We have just attended our first expo event as an newly formed company, and have only positive things to say! The event we attended was Insomnia 61 which defines itself as a gaming festival. It runs over several days and is hosted in Birmingham.  We took with us two projects currently in development Memory Lane and OutFox. We decided on these two games since they are widely different in their design and which demographics they target. One is a puzzle game focused on a casual mobile user and the other is a reactionary platformer. This was a great experience for us as a company, we had the chance to get feedback on our work and also mingle with both indie developers like ourselves and our audience.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia in short is a gaming festival. It first begun in 1999 and it has been a great meeting place for gamers to socialise, play new games, speak to developers and so on. Since it has grown over the years it has needed larger and larger venues. With the 61st iteration of the event it was hosted in the Birmingham NEC and has become a huge multi-day event.

While focus was on gamers and game developers this is not where the event stops. We experienced a mirage of pro eSports teams playing a variety of games. A 24 hour LAN area where gamers from many different countries come and play all kinds of games together. There was also the main hall which had a huge trade floor where hardware companies could showcase their latest merchandise. We also saw many cosplayers walking around, teaching others and giving tips on cosplaying for those interested. However the main part for us was the many booths for indies, AAA companies and VR experiences all showing of their work in progress.

In the later hours of the day once the main hall had closed new events were available for the public to participate in. This included the annual pub quiz which can only be described as massive with its more than a 1000 participants. Another event was the dark room, an interactive comedy show by John Robertson in the style of old text adventures and also a panel show with the Yogscast, a popular gaming channel on YouTube.

Running the booth

During the festival we were positioned at our booth in the Indie Zone. This was a large area in the trade section which showcased lots of indie games currently in development. Being a part of the Indie Zone guaranteed us a space large enough for two seats and a courtesy computer where we could play builds of our games from. We only had one official representative to man the booth from Red Forest Interactive but were blessed with the help of Nathan from Unruly Attractions. With more experience with these kind of events he helped us with what to expect and how to man the booth.

 

The games we brought were OutFox and Memory Lane. We wanted to bring two games to the event as we felt that they were catered to two different set of audiences. This turned out to have quite a nice effect as we would attracted audiences with one game that would then test the other game, something they typically wouldn’t play.

 

Memory Lane is a puzzle game where the player has to remember which path to take in order to get to the finish line. This game focuses on skills such as memorisation, speed and focus. We also made a special level for Memory Lane to challenge some of our players. With this level you had to remember the symbols on the poster presented in the booth and try and recall them in the game.

 

Outfox is a procedural endless runner with a focus on reaction based platforming and customization of play styles through the use of abilities and laser based weapons. The game will have you jumping through many hazardous areas, disabling traps, opening blast doors and destroying many robotic assailants all the while trying to collect as many coins as possible. The game has hundreds of achievements to unlock and boasts twenty different difficulties. There are many different enemy types all with unique attacks and movement patterns. This fast paced game has more to do with mastering the controls and being able to react faster.

Games reception

The games had someone playing them from the moment we started the computer when the expo hall opened. We were also lucky enough to get other developers to give us useful feedback or interesting ideas to think about. Later in the day we had many different kinds of visitors trying out our games giving player feedback and trying to set highscores. Most people ended up trying both games and some people even came back on different days wanting another go trying to beat their highscore or playing a more difficult level.

 

One of the biggest returns for us during this event must be the feedback received both from other developers and visitors. We realised that we had to make a clear tutorial for Memory Lane as initially it was a bit difficult to understand however when people understood the rules they found it much easier to play the game. We had some great feedback from a few platformer aficionados praising the tight jumping controls and some interesting suggestions on how to improve some aspects of the enemy and coin placement and pointing out what kind of polish would take the game to the next level. The large amount of playtesting also helped us find a few of the rarer bugs in the games which will help us fix them before the release.

 

As a final little note on the event we had a few youtubers come to the booths and filmed themselves playing our games which resulted in an interview with one of them. So hopefully that will be making its way to the interwebs. This was definitely an event worth joining, if not for the concrete feedback then just for the amazing atmosphere, We’ll see you again Insomnia, no doubt about that.

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