Tuesday 21 August 2018

Longhorn Lubbers in London - Play Expo London 2018

The weekend of the 11th/12th of August saw Replay Events' inaugural Play Expo London - and given our history with their team, there was no way we were going to pass up the chance to be there! Moreover, the timing of the show could not have been better, neatly falling on the end of our standard six-month "slow agile" development cycle, and thereby providing a great opportunity to get public feedback on the latest game features...

... or at least, that was the theory! Truth be told, the last six months has been very challenging, with our "life comes first" philosophy taking on a whole new depth of meaning; the entire plan for this phase of development ended up being completely re-worked, and it is a testament to the team that we managed to get at least an alpha version of the boss battle up and running in time! Even at the last, there were a few gnarly bugs that ended up being worked round as opposed to fixed, giving the demo build a feel slightly reminiscent of the original GEEK 2017 pre-alpha version.

The view from the booth

The new "Defiance" mode got a good workout

So with no small amount of "hope we don't have anything too embarrassing happen!", we hit the road to Printworks, Canada Water, London to set up... arriving in the middle of rush hour - not our finest bit of planning! On top of that, unprecedented rainfall the night before had caused some flooding in the venue; we arrived to find the Replay crew re-working the floor plan, once again proving their mettle in the face of difficulty. But once we had actually got there and found the new location of our booth, setup went smoothly and we were as ready as we could be for the weekend ahead.

Kick-off on Saturday morning saw a solid flow of people through the stand - and this pretty much set the tone for the entire show; consistently busy, but not as crazy an Play Manchester last year had been. Of course, at Play Manchester, the indie aisle had been right on top of the entrance to the show! Once again, the feedback was great, with many players having a go at the new "Defiance" boss battle, and despite our concerns, the build held up well, the only new bug being an irritatingly sporadic issue in which the game would lock up at the point of returning to the title screen - a little embarrassing, but fortunately pretty un-intrusive when it came to the actual gameplay experience.

Good to see Jupiter Hadley again

Sadly no pirate cosplayers playing this time

Having four of us on the stand definitely made life a lot easier - both Matthew and Stuart were on-hand (Stuart's very first time exhibiting! Bless!) to get first-hand reactions to their artwork, with favourable comparisons to the likes of Spyro, Crash and Jak & Daxter. The extra manpower also allowed everyone to take some time out to go and play, and check out the other indies at the show: once again, we found ourselves in the company of childhood heroes, with Jim Bagley of ZX Spectrum fame on one side and Huey Games - the next generation of Hewson - a couple of booths down on the other, plus a number of familiar faces and some new ones to boot... as ever, the indie camaraderie was strong, one of the great things about shows such as this.

Baggers plays Bullion!

So once again, a very enjoyable show with plenty of positive feedback and ideas to take forward as we move into the next phase of development. And with the extended team now feeling a lot more solid, we're finally beginning to think ahead to when we want to actually release this thing we're creating...

... ultimately, what happens over this next development cycle will be pivotal in setting that date!

A motley crew if ever there was one...

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