BlockShot Champion Development Blog #1: Into The Wild

BlockShot Champion Development Blog #2: The Road Ahead
December 11, 2016
 


On November 19, 2016 we took BlockShot Champion to our first indie game showcase. This is our journey.

W e were notified that our game had been accepted into the International Games Day indie game showcase, held at the University of Miami, two days prior to the actual event. We had applied three weeks earlier and had almost given up hope on acceptance. For three months we had been building our game and it finally felt time to get some real world feedback from people other than friends and family. Out of the blue we get the email saying that we were accepted into the showcase and suddenly we had to have a whole set-up prepared in two days.

First though, a little backstory about our game. Our game is called BlockShot Champion and is being built in GameMaker Studio. The concept is simple, it is a 2D platformer where each player controls a block that can shoot and shield, and the goal is to be the last person standing. Despite its simple premise we have found that the game mechanics allow for a surprisingly large amount of strategy and the end result is extremely competitive. Up to four players can play at once on compact maps. This creates fast paced action with tight wins and losses that do not feel dependent on luck. The game has been programmed by one person and is a hobby turned passion that we are building a business around.

"We were unprepared, inexperienced and had two days to organize a booth.”

 

Now, let’s get back to the race to prepare for the convention. We were unprepared, inexperienced and had two days to organize a booth. There was a seemingly endless list of things we wanted to do, so we sat down, prioritized and tried to conquer as many as possible.

First on the list was our controllers. We had four controllers but some of the bumpers didn’t click properly and the grips on the thumbsticks were wearing thin, not to mention the fact that our battery packs were not all working. So we headed to GameStop to try to find some new controllers, only to find that even used Xbox 360 controllers were still a hefty investment if you wanted to buy four of them. Best Buy had no better luck, and we even wandered into Target to try to get a lay of the land. Still no luck. So we had to try to find another option.

We decided to retouch our current controllers as best as possible. Some detachable thumbstick grips, four new battery packs, and a surprisingly long time with isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs later and we had four good as new controllers in our possession. We printed out some business cards and signs and that’s when we felt like things were beginning to fall into place for the big day.

"In a panic we pulled into a rest area and looked at the damage. The wheel well liner on our front right tire had come loose and was hitting into the tire."

 

4:30am we awoke, with some of us getting no sleep at all, to start loading the car for the long drive down from Sarasota to Miami.

Things went pretty smoothly for this part, as traffic that time of morning is not really an issue. That is until a sickening sound appeared from one of our front tires. In a panic we pulled into a rest area and looked at the damage. The wheel well liner on our front right tire had come loose and was hitting into the tire. Luckily it was something that a little bit of ingenuity and painter’s tape could fix, and we were back on the road in no time.

Finally we arrived at the University of Miami fifteen minutes before set up time. We built our booth relatively fast which gave us a chance to look around and see what was going on around other booths. With the preparations over, all we could do was wait and see what would happen next.

"Up until that moment, only close friends and family had seen our game, and seeing how other developers reacted to playing it, confirmed that we weren’t in a bubble of biased positive feedback.”

 

As the day went on, people actually started to show up. Other developers were the first to play our game and us theirs, and it was a great feeling of community that we were not expecting. Everyone there was in a similar age bracket and many had the same aspirations as us. A few of the other games being shown were very impressive, with one particular mobile game, CubePlanet, being a stand out hit. The remarkable thing was, every single game developer that played our game gave us incredible feedback. Up until that moment, only close friends and family had seen our game, and seeing how other developers reacted to playing it, confirmed that we weren’t in a bubble of biased positive feedback.

It was all amazing to hear but it was not until other, non-developers got to play our game that something really special happened. Huge smiles appeared on their faces, they refused to put the controller down demanding to play one more round. One boy, who his dad said he had never played a video game in his life, was tugging at his dad’s shirt to move on from the booth where they could play Halo 3, to come back to our game.


"To say that we were amazed, delighted, maybe even surprised would be an understatement."



 

To say that we were amazed, delighted, maybe even surprised would be an understatement: the feelings that our collective group felt during that day was something immeasurable. And it did not stop there, many other people came and enjoyed playing our game, more than we ever could have hoped for. Two boys who said they were in the sixth grade stood out to us as well, jumping for joy at winning and sinking low into their seats when they lost. They played our game for the best part of two hours before their mother dragged them home.

All in all the day was undoubtedly a success, much more so than any of us expected. We packed up our stuff and got ready for the long trek back home, with valuable new insight and lots of new friends. We are definitely looking forward to the next time we can share the experience of BlockShot Champion with others. We can’t wait to take the next steps in our journey and continue developing BlockShot Champion into something that we can be proud of.

- Josh Stapleton-Jones

"All in all the day was undoubtedly a success, much more so than any of us expected."

 

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