“Mind the Trap” Showcase at Casual Connect USA 2016

Winner of the Best Multiplayer Game Award and Nominee for Best Game Design

Kenneth Ng
Sep 7, 2016 · 8 min read
  • Trade fairs: The attendees are industry professionals — your potential business partners, such as marketers, investors, and publishers. They walk around the exhibits getting a feel for games that would fit their portfolio and benefit from their products and services. These are the people you want to confidently recite your business and marketing plan to, get into the specifics of what you need and what they can offer, and possibly shake hands on a deal by the end of the day.

What Exactly is Casual Connect?

Casual Connect is a trade fair focusing on the mobile segment of the gaming industry, primarily on app monetization via mobile ads. Exhibitors included Google, Yahoo!, MoPub and Appodeal.

Left to right: Justin Bailey (Fig), Justin Woodward (Interabang Entertainment), Gregory MacMartin (Interdimensional Games), Aaron Isaksen (Indie Fund), Rami Ismail (Vlambeer)

What is the Indie Prize Showcase?

The Indie Prize is a scholarship for selected game developers to attend Casual Connect for free, providing them the opportunity to visit all the workshops and to showcase their games to the industry professionals at Casual Connect. My team was one of 50 finalists from around the world.

No surprise that VR was a hot attraction at the event.

Exhibit Set-up and Presentation

This was our first time demoing at a trade fair, and despite our unfamiliarity with the target audience, it was key for us to primp up our presentation as much as possible. We wanted to demonstrate a higher level of professionalism that reflected our game’s progress and our growth as game developers.

Standby Mode

This was a mode we implemented in the demo in which a gameplay trailer would automatically be played on the screen if the computer was idle for more than 30 seconds. To accommodate the behavior of bystanders glazing by, the trailer was composed to swiftly showcase the main features that we felt our viewers would be most interested in, specifically the core gameplay mechanics, the multiplayer interactions, and the vibrant design of levels. No special effects, no special animations. Just a montage of gameplay footage.

Back-End Analytics to A/B Test Features and Monitor Player Performance

During our first exhibition at the Sacramento Indie Arcade, we observed from players that any session longer than 10 minutes was too time-consuming. You could also see very clearly the frustration that stemmed from certain sections of the level, whether it was because the platforming was too difficult, a puzzle required too much coordination to solve, or the gameplay was too one-sided between different types of players. However, trying to balance ourselves between watching the players and talking to bystanders was a struggle. Using empirical data was also not quantitative enough for us to decide exactly which areas of our game needed fixes and how much.

Custom-built tool to track back-end analytics
Ice Water Games (developers of Viridi)
NextGen Pants (developers of Refactor) and BHADANA&bros (developers of Proximity)

Marketing Collateral

We ordered 400 one-inch pins from Wacky Buttons as a promotional giveaway for Steam Greenlight. Attached to each pin was a small strip of paper with the “Vote for us!” message and the game’s website, which included a link to the Greenlight page. If you think about it, these strips of paper can be quite actionable — more likely than not the person taking home the pin would take a look at the paper before ripping it off. Given how cheap it is to print on paper nowadays, it’s a worthwhile investment that ensures you get something out of these promotional giveaways.

As mentioned in a couple sections above, trade fairs are not ideal for promotional campaigns.

Indie Prize Awards Ceremony

In a room full of finalists from around the world, we were unsure how competitive our game was compared to everyone else’s. I sat outside near the bathroom looking nervously at my screen every minute, waiting for Chris and Conrad to update me on who won each award. When I got the message saying that we won the “Best Multiplayer Game” award and was nominated for “Best Game Design,” I jumped out of my seat from sheer excitement. After quitting my job a year ago and diving into a career path that had so many unknowns and so much risk, this was a motivational moment that I can’t express in words.

Kenneth L. Ng

AR/VR Developer at Alibaba. Welcome to my portfolio.

Kenneth Ng

Written by

AR/VR Developer at Alibaba

Kenneth L. Ng

AR/VR Developer at Alibaba. Welcome to my portfolio.