lunch. There was Steve Swink (Scale), Albert Shi (Museum of Simulation Technology), and Marc Ten Bosch (Miegakure), amongst many others.

Henry Segerman, a mathematician, also joined us, and showed us a bunch of beautiful 3D prints of mathematical objects that had made.

In this one, for example, by shining a light through the orb, a grid pattern is projected on the surface below.

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It was pretty funny to see all of us at the table playing with all of these objects and looking totally amazed.

Anyway, GDC was great. I got a big dose of inspiration, and am ready to continue tackling Manifold Garden.

Oh, and here’s a picture of me taken at the iam8bit 80′s booth. I stopped by on the last day while it was closing down, and Jon from iam8bit convinced me to jump in last minute for a photo.  So glad I did.

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GDC Talk and Day of the Devs

manifold garden GDC

GDC is going to be really busy for me this year. I’ll be giving a talk for the first time, as part of the Level Design workshop, and also, I found out last week that Manifold Garden will be on exhibit as part of “Day of the Devs’!

GDC Talk

My talk is going to be part of the Level Design Workshop, and will be on Tuesday, March 15th, at 3:00pm, in Room 130 in North Hall. This is the day before the main conference starts.

[url+http://schedule.gdconf.com/session/level-design-workshop-level-design-in-impossible-geometry]Here’s the official page on the GDC website[/url], if you’re using the scheduler and want to add it to that.

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I’m really looking forward to this, as GDC talks, and especially the level design talks, have been very helpful for me as a designer.

It’s cool to finally have an opportunity to give back.

I’ll be talking a lot about what it’s like to work with weird geometry in Manifold Garden, different problems I’ve faced, and various techniques I’ve discovered which have been helpful.

Day of the Devs

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Also, super pleased to announce that Manifold Garden will be playable at GDC as part of Double Fine and iam8bit’s ‘Day of the Devs’ exhibition.

I still find it pretty hard to believe that Manifold Garden will be a part of this. The list of games they’re showing is fantastic:

  • Below by Capy Games
  • David OReilly Game 2 by David OReilly
  • Headlander from Double Fine Productions
  • Day of the Tentacle Remastered by Double Fine Productions
  • SUPERHYPERCUBE by Kokoromi
  • Return of the Obra Dinn by Lucas Pope
  • Dreams by Media Molecule
  • Bound from Plastic
  • Hob by Runic Games
  • ARENA GODS by Supertype
  • Manifold Garden by William Chyr
  • Severed by DrinkBox Studios
  • Line Wobbler by Robin Baumgarten
  • Rez Infinite by Monstars + Resonair

GDC is going to be pretty crazy this year. If you’re going, definitely let me know. It would be great to meet up!

PlayStation Experience 2015

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Returned to Chicago on Monday from PlayStation Experience. It was pretty exhausting. I was hoping to work on Tuesday, but ended up taking the day off to recover.

PlayStation Experience this year was very different from last year’s event.

Here’s my write up for last year’s PlayStation Experience: Part 1Part 2Part 3 

Regarding the event itself, PlayStation Experience this year was much bigger. There was a pretty large crowd on both days, while last year there were several times when the section I was in felt quite empty. I think this is a combination of the event being more well known, and also being in SF instead of Las Vegas.

With regards to the game, last year, it felt like nobody knew about the game. Many of the people who came to my booth last year and never heard of the game before. This year though, a lot of people came up to me and told me how they had been seeing screenshots of the game everywhere, and some also said they had actually been following its development for some time. It felt really awesome knowing that the game was getting out there, and now people know about it.

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This year I also got a lot of press coverage, which was much better than last year, when I got none. Here are some of the articles that have covered the game so far:

Kotaku – Manifold Garden, An Incredibly Pretty Puzzle Game

US Gamer – Manifold Garden is a Real Mind-Warper

Game Informer –  Our 10 Favorite Indies From The PlayStation Experience 2015

VentureBeat – Sony focuses on the joy of gaming at PlayStation Experience

The GWW – Manifold Garden – My Biggest Surprise at PSX

4Gamer – エッシャーにインスパイアされた奇才が3年をかけて開発中のパズルゲーム「Manifold Garden」  (Japenese)

All of this was really great to see.

Show Logistics

Arrived in San Francisco on Friday at noon, and headed straight to Moscone Center to pick up my badge and set up the game.

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Like last year, I had a 10′ x 10′ booth:

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Sony provided 2 TVs, 2 PS4s, and 2 controllers, so set up was pretty simple. All I had to do was show up, install the game from the USB, and hang up the banner. Normally, having to carry all the computer equipment, screens, and setting up, is such a huge hassle for conventions, and Sony took care of this.

Also, this is pretty funny:

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Not sure what happened here. My company is “William Chyr Studio”, and that’s the name I have registered with Sony and what I put as the company when I filled out the PSX participation form, but it looks like there was some confusion.

Everyone said to own it. I should really go for the mad scientist vibe. Anyone got an extra lab coat they can lend me?

Here’s a picture of the crowd on the second floor watching the keynote:

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This year, the indie section was split up across the entire convention, instead of being all together. I think this was a really cool way of doing it, especially given the size of the whole show, as it didn’t make the indie games feel like they were a separate category. The only downside was that it was a really hard to see the other indies if you just remained at your booth.

In other conventions I’ve done, because all the indies are within a 10 minute walk of one another, I’d end up getting to see and talk to everyone. This year though, I had other friends at PSX who I did not get the see and talk to at all!

The show on Saturday was also 12 hours – from 10 AM to 10 PM. The hours were quite brutal, especially for one person manning a booth (I wasn’t the only one doing this either!). I don’t think last year had such insane hours. I do hope Sony changes this in the future, for the sake of the smaller indie teams that can’t afford more booth personnel. Or perhaps have volunteers that man the booth for an hour or two so smaller teams can take a break?

The show on Sunday was 10 AM to 6 PM, which was pretty nice.

After the show, I hung out with some of the other developers, and it was great to be able to do a bit of catching up.

Here’s a pic of my friend and fellow game designer Chris Bell playing Manifold Garden at the booth:

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IndieCade Post-Mortem – Part 1

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Earlier this year, I submitted Relativity to IndieCade. However, on September 10th, I received an email saying that the game wasn’t selected as a finalist. I was pretty disappointed, but much of the judges’ criticisms were valid, and I was happy to have received such detailed feedback. If you hadn’t seen the feedback from the judges, I posted them here on this post.

Anyway, I decided I would go to IndieCade anyway, since as a dev submitting a game, you get a free 3-day festival pass (you can’t go to talks or panels, but you get to go to the festival for all 3 days, as well as night games on Saturday). Between that and getting to stay with friends while in LA meant that I only had to cover the cost of flight. A lot of indies are at IndieCade so I figured, even though I’m not showing, I can still meet people and get really useful feedback on Relativity, so the trip will be worth it.

So, what is IndieCade?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, IndieCade is a festival/conference of independent games that takes place in Culver City (LA). This year, it was from Thursday, October 9th to Sunday, October 12th. IndieCade consists of IndieXChange, a full day event targeted towards developers, with workshops, talks, and meetings with publishers. This takes place on October 9th. Then on October 10th, the main conference/festival starts, and you can check out the officially selected games, as well as games for PlayStation, Ouya, Nintendo, and XBox, amongst other platforms, in their respective tents.

Pre-IndieCade / Glitch City / Grand Ole Glitch

On October 8th, the day before IndieCade began, I went over to Glitch City, a co-working space in Culver City made up of a bunch of independent game developers and artists. A bunch of developers from out of town were already there hanging out, and playing each others’ games.

Later that evening, Glitch City organized a party called “Grand Ole Glitch”, which was a showcase of different talents from around LA. It was really cool, because even though most of the people in the audience were game developers who had come in for IndieCade, the showcase itself was full of artists from different fields.

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One performer that really stood out for me was Beau Sia, a spoken word artist. Here he is on Def Poetry Jam several years ago..

IndieXchange

The next day, on October 9th, I headed over to IndieXChange. As stated earlier, IndieXChange is an event primarily for developers. Everyone who submits a game to IndieCade is invited to attend. It’s intended to help developers network, learn, and get feedback on their work. IndieXchange provided pastries and coffee at the event, which was really great as registration for the event started at 9 AM.

At IndieXchange, there was also Game Tasting, which was basically a show & tell event that was happening throughout the day. There was an online sign up form for Game Tasting prior to IndieCade had started, but if you didn’t sign up, you could also ask to be placed on the waiting list. A key thing to remember is to always be ready to show your game. I think a few developers who were on the waiting list ended up missing their opportunity because they were either not present when their names were called or didn’t have their equipment with them.

Anyway, I had applied online prior to the event, and had been given a table to show in the morning session, from 10 AM to 11:45 AM. This was a really great opportunity for me to get feedback from other developers, as I had made several changes after Tokyo Game Show, and I wanted to see how players would respond.

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There were several talks and panels going on throughout the day. I went to one called “Physically Based Rendering for Indies” by Anton Hand ofRust Ltd. The talk focused on techniques of physical based rendering used by their studio, and how that specific pipeline allowed them to create really photorealistic stuff with only a small team.

Here’s a pic of the talk: IMG_7256

At 4 PM, there was a “Best of Game Tasting” event happening at the IndieXchange reception. Like the name says, it was a selection of some of the best games that had been shown during the day. I was very fortunate to have been selected, so I was able to show Relativity again at this session.

Here’s another pic of Game Tasting:IMG_7265

Here’s the Mayor of Culver City giving a talk at the reception:IMG_7272

At the end of the day, there was the IndieCade Award Show. I went but didn’t take any pictures.