Got back into Dallas earlier today and wanted to get a quick blog post up about my experience at PAX South! Was my first PAX -- I was there for Friday night afterparties and all day Saturday.
(photo cred Sarah Sexton)
I spent most of Saturday helping with the Society of Play Arcade that Microsoft graciously hosted in their booth as part of a Texas indie showcase. For those that don't know, the Dallas Society of Play is a fairly new indie gamedev collective here in Dallas -- an effort to grow and strengthen the local community with regular meetups and other efforts. Russel built the arcade cabinet and we welcome any games made in the Dallas area -- most of the games currently on the cabinet are from a 48h game jam we held for it back in mid 2014 (one notable exception being Stardust Vanguards).
My game jam game for the cabinet was NO YOU BE THE MEAT, a 4 player versus game where you play as a robot with a bread gun and try to make sandwiches out of your enemies.
I checked out most of the expo floor, though didn't have the patience to wait in the longer lines for games like Gigantic or Dreadnaught. I only made it to one panel and forgot about the console play areas. Oops -- will have to remember next time.
One of the bigger reasons I wanted to go was to meet other indie devs. Going was a bit of a last minute decision so I could have planned better, but it was nice getting to meet a few other indies I'd been talking to on twitter like the dev behind Black Ice. Also got to meet and chat with Adriel Wallick and Rami Ismail, which was a real treat.
San Antonio itself was also a pleasant surprise -- the downtown area was better than I expected and everything was a 5 minute walk away. Definitely easier than hopping on buses and trains to get to GDC after parties.
One realization I had from the trip was that maybe I need to give myself more vacations. For the last several months I've been grinding away on both Arms of Telos and client work without any real breaks. It definitely got to the point where productivity and mental health took a real hit. GDC has always been incredibly rejuvenating and inspiring -- I come out of it with tons of ideas and a lot of energy that really helps my work and general well-being. PAX South was less so. Sure, the shows are different and the fact that GDC is a developer conferences vs a consumer expo probably makes some difference, but I actually think it has a lot to do with me usually giving myself some extra days in San Francisco when I go to GDC. I'd usually stay with friends so I could afford a longer stay and use it as a mini vacation -- I imagine this is pretty key to me being able to recharge. I didn't do that for PAX South so it was very busy and felt more like work instead of a real break. With the deadlines coming up in the next couple months I'm not sure when I'll get a chance, but giving myself more vacations is something I'll have to experiment with in the future, even if it just means taking a few days off and doing something other than work.
Finally, I've been thinking a lot about how I could possibly show Arms of Telos at events like PAX. Events like IndieCade and The Media Indie Exchange are great opportunities, but they're more suited to singleplayer games (or local multiplayer games). Needing 10 computers to properly show Arms of Telos creates a real challenge. The hardware costs are obviously higher, but I think a bigger booth would probably be the biggest financial hurdle -- showing at events is already expensive for a single station and a 10 computer booth is just not gonna happen anytime soon. I could try to partner with PC hardware manufacturers that would already have a booth and need games to show off their peripherals, but I'm not sure how attractive my low poly game would be to them. I could create some sort of singleplayer challenge so there's something to do on one machine, but that just doesn't seem worthwhile. I want to take advantage of BYOC events like Quakecon and the PAX BYOC, but those are rare.
After seeing Alienware's truck setup, I joked about retrofitting a food truck with PCs so I could park outside events. But I think a more promising solution might be to do something like the Indie Megabooth, but specifically for networked multiplayer indie games. So we'd get a bigger booth in order to have ~10 computers but split the costs. Instead of displaying different games on the different computers, each game would take turns using all the computers. So people would come back to the booth throughout the day in order to play the different games that are on rotation.
Most indies don't have this problem, but I imagine the devs behind games like Intruder, Disco Dodgeball and Reflex find themselves in a similar predicament. Maybe something I'll have to try and put together down the road :)