Lessons Learned From Undercog’s First Convention (MAGFest13)

Ok, A very pre-alpha version of “Welcome to Undercog” was shown at MAGFest 13 and a lot of learning was done in a very short time. In the spirit of the MAGFest MIVS I thought I would share what I learned from my experience for others to benefit from.

For a little bit of context “Welcome to Undercog” did not have a full fledged booth we showed in “Quick Play” which is a 2 hour time slot right in the center of the Indie Showcase at MAGfest. This means that the game was shown for a total of 6 hours over the course of 3 days.

Also at this point the game development is coming entirely out of my limited pockets. So budget is a big concern.

I am by no means an claiming to be an expert so take from this what you choose. Just sharing the lessons I learned in case anything is useful to any one doing these sort of conventions.

It Is Less Scary Than I Thought

First and foremost meeting people and showing the game was something that was terrifying to walk into. I had no idea what to expect. But this community including Players, Devs, Bloggers, Podcasters and every one else was very understanding of early development and supportive of it moving forward. The variety of feedback and very specific detailed advice was incredible. Every one showed genuine enthusiasm for each other doing well and the idea of the Indie Gaming Community being a good one. The feeling of being a part of that kind of community was a really great thing to take away from the experience.

Look Different but Uniform

Lexi, Sean, and Pete...and that guy.

Lexi, Sean, and Pete…and that guy.

For MAGFest I had a few friends, the person doing the music for the game as well as one of the voice actors all wearing hoodies that we made for the event. The hoodies were a pretty distinct shade of aqua with a purple single color print of logos for the game. This did wonders! When we were walking around the convention people would approach us instead of the other way around and ask what the deal was with the group. This made telling people about the game a lot easier because naturally curious people were already engaging us. So avoid black T-Shirts with a dead center logo and do something different. I think something like track jackets, or hell, go all in footy pajamas for a couch co-op game and draw attention that way. Also I will put up an article on how to do a screen printing alternative for only a few bucks.

Early Feedback is Amazing

I got a lot of really good feedback from players and other Devs that ultimately is going to help me accomplish quality and avoid pitfalls that would be a waste of time later. Even as far pre-alpha as the game is showing it will ultimately improve the game and the development process in immeasurable ways so I am very glad that I did.

Don’t Hesitate to Iterate

I got a lot of advise and was in a great environment to test new things so making use of that was something I took advantage of. Day one there was no controller support and people found the game a bit slow. Day 2 based on the advice of another Dev I doubled the play speed it (make drastic changes to gauge a reaction) and added controller support based on player feedback. The reaction to that was much more positive than day one. Then based on day 2 I changed the rate at which enemies attack to up the challenge to match the new player speed. This re-balance would have been very hard to get to if I was not making changes as I was getting feedback. An added bonus was people came back to check out what changes had been made and it helped build interest in the game.

Social Media On The Spot

We got a lot of really cool pictures with people at the convention and now have sort of no way to share those images with people. A couple of other Devs were tweeting or doing facebook updates with their photos right away. This is a much better way of connecting with people that took the time to check out your game.

Put Some Signs Up High

The booth set up at this convention as well as many others that I have seen consists of booths arranged in a room with incredibly high ceilings. Booths are mapped out in 2D by floor space with no real vertical limit. Putting the sign up High seemed like an easy way to make sure people could find the game even if the booth was obstructed by another. The Undercog sign was a little limited in that regard but lesson learned for the future.

Have More Than One Station to Play

Having 2 set ups had a lot of advantages:

  • More people could play in the limited time we had to show.
  •  It showed more of the game to people walking by and drew more interest.
  • Having a controller set up as well as a keyboard and mouse set up let people compare or play to their preference.
  • People had discussions while playing and that generated indirect feedback
  • People have a million options on what to do at a convention and waiting to play a game is not very high on the list. So having an open slot right then goes a lot better.

Have Something to Give

ButtonAndTagFor the event I had a ton of buttons made up with the Undercog logo and URL on them. Buttons are not terribly expensive and are a nice thing to receive. Not to mention they don’t mess up convention centers (like stickers can). Since the game was only being shown for 2 hours at a time that freed up time to wander around and meet people and give out buttons. Also attached to the buttons was a little tag with the website and twitter handle for future contact as well as a spot where we wrote the time we would be showing that day. The little tag is a great idea for any one doing an event with time slots. An alternative for other event styles would be a mini map to show where you are. Anything that can be done to make it easy for people to get to and play your game was a huge plus.

Get Some Cheap tablets

I had 2 of lower end tablets with a quick (60 sencond) intro and set of game play clips for the demo. When we were out circulating and meeting people we were able to show people the game before they ever made it to the booth. You can get second hand tablets pretty cheap these days and they were a really valuable asset for introducing people to the game and building interest.

Bring People

I had a 3 people at the convention with me helping out and I can’t begin to describe how much of a help this was. First of all having more people means more presence. They could do things while I made changes to the game or was talking to other people. I could get feedback while the game was being shown to another person on one of the tablets. Pete met the guys from Indie Game Riot while I was busy doing something else. The result was I got to meet these really cool guys and later do an interview with them.

 Talk To As Many Devs As Possible

In short every person knows something that no one else does and Indie Devs are really willing to share experience and advice with their community. I got a lot of great information and advice chatting with Devs. Not to mention meeting people who share the same passion was really uplifting and inspiring. I met so many cool people and played a lot of cool games. I regret that I did not make it to every booth and play every game. I feel like I missed out on a lot by not doing that.

That is all I have for now but I will share more as I learn more (or remember more). Again I am not an expert but this is the information that I learned from my first convention and some of it may be useful to others.

Thanks for reading,



One more piece of advice. Buy an event poster and have everyone you talk to sign it. It looks really cool on the wall and is a great way to remember just how cool meeting all those people was!


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