What have we been up to?
I’m Jonas, the community manager and audio designer here at Digital Devotion Games.
Instead of a blog post, we thought a small update on our progress the last month would be pretty interesting.
The main points I’ll cover are:
- Online Multiplayer Setup, and how complex that stuff is.
- New Character Model, and how pretty he is.
- Pitch Materials, and how GamesCom 2020 has been.
We’ve done other stuff as well (building a bigger level, making a trailer, etc), but I’m saving those until they’re more presentable 🙂
Going online in 3…2…1…
After having made our ‘Stable Core’-prototype this May to showcase a minigame in Project Tumble, we decided it was time to take things to the next level – the vertical slice (a qualitative representation of the full game experience).
For the vertical slice prototype, we need to implement online multiplayer functionality into Project Tumble. Not only do we want to build a game for when you’re chilling on Discord, but, historically, local-only multiplayer games tend to sell really poorly. In other words, they’re fun, but not so fun that you want to go through the hassle of planning date, travel, who gets the good controller, etc. People like to play them when they’re there, but not spend money on them – and that’s not exactly sustainable for a business.
Now, you CAN play local-only multiplayer games online via Steam’s Remote Play feature, but then you have to play with less-than-stellar connection issues, lag and similarly. In other words, making online multiplayer is better for both us and the player.
It was so easy and tranquil – but then everything changed when the online multiplayer functionality octopus attacked!
Then, why didn’t we integrate online multiplayer from the start? I’m glad you asked!
It. is. hard.
… and takes time! Local multiplayer is relatively easy to set up and test, which means we’ve had more time to work on the actual meat of Project Tumble; the gameplay. If we had to implement online multiplayer in every prototype, we would have wasted a lot of time on non-gameplay-related programming, instead of refining our features and vision (as detailed in a previous blog post).
Let me tell you why. Online multiplayer requires a reliable back-end networking API to implement into the game. This API-library of tools, shortcuts and features doesn’t just do all the internet-stuff by itself, however. Programmers have to get dirty and grit their teeth. With the API in hand, they link up and sync the content of the game in a way that both works well and doesn’t use too much of your computer’s resources.
There are many options to choose from, but we went with Mirror. This networking API basically follows the famous mantra: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid!). We like the sound of that! But it’s also an extension of the old UNET made by Unity themselves, which means it’ll be easier to manage across development stages. It’s also open source and has easily accessible ressources for learning and troubleshooting, which is super userful! Especially, when I tell you that implementing any kind of online multiplayer API requires you to rebuild every. single. script. in the game.
Yeah, that’s a lot.
So far, it’s been a grind. But it’s also been working really well, and we’re excited to show an online Project Tumble.
Introducing… CapKid version 2.0!
While we liked CapKid 1.0, we knew that we could do better. Our first character sets the standard, and he ought to glow with personality and style! Here’s a side-by-side of both the old and new version of this handsome young lad:
CapKid 1.0 (Left) -> CapKid 2.0 (Right)
So, what are the main differences?
First of all, the new CapKid has more fitting clothes for what you’ll be doing in Project Tumble: outdoors summer activities. His new clothes also allow us more flexibility when making new accessories for him. I mean, putting even more clothing onto a hoodie is a bit much, but on a t-shirt? It just works much better.
Secondly, his face has gotten an upgrade. The old one had a constant look of mischievous glee (which is fitting!), but the new one can have multiple facial expressions. In the image above, CapKid 2.0 might look a bit spaced-out, but that’s just his default state. He’s also got a new custom-made rig, built from the bottom up, that gives us more control over his movements and facial expressions when animating him. With this improved model, rig and animation workflow, we can efficiently make him express joy, fright, shock, anger, laughter – you name it!
And CapKid won’t be the only character in Project Tumble. We’re planning to have a roster of several charismatic characters, so everyone can have a favourtie. The next one being a cool valley girl, filled with attitude. But first, we’ll give life to CapKid 2.0 with some fresh animations, all textured and running around in-game – maybe showing off some of our new mechanics? Hint hint.
Pitching to a webcam
Lastly, we’ve been attending GamesCom 2020’s meet-to-match event. It’s essentially three days of networking, pitching and sharing valuable insights among people in the game industry. Everyone from indie game developers to investors to marketing bureaus to technology developers are there, seeking new opportunities and partnerships. A technology that especially caught our attention was modulate.ai, who are developing ‘voice skins’ for multiplayer games. It’ll be interesting to keep track of their new kind of technology!
This was our high-tech setup. As you can see, I’m not messing around.
We are an indie game company in an early stage, so we were seeking network and funding to help us reach our goals. Not just with developing Project Tumble, but with the company as a whole. We wanted to show who we are and what we do to those who make things happen in the gaming industry, and see what they respond with. Interest? Disgust? Maybe even desire?
In the past month leading up to this event, we’ve been working on our pitch, the materials needed to communicate it, and how we talk about it (also called ‘messaging’). Here’s a short overview of the kind of materials we’ve produced.
A document of 1-2 pages detailing every aspect of either the game product or the company.
Email Pitch Deck Library
A power point with slides laying out our audience and the problem we want to solve for them with Project Tumble. Also includes slides for anything an investor might want to know more about, e.g. business forecast, sales projections, roadmap, team composition, etc. The purpose of an email pitch deck is basically to let others pitch your product for you, even if they know nothing about it.
A video that shows how the game plays and looks.
Playable build of the game
A prototype that can be sent and played by whoever is interested.
Every one of these materials were often used! While we generally only used our Pitch Deck for the online pitch by sharing our screen, the other materials were usually requested afterwards. Had we not been prepared, we wouldn’t have had the chance to impress by quickly showing off gameplay, sales projections, competitor analysis, etc. The pitch deck we used during GamesCom 2020 was structured to answer these questions:
Who are we?
Company, Team, Game Product
Why are we making Project Tumble?
Context, Problem Statement, Goals and Ambitions
How do you solve this problem?
Solution, why us?
What is Project Tumble?
Genre, Game Loop, Game Theme
What is your status?
Roadmap, Investment Proposal
Ask Us Anything-slide
No economics, no sales projections, nothing of that sort was needed. The MeetToMatch meetings are more like a first date – to get to know each other, gage each others expectations and cultivate interest. You know, see if we match! The business side of things is necessary, but not what is most inspiring. You’re probably already familiar with Simon Sinek’s famous quote: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. Showing our passion, insight and genuine interest in solving a relatable problem proves Sinek’s point, ’cause it sure did go well for us!
When not pitching, we were using our time wisely in the battlefield of table-tennis. It was a great way to shake off nervousness and stay relaxed inbetween meetings.
But – enough about that – what’s the takeaway from GamesCom 2020?
The short version:
It went great!
The long version:
We had 15 meetings in total. Every time we booted up our webcam and talked with someone new, we gained valuable insight, feedback and experience. Some correspondences were very laid-back and casual, while others were more business-oriented. While you might expect meetings like these to be pretty ‘stiff’ or ‘dry’, it was mostly pleasant and like talking to a new potential friend or mentor. Generally, we got good feedback on our pitch, both from those interested and those who clearly weren’t. Most importantly, we saw a lot of excitement for our game idea, and understanding of the problem we aim to solve with Project Tumble.
Some other materials that could have helped further would have been a vertical slice of the game and a proper ½ – 1 min trailer, both of which we’re still making. With those, we could have shown more of the actual game, and would have had to do less explaining of the game idea. It could also have made it easier to prove that our team can execute on our plan, since we’d already have built a strong representative of the final product. We did have both vertical slice and trailer in mind before GamesCom 2020, but time is a scarce ressource, and we had to prioritize. Writing pitches and using the right words takes surprisingly much time and energy to do!
Interestingly, we thought that we would be asked more about our traction (a kind of proof that the market wants our game), but it was never brought up during pitching. Handily, Fall Guys had just released a few weeks prior and was still breaking records during our meetings. It’s basically a quality competitive game for casual players, proving that our audience exists with a big demand for something new.
So! By attending GamesCom MeetToMatch 2020, we have:
- expanded our network with contacts with whom we look forward to build relationships with,
- been validated in our game’s potential, and
- set up further meetings with all of those interested in hearing more about us.
All in all, we’re happy and exhausted. A lot of work was put into preparing for this event, and we’ve been heavily rewarded for it. Honestly, we are proud of our efforts, considering we are a completely new game development company that’s still making its first game. Yes, I’m ‘humble-bragging’, but we’re just so stoked about how well it went!
To sum up our update…
- We’re developing online multiplayer for Project Tumble, and it’s going well!
- We’ve made a new CapKid model and are starting to animate him!
- We attended GamesCom, and it went better than expected!
Now to take it a step further! No funding deals are in yet, but they’ll come! Our journey has only just begun and GamesCom 2020 just invigorated us A LOT! Stay tuned, ‘cause we’ve got much to show in the coming months! And we think it will rock your socks off! 🙂
This has been one of our monthly updates and/or blog posts. If you want to be reminded when we post them, you can subscribe to our mailing list here:
See you ’round the block!
Jonas, Community Manager & Audio Designer