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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PlayStation Experience Post-Mortem – Part 3

Day 2

The hours for Sunday was 10 AM to 6 PM. It was nice to have a much shorter day, and as expected, the crowd was smaller than on Saturday.

One of the highlights on Sunday was I got to try Luis Antonio’s Twelve Minutes. This is a game I’ve been excited about for quite a while. I had a similar idea for some time, after watching the film Source Code. During SIGGRAPH in Vancouver, I was telling Brendon Chung of Blendo Games about this idea, and the next day, Rock, Paper, Shotgun published a preview of the game.

The game wasn’t officially being shown at PSX. Luis is the artist on The Witness, and showed the game to me during one of his breaks. It’s really fascinating, and has a lot of interesting design challenges. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the game develops.

Also, a redditor from /r/PS4 stopped by and we did an awkward high-five, as originally planned:

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I am responsible for about 90% of the awkwardness in that picture.

Here is a much better picture of me:

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Conclusion and Final Thoughts

All in all, PSX was a lot of fun, and a really great event to show at. It was my first time showing the game in the context of PlayStation, and the crowd seemed to be quite different from those at past events.

A lot of the people who came by hadn’t heard of the game before, so it was great to see the game reaching new people. Several people would walk by the booth and check out the game on account of the art style, only to completely finish the demo, which takes around 30 minutes, and walk away really excited. That was an awesome feeling and an indication for me that the tweaks and iterations I’ve made this past year have worked.

I was a little disappointed with the lack of press I got. I had emailed about 20 journalists from major outlets who were going to be there, but none of them stopped by, and the game didn’t get a single mention in the media. This is not the journalists’ fault – I think because it’s the first PSX, a lot of outlets only sent 1 or 2 people to cover the event, and most of their time was spent on the new reveals and announcements from larger titles.

Still, I was quite disappointed. Going to these events is a ton of work and quite expensive, especially as a one-man team. Sony covered the cost of hotel, but I still had to pay for flight, food, etc, and Las Vegas is not cheap.

I was flying back to Chicago on Tuesday morning, so had an extra day in town. On Monday night, I was feeling a little depressed about the lack of press I got, and went for a walk around town to try to clear my head and plan out what I’m going to do next in development. I ended up at Denny’s, and had just ordered some food, when I got a text from my friend Kevin:

“Check your Twitted feed!!”

I took out my phone, and I couldn’t believe my eyes:

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Jonathan Blow just tweeted about my game. Holy shit.

I know this may not sound like a big deal. After all, it’s just a tweet. But if you’ve been following this devlog or me on twitter, you’ll know that Jon’s work has had the most influence on my own work and approach to game development. Braid was a huge inspiration, and RELATIVITY is very much a work along the same lines of philosophy. I see games as a way to uncover truth through exploration of a system, and I want to make deep and profound experiences. I’ve watched almost all of Jon’s talks and interviews, and had studied his work very closely.

For the past two years of development, I had been wanting to get the game to a state that was ready to show him. I met Jon briefly at PRACTICE last month, and sent him a build of the game afterwards. Even though it’s still an early build of the game, the fact that he played through it and liked it enough to share about it (and he doesn’t share about too many games), was a huge milestone for me and meant a tremendous amount.

It was the best exposure that I could have gotten for the game, and to have it come at a time when I was feeling pretty down about the lack of press attention… I almost broke down at Denny’s.

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PlayStation Experience Post-Mortem – Part 2

PSX Day 1 

Saturday was the first day of PSX. The show floor hours for the public was 10 AM to 9 PM, so it was quite long.

Before the show started, I stopped by Walgreens to pick up my “booth survival kit”: some snacks, throat drops, gum, and of course, a giant jug of water

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The jug of water makes you look pretty ridiculous, but it’s important to stay hydrated. In fact, the guys next to me at White Paper Games also brought jugs of water on the following day.

I arrived at my booth at around 8:30 AM to set up. It only took half an hour to get the booth ready, but I wanted to give myself some time to check out other games.

My most anticipated title was The Witness, and I did get to play it for about 20 minutes. It was exceptional. Even with the little amount I played, I can tell this game is going to be really great. I was actually quite skeptical at first, as I couldn’t quite tell what the game was about from the early footage that was released. However, after the play session, I was totally convinced, and have not been able to stop thinking about it since.

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Here were some of the other booths I checked out:

Night In The Woods

NITW

Distance

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Pavilion

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Anyway, even though the hall opened at 10 AM, it was pretty quiet until 11:30 AM. This was because the PlayStation keynote was happening then, so most people were at that.

Once the day got going, there was a pretty good flow of traffic. It wasn’t crazy packed like at PAX, so people actually got to play for pretty long periods. The demo of the game took about 20 to 40 minutes to complete, and several people did finish it, which was a really great sign of me.

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By the way, in the second picture, the person playing in back of the booth is Dan Gray, the executive producer on Monument Valley! He had some really positive things to say about the game and gave me his card.

This is what the section I was in looked like:

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After the exhibit, there was a concert with the band that’s composing music for No Man’s Sky:

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I was quite tired, so I didn’t stay for too long. I went to get dinner with a couple of other developers instead.

PlayStation Experience Post-Mortem – Part 1

Back in October, a few days after Gamercamp, Sony invited me to show RELATIVITY at PlayStation Experience (PSX). Originally, I had intended for Gamercamp to be my last showing of RELATIVITY in 2014, as I had gone to about 14 conventions/festivals/conferences this year, and was feeling pretty exhausted. However, PSX was just too good to turn down.

PlayStation Experience is a convention for PlayStation Exclusive titles. It’s the first year that Sony is organizing it, and it took place at The Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.

I arrived in Las Vegas on Friday around noon, along with fellow Chicago game devs Kevin and Phil of the Young Horses, who were there to show Octodad.

At the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas waiting for a cab:

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Just outside the convention hall. This is where you signed in and got your exhibitor wristband:

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Inside the exhibit hall, the day before PSX started:

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Here’s the map of the layout at PlayStation Experience. The top part with all the little booths is the Indie Area, which Sony calls “Devotion”. I still find it hilarious to see my name alongside a bunch of studio names:

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Here’s the initial setup of the booth:

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Here’s the setup I decided to go with, which a lot of other teams adopted as well, as it pretty much makes the most sense if you have two stations:

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One screen is in the back of the booth, and the other is on the side, facing towards the main part of the show.

My booth neighbors on one side were the Young Horses with Octodad:

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And on the side were White Paper Games with Ether One:

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It took me a few hours to get set up. I had forgotten to bring HDMI cables, so had to go find somewhere nearby to buy them. I finally finished around 4:30 PM, and went to check in and get some rest in my hotel room.

After that, I went to the Game Awards. It was at the Axis Theater and Planet Hollywood, about  a 30 minute walk from my hotel. I had gotten a free ticket for it on account of being at PSX. There were a few cool moments, but mostly I thought it was too long (it ran for about 3 hours).

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The coolest part of the show was that it opened with Koji Kondo playing the Mario theme:

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Anyway, Las Vegas is a very strange place. Here’s an area in the hotel/casino/convention center plaza that had a fake sky and a fake canal, complete with gondolas and gondoliers:

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