Written by Jo. These thoughts are my own, and are not written on behalf of D-Pad Studio.
It's hard to tell what we've gained from traveling around - especially in the form of exposure and sales. One thing I know however, it's helped boost our working morale something fierce! There's something about seeing players experience your game first-hand, and getting real-life feedback.
Each time we've come home from manning a booth, we've returned with notebooks full of useful tidbits. Heck, we added an entire new dungeon based on feedback from IGF players, whom had struggled with the controls.
We remodeled "Dungeon 1" from scratch atleast three times before release.
Travel is never cheap, but we've found ways to help us save some coin. For GDC, we've always made sure to book hotels in the neighboring town of Oakland, and commute to San Francisco.
One other great tip is to get your trip funded. Whenever we went to GDC forexample, we've always tried to be part of a presentation or panel, so that our lodgings got taken care of. It also helps to be prepped way ahead of schedule. Start looking for events today, and you're bound to find some that'll fit in your schedule.
The Motivational Power of Inspiration, Simon S. Andersen, GDC 2017 (video link)
My own country, Norway, also has a brilliant travel fund for students and industry professionals, to which I always apply. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities that present themselves, and never think: "No way we'll get nominated/funded/selected".
I think most countries has some kind of funding instances. I'm more than happy to create a list of funds in different countries so feel free to tweet them at me.
Now let's look at real costs for a moment. A typical journey costs us about:
$500 per person, one way
$50 x 7 days per person
$50 x 7 days per person
$25 x 7 per person
A one week journey would cost us a total of $1.875 per person.
We're usually at least 3 folks traveling, so it adds up pretty quickly! Luckily, we've had few regular expenses other than food, and we've always made sure to set aside extra funds for travel.
I'll touch on how we've managed to stay alive on a miniscule income in a later post.
Let's try and find out what our expenses has gained us, both short-term and in the long run. Below are examples of what we've gained from our travels:
A foothold in the US, and direct contact with press, publishers and developers.
Face to face interviews (GameReactor, Eurogamer, etc.)
Invitations to parties where we can connect with like-minded people.
Nominations for awards, invitations to shows, business deals.
Direct contact with fans.
A venue to sell our game/merch, arrange give-aways/competitions.
Seeing new places, gain inspiration, come up with new ideas!
Looking at this list, it might seem like we didn't gained much compared to the costs, BUT, we aim to stay in this industry for a long, long time. Gaining fans, contacts and friends are great, as they'll follow the development of future titles (or even read your long-ass blog posts).
While it's impossible for me to convert travel into sales, the long term gains are extremely valuable.
Press is one thing. Since I'm a developer, and because we're a small team, talking to press feels way more rewarding than directing them to a publisher, or a marketing guy. I know the backstory and all the dirty details on the game. Whenever you talk to 'D-Pad Studio', you are talking to the guys who created the game. This way, it'll be way easier for us to spread info on our coming projects!
Interviews are a great way to connect with fans. Be careful though, your face might become synonymous with your company.
While parties are a great way to connect with new people, I always prefer talking to people one-on-one, that's just the way I'm built (maybe it's a Norwegian thing?). But parties are great for meeting people you might like to talk to later. When out traveling, always carry some business cards, or even printed codes for your game - anything that clearly states which game you're working on.
BUT, my absolute top recommendation for traveling is that your brain gets a chance to disconnect from "working". I've never been able to sit on my computer and "work" on coming up with new ideas. Our greatest new ideas has come from just loitering around an airport, or sitting on a train. New ideas usually spring outta nowhere, but I find that during travel is when my creativity runs on it's own.
How Julie's tiny Kia Sportage traveling across half the US, I've no idea.
When I started working with games, I had no idea I was gonna travel the world. I was picturing a nine-to-five job on a computer. Travel has become part of how we maintain our business, morale, and creativity! Need any travel tips, please let me know - twitter link.
This year marked a huge change for us as a game developer. This is the first time we've traveled and been able to talk about our release in PAST-TENSE, and not as something on the horizon. We're finally able to sell our game. Tomorrow I'll write about our first commercial booth, and tips on how to run your own.
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Owlboy has FINALLY launched and we can now talk about it's development! Ask us anything!