Archives for posts with tag: PAXAus

Welcome back to the Kana Quest devblog! If you’re new here, welcome! I’m Theo, lead dev of Kana Quest. This is where I give you some insight into the process of making Kana Quest and things that I’ve learned along the way.

We took last month off due to us exhibiting at PAX Australia, but we are back! And this month we are going to be looking at PAX as the topic for this month. We are going to break it down into two chunks: How PAX went for Kana Quest, and secondly what is the process and logistics of attending PAX like?

IMG_1835.JPG

 

How Did PAX Aus Go?

Well it started off a two weeks before PAX. Reuben (programmer) and I were trying to get the game running on iPad because we have access to two iPads. But alas no matter how hard we tried, we could not get the damn thing to build. See the problem for us was that we don’t have a mac. And you need one to build to iOS. And unfortunately for us, the mac we borrowed for the explicit purpose of building the iOS build was too old to update to the newest version of XCode. Basically this meant that we had to change plans on what hardware we would be bringing. So instead of two iPads, one Android tablet and a PC, we ended up going with three PCs and an android tablet.

Now we were setting up on the Thursday (night before pax), then Reuben and I get a message on the group discord from Julian one of our composers. He had been boldering and fractured his ankle. He was going to be coming down to help us exhibit, but alas that was no longer happening. So we had to frantically search for people to cover his shifts. Luckily I have good friends who rose to the occasion and I was able to cover the shifts pretty easily.

IMG_1903

Once the actual convention started things went pretty well, people seemed to really like the game. We had lots of compliments on the art, and the actual gameplay. We had one nine year old girl play the game and she declared it “the best game ever” so I’ll count that as a win. I also had quite a few Japanese speakers enjoy the game too. I always love it when Japanese speakers enjoy the game because it means that the game part of Kana Quest stands on its own without needing any of the educational elements.

Another thing we did just before PAX was we finally got the Steam store for Kana Quest up. Valve has started putting games that are showing at big conventions at the front of the Steam store page, and we got a pretty good amount of wishlists over the course of the weekend. Speaking of which….. (shameless plug incoming)

https://store.steampowered.com/app/725850/Kana_Quest/

You can now wishlist Kana Quest on Steam. Please do if you like the look of it! (Ok shameless plug over)

And of course by the end of the weekend we were all completely dead on our feet and were very glad to go home and get some rest.

IMG_1844.jpg

All of us getting desert on Sunday. Completely and utterly dead on our feet

What are the logistics of attending PAX Aus?

So, now we are going to get into the nitty gritty of what exhibiting involves and what you should you expect should you go.

The first thing you should know is it isn’t cheap. If you live in Australia and you haven’t done a convention before, I would not recommend PAX. I would recommend doing ACCon in Adelaide to get an idea of what you are in for first, but also to get feedback from people. If you have the following things, then PAX Aus is probably worth your time.

  • Have $2000+ that you can spend on publicity.
  • Have done a convention before.
  • Have a team of at least 5-6 people who can help you exhibit.
  • Your game looks polished, presentable and is mostly stable.

If you tick these boxes, then what you want to do is apply for the PAX Aus Indie Rising section once applications are opened. You will be asked to supply a build, a short video demonstrating gameplay, a summary of your game, and some screenshots. You will then, be likely receive a call or email from someone at ReedPop the organisers of PAX Australia. They will ask you some questions about your game like “is there nudity or high levels of violence in your game?”. If its a no on both counts, they should offer you a spot. You will then receive an invoice and you are on your way to PAX! Of course this is all under the assumption you get in before all the booths are sold. I did not get to exhibit in 2018 because I was too slow on applying.

Costs (everything here is in AUD)

Now let’s get into cost of things. The cost of your indie pod booth is about 1700$. This comes with two chairs, two exhibitor passes, booth art, and that is it.  You need to bring your own screens, decorations, and furniture. I would also recommend getting at least one additional exhibitor pass ($125) just to allow the logistics of having people be on shift (we will get to the running of the booth later). Personally I don’t think you need to get additional furniture, unless you have a premium booth. So the cost of additional passes and the booth will come to a little under two grand. Not exactly pocket change.

But another thing you need to remember is that you will be spending money on food over the course of the weekend. And you will need to spend money on booth essentials (which I’ll talk about later). From experience this adds another $100-$300 depending on your needs.

So how can you, make these costs less painful?

Now if you are based in Victoria, Creative Victoria does offer a grant for $750 to help you show your game at PAX. If you live in Victoria, please apply for this. Having the cost of attending reduced by a third is such a big deal.

If you you don’t live in Victoria, the best thing you can do to reduce the cost of PAX is our next topic: Merch

IMG_1833.JPG

Merchandise

Merch is probably going to be how you actually pay for your booth. In fact if you have good enough merch, you can end up making money at PAX. I heard on the grapevine that multiple games sold out of their merch, which resulted in PAX paying for its self. This is your goal with merch. Here are some good ideas for different types of merch.

  • Clothing
  • Pins (high quality enamel)
  • Plush toys

Types of merch you don’t want to do.

  • Stickers
  • Stationary
  • nick-knacks

The reason you don’t want to do stickers is that if someone uses your sticker somewhere in the convention hall, if it is easily traced back to you, the convention hall will fine you for it.  It is not worth losing money over. And you don’t want to do anything too small like stationary or nick-knacks because they are easily lost, but also because of the numbers. You are only going to get so many people who love your game enough to buy merch (unless your merch is good enough on its own), you would rather those people buy something big and substantive that way you recoup your costs faster. Also, it means you can justify making the product of a higher quality. You want to be selling good quality things because you don’t want your potential fans thinking you sold them crap.

For this reason, really cool well made clothing works really well. Samurai Punk consistently has lots of people come and buy their shirts just because their designs are so cool. But you do need to make sure the design is good enough on its own. I did t-shirts in 2017, and they were a complete bust because the design wasn’t high enough quality.

Plush toys are really popular if you are able to get them made, but finding a place to get them made can be tricky. But because so few other games offer them, they stand out more. But if you don’t have any designs that would make a good plush don’t worry about it. We sold Kana Quest plushies in 2017, and they sold extremely well. My only regret is that we didn’t make enough. We sold out on the first day when we were selling them for $15. My sister made all the plushies by hand, so she very graciously made some more over night. Will raised the price to $25 for the rest of the weekend. The price hike slowed sales quite a bit. If we had made more to begin with we would have been able to justify selling them at the lower price throughout the weekend and we would have made way more money. I used a company called Neon Republic for my pins and they had a two month wait between ordering and delivery, so do take those times into consideration when considering pins.

Finally we have pins. I have never done official Pinny Arcade Pins, but from my understanding, if you do, you are gonna make bank. Now you don’t need to go through Penny Arcade to sell pins, but they wont be Pinny Arcade, so you will have to price much lower than the official pins. You also wont attract Pinny Arcade collectors, so you wont sell as many either. But I sold pins this year and we did really well for ourselves. It cost me $350 to have them made. I had two designs, of which I had 50 pins each. One design almost completely sold out, and the other sold about 30. I sold mine for $10 for the simple design, and $15 for the complex design (the cost of pins goes up, the more colours you add). At the end of the event I had made about $700 on the pins. Now one bit of advice I would give is try to use in game art over a logo for your pins. I had one pin of one of the Kana tiles, and one of the Kana Quest logo. Although the logo turned out much nicer, most people wanted the Kana tile because it didn’t specifically look like merch. It was just a cute generic looking pin that folks could put on without them looking like a brand shill.

The final thing to know about merch is that in Australia, you wont make money if you can’t take card. For international readers, a lot of Australia is cashless and a large number of convention goers will not have cash on them. Make sure you have a square space reader or something like that on you in addition to a well stocked lock box. And one small thing on this note, have a sign that says you take card. I forgot and I’m sure I lost sales because folks didn’t know I took card.

 

Booth Essentials

So what are some other things that you’re booth is going to need.

  • Strepsils
  • Gaffa Tape
  • Double sided tape
  • Scissors
  • Cardboard (whatever colour will work with your booth), you will use this to make signs for…
    • Availability on certain platforms, eg steam
    • What merch you have available
    • signs for selling the flavor of your booth
    • any special deals your are offering for your game
  • A pallet of bottled water.
  • Antiseptic Gel
  • Snacks
  • Aspirin
  • A sharpie
  • Any other decorations you think you will need.
  • A card reader
  • Cashbox
  • A keep cup (Epic games has comped the indie section with free barista coffee the last few years. Bring a keep cup so you can make the most use out of Epic’s generosity)
  • Back up controllers/Mouse
  • Business cards (about 400-600 of them from my experience, but if you have a more popular game than mine you might need more)
    • Website
    • Email
    • relevant platform store links (eg. steam store link)
    • Social media accounts

 

Bump In, and Bump Out.

So you will be allowed onto the show floor on Thursday. If you don’t have a high viability vest, you will need to buy one from the PAX people directly. Once you have one, you can enter. Your booth should have a key on the bench, this is what locks and unlocks the cabinet space under your booth. Do no lose it. I recommend getting in nice and early to set up. This means you have the most amount of time to change your mind about presentation, but it also means there probably wont be a long wait for the tag and test. Tag and test can often lead to looong wait times if you go in at the end of the day. I do not recommend.

On the topic of the tag and test. Every piece of electronic equipment that plugs into the power source has to be tagged and tested. If a cable is slightly damaged, it will not pass. They will not allow you to use it. Do not be caught out thinking you can use your laptop, only to find you can’t because a little bit of wiring is poking out. If you have a mouse, or a controller that plugs into a usb slot in your computer, you do not need that to be tagged and tested.

Once the tag and test is done, you can plug everything in. Test that your game build works on all the hardware. Ideally you will have done this a week beforehand but I have seen folks not test things and find they have to fix things when the show opens to the public.

That’s most of the information for bump in and bump out. Do it early, and don’t forget your high vis vest.

72698000_432062614108478_4403278983861370880_n

Manning The Booth

So at the start of this section I said that you need about 5-6 people to help you. This is because you need to give people breaks. Pax is a loud environment in which you will be doing a lot of talking, standing and trying to create an inviting environment for your booth. For this year we had 4 people at the convention centre at all times, two people would man the booth at once, the other two would be on break. The exception being if it gets really really busy, or someone at the booth needs something (eg food). We also worked in 1 and a half hour shifts, changing one person every 45 minutes. I also gave everyone but myself a day in which they did not have to man the booth at all. This is good because it meant that folks got a chance to see the show, but also relax without having to worry about any of that booth stuff.

While you are manning the booth, feel free to ask people if they would like a go. But do read their body language. If they are closed off, don’t bother them. If they look interested go for it. For example I would often say “would you like to learn some Japanese?”. This is a nice easy yes or no question. If they say yes, invite them to play. If they say no, wish them a good day. Don’t push them to play your game. Lots of folks just walk through the indie section, find the games with art they like the look of and save them. They wont stop and play, even for a game they think they’ll love. Do not pressure those folks to play, as you will sour the game to those people by you not respecting their boundaries.

I also find its good to have a handful of business cards on you. People often pass through and will just ask you for a card. I do find a card is better than a pamphlet, as cards slip easily into pockets whereas a pamphlet is has to be put into a show-bag or get scrunched up.

IMG_1839

What to Expect Day to Day

Friday is your quietest day. Because of this the press are most likely to play your game on this day. The press also get let in an hour before the general public. This is why you really should have your booth set up on Thursday. If you are still setting up on Friday, press will pass you by. If a member of the press plays your game they will often come back for a proper interview later. Another thing to remember about Friday is, if there is anything you really want to do on the show floor, today is the day to do it. Do not wait till the weekend. You will have no hope.

Saturday: pray to whatever deity your worship, and hope you receive mercy. I’m being dramatic, but this is going to the busiest day. There are going to be SO many people. Stay hydrated. Take your breaks. And pace yourself.

Sunday is busier than Friday, but its not as out of control as Saturday. Often press will come back to you to record interviews on this day. Things will also close a bit sooner so you can bump out. The last thing is, on Sunday evening there is Megadev. It is the game developer mega party at the end of Melbourne International Games Week. If you want to go, ask around the other game devs in the indie section to see if they are going. If they are, ask them for the code. They will only give it to you if you are a game dev. Once you have it you can purchase at ticket on the Megadev trybooking page. It does cost a bit of money though, and I think you only get 1 drink token from memory. I personally don’t enjoy it as by this point in time, I am done with loud, crowded spaces from PAX. But if you want to get sloshed with a bunch of game devs, this is where you want to do it.

Monday: TAKE THE DAY OFF. Take the week off. I’m not kidding, taking the week off is a good idea. You will be absolutely wrecked afterwards. Now is the time for self care. You will also probably get sick here, so have fun with that.

Wrapping Up

That’s basically all the information I’ve learned over the course of doing this thing two times now. I hope this was informative. If you have exhibited at PAX Aus, feel free to drop your handy hints in the comments.

And if you like the look of Kana Quest, or you felt this blog was useful to you please consider …

Wishlisting the game on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/725850/Kana_Quest/

Following the Official Kana Quest Twitter: https://twitter.com/KanaQuest

Or liking Kana Quest on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KanaQuest/

Hoi! This is Leina, aka Reina (@rein_bel), because in the wonderful world of Hiragana we have a kana (れ) that does both. I am one of the two composers for Kana Quest.

Though I don’t come from a strictly musical background like Julian, I am a native Japanese speaker who grew up in Japan, listening to the kind of traditional and modern music  that inspires Kana Quest’s soundtrack. 

w5wip.png

What makes a song ‘Japanese’? (And how do we stop being stereotypical?)

Let’s talk about Enka. 

Enka is a type of Japanese ballad music. Modern enka developed in postwar Japan, and enjoyed a revival in the 70s that still continues to this day. Enka is characterised by its sentimental lyrics, use of traditional musical scales, and slow rhythm – often a single syllable can stretch for several notes!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwKIvbOqqcc

(This is the singer Sachiko Kobayashi performing Enka. Remember her now.) 

Most people’s image of Japanese music may default to traditional Japanese folk music. Koto glissandos, taiko drums, that sort of thing. Have you heard of ‘Sakura Sakura’? It’s a well-known folk song that’s been popular since the Meiji period, and most kids are taught it at some point in their lives. 

712px-Sakura.song

The song is in In scale, a musical scale used in Koto and Shamisen music. Coupled with the song literally being about cherry blossoms, it’s about as Japanese-y as you can get.

Then there’s also everyone’s favourite J-pop and J-rock, which evolved from the global 1960s pop and rock music phenomenon. The Beatles were explosively popular in Japan as they were everywhere else, and J-rock evolved from these influences well into the 70s, 80s, 90s and today. Nowadays Jpop is well-known for its peppy, upbeat energy and their prevalence in anime productions and pop culture. 

So what does this have to do with Enka

During the earlier stages of this project, Theo and I joked that most pop-culture depictions of Japan fell into two camps: ‘Samurai Drama’ and ‘Anime Girls’. Both of us had spent long periods of time living in Japan, and wanted to showcase the other facets of the culture that folks might not be as familiar with. Enka, with its roots in traditional Japanese music and western ballad music, is a perfect example of how modern music evolved into something distinctly recognisable to locals… but might not be as widely known elsewhere. 

W3Done

Japanese Instruments

Two instruments I used frequently in Kana Quest’s soundtrack are the Shamisen and Shakuhachi

The Shamisen is a three-stringed instrument that originated in China via Okinawa. In particular, the Tsugaru Shamisen style is known for its percussive quality. Depending on how the strings are plucked with the Bachi (plectrum), different tones can be produced. A hard downwards pluck creates a distinctive snap or twanging sound, which often becomes the rhythmic backbone of Shamisen solos. A gentle up stroke produces a clean, almost Koto-like tone. 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EnwMv7fNOoZlkcEd_wOzQ5E4Dr6Pu0uz/view?usp=sharing

The Shakuhachi is a bamboo flute known for its variable tone and breathy sound quality. In Japan, it’s known as an instrument played by Zen Buddhists as part of their meditation. 

https://drive.google.com/open?id=133Cyrif5SxGdHEptwCJM4hcNCY4DIWf0

 

Production Process

As mentioned by Julian in the previous dev blog update, both of us have a hand in every track. For some of the earlier levels, Julian writes the backing track and sends it over to me. I then write the melody, and send it back for the final mix. On other tracks, the reverse is true– I write the majority of the track, but leave the keyboard and mixing to Julian’s mastery. 

With so much back and forth between our two vastly different workflows and composing styles, it seemed like a bit of a risk jumping into the project– but it’s been anything but, and the final tracks are a beautiful fusion of traditional and modern that we’ve been looking for. 

world11WIP.png

Conclusion

Now we’re seeing popularity in Japanese folk rock songs that reintroduce traditional Japanese instruments to modern music. Wagakki Band incorporate Shamisen, Shakuhachi and Wadaiko to their songs, and they came into the spotlight in the 2010’s through the power of the internet. Various independent Vocaloid producers have also begun using traditional Japanese instruments in their songs.

…Which brings us back to Sachiko Kobayashi, the Enka singer. 

Here’s her performing a cover of the popular Vocaloid song ‘Senbonzakura’, in a virtual live performance in the popular MMO Phantasy Star Online 2. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyf7LvXOT4Y

Because “Folk-ballad singer wearing a mech suit in a virtual sci-fi MMO covers a folk J-rock song originally sung by a fictional anime android as cherry blossom petals swirl on stage” is something you really, really can only get in Japan. 

 

Hi all, Theo here. Please give a big hand to Julian and Leina for writing the last two devblogs! I’ll be writing the the next devblog as usual, but I hope you all enjoyed reading Julian and Leina’s work as a change of pace.

However on the topic of the next Devblog, it will come out a week later that usual as the weekend the next devblog would come out the weekend of PAX Aus. Which, Kana Quest will be showing at this year!! So expect the next devblog on the 19th of October, not the 12th. But until then, have a great month. And if you want to read the devblog as soon as it comes out feel free to sign up to our mailing list at kanaquestgame.com

AAAAAAAAAND I’m BACK!

So, to start with Not Dead Design’s Not Dead Designer is still NOT DEAD! I know, truly remarkable! Despite going through a full week of being well and truly outside my comfort zone I got through it, and I would like to think with a few more friends on the other side!

My week started with GCAP (Games Connect Asia Pacific), which is the Australian equivalent of GDC. And following the rules of Australian equivalent of x thing that exists in America; GCAP is much smaller than the American version, but personally I see that as a plus as too many people can be too overwhelming. But that said, this year’s GCAP WAS HUUUUGE! I went a few years back as a student when I had no clue what I was doing, and the attendance this year was at least two times larger.

20171024_095032.jpg

I had a pretty good time at GCAP, I made some cool new friends. Watched some really informative talks on a whole bunch of stuff. This year I was gravitating towards the business/marketing panels the most because of me wanting to learn how to best promote Kana Quest. And I feel as though I got my moneys worth out of the conference which I don’t know I did the last time I went. That’s not a statement of the quality of the conference last time, but just me saying that I didn’t know how to utilize the knowledge I received last time. I also saw one talk given by one of my old university lecturers. Though the most memorable talk was probably the one given by Rami Ismal from Vlambeer and Teddy Dief. Here’s a video clip from it. I think you can figure out why it was so memorable.

Fortunately I only made a complete ass of myself one during the whole time at GCAP. Which is always nice. Oh and I got invited to go get dumplings after the second day of GCAP with a bunch of other cool folk. So that was awesome.

Then Thursday arrived. And I had to bump into the convention center. Walking into that hall and seeing my game art next to so many other amazing games was so much more amazing that I could have ever hoped it to be. It just felt incredible. And that was before I had my TV, my tablets, my signs, my merch, my lights. I’m pretty sure I had a big goofy grin on my face the whole time.

20171026_103432.jpg

Well I did until my hire company was late turning up. A full two hours late. Everything was fine to be honest, but I’m the sort of person who will always assume I’ve messed something up. So the whole time I was certain that I fallen for a scam, or that I mis-typed my bank details. One unfortunate result of the rental folk being late was that I couldn’t go out and buy some small supplies for my booth. So by the time they did turn up I was running a bit behind schedule and that resulted in me missing the Freeplay Parallels exhibition that evening, which was sad because there were some games there that I really wanted to see in action. Wayward Strand, and Unnamed Goose Game were the two I really wanted to see, but couldn’t so that was disappointing.

But then before I knew it, it was Friday and PAX was upon me. PAX opened for press at 9:00 am for press. I got to meet quite a few really cool media folk, including Meghann O’Neill who writes for PCPP (PC Power Play). I mention her specifically because I used to read PCPP regularly and her opinion pieces were basically the first critical thought applied to games I was ever exposed to. And basically got me thinking critically about games myself. Which in term resulted in me wanting to make games. So getting to meet her was really exciting.

So I should probably talk about my set up at PAX real quick. So at AVCon (my first Con experience) I was really disappointed in my presentation, and resolved to improve it for PAX. Which I think I did. Well it does help that the base set up for the PAX indie pods look pretty great to begin with. But there were a few big things I changed that had a really positive impact I think. Firstly the game was running on three tablets that I hired out, not just my personal laptop and a friend’s personal laptop. Secondly I bought some LED strip lights ahead of the convention which just looked great. Thirdly, I had a big TV screen that passersby could see some prerecorded footage of the game. I felt this was a really good setup. Finally I had a version of the logo in English as well as the Japanese logo so people knew what the game was called without knowing Japanese. I feel this setup was so much better than what I had at AVCon. It was more inviting, people could tell what the game was about easier, and it attracted attention more effectively.

20171026_143003.jpg

I also want to talk about the people who were helping me exhibit. Lise, Chris, Katie, Luke and Reuben. Without question I could not have done PAX without all their help. It was so incredible having a team of people I could rely on to help out and man the booth when I got too tired. I want to specifically thank Lise for taking control of my social media for the weekend. I just want to thank all of them so much, because they are all so amazing and so lovely.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor

(Ok soppy stuff over now)

Lol psych! I also want to thank my amazing sister Phoebe for making all of our merch. She hand made every single plushie, and every single t-shirt. She worked so hard. One the first day of PAX we sold out of all our plushies and we had to ask her to make more. And you know what she did? She worked till the wee hours of the morning to allow us to have more plushies to sell the following day. She worked so hard. I cannot thank her enough.

22829740_180656755822982_6147795618363885215_o

Ok, now the soppy stuff is actually over, where was I? Oh yeah, Friday and the show floor has just been opened to the public. Something you don’t immediately realize about PAX is how when the flood gates open, not much happens at first. You would think suddenly there’s a sea of people. But its a bit more gradual you have a few stray people walking through and bit by bit more and more people find themselves in the indie section and before you know there a crowd of people watching your game and all three tablets are taken. In fact at times I thought I should have gotten a fourth tablet as there was that many people. In terms of how busy we were, we were surprisingly busy. We were never empty, we always seemed to have at least one or two people playing at all times. We were not as busy as RUMU the game next to us but then again, their game is about a sentient roomba sooooo, its kinda hard to compete.

In terms of the response from the players, it was really good. There were a lot of folk who were legitimately disappointed they couldn’t buy the game there and then. People loved the art style, and they liked the concept. Also the elevator pitch consistently sorta caught people a little off guard in a good way (The elevator pitch is : A puzzle game that’s a cross between Dominoes and a Match-3 game… but it teaches you how to read Japanese). I think giving people the first bit which is kinda unremarkable and then hitting them with the sucker punch of “but it teaches you Japanese” consistently got a lot of people really interested. Another really good piece of feedback actually came from a very small group of players: Native Japanese speakers. I had three native speakers of Japanese (that I personally talked to) come and play the game. And all three could sit down and play the game and enjoy playing the game despite knowing all their Hiragana already. This is really important because it means that the game aspect of Kana Quest is fundamentally a fun game. This has been a fundamental design goal for me from day one.

On the negative side of feedback, quite a few people were a bit disappointed there were no plans for Kanji, vocabulary or grammar in the game. Which I understand completely, but none of those things will work within the game framework itself. This is a very clear drawback to the approach to the design I have taken. I get to have a fun game, and it teaches a very important skill, but anything beyond the scope of that skill is basically impossible to implement in a way that doesn’t break the game. The other piece of feedback was that the actual logo needs a bit more work. While the color scheme looks good and works great, the actual logo doesn’t read very well. So I will likely be doing some more work on my branding in the near future.

No automatic alt text available.

Another thing that happened at PAX was we ran a “win a free copy of the game when it comes out competition”. Basically to participate all folk had to do was draw their own Kana tile face and give me their e-mail and the 5 designs that I liked to most would win. People really liked this, we got a load of entries and it was pretty fun choosing the best designs. Once I chose the winners I animated them as if they were going to be added into the game as I thought it would be cool to see their work come to life. You can see the five winning designs below.

And I think that just about sums up everything that happened at PAX this year. It was an incredible experience and I look forward to doing it all again next year. Anyway thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week!

So, PAX is getting awfully close now isn’t it.

I’m kinda going batty just trying to get everything together for the game. But the most infuriating part is that everything I’m doing looks like I’m doing very little from the outside.

When all you are doing is fixing small little bugs you don’t have anything interesting to show. I wish I could show you a bunch of exciting new features but I can’t. The closest thing I have to anything new is a loading screen hint section. HintDemo

Anyway. Apart from this the main thing I’ve been working on is contacting press people who are coming to PAX who I think would be interested in Kana Quest. I’ve had a little bit of a response so far so that’s better than nothing. Found one person who was perfect for Kana Quest. They were interested in educational games and taught Japanese themselves. So was able to contact them and get a positive response there.

I also got to contact Meghan O’Neil at PCPowerPlay. That one is big for me as I used to read her opinion pieces in PCPP a lot back in the day. And was the first proper critical thought about games I was exposed to. So without her work I probably wouldn’t have wanted to make games. I don’t think Kana Quest will be her jam, but I do get to say thanks so that’s exciting.

In other news it looks like Kana Quest merch will be available at PAX so if you are interested in a Kana Quest T-shirt, Kana Soft Toy, or Socks, PAX Aus is your chance!

Anyway. Hope y’all have a good day and I’ll see you around. I won’t do a blog post next week, but you will get a MASSIVE one after PAX!

Till then.

Bai

Sorry for the late blog post. I promise I have good excuse!

Here is my excuse –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wjyHFURurU

I made a trailer for Kana Quest in the lead up to PAX! Speaking of PAX what do I still have to do? Well a lot. We are less than a month out and hooo boy am I scared as all hell! Here is my list of things I still need to get organized.

  • Tablet Hire
  • Order more business cards
  • Pay the official PAX for any of the additional furniture I need.
  • Rigorously play-test the new tutorial.
  • Find and Squash as many bugs as possible.
  • Make a convention mode.
  • Try to get into contact with as many media people as possible.
  • Organize a convention survival kit.
    • Lots of water
    • Butter Menthols
    • Gaffer tape
    • Scisors
    • Hand Sanitizer
    • Wet Wipes
  • Organize shifts for everyone helping me exhibit.
  • Set up my Steam Storefront
    • This one is going to be a blog post all to its self so I’m not gonna get into it all now.
  • Set up a video loop of some stock game-play footage for the booth so people can always see the game being played.

The thing that is really getting to me is I don’t know what I don’t know. There are so many things that need to be doing, and I feel as though I’m probably making a bunch of mistakes with all of them. But I don’t know what they are. This is also a large part of my own personal insecurities coming out here: I fundamentally don’t trust myself not to make an ass of myself.

Anyway I’m getting sidetracked. Let’s talk about how I made my trailer. Well for a start I used After Effects to make it. It’s the only video editing software I’ve used before so it was a natural choice. I really didn’t want to spend time learning a new tool. I only bought it for one month of use though. I don’t see the need for buying for a year when I’m probably only going to use it for two months in a year at max.

That said, After Effects is awful and I hate using it. I think I just hate video editing in general (guess that I’m not gonna be the next big youtube sensation). And I got to experience some fun little bugs from After Effects.

  • Upon installation, After Effects decided that I didn’t need my windows settings. So it just discarded all the stuff I’ve added to windows 8 to make it run like windows 7. Also this just in windows 8 base interface is still awful.
  • The phantom youtube music. While I was importing assets and setting up my composition I was listening to youtube music. I hit the preview button and somehow my youtube music got encoded onto my preview. Every time I played my preview the same bit of youtube music would play. I ended up having to re-import some assets to get rid of it.
  • Not a bug per say but AE particles suck. Guess I’ve been spoiled by Unity’s particle systems but the restrictions are stupid. For example you cannot lock your particles Z axis, which sucks if you have a 2D game. You also can’t have your particles animate off a sprite sheet. So I couldn’t use any of the particle assets I already had made in the game. Oh, I just remembered another thing AE particles can’t do. You can’t have sub emitters.

That said AE has added a few things that do make life a hell of a lot easier. Namely the graph editor is way easier to use than it was the last time I used AE. Oh and the inclusion of the “shy” layers made keeping my timeline a bit more organized way easier.

Anyway, that’s me for the week.

See you next week.

Hey welcome to this week’s Kana Quest Dev Blog. Where I get to talk all about what I’ve been doing for the last week. What I achieved, what problems I had and how I solved those problems for my game Kana Quest (A Puzzle game that’s a cross between dominoes and a match three game that teaches the Japanese phonetic Alphabet).

So PAX Aus is now less than a month away. This means most of my energy is being spent preparing for that. As a result very little new content for is going to be made for the game. I’m patching bugs certainly, but making new content will have to wait for now.

KanaQuestPAXBanner180dpi.jpgKanaQuestPAXBanner280dpi.jpgSo what sort of things are taking up so much time? Well mainly getting my booth ready. I learned from AVCon earlier this year, that your presentation matters. It matters a lot. Thankfully PAX provides printing of artwork included in the booking of the booth which will improve my baseline presentation a bunch. But I do need to make the artwork for those posters. As of this week I can officially say that I have been given grant money by Creative Victoria to attend PAX Aus which is amazing and I of coarse can’t thank them enough. And that bright pink banner topper is part of the conditions of the grant. I have to display the Melbourne International Games Week branding on my booth. Which I am more than happy to do. I also made an English version of the Kana Quest Logo as at AVCon I realized that most people had to ASK what the name of the game is. I want my players to know the name of the game without asking so it was a natural addition.

One big achievement this week was this little beauty (please imaging me saying beauty in a really strong Aussie accent).

TaxAccept.pngTurns out getting my tax information verified by Valve turned out to be a bit of a headache. I’ve been trying to get it done for last three weeks and its been very frustrating to do. I do need to give massive shout out to Carmine Fantarella at Games of Edan (Link: gamesofedan.com/icebox-speedgunner#_=_ ) . He provided a bunch of help in this department. So I do want to give thanks where thanks is due. If you like fast paced action games go check out his game ICEBOX: Speed Gunner, its really sweet and just plays amazingly.

So now that Kana Quest is on Steam what’s the next step? Well the next step is setting up my Steam Storefront. This means I need to make a trailer, prepare some HD screenshots and once again make sure my presentation is top notch. Once I’ve done that I’ll submit the game to Valve, they will review it and it will go onto the Coming Soon section.

 

Finally for this week we have the tutorial. For as long as this game has existed teaching players how to PLAY the game. Which is saying something as the first people to ever play the game were two native speakers of Japanese. This week I finally got sick of my tutorials not working so I sat down and made a list of skills the player needs to have to play the game.

  • Know how to flip the Kana to see the English
  • Know how to move the Kana.
  • Know how Kana match with each other.
  • Understand the win state of each level.
  • Know what the undo and restart buttons are.
  • Understand that Stone Kana can’t be moved.

So I went off and made the following tutorial level.NewTutorial5.gif

So this tutorial level does a few things differently to all previous versions. Firstly this tutorial takes place entirely on only once scene. This means I can add new concepts one at a time and those additions will be the focus of attention. It also is much harder to sequence break than previous version. Actually I specifically made it impossible to do so. I can’t afford players who just skip the tutorial as they will be lost. Anyway I need to now playtest this new tutorial to ensure that it’s up to the task of teaching everyone at PAX Aus.

And with that, another Dev Blog comes to an end for another week. If you are interested in Kana Quest please follow me on twitter @notdeaddesigner or follow my blog here on WordPress. I hope you all have a great weekend, till next time.

 

Hi Welcome to the Dev Blog for Kana Quest. If you’re new here and have never seen or heard of Kana Quest, read this blog post for the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of Kana Quest. –> https://kipentheodor.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/kana-quest-primer/

Otherwise read on to hear about what’s been done over the last week!

So I have one and a half months till PAX Aus hits. And I am officially freaking out. There is so much to do and so little time for me to do it. I still have to get Kana Quest onto Steam so I can take preorders at PAX. I still have to implement some sound into the game. I still have to organize my booth’s set up. There are still some bugs that need to be ironed out. I need to make an awesome trailer to show off my game. And finally the one thing that has me worried most of all, my tutorial is still awful.

The tutorial has always Kana Quest’s biggest weakness. I tried to sit down this week and think about all the common misconceptions people have when they sit down and play.

  • They think they are writing words.
  • They think Hiragana is Kanji and start freaking out they don’t know the meaning of each letter.
  • They don’t understand they are trying to match sounds.
  • They don’t understand the win state.

So how am I going to prevent the player from thinking these things?

I

Don’t

Know

That’s it. The reality is I’m just not sure. But I cannot afford to give up. So here are some ideas I have that hopefully will help fix the problem.

Idea 1. Completion Gauge: So most people when playing are not sure what their goal is. If I give a visual representation of how close the level is to being completed it will better communicate the goal. I think it will help players know how close they are to completing a level, but not necessarily understand why they are completing the level.  CompletionGauge2.gif

As you can see I have already started work on this idea, mainly because I think this is my best one. To get this working though I have had to change how I handle checking whether or not the level is complete. Now the game will find the largest group of Kana in the level. Before the game would only actually check the group size starting from one location. I had to change this as if that starting location was the last to be connected it would be very easy to have a situation where the gauge goes from zero to full which would only confuse player further.

Idea 2. Show the Player the Hiragana Table: So the idea here is to show the player the whole Hiragana table after they learn their first three Kana. Hopefully this will demonstrate to the player that Kana are phonetic letters and not Kanji (which are pictorial). The other great advantage of doing this is I prepare the player for all the characters that they will learn. That way they don’t freak out that they are going to have HUNDREDS of Kana to memorize. HiraganaTableGif.gif

Idea 3. Show the English Sounds Matching in Tutorial Levels: The idea behind this one is that the player doesn’t get to see where things are matching. While this is a core part of the gameplay later on, for the tutorial the most important thing is that the player understands the core mechanic. If showing the English for a little bit will achieve this I’ll try it!

Idea 4. Change the Structure of Tutorial Levels: So the idea here is that I increase the size of the early levels but not increase the difficulty. What I’m thinking is a really long level with the same Kana repeating but with stone Kana to limit movement. Coupled with the completion gauge hopefully this will communicate the idea that creating matches is the goal.

So those are my ideas on how to improve the tutorial. They aren’t perfect so if you have any ideas, PLEASE TELL MEEEE! I’ll see you all in a week’s time where hopefully I haven’t turned into a stressed out wreck.

Before we get into the meat of this week’s update I just have some big news about Kana Quest. Officially Kana Quest is going to be heading to PAX Aus this year! If you are planning on coming come say hi and give the game a go! I would love to hear your feedback! And if you have any friends going tell them to check Kana Quest out! Anyway with that done, onto the week’s work!

So this week I’ve been working on implementing the second world into Kana Quest. I’ve known for a while that I want to transition between worlds by clicking and dragging the screen. And for the background art to join up seamlessly. So what’s the process of doing this involved?

world2MoreCurrent Step one was making the background art for world two. This was the easy part. All I really needed to watch out for here was to make sure that all the layers are repeatable so I can make the world as long or short as needed.

 

The next step was ensuring that the two worlds can transition into each other. This step will be easier in the future thanks to more planning in the world two art but no such planning was done for the first world’s art. As such the seam is a little abrupt. But its not an immediate shift so its better than nothing.

World1to2

MovingToWorld2

Part three was bringing the assets into unity and getting the camera to move when the player clicked and dragged. One small bug occurred with this though. I made my camera a physics object. Turns out any child object of a physics object loses its ability to know if the player is clicking on it. This caused some of my menus to stop working.

 

World2WithParallax.gif

Once we had the camera moving we had to get the background parallaxing with the camera. This means that the foreground art will move more than the background art to create the illusion of depth. This turned out to be troublesome as I kept being able to make my world two art not line up with the first world art. Thus forcing me to find a way to ensure that the art would always come back to the right position. This took half a day. It was not fun.

So here we have the last part of getting this whole thing working. The transition. This gave me the most trouble out of everything and is what I spent most of this week working on. The reason is for the first world I had used a static overlay that would fade in OVER everything in the scene. This overlay would work fine as long as the overlay was the exact same as the background. But once you add a variable camera position you no longer can guarantee this. So things had to change. So now, what is happening is I have a script that finds all the visible parts of the background, and prevents them from being destroyed when a new scene is loaded, then it moves those objects into the same relative position as they were in the previous scene. This is important as the camera’s position changes scene to scene so if this didn’t happen the art would be misaligned, or not in shot at all. Then would take all other objects in the scene and fade them out. Once the new scene is loaded it would get all the new non-background objects in the scene set the transparency to full and fade the new objects in. The result is what you can see below.

FirstWolrd2Level

 

And that was the process involved in adding the second world to the game. All subsequent worlds will be easier as I won’t have to worry about making the last three steps all over again. It will be set up for me already! Anyway I hope you all enjoyed learning about my process.

Till next week.