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Reboot Develop 2015 – Our First Conference

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We have just finished – what you would call – a pre-alpha build of our game, Daemonical, and figured it just might be the time to show it off a bit and gather some feedback. That’s why we decided to attend Reboot Develop 2015, and have an indie booth there.

This is our story.

I know I am very late with this article, and truth be told, I wrote it right after the conference, but I was lazy to publish it. But hey, at least I did publish it in the end!

The Idea

It all started as an idea once we heard about the conference. We got in touch with Damir Đurovic, the guy in charge, who is actually our buddy, since we are a new Croatian game dev studio and the Croatian game dev scene is still pretty small and basically everyone knows everyone.
After some time doing research, we realized that we would need a couple of things:

  • a playable build of our game
  • at least 2 desktop PC’s and 1 laptop, 2 keyboards, 2 mice
  • 3 monitors, preferably identical
  • business cards,a roll-up banner, flyers, t-shirts with our studio’s logo
  • a website

In addition to that, we agreed that it’s a good idea to start our Steam Greenlight campaign before the conference, since we could market it a bit there, and we needed to start that soon anyways.

2 months left until the conference, the preparation began.

The Preparation

2 months seemed like a decent amount of time to prepare everything, but it turns out it’s a bunch of work to be done in that period for just two guys. So we had to get some more people on board. We had started working with a character artist to help us out with the game itself and got a composer and a voice actor for our greenlight trailer.

We had also hired a designer to redesign our studio logo, design our game logo, make our business cards, flyers and shirts. DIY is never worth it, especially when deadlines are tight.

In addition to that, we had also found a concept artist to do our roll-up banner.

Long story short, everything was done on time but it was a close call – we had everything finished a day before the conference. Thanks to our friends and partners, we had managed to get everything printed, ready, and we also borrowed some equipment for the booth, which was really awesome. We were pretty satisfied with everything, considering the circumstances and the deadline.

Greenlight

The main thing for us was the Greenlight campaign. It was the most important thing, way more important than the conference itself. I’ve spent the last week before the conference working my butt off in order to prepare the trailer, screenshots, descriptions, the website, and everything else, and it turned out great, but – it is always the small details that count the most.

I had rendered the trailer for at least 18 times before I was, more or less, satisfied with the result, and I gathered a lot of feedback for everything before I published the Greenlight page. The next morning we took off for Dubrovnik.

The Trip

In the morning, Ivan picked me up at my place, we packed all of the equipment in the car, and it barely fit in there but we managed somehow. It was a 7 hour drive ahead of us, so we stopped to get some supplies – drinks, sandwiches, and everything else. The drive itself went pretty smooth.

We had to pass the Bosnian border at one point, and were a bit worried that we will get in trouble with the customs since we had so much equipment with us, but surprisingly – it all went fine.

Lots of stuff to bring on the trip!

The Arrival

We arrived around 6 PM to our place in Dubrovnik (or – near Dubrovnik, to be more precise). The conference was held at a 5 star resort a couple of kilometers from the famous King’s Landing, and the resort was basically a small town for itself. We decided to come a day early because of the long ride, so we could prepare everything and get some rest.

We had rented an apartment in it that was actually a privately held house, so the price was great in comparison to the resort prices, and everything was really close. We had a 3 minute walk from our place to where the conference was held, and that was extremely important.

Pro tip: Be close to the conference, don’t save a couple of bucks on the rent if you can save a bunch of travel time for that cost. You won’t regret it.

We had a warm welcome from our friends from Machina and Ironward, who bought us a drink as soon as we arrived, since they were just chilling in a restaurant right above our place and saw us moving in.

After we had a quick chat with the guys, we went to the conference floor, where Damir showed us our booth. We didn’t want to setup anything that day, so we just left our banner next to our table, and went back to the apartment.

Small, humble, but good enough, cheap and very close to the conference floor.

The Catastrophe

Back at our place, we had a quick meal, and figured it was time for coffee and relaxation in the, already mentioned, restaurant. We brought our laptops so we could pull the game from the repo and prepare a build. The connection was pretty slow, so that took some time. But – we had time – at least we thought so.

At around 11:30 pm we headed back to the apartment and thought it was time to get some sleep. We had built the game and… Everything went crazy. Nothing worked properly, we could see the trees through our terrain ingame, movement was laggy, controls seemed to be  messed up, and in general we had no idea what was going on. So the bug fixing began – with no results.

I figured I couldn’t work on the laptop so while Ivan was getting a shower I brought my PC, monitor, and everything else I needed from the car to the extremely small apartment. It barely fit on the kitchen table, but what can you do, desperate times call for desperate measures.

By the time Ivan had come to the table, I was running the game, and nothing was working, again. I was so tired I could barely feel worried. Ivan went crazy and told me he is getting his PC now because on his PC everything worked just fine the night before. So he set it up in the bedroom, and suddenly we had two very crappy, but functional offices.

It seemed like I had messed stuff while making the Greenlight trailer, and believe me, after a 7 hour ride and almost no sleep from the night before, to see your game barely working 8 hours before showing it at a booth on a major conference is – very discouraging.

It was past midnight already, and I had told Ivan we would be lucky if we went to sleep 2 hours later. He just shrug it off like I was talking nonsense, and 6 hours later, we had a working build. 2 hours of sleep, and it was time for the conference.

During the whole soul crushing experience of bug fixing and new features implementation, we just laughed like crazy. When you are so tired that you can barely keep your eyes open, and you know you just have to go through thousands of lines of code, there is not much left to do – you can either laugh or cry. Luckily, we decided that laughter was a more viable option.

Game development at its finest!

Day One

We woke up in the morning, both looking worse than the demon in our game. We packed all of the equipment in the car again, and I can imagine it was a weird sight for our landlords to see, since we were just bringing some weird boxes of stuff from the apartment that weren’t there a day before. I can bet that we looked like a couple of thieves that had robbed the closest store a night ago – and are now running away with our loot.

We drove ourselves to the hotel, took everything out, and started assembling the booth. When we were done, it was time for the first presentation (Welcome to RD 2015), but we just decided to skip that one and go for a coffee at a bar a floor above where the conference was held.

That revived us a little bit, but being barely conscious, we had no energy to even be shocked by the, probably, most expensive cups of coffee we had ordered in our lives. Being from Croatia, to pay 10 bucks for 2 cups of coffee was crazy to say the least, since a cup of coffee is less than $2 in the capital city of Zagreb. But, you know, when you are in King’s Landing, you better bring some Gold Dragons with you.

We went back to our booth and started showing the game to everyone, babbling crazy stuff like the game being asynchronous multiplayer (while it was actually asymmetric), but everyone more or less got the point and likely figured that we must be nuts or on drugs.

While the conference for that day was nearing the end and pool party time was near, we had attended zero lectures, but done lots of networking, and met some friendly and professional colleagues.

On the pool party, we had met Ragnar Tørnquist, a guy that made the Longest Journey, we had a drink with the guys from Unity Technologies (our engine of choice), and were hanging out with a whole bunch of amazingly inspiring and great people, which boosted our morale and energy a bit.

Afterwards, we got invited to the special VIP, undercover, bring your own booze – beach after-party, hosted by our friends from Ironward.

It was really something special, all of these cool famous guys and indies just having some drinks in complete darkness, with only light coming from our mobile phones, backed by some guitar music (someone actually bothered to bring a guitar with them, kudos to those guys). It went on until around 4 AM, when we all went to sleep.

Day Two

We woke up a bit less tired, feeling a bit more awesome than yesterday, but still, barely any sleep and only overpriced coffee to keep us alive. Again, attended almost no lectures, but met twice the amount of cool people than the day before. For example, we got into a chat with a really awesome Canadian guy, and later figured out that he is Patrice Désilets, the one responsible for the creation of the whole Assassin’s Creed universe.

It was cool to get advice from the creator of Assasin’s Creed! Thanks Patrice!

We got some amazingly helpful feedback on our game from Khaled Ibrahimi, cinematic producer of Killzone 3, and Joint CEO of Nkidu Games indie label. A bunch of other people saw and tried out our game and in general, we had received some valuable advice and positive opinions on our project.

After the conference we attended the main party event, where we had a chat with Rami Ismail, Aleksey from Epic Games, our friends from CroTeam and Cateia Games, and a bunch of our new pals from MadHead, Eipix, Lion Game Lion, Mudvark… The list just goes on.

And guess what – time for another after-party by Ironward came. We went for some drinks at their place, and I returned to the apartment and practically passed out around 5 AM.

One thing changed that day though. We finally really felt like we were where we needed to be. Being surrounded with so many amazing people that loved game development as much as we do – simply felt like home.

Day Three

The last day I just slept for a little while longer, and Ivan went to guard the booth. I had arrived at the conference around 11 AM, where I had found myself surrounded with friends, and not only colleagues – like they were only a day ago.

Everything was the same, conference-wise, like the last two days. We showed the game to people, they liked it, gave us feedback, some of it very useful and perspective-changing.

What you could really notice was the difference between really experienced people and their feedback, and the guys that have just started to develop games.

The experienced guys, like Patrice, really nailed it. They fully understood that the game is in a pre-alpha state and were concentrating their feedback around the core gameplay mechanics, which was the one thing we really wanted and needed input on, while the others focused on the looks, the feel, the things that are unlikely to even make it to the final version of the game, which is fully understandable.

Most of the people really tried to help, and that is the most important thing. Some programmers were interested in the technical part of the story, some artists were interested in the aesthetics part, musicians and sound artists wanted to talk about the audio part – all in all, all sorts of useful and meaningful discussions were going on.

In addition to all of that – Greenlight was still going on strong, and we were very confident and happy about the project.

When everything was over, we packed our things and went to our crib to freshen up. Most of the people went to visit the old town, but we just wanted to have some rest, so we did a quick beer run and after that went to the bar in the hotel for some coffee.

There we encountered a couple of pals and new friends and decided to hang out with them a bit, and coffee drinking quickly transformed into beer drinking, and serious business talk turned into jokes and casual chatter.

Then, at some point everyone else returned from Dubrovnik, and the real party started again. The bar was just closing, so they did a last call – everyone got some beers and wine, and the hotel people just let us hang out there in the bar lobby.

The last party. All good things must come to an end!

Once the drinks ran out, Ivan and me went to our apartment, got some wine that we left there, smuggled it into the hotel – getting some suspicious looks from the receptionist – and just put it on the table in the middle of the party group. Considering how bad the wine was, it really surprised us how quickly it vanished.

Again, serious talk became casual with lots of jokes and laughter. Fun times!

Back to Reality

When we came back we were so tired that we took a week off from everything. No game development, no coding, no planning. Just relaxation and some gaming.

The only thing that we actually attended to was our Greenlight campaign, and 13 days after we had submitted the game, we were Greenlit (Hooray!) – but that is a story for another time and another article.

The trip back. No rest for the wicked.

Conclusion

Out of 52 lectures at the conference, we had, sadly, only attended three – but that was not what we had come for. We wanted to make new friends, get some feedback on the game, and just have fun.

And in that regard, the conference was a huge success. We did everything that we wanted to, and more.

A huge thanks to everyone for making the conference so fun and inspiring – you guys are amazing.  We are looking forward to Reboot Develop 2016, and truly hope that all of our new friends will be there again to share a drink with us!

See you again next year, have a great year everyone!