Since our last booth setup post was very well received, and quite a few developers thanked us for the info, we decided to to a giant post about our experience running a booth at PAX. Hope you enjoy!
|Taken at the end of the show. |
From the Left: Speedo, John, Koriel and James
PAX Prime was a great experience. Making the booth come together was a challenge, and took a lot of time, planning, and care. We drove all the way up to Seattle and back from LA in order to bring everything we wanted to have in the booth, and it was well worth it. We brought lots of tools for setup and breakdown, which came in handy for other exhibitors too.
Thanks to the MEGABOOTH and Enforcers, all we had to worry about was our own booth space. We had 2 Oculus Rift demos set up, and those helped to draw in the crowds - giving our booth a 30-50 minute line at all times during the show. It was incredible, and around 200 people got to play per day. That's about 800 people total for the weekend! That doesn't include all of the people who just came by and talked with us.
We went out to parties 2 of the nights, and the rest we stayed in (to get some sleep). Seattle was beautiful, and we did everything on a very small budget: using Airbnb, taking advantage of free food for Exhibitors, and driving furniture/TV Displays up ourselves as opposed to renting anything.
Well, where to begin? I suppose as soon as we got the "Ok" from Indie MEGABOOTH that we could have a spot, we started preparations for PAX. Now, we didn't want this to slow down our development of the game in any way, so we devised a way that we could be working on the actual game (instead of something that was purely a demo), almost up until the day it was time to pack. We had about a month's notice - so that gave us plenty of time to figure out the logistics of the booth.
My job was to make plans and preparations for places to stay, ways to travel, and the most efficient, inexpensive ways we could set-up a booth that we could all be proud of.
When you spend so much time putting love and effort into the game itself, you really want the presentation to show it off in the best way you can.
Monday: Packing Day
On Monday I made sure to print all our last minute signage, and pack everything as tightly as possible into my car. Within the last month I bought a car rack ($28 on eBay) and canvas roof bag ($50 on Amazon) to give us extra cargo space - and we needed every last inch. I had placed them and tested them days before, and made a few modifications to make sure that they would hold.
Packing inside the house took me longer than expected, and it wasn't until 11:30 pm that everything was in the car and ready to roll. It took all of my Tetris Powers to make the 2 TVs, computer tower, 2 monitors, furniture pieces, clothes, food and booth decorations fit inside the car, while still leaving a seat and a half in the back seat for Wednesday evening when I would pick up John and Speedo at the Seattle airport.
Tuesday: The 350 Mile Drive
I woke up at 4 am the next morning with about 4 hours of sleep to go on, and packed the rest of the things into the roof bag on the car. It took me quite some time to actually secure the bag on top, which set me back almost an hour. After everything was properly in place, I started making the drive to James' house in Saratoga, Ca (about 360 miles / 580km).
|My family left me this note on the front door :)|
I got to James' house around 12 noon, and went out to lunch. On the way back, we stopped by the Tesla store, and both played pretend:
After that I was ready to crash, because I knew that then next day would be an even longer drive (850 miles / 1370km), and we would be leaving around 4am once again. We packed James' computer and clothes into the car, and promptly fell asleep.
Wednesday: The Long Drive
The next day was the new longest drive I had done in my life (as a driver), and James and I switched off 2 times when we had to take breaks. In total it was around 14 hours of straight driving, all the way up through California, passing through Oregon, and into Washington.
What ended up making the drive much more bearable, and even entertaining, was listening to the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire audiobook. Amazingly, even after the 14 hour drive, we were only half way through the book!
|Parts of the drive were very pleasant surrounded by trees|
|The current drought in CA has made Lake Shasta look more like a pool :(|
|Stopping for a quick break|
|I'm wearing a jacket to make sure I don't get sunburned.|
|Passing through Portland, Oregon|
At last, around 6:30 we had made it to the Seattle airport to pick up John and Speedo (our friend who had volunteered to help us out). After waiting for what felt like an hour at baggage claim, their stuff was also crammed into the car. Then they just had to endure the 40 min drive to our first location, with their squished legs up on the seat in front of them (thanks to my tower taking up the seat well), and things piled on top of them. I admit, it was a bit crowded...but it worked.
|Speedo and John being packed into the car like sardines.|
Once we had some food in our bellies, we immediately started to test the build on the computers. John spent some time making sure my computer would run smoothly with our newly acquired Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2 (which was in John's possession at the time), and then took James' tower and replaced James' video card with John's nicer card (to make sure his computer would run our second Rift demo on the HD Prototype Rift well.) We all knew we would be getting up around 8 the next morning, so after we were happy with the computers, we all went to sleep.
Thursday Before PAX: Setup Day
The next morning we were very excited to get to PAX and see the show floor being set up - and also to see what our own booth would look like once it was fully realized! We left the house around 9am (after making sandwiches with the bread, meat and cheese that Denise and Trevor had left for us), and were finally on our way to the Washington State Convention Center.
The drive was about 25 minutes. We parked the car under the convention center and went to grab our badges. Once we had them, we went straight to where our booth location was:
|Top left corner! (You enter the area from the bottom up)|
|The booth space (with a free 2 extra chairs and an extra 6 foot table)|
In Seattle it was quite a different scenario. We told the people at the MEGABOOTH that we had a car full of stuff to unload, and they immediately showed us the way to the loading dock where all the big trucks went. We were cleared to be there for 30 minutes, and we rushed to start unpacking the car. They even gave us carts to wheel everything away on, and we were done unpacking before we knew it!
|John and Speedo starting on the top bag|
|Almost everything was out of the car in less than 25 minutes!|
The first things I wanted to set up were the banners that lined the back curtain, as well as the fake vines and plants that would weave their way in and out of the top pole. That area would be harder to get to once we had the TVs up in place. James and John started setting up the Oculus Rift demos, while Speedo started unpacking our cases. I had packed many of our things in shoulder bags, so that they would be easier to carry around and pack into the top roof bag.
|Trying out different screens mirroring eachother|
|Who gets the fancy new keyboard?!|
|The Booth is almost done!|
|The front table (folding 4' x 2' table, $25 on eBay)|
|James' Nexus 7 was used for the email sign ups, along with John's bluetooth keyboard for ease of use. |
(I bought the tablet stand for $5 on Amazon, and the green marble Lazy Susan at a thrift store for $3)
|Black velvet everywhere! Thanks Mom for always buying so much nice material at the LA Fabric District!|
|The setup in front of each Rift demo (though most people used the xBox controller)|
|The Dev Kit 2 camera, perfectly camouflaged in the dragon lamp|
That night we went back to Trevor and Denises' house, and signed and numbered the backs of all 300 posters (which we were planning to sell during the expo). It took us about 2 hours, then it was bed time. Since that was our last night staying there, we got them a thank you card and left a couple XING goodies on the table to show our gratitude :)
Friday: PAX Day 1
We woke up on Friday morning, wondering what the day had in store for us! It was another 25 minuite drive to the center, and we were anxious to start setting up once again. We got there around 8:30am, knowing that the doors would open to the public around 10am. During setup, we ended up testing out the demos again, and found that our Rift demos had a major flaw we somehow missed completely in the last couple days. We rushed to figure out a quick fix to the demo, and decided we would deal with the rest of it later. Luckily, our solution worked, and the day began smoothly.
|The front table set-up. We decided to put the company sign on the front of this table, instead of hidden away behind the TV which was looping an Oculus Rift gameplay video.|
|The 2 Rift stations ready for some action|
|Speedo running through the protocol for setting people up in the Rift Demo, and practicing on James.|
|The first people at the booth! Also, note the chair I'm currently sitting in. We made sure that we had at least one chair for ourselves where we could take sitting breaks throughout the day :)|
|I quickly added star sticky notes with sharpies as helpful signage and labels|
|As soon as I put up the "line" sign for the Oculus Rift Demos...that's exactly what we got :)|
|The first people in line to play XING! It was marvelous!!|
|A LINE! A MAGNIFICENT LINE!|
|Within the first half-hour of the doors opening, there was a 45 minute line just to play XING in the Rift ><|
|The PC demo happening on the right side of the booth.|
|Rift users experiencing the land of XING.|
For most people who came to our booth, it was their first time trying out the Oculus Rift. Then many would tell us that ours was the best demo they could have chosen for being introduced to Virtual Reality...it was very flattering :)
|James and Speedo switching people out. We tapped players on the shoulder after playing for 5 minutes, just to make sure as many people could play as possible.|
|Portal 2 Cosplayer enjoying XING: the Land Beyond|
|If we weren't on Rift duty, we were usually talking to the people who would come up to our booth.|
|More glorious line!|
Our awesome Enforcer Hex was just the guy to do it!
|The people up next to play XING in the Rift got to sit down on our extra chairs :) Thank goodness we brought stools!|
|The view looking out from our booth (when it wasn't crowded)|
|We didn't actually realize kids would be at PAX, since we had only experienced GDC and E3 - but we were glad they were here! They were some of our favorite players to watch and observe what they would do.|
|The end of the first day! Time to celebrate!|
|How we "closed down" the booth every evening. The chairs were just deterrents...|
James, John and Speedo went to the exhibitor mixer happening on the expo floor, while I ran off to a dinner hosted by Valve (we might have all gone to this, but we only had one invite - and I was left out on Steam Dev Days last Winter, so it was my turn to be treated.)
The dinner was lovely, and very fancy! I met some great developers and invited them to come by the booth the following day. From what I got, the Mixer that the guys attended was also pretty fun, and came with free drinks! Everyone wins.
|On my walk back from the Valve dinner, this guy was parked right outside the Convention center.|
|Speedo, James and John pose under a glass sculpture ceiling|
|Spectacular glass sculptures!|
|As I took pictures of the artwork, it occurred to me that this place would be a nightmare to clean and maintain.|
|Aha! The main hall where all the developers congregated.|
|The gardens were lit up outside too, and many of the glass sculptures resembled the surrounding plants|
|Right under the Space Needle. This was all of our first times seeing it up close.|
We left the Sony party around 11:30 to make sure we'd get to our new location before 12. It was a house 30 minutes away in Kirkland, which I had found on Airbnb. When we got there, the owner gave us the keys to our private entrance, where we had a King size bed, bunk beds, a bathroom, a kitchen with microwave, and a living room with a TV and Blue-ray Player for streaming Netflix/Hulu etc.
We scored this place about 2 weeks before we got there, as it must have just opened up in availability (because I was scouring the internet for great deals on comfortable places in the area for weeks). The best part was it was only $70 a night for the 4 of us! That was $30 less than the cheap hotel we had booked just in case. This place was easily 10x better than a that hotel would have been, and was a great first experience with Airbnb.
Planning certainly does go a long way!
Saturday: PAX Day 2
By the 2nd day for the expo we were already sleep-deprived and exhausted. Still, we didn't regret going out the night before.
Epic Games sponsored the exhibitor lounge where we were able to pick up some free doughnuts in the mornings for breakfast, and whole sandwich meals during lunch time. We definitely took advantage of the free food! We also had a large shopping bag of snacks we brought each day, to keep us going. Oh, and lozenges. LOTS OF THROAT LOZENGES. This was how we were able to continue to talk with people throughout the entire show. Seriously.
|Before the show floor opened, exhibitors would run around themselves and try out games before the mobs :)|
|"It's so Bad"|
|The Fountain got turned on for day 2, after i found the extension cord that had been misplaced the day before. Hooray!|
|James looks happy|
|Father and Son|
|Playing the PC Demo of XING|
|The line has once again been reformed, and this time, with better arrows marking on the floor!|
|James and John|
|This little guy was 3-D printed from our game, and lived in this pot for the duration of the expo.|
|I think the smiley face made it more friendly :)|
|James and John on Rift Duty|
|The scene of the booth from the direction that people were lined up in|
|Princess Ida from Monument Valley! We are definitely fans of that game :)|
|Speedo and his Dr. Pepper product placement|
|John getting them started|
|We gave out these cards to people who came to the booth, and these ones were laid out in front of the Rift Demos.|
|James' Phone was used for taking credit cards with Square|
|By the 2nd day, people had decided that sitting in line was preferable to standing in line.|
|So far so good!|
|Looks like another Father and Son. They waited almost an hour to play!|
|The PC Demo, sporting the brand new Logitech keyboard that was gifted to us.|
|Speedo had a good time strapping this Red Dead cosplayer in, and took on a character of his own!|
|The Witcher came to play XING!|
|James giving me a funny look while John talks to a group about the game.|
|James and John in the booth|
|People would watch the screens before playing, which is why we had the screen on top of the Dragon table showing the Oculus game play turned diagonally|
|Towards the end of the 2nd day|
|We all got 15 minute breaks here and there during the show :) |
"Stealth is an option"
|Closing up the booth Day 2|
So we did just that.
Since we basically had our own house, we had some fun in the kitchen making burritos and more.
|Check out 'dem beans.|
|John pan frying hamburger while Speedo stares at the can-shaped beans.|
|We finally had some time to enjoy this place, and turned on a few TV shows while we ate.|
|The dining table (not used) and the couch (very much used)|
|James joins in the fun and adds cheese|
Sunday: PAX Day 3
Well rested thanks to our great decision making skills from the night before, we were energized and ready for Day 3!
New Builds on the Show Floor: Unfortunately, when we got there we still had some bugs in the demos that weren't entirely fixed the days before - but rather avoided. There was a graphical problem with our lake demo, and the last two days we had "solved" the issue by telling people to just "go towards the Rainforest" (since there was a split in the path). But it was sometimes difficult to remember if we had said that to each player...
So James whipped out a brand new build with a deleted bridge - and Voila! Sorry, no lake for Rift users :( But no weird graphical bugs either! It was a major bummer to us, but nobody said anything about it. At least people were playing through both the Rainforest and Lake demos on the big screen. It was worth all the time spent on that portion of the lake after all!
|James making a new build (something that happened almost every morning), while our Enforcer Hex tries of the XING Rift demo before the doors open.|
|The lobby from the 4th floor|
|It was still exciting to see that line start to form in the morning each day|
|Speedo talking to one of the Rift players|
|You can look up, down, all around! And people really enjoyed the positional tracking too :)|
|John looks happy about the great reception we were getting all weekend!|
|I gathered our info pamphlets each day and handed them out to people in line. It was the perfect way for them to learn about the game they would be playing! (See pamphlets in the previous post)|
|James fixing the tape on the laminated posters on the front of the table.|
|In the zone|
|We got a line entertainer! This guy helped people pass the time in line by playing a game of "Guess that Pokemon!"|
|We had a bag full of water bottles every day!|
|John in the booth|
|Everyone with freshly passed-out info pamphlets! They seriously work!|
These also helped to guide people in asking questions too.
Another great benefit from the brochures was that quite a few people would come up to the booth and watch for a while without saying a word. We would usually wait a minute, and then one of us would ask "Do you have any questions?", to which most people would say "Yes". However, quite a few would say "No, I'm just looking." That was our cue to point out the info pamphlets on the table in front of them. They all picked them up and read them cover to cover.
Then, many of those people would have questions and we could start a dialogue.
Info Pamplets. Great Stuff.
|A little Princess Peach and Mario playing XING: The Land Beyond.|
|Speedo have a good laugh while resting on the chair.|
|I dropped by the Unreal booth a couple times while on breaks, to say hi to our friends at Epic!|
|You may have noticed that the email sign up stand moved several times during the show. We were playing around the the optimal placement of it almost until the last day.|
|Loki was really enjoying the game.|
|I still need to finish Borderlands 2! :)|
|John and Speedo cheering on the Sword Swallower!|
|Speedo and I belting out "Under Pressure" by Queen. They played some great music|
|John and Speedo taking advantage of the free drinks|
|John and Speedo High Five! We are almost done, but not quite yet...|
It was a great night for us, and we deserved a little fun! We got back to our place around 1am, and fell almost immediately asleep. One day to go!
Monday: PAX Day 4
It was the last day, and we were grateful! Not because we weren't having a great time, but because it was all pretty exhausting. In the morning we set up everything for the last time, as other exhibitors tried out our demos.
|Those pamphlets really did work!|
|James grabbing a bite to eat. I think we all snacked throughout the day to keep our energy levels high.|
|Entering the land of XING!|
|On Monday, the line pretty much started out sitting down. I think everyone was feeling the length of the weekend.|
|James helping secure the Dev Kit 2 onto a player|
|These 2 kids looked all over with the headset. They weren't afraid so spin all the way around!|
|This person ended up asking for our 3 names in Runes, instead of his own.|
|Last photo of the booth in it's glory!|
|Group Selfie before teardown!|
|The Team from the Left: Speedo, John, Koriel and James|
It took us about an hour to pack everything up. We moved the TV 's into the car that was parked under the center first, and one of the enforcers found us this large cart for most of the rest of our cargo.
|James is ready to go|
On our drive back to the house, we took a detour to Taco Bell. After buying the 12 taco pack and a few burrito Supremes, we were ready to relax on the couches. When we got back, the owners of the house had left us these freshly baked cookies and a nice note! We devoured them all.
Then it was time for some sleep. We all remembered that John and Speedo had to be at the airport (about an hour away from our place) at 10am, and then James and I would be driving the 850 miles back to Saratoga, CA.
|The family left us backed cookies! Yum yum!|
Tuesday: The Drive Back
On Tuesday morning we packed up our clothes and personal items into the car, then set off for the airport. We all said goodbye at the terminal, as John and Speedo grabbed their things. Then it was time for the long drive....
It was time to get back to the wizarding world of Harry Potter.
|This was a nice detour we ended up taking to avoid traffic thanks to Google Maps|
|Poor little guy got stuck in my grill :(|
|The open road.|
The thought made me smile as I drifted off to sleep.