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Yogscast plays Cannon Brawl!

Pete and I are teaming up with the Yogscast guys to try to get some more eyeballs on our indie game Cannon Brawl. As a tiny team of two, we need all the help we can get in getting the word out about this labor of love that we’ve been working on for the last few years. Our hope is that the YogDiscovery video will help grow the audience for Cannon Brawl, because the more people playing multiplayer the more fun it is for everyone! Pete and I want to be completely transparent that a small portion of each sale of Cannon Brawl will go to support Yogscast for a week after they post about us, in addition to the 10% being donated to charity through our Humble sales.

We hadn’t seen the video they posted in advance, and we wanted it to be an honest reflection about the game. We’re in Beta and Cannon Brawl still has a few rough edges, but all in all Pete and I are really proud of the game we’ve put together. It’s been a lot of long nights, peering through code, photoshop ninja-ing, tuning parameters, and tinkering with the game to make it as solid as possible. We hope the core mechanics shine through and that the Yogscast broadcast will help players who were looking for an artillery based RTS find our little gem!


How to get people to read text in your game

We started doing everything wrong when showing character dialogue and text to players in Cannon Brawl. People would often get confused by something that was explained in text they had skipped or ignored. We didn’t even have that much text in our game!

After a lot of playtesting and studying other games, here’s what I’ve learned about how to get people to read in your game. I hope to this can help you better communicate information to your players. Here we go:


1. First, if you can do it without text through either visuals or voice acting, try that first. Otherwise…


2. Everything must pause in the game when text is on the screen. Sounds obvious, but hey I messed this up the first time. People can only focus on one thing at a time.


3. Try to minimize the amount the player’s eye must move around the screen to process what you’re showing. So, do not put more than 8-10 words on a line. If you have more, drop them on to a second line. You know how the pages of novels are pretty narrow? That’s not only to help you hold the book, but also to help you eye easily move through the text.

To better illustrate this, here’s an example from Banner Saga:



They have very long lines of text. My eye must travel pretty far from the characters faces to the text and pretty far to read the text itself. This makes it slower to read and harder to digest the story.

In contrast, here’s an example from Fire Emblem Awakening:


They have short chunks of text and it’s overlayed on top of who is actually talking. My eye barely has to move and my brain has to do little work to digest the text.

This 8-10 word 2 line rule applies for all text in a game, item descriptions, mission briefing, etc – not just character dialogue.

To further drive this home, subtitled movies have the same issue as games (people must read and look at the visuals) and they too generally follow the 8-10 word rule.


3. Show dialog text one word at a time, revealing the full block shown over about a full second. Revealing it word by word (but quickly) sparks a fraction of a second of intrigue from the player, and makes them more likely to read it. Of course, always allow them to reveal the full block with the press of a button immediately.


4. If you are trying to teach things in text (which we do in Cannon Brawl), color specific important words differently. Comprehension went up in playtests of Cannon Brawl after we started inline coloring words. Zelda games do this a lot, here’s an example from Wind Waker:



And finally, here’s all those rules applied to our game Cannon Brawl:
Hopefully this helps you get text information across to your player more effectively!

New Build Now on Steam (0.9.7) – Highlights Video

We uploaded a new build of the game up on Steam last week. There’s new terrain art that is really awesome, some new buildings, and lots more:

How to Show Your Game at a Conference/Trade Show


When we were selected for the PAX 10 in 2012 with our game Cannon Brawl it was really exciting, but also scary. It was the first conference where we had ever showed the game and the first time we would get to see random people react to the game. I was really nervous, had no idea what I was doing, and wasn’t quite sure how to make the most of the experience.

Now that we’ve shown at PAX a second time, Minecon, and other smaller events, I thought I’d pass on what we’ve learned to you indie developers gearing up for your first trade show.

Below on the left was our first showing at PAX 2012. Just a white table and the game. On the right was our full set from Minecon 2013, including the tablecloth, banner, pins, and special edition tins:

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Set up

  • Pick a good booth position if possible. Think about foot traffic. Try to get a booth that faces out towards a lane of foot traffic, corner booths are often good for this. Or if you’re part of a group, arrange your tables so that your games all face outward. At our first PAX, the tables were set up in rows, which meant games on the inside tables would get terrible foot traffic. We rearranged all the tables into a big U shape. All our backpacks and personal stuff could go in the center, all our games faced out to the crowds.

  • Always bring tape, scissors, and a surge protector. There has never been a show where I didn’t need those for something. Also bring bottled water and snacks!

  • Get some friends to help your demo your game. Pitching your game to people eight hours a day is exhausting and your voice will go out having to shout over the noise (also, bring throat lozenges). Having friends to help will allow you to take breaks to eat, rest, and check out the show.

  • Practice standing. You’ll be on your feet for hours a day. I’m a programmer so this was something I wasn’t used to doing. My legs were killing me after the first day. I now use a standing desk at work which has improved my endurance for trade shows.

Booth Presentation
You have a lot of freedom to dress up your booth. I had never been to a trade show at all before our first PAX, so we just brought our laptops and the game, some business cards and almost nothing else. Here’s some additional ideas:

  • Colored table cloth, we made ours out of a party table cloth (very low cost) and yellow tape. You can use this instead of the standard black table cloth you’ll get at every show.

  • Cloth banner and stand. This isn’t as expensive as I thought and helps people passing by identify your game quickly.

  • Sign up sheet for your email newsletter (set this up if you don’t have it) to help build your fan base. People will sign up!

  • Make flyers with the game name, facebook page, twitter, website, and your email on it. People will take these and if they like your game, it’ll remind them how to follow it’s progress or buy it. At our first PAX we made about 500 flyers and we ran out on the third day.

  • Set up a bowl of candy. It gives people and excuse to wander over and say “hi.” You’ll also get people who just grab some and leave without a word, but it’s still worth it for the overall increased foot traffic.

  • If possible, try and get your monitor elevated above the heads of the people playing. Small crowds will can form around a game and block visibility of other passers-by. At the last show we went to we just put the monitor on a box covered in a black table cloth.

  • If you have a way of selling your game, do it! We sell steam keys and a special edition version that comes in a small tin with some cannon brawl themed magnets (all handcrafted by Cannon Brawl’s artist Theresa Duringer). It feels more meaningful if you can tie something physical to the game key.

  • Make it clear what platform your game is on and when/if it is released and make this signage big and obvious. Cannon Brawl is a PC game, but we demo it with game controllers. Often people mistake it for a console game, and generally have no idea if it’s released yet (it’s been on Steam’s Early Access for months).

Here’s a close up of the special edition tins and the pins the amazing Theresa made:
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During the Show

  • Get a notebook to take feedback notes. Trade shows are great way to see a lot of different people try to learn and play your game. You’ll find lots of changes you’ll want to make and a notebook is essential for remembering them. For trade shows that go on multiple days I always end up updating the build in the evenings with player feedback.

  • There can be a catch-22 where if no one is playing your game (and it’s sitting at the main menu) people are less likely to come up and try it out, thus it stays at the main menu and no one plays it. You can solve this by playing it yourself, and keeping an eye out for people who stop to watch. Ask them if they want to try and get them playing. You can also try to set up an ‘Attract Mode’ where the game will play itself (like arcade games do). We tried both approaches and in our experience the most powerful attractor is for people to see other people having fun.

  • When playing your game, players should get to do all the fun/engaging features themselves, which sounds obvious but applies in a special way to a multiplayer game. Cannon Brawl is a 1v1 competitive game, so we typically teach people to play by having them fight against us in a local multiplayer match. We let whoever we’re playing against always win and set up situations so that they can do something cool. For example I’ll place a building on a cliff, which gives them the opportunity to knock it off, showing the coolness of our destructible terrain. At my first PAX a developer demoed their game with me and showed me their game’s cool features by using them to defeat me. As someone totally unfamiliar with the game, it felt unfair to get crushed by the developer. Even when they catch on that you’re going easy, they’ll still appreciate not being destroyed at a game they’ve just started learning.

  • Engage with people who paused to look. Straight up ask them if they want to try the game or if they have any questions. If you don’t, they will just walk on by and you’ll miss out on potential fans and feedback. It’s very common for people to say “oh no, I don’t have any questions, just watching” and then immediately ask a question and then want to play. This goes double for press folks, watch out for their special badges and make sure to engage them if they come by.

  • Introduce yourself to the other developers showing around you. Have lunch and dinner together!

  • You may have to pitch your game live to press people who want to do on-site video interviews. I was totally unprepared for this, and I’m still bad at it today (you can see my first lackluster performance here at 11:56. They will all generally ask you to “Tell us about your game” and you must sell it to the camera. I’m not sure the optimal strategy here, but my friends say to imagine that you are describing the game to an interested friend. I’m going to try this if I ever end up on camera again. Stay excited, smiley, and keep the conversation going.

Hopefully this will help you make the most of your conferences and trade shows!

Livestreaming Tuesday at 7pm PST

Hey guys, Theresa and I are going to do a weekly livestream every Tuesday.

The first livestream will be this very Tuesday at 7pm PST. We’ll be playing online multiplayer and talking about development, and we welcome everyone to jump in the game and join us. If you’re looking for opponents for multiplayer, this will be the time to play!

Here’s our twitch channel:

Looking forward to seeing everyone this Tuesday!

New Multiplayer Gameplay

We recently hung out at IGN to show them some multiplayer gameplay. Theresa and I duked it out and after a pretty intense battle, she emerged victorious. But I’m demanding a rematch because I had to talk and play at the same time, which is surprisingly difficult! Check out the video here!

This week’s dev update covers some design improvements we’ve made over the free alpha (which you can download here). We’ve made the demolisher more effective, tuned early game economy curves, and improved explosions!

I’m still doing some AI shield placement and cannon target selection improvements, as well as more tests to determine what’s the next step in making the AI an even more challenging opponent.

We also recently got online multiplayer functional and we’re doing lots of test battles now, making sure the ranked matchmaking works, and fixing any issues we find. Really excited to get you guys battling each other soon!

Hope you enjoyed this dev update!

Let me know what you think, and don’t forget to vote yes on Greenlight!

Dev Update – Laser Targeting and Insane Difficulty Mode

We got a bunch of requests from players who tried our free alpha (which you can download here) for improved AI and an insane difficulty mode. I’ve been improving it for the final game and made this short video to show off the AI’s improved laser targeting and the start of our new Insane difficult mode:


I’m still doing some AI shield placement and cannon target selection improvements, as well as more tests to determine what’s the next step in making the AI an even more challenging opponent.

Of course, the most challenging opponents are always going to be humans, and I’m excited to announce work has begun on online multiplayer and it’s looking pretty good! 

Hope you enjoyed this dev update!

Let me know what you think, and don’t forget to vote yes on Greenlight!


Cannon Brawl Gamespot Stream

Gamespot’s Maxwell McGee sat down with us to check out the latest gameplay in Cannon Brawl.





Check out the video on GameSpot!  (Skip to 7:25 to get to the action)


Dev Update – AI Improvements



When we released our free alpha demo, which you can download here, we got a lot of feedback! One of the most common requests was a more challenging AI. So, I’ve been working on improving it for the final game and made this short video to explain what I’ve been up to:


I’m still working on adding an Insane difficulty mode, and doing some more improvements in how the AI places shields and chooses cannon angles, as well as improving his behavior when operating the other weapons and defenses. For the final game, he should be a much tougher opponent!

Hope you enjoyed this dev update!
Let me know what you think, and don’t forget to vote yes on Greenlight!

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