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  • Joseph Siehl

Production II Blog | RPI GameFest

Introduction:

On April 27, 2019, my team piled into Wes Weitzman's and Chris McCammon's cars at 5:00am to attend RPI GameFest in Albany, New York. The drive took about three hours, during which I spoke with fellow teammates Zach Phillips, Kelly Herstine, and Wes; listened to some fun music; and struggled to stay awake due to my single hour of sleep the night before. Our goal was simple: to reach Albany, show off Snowball Showdown to developers and convention-goers from a variety of different schools and companies, and to compete against said people for acclaim and awards.


All in all, it was a great experience.

The seven teammates who made it to GameFest. From left to right: myself, Kelly Herstine, Chris McCammon, Wes Weitzman, Zach Phillips, Max Blake, and Aiden O'Connor.

 

Setting Up:

We made it to GameFest at around 8:00am, where we pulled into a parking garage in the convention center. We headed upstairs to survey our workspace, and after solving some initial issues with our area placement (which prohibited us from setting up our VR equipment in a satisfactory manner), we began putting our area together for ease of viewing. This was done via two monitors for viewing the game, a couple computer towers to plug our VR headsets into, a keyboard to move the spectator camera and to reset the game as necessary, and, of course, our headsets.

Zach Phillips setting up our space. Note the pair of monitors, the rolled-up poster (which we did not wind up using due to a lack of space), and the cloth over the table, which covered our computer towers.

We faced no major issues during the setup process, especially when compared to some of our classmates, who encountered major problems with either software or hardware. Fortunately, everyone was able to get their game up and running before too long, and we were all prepared when the convention officially opened at 11:00am.

 

Attending GameFest:

Throughout the day, my team members alternated between tending to our booth and exploring the convention area, playing games and chatting with developers as we went along. As mentioned before, these developers came from a variety of schools and companies, including Drexel University, New York University, and - of course - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, as well as several small indie companies. They ranged from normal single-player and multi-player titles to VR games (such as ours), and I even noticed an arcade cabinet among the mix. The developers were also incredibly friendly and excited to show off their games, which made the entire experience enjoyable from start to finish.

A view of the convention center. Note the wide number of computers and the vast length of the hall.

Snowball Showdown received a massive stream of players from start to finish, and there were very few points when nobody was playing. Players also universally enjoyed our game, with children and adults alike getting incredibly invested in the simple mechanics and competitive atmosphere. Other teams' developers also had fun playing Snowball Showdown. In fact, following the award ceremony at 5:30pm, the team that won first place confided in us that they were concerned we would best them hands-down. While we personally believed otherwise (due to a number of bugs and other issues present within Snowball Showdown's then-current iteration), we were nonetheless flattered by this team's kindness.

 

Earning the Award:

During the award ceremony, our team waited with bated breath to find out whether or not we had won any of the awards. We were up against some steep competition, after all, and despite peoples' enjoyment of our game, we were not expecting to win anything major, if at all. As such, it was a great, pleasant surprise when we received the third-place award, effectively marking our game as the judges' third-favorite student game at the event.

The third-place award (right) compared to our Audience Award from the previous Champlain Gamefest (left).

With pride in our hearts, we packed up our set, piled back into Wes' car, and began the long drive home. It was late at night - about 7:00 pm -, and all of us were completely exhausted from the day, but we were satisfied. GameFest ended on a high note, and despite my growing anxiety at a major project I had due by midnight the next day, I fell asleep that night feeling elated and relaxed.


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