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Games Week Roundup: PAX Aus, GCAP, Unite, and Game Developer Awards

This blog has been a little quiet since The Eyes of Ara launched back in July. You would think that after launching a game your workload would decrease… but alas such things are not to be! Since launching the game things have been non-stop, and I’m afraid keeping the blog up-to-date was one of the casualties. But today I find myself with a bit of free time, so let's have a look back at all the awesome stuff that’s been happening recently.

PAX Australia

Two weeks ago saw the annual migration of gamers from all over Australia down to the Melbourne Convention Centre for PAX Australia, and I was there with The Eyes of Ara. What’s more, I had an Australian Indie Showcase booth. These booths are special: you have submit your game and the entry form and a panel of judges select the six winners. I was thrilled to get the news that The Eyes of Ara had been selected as one of the winners this year, and exhibiting in the Showcase section was an incredible experience.

In many ways, PAX Aus was a kind of launch party for the game (albeit a few months late), since it was the first - and by far the biggest - convention I had shown the game at since launch. With a good deal of experience exhibiting at other conventions in the past and with the game now in full release, I went into PAX feeling way more prepared and relaxed than I had at previous conventions. I had the experience, I had all the supplies prepared, the game was out, the demo was extensively tried and tested, so what could there be to worry about?

And it was an amazing show! It was wonderful to see so many people coming up to the booth to try the game, and even more wonderful to listen to them speak excitedly about it afterwards. I even met a few people who already owned the game and just came by just to chat (as a developer, it’s great to meet players who enjoyed the game and go out of their way to come up and let you know it, so thanks to all of you!). I also brought along over 600 fliers to give out, and they were all gone by halfway through the third day!

On Saturday evening I was asked to take part in a panel with the other Indie Showcase winners, where we got to speak about our games and take questions from the audience. It was really cool to be up on stage with such amazing local talent and check out the other awesome games on offer. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend heading to the AIS page and checking out each of the winners. There are some really awesome games there and I am genuinely excited to play each of them (many of them are either out now or coming soon).

GCAP, Unite, and the Australian Game Developer Awards

While PAX may have been the main event of the past few weeks, it only marked the end of a huge week in Australian games, known as the Melbourne International Games Week. GCAP is the annual gathering of Australian game developers to network and talk about our craft, and I was there to give a talk on Art and Level Design in The Eyes of Ara. If you were at the talk, or if you’re interested, the slides can be found here.

Unite is a one-day conference dedicated to all things relating to the Unity 3D game engine. I’m proud to say that The Eyes of Ara was selected as part of this year’s Made With Unity Showcase, and I was given the opportunity to show the game in the Showcase hall along with a host of other amazing Australian games.

Finally, in what was perhaps one of the greatest highlights since I began The Eyes of Ara over three years ago, I was honored to be nominated for the Excellence in Art award at this year’s Australian Game Developer Awards. Unfortunately I didn’t walk away with the win, but to stand among my peers and see my game up on the big screen, nominated alongside other such amazing works was truly humbling. If nothing else, I left inspired to make something even better next time, and hopefully one day see one of my games in the Game of the Year category as well!

Onward to the Future

The Games Week and PAX marks a kind of milestone for The Eyes of Ara - the first big event deadline since launch and the last for a while. I’m now back in the office in Brisbane, and back to work on the game. There’s a lot more to come over the next few months, and I’ll do my best to keep the blog updated with the latest details. Some things to look out for include: A public demo for download, the remaining Kickstarter rewards, another patch with some feature requests, and several localization updates for multiple languages.

So work on The Eyes of Ara continues, I look forward to sharing all the future news and updates as it comes through!

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Australian Indie Showcase Winner!

It is with great excitement that I can now announce that The Eyes of Ara has been selected as one of the winners of the 2016 PAX Aus Australian Indie Showcase! It is indescribably humbling to have been selected as one of only six games (out of over 100 entries) to stand as "best of the Australian & New Zealand Indie scene".

What this means is, The Eyes of Ara will be shown on the show floor at PAX Aus this November in the Australian Indie Showcase section along side the other great locally made games. So if you are attending the show be sure to drop by and say hi!

Read about all of the Showcase winners on the PAX Website here.

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2015 Retrospective

What a year it has been! A lot of exciting things happened over the course of 2015, and I feel the first of the new year is a good time to look back to where the game has been and what is yet to come.

In late March, after much stress and contemplation, I finally settled on a title for my as-yet announced project, along with a name for my fledgeling studio, and thus 100 Stones Interactive was born! Skip forward a few weeks into April and the website was launched, announcing The Eyes of Ara to the world. Finally after years of work, my game was out there for the world to see.

From the outset the reception to the game was really positive, and it was great to have that early support leading onto the Kickstarter campaign that would launched a couple of months later in June. I cannot begin to express just how exciting and exhilarating - and stressful and a difficult - running a Kickstarter campaign is. The support of all of my backers, friends and family cannot be understated. The Eyes of Ara is the game it is today because of everyone that supported myself and the game during that time, making June by far the most significant month of the year for my new studio.

And just when I thought the pressure has subsided for a time, along came the game’s first public showing at #GO423 in August. This was a huge moment for myself and my game: the first time The Eyes of Ara had been playable by the general public. I went in not knowing if a slow, contemplative game would even demo in a busy expo environment, and of course fretting “what if no-one likes the game?”. Thankfully though, the reception was again really positive, and I returned home with renewed enthusiasm for the project.

From then on it was down to business. With no major milestones on the horizon I could dedicate the next few months purely to working on the game. A pleasant change of pace from the previous few months! I have tried to post updates and screenshots at least semi-regularly, and I apologize for the occasional portion of radio silence. Making a game on your own is busy work, and sometimes I need to remind myself to come up for air and let people know I’m still alive - supporters, friends and family included ;)

In late October I attended the Melbourne International Games Week, to soak up the wisdom and experience of other devs from around Australia and the world who had congregated at the Melbourne Convention Centre for Unite, GCAP, and PAX Aus. I returned to Brisbane armed with a wealth of invaluable advice and knowledge that will no doubt make The Eyes of Ara an even greater experience.

In December I was invited to show The Eyes of Ara at another local Brisbane games expo named Brass Razoo! It was good to again see how the public took to the game, especially so long after the first showing in August. A lot of changes and improvements had been made to the game since the first demo, so it was valuable to see that they were indeed working.

Which brings us finally to today, January 1st, 2016. This year is going to be an even bigger year than the one just passed. So keep a look out here and on the Facebook page for:

More playable demos at expos and conventions, including GX Australia in February (more on that soon).

The call for submissions for art content and puzzle designs from backers who pledged to the relevant tiers. It’s time to start getting your ideas into the game! I will be contacting everyone about this before January is out.

The public Alpha and Beta, available to backers of the relevant tiers. Your first chance to get your hands on the latest build of the game, playable in your own home without me scrutinizing your every move from behind your back at a convention ;) (If you’re not a Alpha or Beta backer, remember you can still pledge for access through the online store).

And of course the biggest event of all: The Eyes of Ara’s launch! There is no public release date as yet (I have a target in mind though), but rest assured it will be available this year.

So thank you all for your support over the past year, and here’s to an awesome 2016!

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Melbourne International Games Week, 2015

October 26th to November 1st was the Melbourne International Games Week, a big week of games and game development comprising of the Unite and GCAP game dev conferences, The Arcade open day showcasing the local Melbourne Indie Dev Scene, and culminating in the always spectacular PAX Australia. If updates surrounding The Eyes of Ara have been quiet of late, this is the reason. I attended the full week, saw a lot of great games, met a lot of wonderful people, and most of all learned a great deal.

Unite & GCAP

These two conferences were the primary reason for my visit. Both had a lot of great talks by some very talented developers, but GCAP was a standout experience. A number of local devs gave some very informative talks, in particular Katie Gall, Lauren Clinnick and Tara Brannigan who ran a packed-out session on games and Social Media, Steve Halliwell and Tony Parmenter on Core Mechanics, and the always entertaining Nicole and Jason Stark who ran a Narrative Vs. Game Design session that encouraged audience participation and on-stage rivalry.

International guests included Keynotes by Brie Code (Child of Light, Assassin's Creed series) and Martin Sahlin (Unravel), both of whom told powerful, personal stories about their life and career in the games industry.

There were many more great sessions than I can possibly list here, and I left with a notebook full of hastily scrawled notes, a pocket full of business cards, and a head full of inspiration.

PAX and the Indie Dev Scene

Thursday was The Arcade open day. The Arcade is a collaborative workspace housing a number of indie dev teams, including Tin Man Games (Gamebook Adventures), Three Phase Interactive (Defect), and Hipster Whale (Crossy Road) as well as a host of others. The sheer number and variety of games on display was inspiring, it was wonderful to see the aussie indie dev scene kicking along so strong.

Unfortunately I was only able to attend a few short hours of PAX on the Friday, but it was enough for a quick loop of the expo floor and an extended stay in the indie games section. There I was able to play games by many of the devs I had met, spoke too, or listen to speak during the conferences. Many of the teams from The Arcade were there too, busily trying to keep up with the thousands of expo attendees vying for a look at their games.

Back in Brisbane

With the week concluded, weary devs from around the country headed home. I’m back in Brisbane now and back to work on The Eyes of Ara. I can confidently say that the game will be a better experience as a direct result of the MIGW (in fact I have already implemented some of the advice I received while there), and I look forward to next year’s Games Week. Who knows, perhaps next year I’ll be the one on stage talking about my experience developing The Eyes of Ara.

But first I have to finish it. So until next time, it’s back to work for me!

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