Reflecting on another side of Ray’s the Dead

Hi there friends, happy February to you! Today, we reveal a new piece of art! This piece hints at what we have in store for the dual narrative that runs throughout Ray’s the Dead.

The story will bounce back and forth between the present day, where Ray is roaming the earth in zombie form, and the past, with Ray as a human before he met an untimely demise. You’ll spend a good amount of time in fully playable flashbacks, experiencing key moments in Ray’s human life, while unraveling the mystery of what happened during his days as a stock trader in the 80′s.

Our own Matt Carter painted this image which reflects this exciting aspect of Ray’s the Dead.

KeyArtWe look forward to giving you a deeper look at this side of the game in the coming months!

Note: When the PS4 PlayStation Store updates on Feb 4th, the above image will be the new representation of Ray’s the Dead in the coming soon section. Be sure to check it out!

Here is a super cool hi-rez 1920×1080 wallpaper version for you! Clicky:

RTD1920x1080WP

See you next time!

Ragtag’s 2013 Year In Gaming

Happy New Year friends of Ragtag! We realize we’ve been eerily silent here at Ragtag HQ, and we apologize for that! The bright side is that our silence is because we’ve been hard hard at work on Ray’s the Dead. Its coming along nicely, and we will have lots more info to share in the coming months.

As we prepare to climb out of our deep development hibernation period, we wanted to get into a habit of updating our devblog at least once a month. To get that rolling, we are going to kick off the new year with a recap of our gaming experiences from 2013, and what we are looking forward to in 2014. Please leave your own fond memories in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

RTS

Shawn Halwes’ 2013 Memorable Gaming Moments

  • Game of Dad – First person parenting simulator with a persistent world and hyper realistic graphics, surround sound, tactile feedback and iSmell 2.0.  I spent many sleepless nights playing this one with my wife.  The narrative is unreal and made me laugh and cry multiple times.
  • Playing Monaco 4 player co-op with the my bros.
  • Playing The Walking Dead with my wife.  This game was particularly powerful after playing Game of Dad all day.
  • Playing Device 6 with my wife.  High fives abound when one of us cracks a puzzle.  A creative reboot of text adventuring taking advantage of tablet features made for fun times.
2014 Top 5 Most Anticipated Games:
 

 

logoMatt Carters’ 2013 Memorable Gaming Moments

  • Hotline MiamiThe sound track and 80s theme caught my attention when I first read about this oneAnd while I wouldn’t call the graphics attractive there was something about the dirty look of everything that seemed to add to the allure. Hotline Miami was one of the few games last year that just had to have when it came out and boy am I glad I did.  I came to the conclusion this last year that I am pretty much the worst gamer ever and Hotline Miami was the game that made me realize it.  This game has got to be one of the most brutal games that I have ever played, in a few ways.  First off you die, a lot. Secondly, you kill, a lot.  And no matter how hard it is you’ll come back for more.  Not only am I the worst gamer ever, I’m also a pussy.  I don’t put much time into being punished by a game but Hotline Miami was a nasty mistress that I kept going back for one beating after another.  I attribute this to the games instant re-spawn when you die and frequent check points.  One of my favorite aspects of the game is the way that I felt like I was leveling up as I progressed, each try at a level I knew a little more about what to do to survive the beating.  Anyway, if you can’t tell by my ramblings I rate this game pretty highly.  From the games that I played in 2013 I’d say this was my game of the year.
  • Warhammer Space Marine - I had been pecking away at this game for a while and but had a blast every time I picked it up.  I’m not into the Warhammer thing but this game made me feel like a badass Space Marine from word go.  I really enjoyed the games balance between beating the crap out of baddies with my melee attack and beating the crap out of baddies with my super sweet guns.


TWO’s COMPANY - My favorite game experiences this past year revolved around time spent with my wife, Jessica.  Over the years we’ve played through a lot of games together and in 2013 I was especially lucky to play through a good number of great games with Jess.  Here are the highlights:

  • Lara Croft Guardian of Light - What a fantastic couch Co-Op game!  The graphics are gorgeous and the gameplay is light with a quick pace.  The two player focused puzzles are just varied and clever enough to stump you for a few minute before you’re on to the next.  If you are playing with a less experienced gamer just set the combat on easy and you’ll still have a satisfying adventure.  I can’t recommend this game enough.
  • MachinariumThis is a beautiful adventure game that has a lot of heart.  The art is so warm and full of life that its hard not to like.  We did have issue with a number of the puzzles in the game as they felt completely arbitrary and unable to be solved using logic within the rules laid out by the game’s world.
  • The Walking Dead: Season 1Last of Us takes the cake as the most amazing character artistry I’ve ever scene in a game but it pales in comparison to Tell Tale’s Walking Dead in terms of player involvement in story.  Despite the game’s clunky controls It didn’t take long for Jessica and I to get sucked into the story and attached to the characters to the point where we actively role playing the kind of person we wanted Lee Everett to be.
  • Unfinished SwanFinished Swan!  While the narrative in this game ended up being crap the fresh mechanics and cool environments kept us coming back for more.
WHAT’S NEXT?  – Aside from the MASSIVE back catalog of games that I own and have yet to play, here are some games that I am looking forward to that are coming out in 2014.
  • Hotline Miami 2After falling in love with the ass-whooping that was the first game I’m eagerly awaiting more kill by the seat of your pants action.
  • The Walking Dead: Season 2I’m going to need to spend some quality time with my wife this year after our baby is born in March and I think I know just the game to spend it with.
  • Oddworld New And TastyWhat can I say?  I’m a sucker for anything Oddworld.  Growing up in a house full of a lot of turmoil Abe’s Odyssey was one of the few times I can remember my entire family sitting down and enjoying a game ( or pretty much anything) together.  Oddworld games have a sense of humanity that really draw people in regardless of whether or not they are gamers.  On top of that I was fortunate enough to meet Lorne Lanning at E3 last year and his friendly and encouraging personality only made me want this game more.
  • Open World Construction Games - I believe that these games have an important yet untapped role role to play in education and engineering. As well as pushing the envelope of player centric story telling.
  • Bethesda’s Next RPG – One of my guilty pleasures of gaming is setting aside time to travel to the world’s of Fallout and Skyrim.  I’m guessing that I have played more Skyrim than any other game.  And I’ve loved every minute of it.  I can’t wait until Bethesda announces it’s next RPG which will be, no doubt, set in space, an amazing answer to the Star Wars and Mass Effect universes.  I know its coming and I can’t wait until they announce this game. I can dream can’t I?

 

Sleeping-Dogs-Wallpaper

Chris Cobbs’ 2013 Memorable Gaming Moments

Sleeping Dogs - This was a true eye opener for me. I was completely caught off guard by how much I enjoyed it. It even made me like the DRIVING missions in the game. *GASP!* Not only was this one of the most fun games I played in 2013, it was also my first Platinum Trophy on PSN. This game made me finally realize that I do, in fact, enjoy open world games.

  • Hotline Miami - For some reason I was opposed to this game right out of the gate, and certain I wasn’t going to like it. The glorified violence was a bit of a turn off. However, Matt’s enthusiasm convinced me to give it a try, and I already owned it thanks to one of the many Humble Bundles I bought this year, so I decided to give it a shot. I played it beginning to end and was stunned by how much I enjoyed it, such a satisfying action game. Thanks for knocking some sense into me Matt!
  • Resogun - Loved this game so much, I got completely addicted to it. My enjoyment of the game and the corresponding desire to experience everything it had to offer pushed me to be a better gamer. Bonus: I managed to earn my second Platinum Trophy.
  • Ace Attorney 5 - One of my favorite franchises returns with a vengeance! I’m still playing this, but I’m happy to report that nothing was lost in the move to a new platform, 3D models, and a different writer. An excellent entry in the series.
  • Persona 4 - I caught up on my Persona by playing Persona3 the end of last year. I am currently playing Persona4 and am loving every minute of it. The announcement of Persona5 has me drooling.
  • PAX East / E3Had so many amazing experiences meeting new people at both PAX EAST, as part of the Indie MEGABOOTH and at E3 as part of Sony’s booth and press conference. The friends I’ve made and the experiences we had at these shows have already made this crazy endeavor we are on so very worth it.

2014 Most Anticipated Games-

  • Bravely Default - So excited to finally get to play this, I’ve heard so many great things and I always crave a refreshing take on my favorite genre – the RPG.
  • Dark Souls II - I haven’t been the same person since playing Demons’ Souls. I will devour this game with a shameless delight.
  • PixelJunk Inc – It has been too long since our friends at Q-Games have released a new entry in the PixelJunk series. I love the look of this and can’t wait to get my hands on it.
  • Danganronpa – So happy to see this localized! A strange Japanese game in the vein of Phoenix Wright.
  • Persona 5 – The date hasn’t been officially announced but I’m hoping this makes it out in 2014.
  • Ray’s the Dead – Hey, I’m excited for our game so I don’t care if this is cheating!

That about sums up our gaming year. You’ll hear from us soon with more news regarding Ray’s the Dead! Happy New Year!

Indie Marketing Experiment: Ray’s the Dead TF2 Hat

Hey friends!

Today we want to show off an appropriately weird little something we’ve been working on: the Ray’s the Dead Team Fortress 2 Hat!

steamworkshop_tf2_ray_la_mortes_hat_thumb

Ragtag Matt has been hard at work on this hat, and we think he did a bang up job!

The Reason For The Hat

Here at Ragtag we are always thinking of ways we can try to get the word out about our game in a different way, and we think Ray’s the Dead is a game that should appeal to anyone that craves something a little different.  Providing the hat is an attempt to try to get a new genre of gamers to give our game a shot.

The original reason we made this hat was to try to drive additional attention to our Steam Greenlight page, but we were Greenlit before we had a chance to try this out.

So today, we are posting two pages on Steam. One, is our official Ray’s the Dead Coming Soon page.  The second, is our Ray’s the Dead Team Fortress 2 Hat page. Our hope is that many of the people that browse the new items in the Team Fortress 2 Marketplace will see our hat, wonder what the HECK it is, think its really cool, give us a 5 star rating, leave a nice comment, and most importantly, flip over to the Ray’s the Dead Coming Soon page and check out the game itself.

EngineerHatExciting Potential

After talking with Valve a bit, if the hat does get enough of a positive response and is accepted in to the TF2 store, we should be able to offer it as a free pre-order bonus with the purchase of Ray’s the Dead! We have seen a few other games do this, and hope it will be a compelling motivator for people to order the game ahead of its release.

steamworkshop_webupload_previewfile_181286475_previewSo while we have you, please take a moment to vote and comment on our Ray’s the Dead TF2 hat page.

Oh! And please check out our Ray’s the Dead Coming Soon page. You can do fun things like add the game to your wishlist, and help us out by starting things off in the community page.

And just as important, please help us spread the word amongst your pals that may be interested.  If we get the hat accepted into the store fast enough, we can involve it in our forthcoming Kickstarter campaign!

Thanks for your time!

-Team Ragtag

Ray’s the Dead is coming to Steam! + Meaty Status Update

Hey there friends of Ragtag! At long last, it is time for another devblog update. In this installment, we’ve brought with us a chunky status update on Ray’s the Dead, along with some really great news.  So lets jump right in with the good news first! RayGLBannerCompleteAs you may have guessed from the title of this post, Ray’s the Dead has officially been Greenlit!  This means when we release the PC/Mac/Linux versions, we can pop them straight onto everyone’s favorite online gaming portal – STEAM.  We couldn’t have been happier to receive the good news the morning of August 28th, and we have YOU to thank for this!  The momentum really picked up in the last several weeks, and it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know that the excitement for Ray’s the Dead is increasing as we draw closer to release.

If you had told us back when we started Ray’s the Dead that we would be releasing on both the PlayStation 4, as well as Steam, we wouldn’t have believed it was possible. With this, we are very satisfied with the positioning we’ve accomplished before release. That doesn’t mean we are done exploring other release options, but we are very happy with the plans so far.  More on that in a bit!

Ray’s the Dead status update!

Alright so many of you have been asking us, just what the heck is going on with Ray’s the Dead? I’m here to give you a bit of insight on what we’ve been up to, and what our plans are moving forward.

First off, as great as PAX East and E3 were for us, we realized what huge resource drain these conferences can be for a small, three man team.  With great sadness in our hearts, we decided after E3 that we wouldn’t attend any more conventions / festivals for the rest of the year so we could concentrate on development.  As I type this, all of our great friends and fans are having a great time at PAX Prime.  And as much as it hurts to not be there, I’m happy to report that we made the right decision as we’ve been making great progress on the game!

After E3 we took a chunk of time to step back and evaluate the state of the project.  We reflected on everything we’d learned in the previous few months of watching hundreds of people play through our early demo. There was a lot of very positive feedback, but also clearly some things we needed to reevaluate. One major realization was that we weren’t hitting on our initial goal of the controls being as simple as they could be. We have since been taking steps to revamp the controls to be simpler for anyone picking up and playing for the first time.

ThanatosColor

Ragtag Matt’s Graveyard concept image

We also took some time to flush out Ray’s story, along with mapping out the entire course of the game. We really like the plans we have for telling Ray’s back story, and have made that an even more significant part of the game. We haven’t yet shown any of the flashback sequences, but you can expect that in the future that will become a more prominent focus of the game.  We are torn because we really love the flashback sequences we have planned, and want to show them, but we also don’t want to ruin any surprises before the game is released.  What to do?

At any rate, things are going well.  We now have an updated control scheme that we are testing, and a framework of the entire game is playable.  We are now in the process of refining our combat systems, along with adding some new features we haven’t revealed yet. We are currently working toward a goal of having the entire game playable with all features working, and a couple of fully polished, final missions that will have us ready for…..

Another Kickstarter!

That’s right! Our hope is to launch another Kickstarter in the coming months. As you can see, a lot of things have fallen into place that were still up in the air back when we last ran a Kickstarter. We will be able to offer the PlayStation 4 version as a reward tier.  We can say with certainty that anyone can redeem their copy of the game on Steam. We also have some new and exciting rewards that we hope to be able to offer, that are a direct result of some of the new relationships we’ve cultivated the last few months.

In addition, some good news has fallen into our lap that will allow us to start a campaign with a significantly lower asking goal, which should make it far easier to reach our goal. We hope everyone will be as pumped for the relaunch as we are!  Oh, and did I mention we intend to have some enticing stretch goals in the form of…

Additional Platforms!

Many people have been asking about additional platforms for Ray’s the Dead. We don’t want to commit to too much too soon, but with some additional financing through Kickstarter, its possible that we can get some additional help to support more platforms.

At this point, we are licensed to release the game on every major platform with the exception of the Xbox One, and that is in progress. In the months leading up to our Kickstarter, we will be evaluating each platform, and gauging interest from our fans.

That’s where you come in!  In the comments, please mention your platform(s) of choice.  

Or if you prefer, Tweet it at us.

Or, Facebook it at us.

Or, email it at us, at info (at) ragtagstudio (dot) com

Shut Up Already!

Wow, that went into a lot more detail than I expected. Hopefully this entry catches you up on what we’ve been up to the last few months. Thanks for your time, and feel free to ask additional questions in the comments. For now, back to work for us!

Ray’s the Dead is coming to the PS4! + Status update.

Hey there friends!

Have you heard the news?  Ray’s the Dead was announced for the PS4 during this years E3!  We are super excited about this news, and have been anxious to share it with you for quite some time now.  In addition to this exciting news, we want to give you a status update on the project to answer many of your questions:

Different versions of Ray’s the Dead

Regarding the PS4 version.  This will not be a launch title, but we do hope to release within the ‘launch window’, which is considered to be within 6 months of the release of the system.

As of now, our original plan of bringing the game to the PC/MAC is still happening!  The agreement we signed with Sony only has us being CONSOLE exclusive for a very short period of time.  This has no impact on our ability to release Ray’s the Dead on any computers, or mobile formats.  In fact, we could theoretically release on PC first if we like!

Many of you have asked if we will release the game for the WiiU.  We are licensed Nintendo developers, and we met with them at E3 this year.  There is a mutual desire to have the game released on their console, we just need to take the time to decide if this is something we can commit to.  We WANT to do it, trust us!  Hearing from more of you that you want it on WiiU would be a big help!

Regarding the Linux version.  This is something we still intend to do, but as it does require funding and additional resources, we can’t promise.  But as long as we receive some funding, we will make it happen.

Funding the Dead

Just to be clear, as of this moment, we are not receiving any money from Sony, or from anyone else.  We want to take more time to let things settle, and make more progress on the game before we decide what path to take to procure funding.  We do have a few options, and are in the process of evaluating what will give us enough funding to make the game we want to make, while maintaining the ability to make good on all of the promises we’ve made regarding platform releases and whatnot.

Kickstarter is still high on our list of options, but there are still a few loose ends we’ll need to tie up before making another go at Kickstarter.  Hopefully that’s something we can elaborate on a bit more in the near future.

The Near Future

In the near term, we are going to go into game dev hibernation.  We’ve been spending a LOT of time working on conventions, Kickstarters, and conferences.  As a result, progress on the game has slowed.  We are going into a cave for a while and when we come out, we want to be much closer to completing this bad boy!

But oh, don’t worry!  This doesn’t mean you won’t hear from us at all!  We’ll pop our heads out with the occasional update, and you’ll frequently find us toiling away on the game, live, on our Twitch.tv channel.  But we will not be attending conventions such as PAX Prime or GamesCom.

We still need your votes on Steam Greenlight!

We still need lots of love on Greenlight!  If you haven’t already voted, please do so here.  If your friends haven’t voted yet, please make them!

And speaking of Greenlight, Ray’s the Dead will be part of a really cool Greenlight Supershow that’s taking place on June 29th!  25 games will be featured in this all-day event, with the goal of raising awareness and trying to add votes to our Greenlight campaign.  We hope you’ll be there as we play the game live with Alix from Robot Loves Kitty!  Our segment is at 12 Noon Eastern time.

Keep in touch!

Be sure to follow all of us at our respective Twitter feeds to keep up with the latest details, and to find out when we’ll be appearing on Twitch.  And please say hi on occasion, we get lonely.

https://twitter.com/ragtagstudio

https://twitter.com/RagtagMatt

https://twitter.com/ShawnHalwes

https://twitter.com/RagtagChris

Thanks to all of you for your continued interest!

-RagtagChris

 

Ray’s the Dead is still very much alive!

As you may have heard earlier this week we ended our Kickstarter campaign for Ray’s the Dead. It was a very difficult decision, one that we didn’t come to lightly but we think it was the right move to make.

We wanted to start off by saying Ray’s the Dead is still very much alive and kicking!  We are more excited than ever about this game!  Secondly, we wanted to say a big “THANK YOU!”  again to everyone that backed us during the Kickstarter as well those of you who took the time to promote the campaign!  We can’t begin to tell you how much that support means to us. That said we’d like to let you know a little more about the reasons that we didn’t let the Kickstarter run to completion.

As we mentioned in our final update to backers we have some great news to be announced in the next couple of weeks. While we are super excited about these announcements, their timing just didn’t line up with the Kickstarter like we expected making it very difficult for us to communicate aspects of the campaign to potential backers.  At the same time the campaign was drawing closer to its end and we realized that we weren’t communicating the essence of Ray’s the Dead in a clear and concise way.  We needed to refine our message to really make the Kickstarter the success that it needed to be.  With these factors in mind we made the strategic decision to end the campaign so that we could regroup as a team and assess the overall picture.

Over the next few months we will be working on the game, contemplating what we’ve learned from Kickstarter and formulating an improved approach to how to successfully crowdfund Ray’s the Dead.  Rest assured we are committed to our vision of Ray’s the Dead and won’t be compromising that vision for funding.

Once again, we are extremely grateful to those of you that have supported us.  We are glad we were able to connect with you, and convey to you the promise of our project.

More info will be revealed in the coming months!  Thank you for your interest, and your support!

-Team Ragtag

If you haven’t already, please click here to join our mailing list to keep up with the latest news!

Click here to follow us on Twitter!

Click here to like us on Facebook!

Steam Greenlight! Ray’s the Dead storms PAX East!

Hi there!  Wow its been far too long since we’ve updated this blog.  We went deep into a dark pit to create the demo we brought to PAX East.  It was an evil place, we had very little contact with the outside world.  On the bright side, not only did we make it out alive, but we came out with lots of exciting news to share!RayGLBanner

First off, Ray’s The Dead is now on Steam Greenlight!  Steam Greenlight is the route games must go in order to be granted access to Steam.  Our campaign is going very well so far, but we need your votes!  Please click the banner above and give us a YES! vote and a favorite.  Help us bring Ray’s the Dead to Steam!0X1On March 22nd, we launched our Steam Campaign.  This was the very morning that PAX East started.  It was an exhausting, but very exciting day!  We had the honor of being part of the Indie Megabooth.  A collection of 50 amazing indie developers, all under one banner.  We had a modest 10′x10′ booth on a great corner location.

Chris prepares the booth before the show opens.

Chris prepares the booth before the show opens.

The show lasted 3 days, roughly 8 hours each day.  We couldn’t have been happier with the turnout.  The demo was running on four computers most of the time, featured 4 levels, and clocked in around the 20 – 25 minute mark.  To our elation, the majority of the people played through the entire demo.  We rarely had a computer open for more than a few seconds, and very often we had lines of people waiting.

Tracy is buried in our crowded booth!

Tracy is buried in our crowded booth!

The overall reaction was overwhelmingly positive!  Many people left excited and came back later with their friends.  Hearing from people that their friends told them to come, and seeing previous visitors return was one of the best feelings we experienced.

Having fun playing Ray's the Dead!

Having fun playing Ray’s the Dead!

Shawn is asked to autograph a pillowcase!

Shawn is asked to autograph a pillowcase!

In addition to making and meeting many new fans, we also had a lot of press stop by.  We were thrilled that our booth was enticing unscheduled press to come talk with us.

Matt is interviewed by GDI.

Matt is interviewed by GDI.

Tracy is interviewed by Todd Kenreck of NBC!

Tracy is interviewed by Todd Kenreck of NBC!

 

Matt looks on creepily as Aenne and Melissa from Press2Reset made a bee-line for our booth first thing on Friday morning!

Matt looks on creepily as Aenne and Melissa from Press2Reset made a bee-line for our booth first thing on Friday morning!

We also held a raffle!  We raffled off this one of a kind Ray plushie!  Designed by Matt, hand stitched by my mom, Ellen.

Ray is roped to the raffle bucket.

Ray is roped to the raffle bucket.

 

Joanna was the lucky winner!

Joanna was the lucky winner!

We even had some random encounters outside of the show.  Disney superstar Davis Cleveland was staying in the same hotel as the Ragtag Crew.  He was stoked about Ray’s the Dead!

Shawn lets Disney Star Davis Cleveland try his had at Ray's the Dead in the lobby of our hotel!

Shawn lets Disney Star Davis Cleveland try his had at Ray’s the Dead in the lobby of our hotel!

The whole experience was amazing and uplifting for us.  We made lots of new friends, both on the gamer side, and the developer side.  And getting this kind of reaction to our game has been one of the most gratifying experiences any of us have experienced in our 13 year career!  We couldn’t be happier with our time spent at PAX East.

The three Ragtaggers.

The three Ragtaggers.

Here is a round up of all the media we’ve received so far:

NBCNews.com interview

Patrick Hancock from Destructoid gives his thoughts

GameNTrain talks about their PAX Highlights

Eric Ratcliffe talks about Ray’s the Dead on his Vlog.  We are at the 16:50 mark.

Shawn is interviewed by JayIsGames

Matt is interviewed by GDINews

LiveGeekOrDie

Variant Dash calls Ray one of his favorites

Lots more to come!  We also spoke with Total Biscuit, Kyle from Beef Jack, and Alex and Steve from Greenlit Gaming!

Stay tuned!  We have lots more to share, next up: Ray’s the Dead Kickstarter!

IndieCade 2012 Reflections from Shawn

Howdy.  My name is Shawn Halwes and I have been collaborating with the Ragtag crew on our “next project” since July.  For ten weeks we worked hard to prepare a playable prototype to demonstrate at IndieCade 2012 in Culver City at the beginning of October.  Chris already blogged about the IndieXchange event that we attended while at IndieCade, so I thought I would add some of my impressions about other aspects of IndieCade.

No Worries

The very first thing that strikes you about IndieCade is how the whole atmosphere of the conference is casual and laid back.  Snuggled into downtown Culver City the main “village” area is merely a series of open air tents.  There was one large tent provided by event sponsor Sony which displayed new and recent titles on their PS3 and Vita platforms.  There were two other large tents adjacent to Sony’s, one that housed displays of indie games and another setup for presentations by conference speakers.  On the periphery of this core group of tents were some smaller ones that had displays of some indie tabletop games.  As you walked through this area you could find stashes of snack foods and cold drinks to keep the attendants fueled and caffeinated.  The conference had a few other indoor locations accessible by walking a few blocks to attend more formal presentations that lend themselves to a quieter atmosphere.  They even had taken over the garage of the downtown firehouse to present all of the game submissions that had garnered critical recognition.  With the large garage doors open this provided a great open air environment to mingle with the indie developers and talk about their games.  I found this whole setup quite refreshing.

IndieCade Invader in downtown Culver City

As a twelve year industry veteran turned indie, I have been to a fair share of conferences in large convention center buildings all bombarding your visual and aural senses with their electronically enhanced booths.  These bombardments are broken up with the occasional keynote speaker presented in a dark, cavernous room with a droning voice and the glow of a slide deck projected behind them…nap time anyone?  So it was refreshing to be able to walk around in the beautiful California weather (I am based in Dallas so I found the escape from the Texas Summer heat quite refreshing) and walk up to a game demonstration and talk to the developer in a normal voice without having to shout over the aural chaos of a convention room floor.  I attended quite a few keynotes and panels as well.  There were some in your classic dark room with a projector, others in a well lit theatre with a stage, and a few more under a tent.  I cannot really put my finger on why these felt so different from your standard conference, but all I can say is that they felt more organic with a subtle buzz of energy in the audience.  Quite a few of these had audience participation either through question and answer exchanges or by having the audience act out a game demonstration to reinforce a speaker’s point.  Although I found the laid back atmosphere refreshing it was not all sunshine and rainbows.

It seems the people running IndieCade carried the laid back atmosphere into some of their preparations as well.  Chris already touched on areas that the IndieXchange event could be improved, so I will not rehash those here, but I do have some suggestions for the IndieCade event overall.  The first would be to have your registration area set up and ready to go on day one.  When I arrived to get my badge it was not ready.  They looked through the multiple unordered boxes of badges they had on the table.  They looked through their multiple paper lists of names.  They looked at me and said they could not find me.  To their credit they did have all elements on hand to create a badge for me on the spot.  It all worked out in the end, but when you spend what is a significant amount of money for an indie developer on a conference, you expect more than a “lets just wing it” type of preparation.  I would also recommend that they have all audio, video, and slides from their numerous presentations collected and posted somewhere on the internet for conference attendees.  I have been able to collect a handful of slide decks by contacting the speakers directly (which is great and thanks), but not having this kind of thing available in the age of free cloud storage is a bit frustrating.  I have tried to contact IndieCade via email about this just in case I missed something or was not on the right email list, but I have not heard back from them.  So, in general, I would advise next year they make sure they are properly prepared and provide a proper follow through after the event is over.  Like I said it all worked out in the end, so no worries.

Sony

As the major sponsor of IndieCade, Sony had quite a presence at the event with their large display tent, and as hosts of some of the social gatherings during the conference.  These kinds of things are all expected by such a large corporate entity, but I was not prepared for how embracing of the indie developers they were.  Ever since they announced their Sony Pub Fund initiative they have really followed through with expanding their portfolio to include games that explore pushing industry boundaries.  Whether it is through supporting a game like Papo & Yo with Pub Fund or a closer incubator type of relationship like they have with Giant Sparrow the developers of The Unfinished Swan they appear to be sincere in putting funding behind indies.  Although both these titles have a level of exclusivity with Sony, the relatively recent launch of Sony’s new mobile initiative provides some intriguing avenues for indies to pursue with lower barriers of entry than the opportunities available on the other console platforms.  The Sony representatives that attended IndieCade were approachable and open about Sony’s goals of cultivating new relationships with indie developers, as well as being friendly and passionate gamers.

Matt Carter of Ragtag Studio playing The Unfinished Swan demo with a Giant Sparrow developer chatting with indies in the background

Eric Zimmerman

One of the reasons I decided to quit my job and go indie is so that I can have an opportunity to turn my own game ideas into a reality.  I am a programmer by trade and I recognize that to accomplish this goal I need to improve myself as a game designer.  At IndieCade I attended a presentation by Eric Zimmerman titled Being a Game Designer: 10 Principles for a Thoughtful Practice.  In this presentation he discussed his principles of approaching game design as a craft and how to continually improve that craft.  As he presented each principle, he would tape a large rectangle of cardboard with the principles written on them to a door like prop on the stage (apparently a prop left over from a play being rehearsed at the same theatre).  He would then break down the components of why that principle was important to game design.  I found his delivery to be quite engaging as he energetically walked back and forth on a brightly lit stage explaining the meaning of each of his ten principles with metaphors, pantomimes, and even pausing at one point so the audience could participate in a demonstration game with their neighbors. This presentation was a highlight of the conference for me as it helped me see some aspects of game design in a new light as well as being refreshingly entertaining.  I plan on reading one of Eric’s books in the future as I continue to educate myself on the craft of game design.

Eric Zimmerman standing in front of his 10 principles

Game Slam

At the end of the last day of IndieCade as part of the GameU series of presentations there was an hour long game slam.  This is where indie game developers were given two minutes to present their game to the audience as it was projected with audio onto a large screen behind them.  Chris and I were sitting in the audience from attending the previous presentation as this event was being announced.  We looked at each other and asked ourselves if we should do it.  After a long weekend of showing the prototype many times in more intimate settings with much longer than two minutes to present we were a little hesitant about presenting it in front of such a large audience in less than ideal conditions.  The game slam was being held in one of the large outdoor tents with a lot of ambient noise and the setting sun shining directly onto the screen washing out the projector.  In the end we decided to go for it since presenting our prototype was a core reason that we went to IndieCade, and at Ragtag we want to foster a culture of open development as much as possible.  So we scrambled to find Matt who was off somewhere at another part of the conference, and figure out how we could shrink what was usually a ten to fifteen minute prototype presentation down to a meaningful two minutes.  As we strategized and waited for Matt we watched the other indies go up and present their games.  There were some really great games that were shown and many cheers, and applauses from the crowd.  This caused my level of anxiety to rise as the reality of getting up in front of all those people showing what we had been working so hard on over the last ten weeks got closer and closer.  As the applause and cheers continued, the audience swelled to the point that there were no more available chairs and people were forced to stand outside the tent to see the presentations.  Matt arrived and we agreed that I would drive the prototype while Chris and Matt narrated over the top of the game play.  As we got up to wait in the “on deck” area it was announced that we would be the last presenters because the hour for the event was almost over.

A quick snap of the crowd right before we set up to present at the game slam

While we were setting up our rig to the projector and audio we ran into some issues with the compatibility of our build’s screen resolution with what the projector could support.  This was nerve racking considering all of the nervous energy built up inside of me up to this point.  Then we were faced with having to wrestle with the settings of an unfamiliar projector while a crowd of tech savvy gamers shouted technical advice and the emcee was reminding you that you were the last group and they needed to wrap it up (so this was probably only a minute, maybe two tops that we had to deal with this, but in my mind it felt like an eternity).  Eventually we got the game up on the projector, but part of the screen was cut off, and the sun was doing its best to wash out the projection, and the audio was barely audible, but we soldiered on.  As I drove through the prototype showing off game play mechanics we got a few bits of laughter and applauses from the crowd.  Chris and Matt were doing a good job of explaining the action as the emcee warned us we were at the thirty second mark, then the twenty second mark, then the ten second mark.  At this point Matt starts jumping up and down yelling for me to go for a secret part of the prototype.  As the emcee is counting down the last seconds of our allotted time I am able to activate one of the secret areas to a cheer and applause from the crowd.

As we packed up our rig and the audience began to disperse we received quite a few positive comments from some of the attendants.  This was a great punctuated ending for our IndieCade experience as it provided some positive momentum for us to take back home and begin the long road of turning the prototype into the actual game.

Thanks for reading!

 

Ragtag does IndieXchange

In early October, all members of Ragtag attended IndieCade in Culver City, CA.  This Blog post will focus on our experience with the IndieXchange, a day long event that takes place the day before IndieCade begins. IndieXchange is an event that allows developers to interact with other devs, along with members of the press, publishers, and investors.  Prior to the event, I had a hard time finding many details on exactly how the IndieXchange was structured.  So in this week’s post, I’ll attempt to fill that void by talking about our experience.

Preparing for IndieCade

First off, we decided to go to IndieCade quite a while ago, for a few reasons.  First, we have quickly learned the value of spreading our wings and meeting other like minded developers.  There were sure to be a plethora at this event.  Second, the timing of the convention served as a great checkpoint for the development of our new project.  We decided early that we would use IndieCade as our first milestone.  This worked out quite well for us, and as a result have decided to continue to use various conferences as timetables for reaching certain points in our projects.  In big game development, the various conferences always had to be catered to anyway, but it was never planned for.  So we’ve decided to, within reason, make them the driving force of our development cycle, effectively killing two birds with one stone.

In early July, we began what would be a rather hectic 3 month charge that would yield our proof of concept for our new game.  There were many ups and downs, but by the time October 3rd rolled around, we had something we were very proud to show.  Regardless of the fact the new project is very early, we decided that we wanted to begin to show the game to press and publishers.  PR is not something we’ve done a lot of, so we wanted to get the ball rolling early.

As part of the three month prototype development, I did what I could to set up appointments with members of the press and publishers that I thought would be interested in taking a look at our game.  From the people that were actually attending the show, the response in advance was great and we were excited for the appointments we made.

Also during this three month period, I researched what opportunities IndieCade itself offered for showing your game around.  The best candidate seemed like the IndieXchange. IndieXchange is something thats only available to developers that submit a game to the festival, but to be honest I’m not entirely sure why that is.  Regardless, we entered Unstoppable Fist in advance, largely so we would be granted access to IndieXchange.

This was the second year that IndieXchange had been offered, and I was able to find very little information on it in advance of the days before the event.  The word was there would be a variety of presentations relevant to small developers, along with the opportunity to network with other devs.  Most interesting to us, they would pair you up with press, publishers, and investors that had similar interests.

On paper, this sounded great, exactly what we were hoping for.  There were a few issues though.  I was concerned that the matchmaking process would be purely based on the game we entered into the IndieCade competition.  For us, this was a problem because Unstoppable Fist is an iOS game, and our new game will begin its life as a PC game.  The second problem, is that not only were we unable to see what press, publishers, and investors were attending IndieXchange, but we were never given the opportunity to indicate who we were interested in speaking with.

To be fair, we were able to fill out a survey in advance to express our expectations, but whether or not this information was actually taken into account is something I will never know.

In the end, it turned out that there were three publishers meeting up with developers at the event.  Those were Gamefly, Sony, and Activision.  A couple of days prior to the event, we were contacted by a gentleman representing Gamefly, offering available meeting times. Gamefly has an initiative to publish promising looking iOS games.  While we do plan to eventually publish our game on the larger tablets, it is not our initial focus.  Regardless, our primary motive for this conference was to talk to anyone and everyone, so this would prove to be our first, and only meeting planned in advance at the IndieXchange.

The Event Arrives

The Gamefly meeting time I chose was the first available time-slot.  This got a groan or two from my cohorts, but I had good reasons for doing so.  First, there were many other events planned during the day, and any other meeting time would have conflicted with at least one of those events.  Second, and most importantly, I wanted to quickly break the ice by getting our very first meeting over and done with.  For me, the anticipation leading up to something like this is far worse than actually doing it.  So presenting early in the day would lighten us up for everything else that was to come.

We arrived on time and immediately sought out the location of the Gamefly meeting room. We had a relatively elaborate set up, and I wanted to make sure we had time to properly get situated.  It may not look terribly elaborate in the photo below, but you wouldn’t believe how many complements we received for having an actual monitor!  I believe strongly in creating a comfortable environment to demo your game, and having someone sit on your lap while you demo your game on your laptop is the opposite of comfortable, in my opinion.  Anyway, we got all set up, and in walks someone I’m a big fan of, Mr. Garnett Lee, to speak with us on behalf of Gamefly.

Meeting with Mr. Lee

Our first meeting went off without a hitch.  Garnett was great to talk with, and our nerves were calmed for the rest of the show.  I won’t get into the details of the meeting, but we felt we were off to a good start.

From there, we took a look at what the rest of the day held for us.  To give you an idea, here is the schedule for the day:

  • 9-10am   Opening Coffee hosted by EEDAR
  • 10-11am  Pitch Clinic
  • 11am – noon PlayStation Q & A Session
  • noon – 1PM Activision Q & A Session
  • 1pm – 2pm Lunch Break
  • 2-3pm – Icebreaker – Hosted by GameFly
  • 3-5pm – Meet & Greet
  • 3-4pm – PR Clinic
  • 4-5pm – Legal Clinic
  • 5-6pm – Game Tasting/Reception
  • 6-7:30pm – Reception co-hosted by the City of Culver City

In order to keep this concise, I’ll give a general synopsis of what most of the day held.  It was a very slow paced day.  One issue we had with the IndieXchange setup is that if you weren’t interested in the presentation that was taking place, there wasn’t a whole lot else to do.  Or, in our case, if you had three people as part of your group, and it was plenty for one person to check out each presentation, the others mostly lingered around.  Even so, at least one of us attended all of the various presentations, and some good knowledge was dropped.

The Sony Presentation

We did make the most of our downtime though, and whenever we could we would chat up some of the other devs.  We were pleasantly surprised how open everyone was to conversation with strangers.  There was no pretense whatsoever, and I can honestly say everyone we met this day is someone I would like to see again and have a beer with. Really great, talented people.

The Game Tasting

Part way through the day we turned our focus to the Game Tasting.  Not really sure what to expect, we went ahead and signed up for it.  I’m not sure what the need for signing up was, as it turned out it was just a chunk of time where everyone gathered in the main room for beers, and everyone wandered around and checked out each others games.

Shawn demoing like a champ.

The game tasting was another great opportunity for us to practice demoing our new game to a variety of people with a variety of interests.  Especially at this early stage in the games development, its always interesting to hear the things that occur to people.

Perhaps the most encouraging words we heard were people commenting on how they weren’t happy with certain aspects of the game.  For example, one gentleman commented that he didn’t feel the AI were as responsive as they should be.  The reason I take this as a huge compliment, because this is a game thats only in development for 3 months!  The fact that people were taking a look at it and getting the impression that its close to being done is a huge compliment.  The reality is that we have about a year of development left… and there isn’t any “real” AI in the game at all yet!

I talk with the Vice-Mayor of Culver City about our game.

In summary, IndieXchange did a lot of great things for us.  I see it as a great icebreaker for what was to come over the next three days at IndieCade.  We met with a lot of devs, who we would continue to meet up with over the next few days, and ironed out any issues we had with our presentation.

That said, there are a lot of things that could be better about IndieXchange.  There was a substantial amount of down time.  The organization left a lot to be desired, and the promise of matching everyone up with press, devs, and investors was certainly not what I’d hoped it would be.  Even so, the event is only in its second year, and their heart is in the right place.  I’m sure they’ll get the kinks worked out.  I was hoping there would have been some sort of follow up where they ask for opinions, but I’ve yet to receive anything.

Wow, this ended up much longer than I intended, and I didn’t even talk about the Indiecade portion of the conference as I intended to.  I’ll have to save that for a later blog post.  If anyone has any questions about the IndieXchange, please post them in the comments, I’ll be happy to answer.

Thanks for reading!

Making our apps free via FAAD follow up

Hey there friends!

Really sorry for the long gap in blog posts, we’ve been very busy here at Ragtag HQ.  We put a hard three months of work into the prototype for our new game, finishing just in time for our trip to Indiecade.  That will be the focus of our next blog post, which will hit shortly after this.

But first things first, we owe you a follow up on how the Unstoppable Fist FAAD campaign went for us.  The short answer:  Nothing changed in the land of Fist.  Now for the long answer…

So just to catch you back up without asking you to read the previous post, the promise of FAAD is as follows:  You make your app free at the same time they feature it on the front page of their site, along with shooting out a notification to those that have the FAAD app installed.  The app gets tens of thousands of downloads, and the momentum continues after the app is reverted from FREE to PAID.

Fist was downloaded something like 20k times in the first day.  It dropped approximately by half each day following.  We left it free for about 4 days before setting it back to a paid app.

The theory, as I understand it, is that your app rises in the charts, then once you set the app to paid again, the app remains high in the charts, remains highly visible, and people continue to buy it.  Well, this certainly wasn’t the case for us!  The app rose quite high in a few countries.  Most notably, here in the US, France, and the UK.  Particularly France, which was the country that came the closest to breaking into the top ten free apps.

On the bright side, the reviews didn’t take quite as much of a beating as we expected.  In the last post, I theorized that the 4.5 star rating we had prior to the campaign would take a serious beating.  It did go down a bit, but not as much as we expected.  It was constantly teetering between 4 and 4.5 stars, ultimately landing at 4.  This actually made Matt and I very happy.  We believed that the original high ratings we from people that actively sought out the game and purchased it… people that are far more likely to actually enjoy the game.  People that discover the app through FAAD, we felt, were far less likely to appreciate it, as they were simply trying out the free game of the day they were being served, and there was no reason to believe they would be predisposed to liking it.  The fact that the reviews didn’t take much of a beating is a great source of pride for us!

The sales though, didn’t move one inch.  In fact, we haven’t been asked to pay FAAD any money, because our sales were just a touch lower after the campaign than they were before the campaign.  The day after the campaign ended, it was like nothing ever happened… right back to 8 to 10 sales a day.

After going through this process, we realized that the only real way your app can benefit from this is if it has great word of mouth.  Which is actually fine, as this is how word travels with all of the successful apps.  But the theory that your app gets additional sales because its high in the ranks at the point that its switched from free to paid was, in our case, simply not true.  The reason for this is the app moves from the FREE category, to the PAID category.  Over the course of one hour, your game completely drops off the face of the free app listing, because it is no longer free.  At the same time, it reenters the paid category, and in our case, entered it right at the bottom.

So all in all, no harm done, but no real gains either.  It didn’t drum up any attention from the media, didn’t drive attention to our other apps, didn’t increase sales.  As you may remember from the previous post, we didn’t believe that our app was the type of app that would benefit from the FAAD campaign in the first place, and it was also a big mistake on our part not to have any in app purchases in the app.

So no tears we’re dropped.  We were happy to have the opportunity to go through the process and experience it for ourselves.  If this ever comes up again, we’ll be able to make more informed decisions regarding whether or not our app is the right fit for this type of campaign.  So in that respect, the greatest outcome from this experience is that we leveled up our exp in free app experimentation.