Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Source PSX

Playstation Experience

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I’m one of those “AAA to Indie” guys, and while I learned a lot while at the big publishers I’ve also gained the terrible habit of expecting a magical marketing department to take care of the project’s marketing needs.  One area where this really hits home is at conventions. I can’t even begin to describe how great it feels to show your game, not some giant company’s game that you work for, but the game that you conceived, created, and somehow acquired the good fortune to actually exhibit at a major convention such as PAX or E3.  This past weekend in Las Vegas, PlayStation Experience marked the third expo this year that I exhibited our upcoming game “Source” and I thought I’d share what I’ve learned along the way.

Set Up Meetings With Press In Advance

Don’t hope that you’ll get press organically during the show. On days that I’ve had press scheduled we always had a lot more coverage and activity in the booth than on days that were scheduled lightly. It seems to be a little like the crowded restaurant effect: people are attracted to busy rooms. Plus, you’re more likely to get more coverage organically as a side effect when other press members walk by and see you mid interview at a busy booth.  It’s that positive snowball effect. Of course, this can just as easily go the other way during periods of booth drought, so take advantage when your booth is busy.

Booth Layout And Signage

The more screens the better, period. We did best with one screen dedicated to looping our trailer video and two other screens with playable builds. This lead to a gathering of people watching the video and got them asking for more info about the game. After that crowd gathered from our trailer a natural line to play the game formed. All this attracted press walking by and got us a lot of organic coverage.

For signage, we made the mistake of showing our company name instead of the game as our top booth banner. As a result people wanted to play “Fenix Fire” (our company name) and were confused when they couldn’t play it, especially since we have a comical ‘fire chicken’ mascot. Since then we have focused on showing one game at a time and dedicated all the signage, including the top booth banner, to that game.

The Art Of Playtesting

Once that moment finally happens when people pick up the controller to play your game, there’s a lot of playtesting directions you can go. Some devs just like to observe, others like to guide them through a demo. What has given me the best results has been to give them one objective to do verbally if they walk up and ask “so what do I do in this game?” Otherwise I just let them rip without any direction, which has been valuable first hand focus testing. After a few minutes I usually walk up and ask what they think and if they’re interested I point out all the details we’ve put into the game. For some reason, this has worked really well for us since we’re doing a lot with graphics, particles and physics: gamers seem to really appreciate all the details. Lastly, I paint the picture on where the game is going as far as story, features, locations, etc to give them an understanding on the grand vision for the game.  Obviously, I need to do this because our game is still in development.

What About Handouts?

I’ve tried everything from buttons to business cards, and I’ve learned that expo collectibles go a long way. Buttons are huge with gamers and last a lot longer than post cards, plus they’re wearable. In the future I plan at looking at more items that play up the specific event collectability.

Remember To Be Friendly

It might sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised. Remember, it’s a really small industry so it’s in your best interest to treat everyone you meet with mutual respect.

A Word About Sony

Hands down, Sony’s indie program has been nothing short of fantastic. A far cry from the closed greenlight committees of last gen, Sony has been there with us since GDC 2013 when I first pitched Source in a hotel lobby. Since then they have helped us with a loaner dev kit, two kiosks at E3 (next to Blizzard’s Diablo 3), and now a private booth at Playstation Experience in Las Vegas. Everyone at Sony had been very supportive and I couldn’t be more honored to make a game on a platform driven by such a dedicated group of professionals.

If you’re curious, you can check out Source here. I also co host a podcast about game development called “Game Design Dojo”, and have an in depth account of our adventures at PAX East 2013 here. Happy developing!





Gates of Osiris – High End Mobile Development [Unite 2014]

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Last month I had the pleasure of speaking at Unite 2014 in beautiful Seattle. The topic of the presentation was “High End Mobile Development” where I outlined step by step how we’ve been building our upcoming mobile game, Gates of Osiris. In the presentation I detail out how we attacked each facet of development, including terrain creation and shaders, vehicle modeling and rigging, and creature modeling and animation.  Since we’re a small team attempting such a large scale project, we also heavily leverage the Unity Asset Store, and I call out all the Asset Store plugins that have proven to be extremely helpful.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll post the slides from this presentation.


PAX East 2014

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The IndieMEGABOOTH Experience

After an intense couple of months, we pulled it off and PAX was a success! Well, every success story has it’s fair amount of drama and bumps in the road. It wouldn’t be much of a story if everything went smoothly and the way it was planned, right?

Let’s back up a little to first considering going to PAX. My brother, Brian forwarded me an email about information from PAX accepting applications for their IndieMEGABOOTH and asked what I thought about it. So, I responded with why not? Let’s do it! I helped him write and send out the application with a write up about the game and Fenix Fire. Along with screenshots and a video of Source. Then we waited.

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Tuscany World Demo - Fenix Fire

Working With A Small Startup Called OculusVR

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I met Brendan Iribe in January 2013, shortly after Oculus won their Kickstarter campaign, to discuss building a special environment for Oculus. They had a good sized office, filled with boxes and parts everywhere. It looked like they just moved in but were too busy working to make it any tidier.  There was a station where a couple of guys were fabricating new prototype sets to test, which were largely taped together with black tape.  Even though these prototypes were make-shifted together, the headsets still looked really well made, although with a homebrew feel.  There was also a table that had a graveyard of old VR headsets and helmets, which was really nostalgic and cool.

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Gates Of Osiris Crab

Announcing Gates Of Osiris

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So a long time ago, after we finished and launched Roboto, Anna and I were thinking about what to do next. Our game was in the top of the App Store charts and we were on cloud nine, loving every minute of how mobile was drastically changing the game industry. During that month we went off and developed a handful of prototypes of possible follow-up games to our debut hit. One of these prototypes went on to become Gates Of Osiris.

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GDC 2014

Fenix Fire To Present At GDC 2014

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Hi everybody! I wanted to give an update on what’s happening at Fenix Fire and some sneak peaks of what’s to come.

Some super exciting news is Brian was asked by Qualcomm and Unity to make a 30 min speech about the game Gates of Osiris that will be shown as a significant demo within the Unity booth at GDC (Game Developers Conference) March 20th at 2:45pm. How Awesome is that! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Qualcomm, they are an American global semiconductor company that designs, manufactures and markets digital wireless telecommunications products and services according to Wikipedia. The Qualcomm Snapdragon processor is in such devices as the Samsung Galaxy NotePro 12.2 and the Amazon Kindle HDX 7 and many more. So what this means is, Fenix Fire has a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a game to be played on these great tablets as well as other devices AND to be a featured game. WOW! Amazing! We’ll be putting up highlights for the GDC speeches with an update on how the conference went.

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Happy New Year from Fenix Fire

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I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and were able to spend some quality time with family and friends. I know it’s hard getting back into the swing of things after having so much free time and fun, but what can you do? And here in Chicago this polar vortex is not helping. With the high being -8 degrees, a wind chill of -45 degrees and schools getting canceled allowed us an extended two day vacation…yay. Ok, enough about that. It’s going to be an awesome year…I can FEEL it! Just a friendly reminder, if haven’t already, like us on Facebook :) Fenix Fire Facebook Page

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Ready, Fire, Aim – A Fenix Fire Update

By | Announcements, App Updates, Behind the Scenes, Games, Partners | 2 Comments

It’s been a crazy year for us so far, and I can’t believe it’s already half over!  We started out this year with this new website as a way to better connect with our fans, and it has actually been doing a pretty good job of that.  You have been commenting in the forums and on our blog posts, which is really cool for us to see. Thanks for reaching out.  Anyway, I want to give you a run down of what we’ve been up to and where we’re going. Read More