Immediate reflection and notes from exhibiting at DreamHack Atlanta 2019
DreamHack is a convention that grew from Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) Local Area Network (LAN) parties into what it calls a “gaming lifestyle festival”. In recent years, they’ve been working to help promote indies. They have several events throughout the year in both the USA and Europe.
The Indie Playground is the section on the Expo hall where all the indies exhibited, and it featured 48 games. Indies submitted a free application for consideration, and if selected, received a free 10 foot x 10 foot booth with electricity, two chairs, one table and tablecloth, and piping and draping to section off booths and hang up banners. The cost of such a setup usually runs 500-4000USD (depending on the convention), so DreamHack was really helping us out.
The cost of attendance came in the form of:
- room and board (hotel, AirBnB, food (convention food is always overpriced))
- travel (flights, rideshare, public transportation)
- booth supplies (promotional items, hardware, etc.)
Housing and travel
We were able to stay with a local indie dev (Kartik, Smashball Blitz) who was also exhibiting, instead of booking a hotel/AirBnB (80-180USD per night). His location was about 15m drive away from the convention center (rather than in walking distance as with a hotel/AirBnB), so we spent ~10USD per ride between his home and DreamHack. He picked us up from the airport, so we only had to purchase one ride when leaving Atlanta. We also spent ~15-20USD in rideshares to find food, as nothing seemed to be around the convention center (that wasn’t obviously overpriced for location). We spent a bit more than we should have on food-searching rideshares because it was mighty difficult to locate an establishment with an open kitchen at 9:15PM. Roundtrip flights from Seattle-Atlanta ran about 350-400USD (for the two of us).
We already had most of our supplies from exhibiting at the Seattle Indies Expo. Additional materials purchased included:
- large vinyl banner for hanging up
- paracord for hanging up the banner
- hardware peripherals (mouse, mousepad, keyboard) and cables (hdmi, extension cord)
- spandex cocktail tablecloth (36 inches x 40 inches)
- plastic cocktail table (36 inches tall)
- 43 inch TV
We returned the TV and cocktail table before leaving, essentially just loaning them from the store.
The original setup idea was to have two laptops on the table and the TV on the cocktail table, with postcards and business cards sharing the TV. The TV would loop the RE:H OP, and there would be to stations for players. Unfortunately, we misjudged the width of the TV’s feet (measuring from where the feet connected to the TV rather than from where the feet would be placed on the surface), so the TV just barely did not fit. The computer that sat on the cocktail table looped the OP on Day 1, displayed signage that you could purchase the game at the booth on Day 2, and displayed a sign stating that the game is now available on Steam/Itch/Google Play on Day 3.
We had some of the RE:H OST looping quietly on speakers in an attempt to set the atmosphere of the booth. Instead of the Markus posters on the stand, we wanted a large retractable vertical banner, but we were unable to purchase one in time.
- We needed to disable right-click for opening the Save menu because players kept accidentally opening it and getting confused.
- Resetting already seen choices was really important because players were confused as to why some of the choices were grey, in contrast with the more white-colored choices. Unfortunately, we had some difficulty with resetting these choices, and it only worked on the TV station.
- Using the TV as a play station turned out well because it allowed others to watch a playthrough easily. Some attendees were drawn into the booth by seeing the gameplay and preferred watching and receiving information about the game for later inspection over playing the game themselves.
- We may need to invest in noise-cancelling headphones for exhibits. DreamHack was incredibly loud (esports commentary and hype shouting was constant), and the noise both drowns out any subtle SFX/Music (e.g. the opening scene in RE:H) and distracts. We’re continuing work on immersive, narrative-driven experiences, so such distractions can be a deal breaker for how the game is experienced.
- Our postcards don’t have any information about Argent Games on them…they only have information about the game.
- We should run giveaways during the event to visitors.
- Several attendees picked up a postcard/heard the game pitch/played the game because they knew someone else who might be interested in the game (e.g. significant other, relative, or friend).
- Attendees were drawn into the booth because of the artstyle, and after playing, commented most on the music, writing, and overall immersive atmosphere.
- The quote on Markus’ poster gave many a pause, enough so that we could hand them a postcard with additional information (some would then come play and others would give thanks and continue on their way).
- Our verbal game pitch is fairly tight now after three days of constant practice.
- After playing the game, if players wanted a reminder of it, they would often grab a business card instead of the RE:H informational postcard. We also had to remind them about taking a button!
- The overall DreamHack crowd didn’t fall in our typical demographic, and we got a lot of good practice speaking with such a different crowd.
- Was the cocktail table worth the effort and trouble of purchasing and returning? It was certainly nice to have the extra space where we could grab postcards etc.
- It’s probably not worth it to try selling copies of the game at an event unless there’s a substantial demographic attending (the setup/preparation for accepting credit card purchases is not insignificant).
- We forgot to look up if there were any afterparties going on outside of the event!
- We met a fan who first learned of the game through Outstar’s Let’s Play, and it’s hard to tell which party was more excited in the meeting. We like to think that we were.
- Smashball Blitz, especially Kartik, for housing us and helping out with everything
- Deathbulge: Battle of the Bands, Dungeon Munchies, Evergreen Blues, Everybody’s Sad, My Beautiful Paper Smile, for being amazing neighbors
- Cubism, Until You Fall, Alluris, Justice Rises, for engaging interactions
- Yodi Brodi, Min, for making the whole experience incredible on a micro level
- DreamHack Atlanta and the whole crew for organizing the event
We weren’t able to play all of the indie titles, but if we had to choose our single favourite experiences of the ones we did play, they’d be Cubism (guess whose favorite that is) and My Beautiful Paper Smile. Many of the games are still in development, but several have public demos and betas! Check them out if you have a minute (all information available at the Indie Playground website)
No questions from our Ask Box for you this week! Feel free to send in your queries about anything RE:H or AG related.