Today marks the second day of the Discord-based Power-Up Digital Games Conference, a free event aimed at educating and inspiring aspiring game developers, newcomers to the dev scene, and indies who might want to learn a few new tricks or techniques. And as suits an indie-oriented conference, much of the discussion is freeform and organic, with some talking about games they’re making and challenges they’re having, some discussing favorite games and the state of the industry, and some talking about hot topics like Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and whether or not they are fads.

Given that VR is such a hot topic, it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of today’s highlights was a talk by Sean Siem of Robocognito, featuring lessons from developing and deploying VR experiences for customers and at tradeshows  of all kinds.

Sean is a Seattle-based developer with over five years of experience making AR/VR applications for clients using the Unity game engine – which is about as long as most game developers have been working in the space, though VR has been of interest to groups like the military and the healthcare sector for a while now, given its applications for more immersive training and for pain relief without drugs. 

Whether one is new to game development, or an industry veteran, VR/AR is one of those areas no one is that experienced with in the game industry, since until recently, the technology had been far too expensive for consumer use. In fact, only ten years ago, high quality headsets cost $35,000 and were mostly bought by the military for training fighter pilots, or for providing pain relief to burn victims. Today however, the hardware has dropped in price, with the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive weighing in at nearly a thousand dollars for a headset, and the somewhat more affordable Playstation VR setting a buyer back by a cool $500, bringing them into striking range for prosumers willing to pay a premium to enjoy the first VR games.

(And it certainly is a premium, as making use of these headsets, all but requires a high-powered PC or PlayStation 4 – effectively doubling the price!)

Still, the games industry has taken note, with the Virtual Reality Developers Conference, a counterpart to the Game Developers Conference, having been founded last year, so the talk today was quite timely.

Sean highlighted a few key points to keep in mind when developing for VR.

In his words, they include…

  • Budget your time, budget your player’s experience
  • Develop something appropriate
  • Multiplayer experiences: special considerations
  • Easy Reset
  • Body Morphology
  • Proctoring ratios

You can find the slides for his talk here, and if you want to know more, the GDC Vault has put a lot of VRDC content online free of charge!

The other notable talk today was “Growth Hacking 101 for Games” by Nolan Clemmons of Wufasta, which covered things like game marketing and PR for indies, how to use social media more effectively, and more.

Making a game, especially alone or as part of a small team, is hard – possibly one of the hardest things one can do, and many indie developers, after pouring their time, effort, and soul into finishing a game, wonder how to get it out to the public.

In the early days of digital retail, just getting a game listed on Steam was enough to ensure one would make a profit, but now, with the explosion of titles on the platform, how do you get your game noticed?

Sean had a few tips:

  • Know your audience: Who are they? What social media platforms do they frequent? What gets them fired up
  • Have a website: At minimum, it should have a landing page inviting people to sign up for a newsletter
  • Be smart about using social media: Use tools like Hootsuite or Edgar to manage your accounts and stay on top of messaging
  • Do email marketing properly: Don’t send the same email to everyone – especially not when contacting game journalists. Do some research to see who might be interested in your game, personalize your message, and use something like presskit() to prepare a press page.
  • Offline marketing / event promotion if possible: Renting a booth at a game conference or convention can get your game into the hands of interested fans or reporters, or publishers! Even if nothing comes out of it immediately, the relationships that come from strategically going to events can be huge.

And most importantly of all…

Want to know more? Nolan’s slides are available here.

That’s it for the Highlights of Day 2 of the Power-Up Digital Games Conference – stay tuned for our coverage tomorrow, or simply jump on Discord and check out the conference yourself, as tomorrow features some of the best lineup yet, with talks like What Happens In Our Brains When We Play Games?”, “Interface Design For Unusual Hardware” and of course, one of the conference’s headliners, the “Legends of RPG” Panel, where the game industry’s most legendary figures will come together and talk about the past and future of Role Playing Games.