[Keyboard Kommander] PAX SIX 2018

Hello once again from the PAX Seattle Indies Expo 2018! When we six – led by game creator/lead programmer William, programmers Chris and Steven, marketer/writer Mike, sound/composer Dennis, and myself – weren’t talking to all you great folks out there from noon to 9 PM, we were out on the floors checking out some of the other cool new games from our peers! Click below to read about some hotly-anticipated new games and my first-time experiencing in booth management!

Let’s start with the games:


Wintermoor Tactics Club

This was my most anticipated game! Between enjoying tactical games (I’ve dumped over 1,000 hours into Final Fantasy Tactics, while intentionally leaving one element unplayed, so I would still have material to return to later on,) and the appealing design aesthetic, if there was only one I could break away to play, this was it. I’m happy to report that it did not disappoint! The story aspect had believable characters with unique personalities that integrated well into the gameplay. Combining these elements effectively makes a great game because, otherwise, you don’t care about one or the other. Great booth design, too!


Nectar Vector

Next up, the aesthetics of this non-violent competitive multi-player intrigued me. The gameplay is solid, in that you’re collecting as many flowers to pollinate your home flower as possible, with a few tools to speed up yourself or slow down others. This is the sort of ingenuity I like most about the upcoming game developer scene. Something like this might not catch any traction from the top game manufacturers, but if it hits a stride in the right markets, it could really take off like Rocket League. The booth aesthetic was also nice, complete with shag carpet and sparkling lights.


Thousand Threads

Another example of alluring aesthetics, but from a minimalist perspective, this was my second-most anticipated game there. I don’t often like to read everything about something before I check it out, leaving some of the mystery and intrigue to the experience. This is an open world exploratory narrative where you can befriend or betray anyone on a major thoroughfare, talk to everyone in branching dialogue trees, solve or commit crimes which influences the opinions and actions of others. Or, if you want, you can just climb a mountain to see the widest vistas. The booth, though minimalistic, was always packed!

My honorable mentions:

Collidealot
With 10 minutes left before tear-down, I asked Chris about his favorite game here. I was able to sneak in a last minute round and after learning the ropes, took the victory! It’s coming to Switch soon, so hopefully, they do fantastically. It’s polished, unique, and is a good party game.

Burn Ban
I wasn’t able to tear away from our perpetuating hype machine to play our booth neighbor’s game. They’re doing great work advocating accessibility and inclusivity, the game looks polished, and if I had 10 minutes to take a respite to play their game, I know I would’ve enjoyed it. …Demo when?

Finally, I wanted to play Fowl Damage, Raven Conspiracy, Spirit of Midnight, and Buoyancy, but it was a crazy day, and I wasn’t able to tear away long enough to stop and play.

Now onto the behind-the-scenes of how it was like setting up for our booth!


Temporary filler banner

How much preparation goes into making a booth?

Here’s how our day before looked: William and Steven spent 8 hours thoroughly working and testing everything on all three builds we presented. Mike printed out the vinyl banner, assorted posterboards, and flyers. (Besides the pins, which we cut and pressed last week.) I wrote a pre-event piece and playtested to validate nothing major went wrong with the three builds. Chris had work and Dennis is leaving the project to accept full-time work for a company, but he lent us headphones for the event. William and Steven brought their hardware: 3 laptops; 1 big screen. We met at 11 AM. Prepped at 11:40 AM.

Teardown at 9 PM was easy. No casualties.


Initial booth shot

We had some issues with our builds and presentation. We took notes.

Still, what an incredible experience! I talked with at least six educators that wanted to bring Keyboard Kommander into their classrooms to help teach their kids how to type better. This was the aspect that made me most interested in joining the project: high-quality edutainment material. William created the game because, as a professional programmer, he wanted to increase his typing speed and skill. I spoke with at least two dozen people saying that they wanted a cool looking typing simulator to help them practice typing. My pitch was “Mario Teaches Typing meets GTA2[1].” Most everyone had a good time!

Naysayers were few. I valued their opinions and feedback.

Right now, Keyboard Kommander is targeted toward highly-technical audiences that already know how to play typing simulators and can jump right in to play. I collected pages of feedback to help me build out the Story Mode, a tutorial campaign which will teach people the gameplay mechanics in a non-trivial way. We don’t want to make it boring for action-oriented players interested in a narrative diversion from the “Arcade Mode.” I’m spearheading this mode to help guide the players through all aspects of the game in a way that is flexible, respectful, and adaptable for people of all technical abilities.

This event really showed me the potential that William’s game has for good.


From left: Mike, Chris, and William, aka “SnacksPlissken

Our booth neighbors at Burn Ban said “people seemed to really enjoy it![2]”

It was great seeing so many people enjoy the game! Even people that weren’t interested in typing tutors stopped on by, checked it out, and gave input that could make not just the game, but the story mode, better. We’re already planning for our next event. Until then, we’re resting up, bug-fixing, playtesting, and adding in features from the feedback we received. We have plenty of good ideas in the works, so stop over and check ’em out!

Please, lettuce know what you think!

Endtable:
Quotes:
[1] Quite a few people told me that if they had this game instead of Mario Teaches Typing as a kid, they would have been more interested in practicing typing. Someone had mentioned it looked like GTA2, I paused, laughed, William approved the use of that phrasing, and BAM!
[2] Harrison
Sources: My convention experiences, both as an attendee and now as a presenting attendant.
Inspirations: Post-convention hype! Normally, I only keep it to one post per day, but I wanted to get this in as soon as possible to capture that hype. I may start to do this more often. Along with the regularly scheduled content at 7 AM, I’d think 7 PM would work as a nice contrast. I’m not prolific enough for twice-daily content.
Related: Other Keyboard Kommander content.
Photos: [Professional photos (are available soon)]
[1] Our booth, medium shot
[2] Wintermoor Tactics Club booth
[3] Nectar Vector booth
[4] Thousand Threads booth
[5] Preparation: My logo interpretation
[6] Preparation: Our booth setup
[7] Our booth, far shot
[8] Our booth, low shot
[9] Map
Note: The green smile boxes, also my current logo, are used to censor people’s faces that I didn’t directly know, out of respect.
Written On: September 3rd [3 hours]
Last Edited: September 7th [map]

My big goal is to write. My important goal is to write "The Story." My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame a fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. Let's strive to be better everyday. (Avatar)