Showcasing your game - what we learned from showing Cultivate: Before Time at EGX
Last week we showed Cultivate: Before Time at EGX in London. As a Round 5 funded company, we were part of the UK Games Fund stand.
It was great - very tiring, but definitely amazing to watch people playing our game. We learned a lot from the event, and we’re now looking through everything we noted down to improve Cultivate: Before Time for the future.
This was our first time showcasing any game, so we didn’t really know what to expect or what to bring with us, but in this article, we’ve noted down some of the things we’ve learned. Some of them are things we did which worked well, and others are things we wish we’d done, and will do next time!
Here are our tips:
Watch people play. They will inevitably play your game differently to how you play it, and so will find a multitude of new bugs. Don’t panic! Discovering these bugs means you can fix them, so write them down!
Have a video playing. While no-one is playing your game, have a video of gameplay on loop, like a screensaver. This gives potential players some context and more of an idea of whether they want to play your game.
Give people space. Some people will want to talk to you about your game, others will just want to play and not be disturbed. We found that giving players a quick pointer about the game and then stepping back let them know that we were there if they wanted to engage with us.
Take hand sanitiser! And wet wipes. We work from home, so emerging into the wilderness of highly populated-EGX promised to be a test of our immune systems! To give ourselves a fighting chance, we had hand sanitiser at the ready!
Take drinks and snacks. We’re all only human! Standing for hours at your stand will make you thirsty and hungry. Keep in mind that you might not be able to leave - at EGX, someone should be at the stand at all times.
Think about how many people you need with you. There were 2 of us which meant while one was on the stand, the other could be exploring EGX, attending meetings and talks, or just having a break. You might want to have more people, depending on what you’re looking to achieve at the event. When Gwen went to the Investment Summit, Jenny had to stay on the stand for hours, which was very tiring! That said…
Your neighbours are your friends. If you do need to duck away from your stall for a bit, ask your neighbour to keep an eye on things for you. We were lucky to have lots of lovely people around us, all of whom would have helped us our if needed.
Wear comfy shoes! It’s amazing how several hours on your feet can make you question your footwear choices… We weren’t in anything ridiculous, just tennis shoes and walking boots - but our feet were buzzing by the end of day one!
Prompt players on what to do. We added more prompts a couple of days in as people weren’t reaching the later parts of the story. The new prompts really helped and it was great to see more people reach the end of the demo.
Print out any instructions. Cultivate doesn’t use many keys, but if your game does, a printed sheet will go a long way - others had laminated sheets showing which keys/buttons did what.
Give stuff away. Our game has a very pleasing art style (thanks to our artist, Emily Zhao). This being the case, we wanted to create little slices of artwork for people to take away. We printed about 25 different versions of our postcards, and they went down very well. People enjoyed looking through the different pictures to take home their favourites. Our neighbours, Miracle Tea (who were showing their game Alula) had packets of seeds to give away which was lovely!
Dressing your stand. We had some hedgehog fabric to put under the keyboard and mouse, which was good, but next time we’d get a much larger piece of fabric to cover the whole top of the stand and the front. Our neighbours, Beta Jester (creators of Forgotten Sea), used a black table cloth that made their poster look like it extended down onto the table. It was very effective and we’d perhaps try to emulate something like that in future.
Get your lunch before lunchtime! We felt like winners at life thanks to Gwen buying our lunch at about 11:30 - before every food stand gained a massive queue! If you’re on your feet all day, you don’t really want to be standing in a queue (even if you’re British!).
Business cards. Take some! Not everyone you meet will be interested solely in your game. Some will be interested in you as an individual or you as a company. We put a pile out on our stand for people to take as well as keeping some in pockets.
Stickers. People seem to love stickers! We didn’t take any, but several people seemed to think our business cards were stickers… we had to break it to them that they were ‘only’ business cards. Why people were keen on the idea of our logo as a sticker is a bit mystifying… but probably just goes to show that people really do just love stickers!
If you have a long game… E.g. if yours is an open world or narrative game, consider adding a time limit or make a small, self contained demo that shows the game idea. This wasn’t really applicable to Cultivate: Before Time as it’s a relaxing game (so we wouldn’t want to rush anyone).
Manage expectations and you may be pleasantly surprised… Cultivate: Before Time is a narrative game, and we’d been told not to expect too much as narrative games tend not to do well at Expos, but we were pleasantly surprised with how many people took the time to relax into the game. The best part of EGX for us was to see people gravitate to our game, and then spend time exploring and discovering the game world.
EGX has been incredibly helpful in enabling us to see how people play our game. It has also helped us understand who wants to play our game.
Being on the UK Games Fund stand was a real privilege - the other Round 5 teams were all fantastic. A lovely bunch of humans!
The UK Games Fund team (also human and lovely) have been exceptional in guiding us through our first industry event. Thank you UK Games Fund!