Late on in our production process, after the shock and fiasco of our first attempted production run, we took Drop Squad to PAX Unplugged, a gaming convention in Philadelphia aimed at non-video games for the entire community. The convention is under the PAX event umbrella, which hosts a number of gaming conventions around the US and the world. Aside from many panels, speeches, and even live podcast tapings, PAX Unplugged also featured numerous board game championships, which we were excited to see played out.
We arrived in Philadelphia in late, freezing November, and set off into the fairground-like atmosphere of the con. There were board games everywhere – new, old, classic, innovative, and even a section for games that have yet to be published, looking for play testing from hardcore traveling gamers.
We dove into the program with aplomb, attending as many of the talks as we could – about game art, building communities, and representation of underrepresented groups in gaming. We learned so much, and honestly, it felt like we only really scratched the surface of the content available there. We went in not really knowing what to expect, and our minds were well and truly blown by the breadth and depth of experience on offer. The games being demoed and shown off ranged from deep, RPG-style DnD types, to light, kid-friendly card games that finish quickly and involve the whole family in the fun.
The real reason we attended, however, was to get feedback on our own newly minted game, from some of the wisest and most in-touch in the industry. We paraded the game around, from table to table, and eventually we identified a singular problem.
We would take people through the mechanics, and show them how the game played (one of our original stellar samples, luckily, that held together). People invariably would have a great time, trying to run the marbles into the goals and generally getting a little more competitive than they ever anticipated while we set up the board.
But always, some sort of the same conversation would play out: “This is great! What did you say it was called?”
“Pivot 2 Win It!”
“But… you don’t. You PLACE it to win it. In fact, I didn’t pivot at all. Is there a part of the game we didn’t see?”
“No, you saw it all… It’s just that, you know… Pivot… 2 Win It… it kind of rhymes?”
After having this conversation one too many times, we sat down and seriously considered a name change.
Up until this point, Drop Squad had been known as, and fully designed as, “Pivot 2 Win It.” All of our titles, artwork, and even the accompanying app had all been designed as “Pivot 2 Win It.” Although a name change discussion had been going on intermittently throughout production, we had all settled and agreed on “Pivot 2 Win It” for the production of the game. But as luck would have it, we had just had to return to the drawing board to redo production, and the opportunity to change the name was present in a way it probably hadn’t been before.
And so, after a little discussion, we decided the name for the group of characters, “The Drop Squad,” was perfect as a name for our game. We felt it invoked a feeling of belonging, being a team, and working together towards something, which was an important theme for us when developing the game and gameplay. Our team of intrepid escapees had been brought to life – not by our own creative insights, but by the thoughts and opinions of people outside of our group who had had contact with the game. And that, ultimately, is why play testing is SO important – you never know what the reaction and feedback will be until you receive it.