After spending about 10 months working on Subaeria, we decided to take the game to PAX to have people try it out. So the 6 of us made the trip down.
The Accomodations and Logistics: Getting there and finding shelter
In terms of transportation we rented a 5-seater Econoline, so that we could fit all our equipment and not have to ship everything directly to PAX. Having stuff shipped there is notoriously costly. So we bought everything here in Canada. To pass the border with our stuff we got a Carnet from the Chamber of Commerce. It’ a list of all the equipment you’re taking out of the country and its value. US officials check that it matches the contents of your car when you leave, and Canadians do the same when you come back. It avoids hassles at the borders, so I’d recommend having one made to anyone who’s bringing any sort of equipment down. Some other studios got turned back at the border because they hadn’t done it.
For accommodations, we got 3 shared rooms with single beds in a local hostel. It went better then expected with everyone getting enough sleep, and was dirt cheap compared to a hotel. Since we were all either sleeping or out and about, the lack of space wasn’t a big deal. No one snored too loudly either. I’d recommend it to anyone with a tight budget who has too many people to fit in an Air b’n’b.
The Booth: 10×10 ft to show off the game
We were lucky enough to have a corner booth, so we put all our TVs facing out. They were all high up on racks and Subaeria has very bright and colorful graphics so it attracted a lot of attention from people walking by. We had 3 stations for people to play the game. One with a massive 49” TV where people could sit down to play and listen to the game with a speaker system. Since Subaeria is a PC game played with a 360 controller, we were able to have 2 smaller stations where players stood and had earphones to put on. The downside of this setup is that most people that were standing didn’t put on the earphones, so that they could actually hear us giving them instructions on the game. Next time we’ll be sure to have a demo that can be fully played without any guidance so players can get the full experience.
Instead of having all our stuff piled around the booth, we got some cheap sitting cubes from Ikea (about $20 a pop) with storage in them, and we put all our swag and snacks in there. It was very convenient and people were happy to get a chance to sit down and play the game. Cubes instead of chairs also kept the space open and colorful, and gave a sort of “living room” feel. We’ll definitely be reusing them in the future.
FOAM PADS. If you have 80 bucks to spend it should be on foam pad carpeting to stand on. They are the most welcome feeling when you’re going to spend the day standing or trotting around on a 10 by 10 space. People will come over and play your game just to get a chance to stand on your pristine flooring. Your team will be the happiest people around, and it’ll save you feet and back aches for the next few days. Our foam pads also gave us an added bonus of being light-colored and attracting a lot of attention compared to all the black carpet around.
We had a clipboard with a mailing list sign up for people to write on if they wanted to join, a lot of people were very enthusiastic about joining and wrote their email addresses down. But unfortunately about 40 of those addresses are entirely illegible. Good lesson for collecting email addresses: Bring an iPad. Hell, use your phone, just have direct inputs so you don’t have to spend and afternoon deciding whether that’s an L or D.
Not my best idea
It’s all about the people
6 people at our booth was a great number because it meant we could cycle and have some people rest or walk around while others manned the booth. When you’re pitching the game non-stop, a break is most welcome.
PAX was an opportunity to get ultra valuable feedback from the whole gaming community. We had a couple of developers stop by our booth and try out the game. They were able to give us some really good design feedback. Without PAX we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get so many people to look at the game at once and let us know what they thought. Looking at players going through the levels is a good way to playtest a bit and see what is and isn’t working.
Press was part of our focus for PAX. We had quite a bit of booked appointments to talk about the game. This helped us schedule our time better and have a TV open for when the journalists came. For journalists that hadn’t booked an appointment, Romain, our game designer and ex-Green Peace petition pusher was an invaluable asset in getting them to come over and play the game. Anytime someone walks by with a Media badge, it’s always worth it to ask them if they want to learn about the game, worst thing they’ll say is “no”.
The Dream Team
Not enough swag
We brought 500 buttons and ended up having to ration them like crazy to make it to the end, we should have ordered at least twice as much. It’s difficult to have “too much swag”, though having too little is almost always the case.
One can never have enough swag
Food and Coats: An unexpected link
Food is ridiculously expensive within the Expo hall ($9 for a hotdog? Really?), so bringing your own is always the best option. The folks over at Burrito Studio cooked in their apartment and then brought lunches to PAX. We wish we had done that, instead of running to the nearest Jimmy John’s in t-shirts when it’s freezing outside.
Yes, because coats are an issue as well. You can pick between taking up a ton of space at the back of your booth to put 6 coats (including the quasi-blanket that is Romain’s coat (He’s 6″4) or putting them in the coat check and not having access to them for the whole day, or in your car and having to pick an unlucky soul to sprint there and get everyone’s coat at the end of the day. The car option is the cheapest and best way to do it I believe, especially since I didn’t get picked to go get the coats.
Because I hadn’t planned out food expenses well enough, we ended up going over budget on the food, big time. The downside to the hostel was that we couldn’t cook over there, so we had to go out for food every time, and since no one wanted to eat pizza everyday it ended up costing quite a bit.
– Foam flooring is the best thing. Ever.
– Hostels are a good option for tight budgets when you have too many people to fit into an Air b’n’b
– Colorful graphics and high TVs get people interested in your game fast
– Intercepting people who are walking by so they’ll try the game is usually fruitful
– Mailing list should definitely not be written by hand
– Take the number of buttons and cards you expect to give out, then double that.
– Plan for all your meals, cook if you can, set a restaurant budget if you can’t.
Overall, PAX was an amazing experience that helped us meet people who really love the game and get the word out on Subaeria. Consumer shows are great for that, because you have people coming over to your boot that really love games and want to play and learn about new cool titles.
If you want to find out more about Subaeria you can visit the game’s site here