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Ben

Ben

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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!

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.

The Eyes of Ara is coming July 19

I am thrilled to announce that The Eyes of Ara will be available for PC and Mac on July 19th!

It has been a truly amazing journey to get to this point, and it’s wonderful to finally be able to share the launch date with you all. Everyone who backed the game on Kickstarter and Backerkit will receive their game keys on launch day, and everyone else will be able to pick the game up on Steam and the Humble Store.

Play The Eyes of Ara at AVCon

AvCon is Adelaide’s annual anime and video game festival, and I am thrilled to announce that The Eyes of Ara will be playable on the show floor in the Indie Games Room.

They just released a trailer for the event, featuring The Eyes of Ara and a whole host of other cool games on display at the show. Have a look:

The Indie Games Room is open on July 16th and 17th at the Adelaide Convention Centre, come along and say hi!

The Eyes of Ara Launches This July!

It is with great excitement that I can finally announce that The Eyes of Ara will be available this July!

I have been working on this project for nearly three years now, and it's amazing to contemplate that it's almost ready to launch. Exact details on the launch date and distribution platforms will follow in the coming weeks, along with the launch trailer, updates to the website, and other goodies. Until then, you can rest knowing the game will available via Steam and other services in the latter part of the month.

Are you excited? I sure am!

The Music of The Eyes of Ara

A game’s musical score is a vital part of creating an immersive and memorable experience, and for an atmospheric game like The Eyes of Ara, it was vitally important to get it right. New Zealand composer Matt Caradus has created and amazing soundtrack for the game, and you can listen to some of it below. I’m sure you will agree he has done an wonderful job of capturing the emotional core of the game. Here’s what he had to say about working on The Eyes of Ara:

“Writing music for the Eyes of Ara was an absolute pleasure. Ben's evocative art-style inspired new musical narratives wherever I looked. I'm really happy with how the score came together and can't wait to share the full sound-track with you all.”

Be sure to check out Matt other work on his website here: www.mattcaradus.com

GX Australia Wrap Up

I’m back home in Brisbane and back to work after a great time at GX Australia in Sydney last weekend. As conventions go, it was rather small (though that was expected, this being the first one), but it was still a great experience none the less and I was ecstatic to show The Eyes of Ara to so many new people.

The most striking thing about the con was how overwhelmingly friendly and inviting the atmosphere was. I put this down to both the size of the con and the effort of the organisers to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment. Firstly, unlike larger conventions whose massive crowds can make socializing in the expo hall difficult, GX’s smaller numbers meant it was easy to have an engaging conversation with anyone on the show floor. Secondly, the GX staff went to great lengths to ensure the convention was a friendly and inclusive space for everyone and the LGBTQ community in particular. The end result was everyone who attended seemed to be having a really great time, always willing to engage in friendly conversation.

I spent the entire two days on my booth, so I didn’t get to see any of the panels or speak to any of the amazing guests, but I did get to show The Eyes of Ara to a lot of new people (and that after all, was the point). I’m pleased to say that everyone who played the game seemed to really enjoy it and I got some really great feedback. In fact, despite the demo being about fifteen minutes long on average (the quickest I saw it done was seven minutes) which is on the lengthy side as far as convention demos go, almost everyone who sat down to play it were captivated enough to see it through to the end. One person even remarked upon finishing it that they didn’t realise just how long they were on it. I can think of no higher praise for a fifteen minute convention demo than “I didn’t realise I was on it for so long!” :)

I am glad that everyone had a good time playing the game. The Eyes of Ara is the culmination of nearly three years of hard work, so it is wonderful to see people enjoying it first hand. It makes the whole enterprise worthwhile, and I feel like I’m the game is living up to what I envision it to be.

Of course, the weekend wasn’t without its glitches. Getting down to Sydney from Brisbane involved a two-day drive each way with a car loaded with computers, displays, banners, fold-up tables, a TV and all manner of other things. I got off to a bad start while packing the car the night before when I dropped and smashed my phone, rendering it useless. Hours before a week-long roadtrip is not the best timing to lose such an important piece of portable tech, but a desperate plea to Facebook and the generosity of several friends later I found myself in possession of an old iPhone. It featured a cracked and broken screen that made reading it nigh on impossible (I took a gamble with the proofreading of every Tweet I posted during the show) - but at least it “worked”, which is more than I could say for my poor phone.

The drive itself was actually pretty good, with clear weather and very little traffic I arrived in Newcastle with enough hours of daylight left to enjoy a swim at the beach. A relaxing end to a long drive… until I managed to step on a shard of glass on the way back to the car. I left hoping that this would be the end of my bad luck for the weekend.

Thankfully it was, and the final drive into Sydney, the convention, and the drive home went off mostly without incident. I say mostly because players on Saturday discovered a game-halting bug that had been introduced into the demo by changes I made to it the week prior (to make a puzzle play more smoothly no less). I thought that I had playtested it enough to catch all the bugs... apparently not. Luckily, while the bug did halt gameplay, it only did so on a single puzzle and only when using one particular means of interaction. Using and alternative means would allow the player to resume play, and players who used the alternative means by default never experienced it at all. So the bug was more of a nuisance than anything serious, and I was able to fix it Sunday morning before the expo opened for day two, but let that be a lesson to me for future conventions: thoroughly playtest all changes, no matter how benign they may seem.

That thankfully was the last glitch for the weekend, and all in all, between the show, the people, and the numerous after parties it was a most enjoyable experience. I hope to see GX Australia continue to grow in the years to come. Conventions like this are important for the growth of the games industry and gaming culture in general. Increased diversity within the gaming community can only lead to better and richer games, and a larger and more inclusive community. So I was proud to support the GX Australia Kickstarter in its endeavour to create a safe space where everyone could feel welcome.

I’d like to thank Liam and Joshua, as well as all of the other organisers and volunteers for all of their hard work in making the event possible. I was great to be a part of and I hope it continues to be a beacon of inclusiveness and diversity in the years to come.

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