Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

ToshoCON Postmortem

Posted by Rampant Coyote on August 3, 2015

FKFlythroughFriday night, I took the Frayed Knights show on the road to ToshoCON, which is kind of a mini-convention for teens put on by the Viridian Library and Events Center. It was kind of a weird situation, because we weren’t really exhibitors / vendors (they were elsewhere and had to pay for the privilege)… we were actually more like the entertainment.

It apparently went well… we were thanked and invited back next year. So… I guess from the organizer’s perspective, it was a success. Cool. From our perspective… well, my wife asked me going into it, “What do you hope to get out of this?” That was a little more fuzzy. We couldn’t sell. It was really just a chance to watch people play Frayed Knights 2 for the first time and see what worked and what didn’t, so I could maybe make some adjustments. Especially with the planned showing at the “big event” a few days later, at Salt Lake Gaming Con.


Dang, this game was supposed to have shipped by now, wasn’t it? Oops. Let me tell you something: As I write this, I’m feeling exhaustion creeping in. It’s been a brutal several weeks getting this together. I’m thrilled that so much is done and working, but at the same time there’s still a lot left to be done (particularly on the content front, which I’ve needed help with).

I suspect that talking about the game when I’m exhausted over it is probably not the best PR move. Maybe it’s good practice, though. The latter half of this week is going to be fueled by caffeine and ZipFizz.

So a few thoughts on the demo and how things went:

First of all, we used the level from the Comic Con demo, mainly because it is at the highest level of completion and was designed to be a tiny mini-adventure that could be completed in about five to ten minutes. However, the game (and the level itself) has changed a lot since then. We used the new, full UI this time around, although I disabled lock-picking to avoid complicating the game too much. Actually, what I did was add a new ‘impossible’ lock flag which pops up a message in the case of full-on plot-protected doors. I hope to use them extremely sparingly if at all outside of the demo.

One of the new additions (taken from a lesson learned at Comic Con) was an “attract mode” added to the game. It was inspired somewhat by the menu screen in the original Unreal. It actually worked quite well. Maybe too well… I had a constant stream of players and no chance to take a break the entire night. I’ve included a video of a full ‘cycle’ of the fly-through. It looks better at 60 fps with no compression / streaming artifacts at full resolution, but it should give you the idea.

The players were (mostly) teenagers. About half of the players really didn’t “get it.” They had trouble with the controls, with a first-person perspective, with the style, or the amount of text. About half or one third of the remaining players REALLY seemed to get it. They were laughing at the text, asking great questions, digging into the spell-system, really trying to master the combat options, and so forth.

I don’t know if that was a good or even representative ratio. I told my wife, “I’d rather make a game that a few people really love than a lot of people think is just ‘okay.’ ”  He answered that she wanted me to make games everybody loves, which… well, okay. Yeah, that’d be awesome, but how do you do that?

We added a new spell icon system that worked extremely well. Since spells are all dynamically generated, we needed a way to easily identify what a spell does when you see it, before pulling up the details in the pop-up window. We worked up something of an iconic “language” for the spells, and Nick Lives generated the art. In theory, it seemed like it would work. In practice, they surprised me with how effective they are. Demo players didn’t really have a chance to grok the system too well, but as they were playing the demo, I was able to quickly guide them to promising spells in spite of them being new to me every single time.

We have sound and music in the game now. It’s not perfect or complete yet, and I’m gonna be REALLY sick of the music by next week, but it’s probably better to have that all in now. It’s easy to ignore sound requirements when the entire game is silent, but when most of the sounds are in and certain actions or monsters are silent, it’s hard to ignore.

The new UI is a lot more complete (and complicated) than the super-streamlined version I implemented for Comic Con. You know what? People didn’t seem to have a problem with it. This was a pleasant surprise, but I guess it’s intuitive enough (or rather, it matches other games well enough) that players didn’t have too big of a problem figuring things out. There are a few little problem areas where the UI needs more feedback, but for the most part it seemed to work.

One comment from a player (which was spot-on) was that while this was billed as a comedy, the creatures seemed pretty traditional and kind of scary. Of course, my response is that the comedy tended to be more along the lines of character-based comedy, sitcom style. But if a variant of this level is going to be the first level of the full game (that’s currently the plan), then I may need to work a little harder to set the comedic tone right at the beginning through visuals, not just dialog. Maybe the necromancer farts during his dramatic departure or something.

Combat still needs some adjusting, but it’s a LOT better now. It feels like its paced about right, but there’s a bit of nuance that’s still missing. Some of that is still planned or even implemented already, but just not present in the demo level. We’ll see.

Anyway, I have a short but meaty list of things to fix / change for later this week, on top of promotional activities.  After this weekend, I can’t really slack the pace much, because we’re preparing for a submission for another competition at the end of August. Hopefully what we have (with a few tweaks to help players who don’t have me standing at their elbow explaining things) will be enough.

After that… it’s back to the dungeons with all of us! We’ve still got a lot of dungeon levels to build!

UPDATE: The video is a little dark for two reasons: #1 – I have a very bright monitor, and the brightness levels still need to be balanced for everybody, and #2 – The party carries a light source around with them, so everything is a little bit dark until they get within about 20 feet. I don’t raise the illumination for the fly-through, although I guess I could.


Filed Under: Frayed Knights - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Maklak said,

    This demo has a “Legend of Grimrock” look and feel to it; there’s even a green slime.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Heh – that’s my model from FK1. I’m keeping it. I figured that while my artistic / modeling talents are quite modest, I could at least do a glob of slime.