Chicken Dinner

If you weren’t following and constantly refreshing the previous post, and weren’t following Lightwood Games on Facebook or Twitter, you might have missed the stunning news: We won two awards at GameHack!

GameHack organisers promise that there’ll be videos of the presentations online soon, but like us – they’re exhausted!

Coding for 24 hours straight is something I’m not sure I’ve ever done before, even as a reckless student.  The all-night sessions I remember from university were more to do with making sure essays got delivered on time.  Not being able to sleep, even if you were finished in the early hours, because you had to be awake at 8am when a computer lab with a printer opened to get a hard copy in time for the 9am deadline, and then be in bed by 9.30.

This was a whole different beast.  Once the time was up, you had to make a presentation to a room full of peers and industry leaders.  Sleep deprivation probably helps with this.  I think if my head had been fully aware of what was going on, I would have run a mile.

We went with an idea for a game, but also with an idea with how it would have to be presented to get noticed.  That’s why we spent so much time making the screen layouts flexible and on displaying a scrolling message.  The demo had to show immediately what we’d done that was different.

Three devices running the same software could be anything, and in fact once you get into the gameplay there’s not really anything to show that the devices are communicating, nor that they are aware that they’re laid out in a particular configuration.  Sending a message scrolling across the entire array does exactly that, and that’s what got people to notice.

Katherine quickly realised that having a large scrolling message on our table was turning heads, so she cunningly kept timing it so that people walking past would see this :)

It’s hard to describe just how thrilled I am without sounding all big-headed.  That will probably happen anyway, so it’s just as well I kept this to a personal blog, rather than an official company statement.

Other people agree that we’re awesome. :)

What really makes me buzz about creating games is seeing people play them.  Knowing that people I’ve never met before are having fun using something I helped create is an enormous sense of achievement.

It’s why I waste so much time every day looking at stats pages, counting the number of games played, watching download trends in countries that don’t make much difference in the global scheme of things.  That’s why I’ll probably spend the Arduino credit prize on constructing a stock-ticker style LED sign that constantly shows who is playing our games :)

It’s also why all our games are free to play.  If you don’t generally pay for games, we’re not going to convince you to pay for one of ours.  But I’d rather see people enjoying our games than someone else’s.  And hopefully, for you people who appreciate just how much they’re getting for their $1.99, we’ve included enough to tempt you into upgrading.

I can’t overstate how good winning at GameHack was, but the real highlight was having so many people come up to us and wanting to play the game.  Then saying “wow!”.  People who were there themselves to make games.  People who make “proper” games, in teams of more than two, using technologies that I have no idea about.  And creative people who can like draw and stuff.

I’m truly flattered.

So what next?  We clearly need to develop this game further.  It felt like there would be an angry mob on the doorstep if we didn’t.  But it needs some serious thought.

We can’t charge for the app.  The point is that everyone who wants to play needs a copy, so you can quickly get lots of devices connected.  If everyone had to pay even a dollar to do that, it won’t work.  But we can’t put advertising in there.  A banner advert in the middle of a grid will spoil the effect, and there’s no way it will get noticed anyway.  With four people around a table playing together, one isn’t likely to go “hey, what’s that tiny zoo thing all about” and yoink back their own device to tap an advert.

But we’ll definitely do something.  Watch this space!

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