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Friday, July 22, 2016

Rolling with the Punches (BronyCon 2016)

     I had a great time at BronyCon, but there was a little hurdle I tripped over that weekend...

     I had a gamedev's worst nightmare on what I was building up as the most glorious day of my life. Technical issues... See how they destroyed me and/or made me stronger below the break.

I had friends in attendance keeping me updated on the crowd's perspective.
     I couldn't have asked for a better spotlight. I was in the afternoon on day one, exactly between lunch and dinner, in one of the primary panel halls, not overlapping any other major events, and on a day with great weather and peak BronyCon excitement. I may never get a chance like this again...

I had a line. A long line of people excited to see my game.
Holy crap!
     I refused to believe it when a staff member said the room was going to be packed. My friends were sending me and Kari texts about how excited the crowd was and I was hyped! Ready to put on the show of a lifetime! Ready to make Yotes a horse famous name! When everyone was sat and ready, only 3 rows remained mostly empty, so I actually had a panelist room filled to near capacity (should've took a picture of that, but I was in no mood/position to take a glory shot of the crowd).

Not sure if this is me taking a deep psych-up breath before things got going
or if this is me stressing over how long the file transfer is taking as the bronies take their seats.
     As people were coming in I was internally panicking about the sudden change of plans and playing an untested build with various missing/incomplete files. The camera even started rolling and I froze unsure of what to do if the game where to crash again and again. Thankfully I had my girlfriend Kari up there with me to snap me out of it and get me to say something. Anything. So I put on the fake it 'til you make it face and tried exciting the crowd.

     The game hit another Not Responding snag, but it corrected itself after a few moments and things were underway! Until Kari started a battle and the background sprite was missing... So the ponies where fighting in a void and none of the fancy special effects where showing up, making the battles look way more like a prototype than the polished build I spent all year on.

     On top of that other little snags like dialogue box errors, freezing in place, and locking into infinite healing loops occurred and I eventually just stopped looking at the gameplay since it was driving me nuts and started the Q&A early. The Q&A was reassuring in that it confirmed I was the only one cringing about the game this hard. To everyone else this was a cool and kinda funny gameplay preview of a game they'd like.

    Nerves returned towards the end of the Q&A when I saw some of the same people get back in line, a few people getting up for their next appointment, and one of my friends getting in the Q&A line to help me stall it out.

The audience sees a man thinking on his feet and presenting a game he understands inside and out.
I see myself staring into the void and asking "Why? Why today?" 
     Something has to be said for the feeling of building up to something for so long then having things out of your control go wrong. Like that self-doubt where you question every little thing that could've been done differently, wishing you had at least a few solid backup plans, or crying internally about never getting a chance this glorious ever again.

     But despite everything, people loved it. A few may have left once they noticed the ship was sinking or that I wasn't the bigshot the lineup would have you think, but the 90% that stayed the whole time were just fine with the panel changing from an epic tone to a comical one.

     And now I know what to do whenever this happens again. Roll with the punches, put on a comedy hat, and use that sharp wit. The show must go on.


Takeaways: People are really more forgiving of glitches than I am and
people actually can like the Yotes behind the Games as much as the games themselves.
     Big thanks to those who came up and talked to me after the panel or waved throughout the con when spotting me. Another reason I love attending BronyCon is seeing the faces behind the statistics. Another follower or download means so much more when I can put a face behind the number. Seeing you all in person reminds me that I'm making a game that real people will play and get attached to.

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