Reboot: The Champlain Games Festival
This past weekend was the 2nd annual Champlain Games Festival, and the Reboot team and I had the privilege of demoing our game at the festival in Essex Junction, VT. The experience during the lead up to the festival, the moments during, and our discussions afterwards were all invaluable for me as a developer. I learned a lot about myself and game production, and I certainly had some fun along the way.
The week leading up to the festival really forced us to put our best work forward creatively speaking. We were on a deadline. A deadline that meant people would be able to touch our game and make use of our systems and mechanics. For me this meant building code and features that made the completed the player experience. I spent a good deal of the week finally bookending our gameplay loop. This meant crafting a win screen and scoring system, as well as creating a system of colliders to trigger the win state when the player leaves the play space of the bowl. As a whole, the team really put in some of its best work against the deadline. We may have pushed too hard last week though (the merge conflicts were nasty), so the team is trying to make sure to even out the work a bit for this coming week. For programming, we'll be focusing primarily on documentation and bug fixes instead of large scale reworks or adding features.
The week before the festival also encouraged the team to hold a couple of really productive and really fun work sessions the Thursday and Friday before the event. Those meetings were invaluable and without them we likely wouldn't have made such a strong showing at the festival. The meetings really reduced the lead time on our communication and I think really contributed to our team's sense of forward momentum going into the festival in beyond. And I think our hard work shows in our festival build.
The festival itself felt like a huge milestone for the team, the game, and me as a developer. Reboot was played by dozens and dozens of players ranging from young children to grown men. We were able to get a lot of feedback from our small forms, discussions with fellow developers at the venue, and through watching players simply play our game the best way they knew how. We discovered a good deal about what works and what doesn't. But for me, that information was not the most important part of the day we spent rotating shifts at the Champlain Games Festival.
The most exciting and inspiring part of the game festival was the number of players who sat with our game, with all of its weak spots, for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. The young people were determined and the older folks wanted to poke around. The feeling of having a stranger play the game you've spent months thinking about, discussing, building and rebuilding is something I'm not sure I can put into words with any accuracy. It feels different than having someone read a poem or essay I've written. I do know that going the Champlain Games Festival will be creative fuel for me for a long time to come. The festival reminded me why I've desired to make games since early on in high school.
After one boy finished his play session, I told him thanks for playing our game, and I went to reset the game for the next player. As he left he said "Thank you for making it."