GZA Expo 2019 Post-Mortem | What We Learned & What We Should Have Learned

Last week we had the privilege to help Sponsor Ground Zero Animation Expo for the second year - An emerging animation expo in Orange County that explores and exploits young artists and industry professionals all under one roof.

As I looked around the room at all of the bright young talent and seasoned artists, I thought to myself - Why are they really here? What is their gain from all of this? And where are they currently at on their creative journey? Whether they’re just beginning or seeking change in their craft/career.

Well, then I had to answer those questions myself. Which brought another monumental question to the table. What SHOULD we learn?

First let’s start with why Edensky Studios was there..

  • Off the get-go, we love supporting our local animation communities in anyway we can. It made sense to spend a little extra to make events like these happen, along with support from a few other Sponsors. We were there to not make a profit, to not “show face” because we felt obligated or pressured by our industry, but it was to meet and discover the talent pool that Southern California has to offer. We had presented a demo of our newest PC game that is in the very early development stages, and honestly it was just a “plus” because we got to see real-time reactions and even constructive feedback on our first potential release. Not to mention we were the only interactive booth there with a PC game. That was cool.

What is the gain from our experience?

  • We showed up solely for the simple fact that we wanted to see what everyone else was creating and also innovating within their industry. Meeting talented artists, new and experienced, was much like investing your time into them as well. Forming potential relationships and partnerships, we value that a lot at Edensky Studios. You never know who you may meet, and what they may contribute to your project(s) one day.

How did our experience reflect where we are currently at on our journey?

  • Let’s just say there is always a new beginning. Last year was our first time ever participating in an expo with a booth. We had displayed our current project, “The Land Below: Legends of Istolia” which was originally intended to be an animated series pitch. We had concept art, an animatic, the works. Little did we know that that project would soon fall short and again, have us start from the beginning on a new project. It just wasn’t on our path at the time, and it still isn’t.

  • We decided it would be in our best interest to create something completely unexpected, and new to us. Something we all love in common, and have some knowledge of - That was PC gaming. It’s really interesting when you have a team with a film/television background, animation, and game development. These worlds are obviously connected, and we saw potential, and fun.

  • Let’s get to the answer - This recent expo experience validated what we had been currently working hard for the past several months. A lot of us took crazy risks to get this far, and it is far from over. We took on a new challenge, received incredible feedback, support, and a new creative direction to tell stories. This was our year.

With this postmortem well underway, we must address what we learned, and what we should have learned..

What We Learned:

  • As a studio, and as a team, we learned connection through the community is vital to not only your success, but the influence you can have on someone’s career and life. Much of the conversations that took place weren’t about the game at all, or even art/animation! It was the artists journey, the “How did you guys do this?” - “Did you go to college?” - “I don’t know where to start” - “How can I struggle less working full-time and focus more energy on my art to make a living?” questions. These are REAL questions from REAL PASSIONATE people. Make no mistake about that, because even as you’re reading this, you’ve felt this too or are right now. We learned we need to make a product that resonates with our users and that ignites a spark of action, not dampen them with mindless, quick n’ cheap content.

What We SHOULD Have Learned:

  • The answer to us, was very simple.. We should have learned to focus less on the game but rather more on the story itself. Dash Hounds (our PC game) is a game about humans thriving in a dog’s world, because after so many centuries of praise for these majestic animals, everything we do now is in their benefit! So it only makes sense to ask attendees/artists about their pets, right? We weren’t even close to that mark, and to be honest, that would have been the most valuable feedback. If you want real results, real stories, you need to ask your potential users about THEIR stories on the subject matter. That is one out of several key ingredients that resonate with users.

Overall, we had an amazing experience at GZA Expo 2019. We learned new teamwork strategies within our studio, openly communicating and connecting among the community, and much more. We are very open to exploring newer opportunities as a studio as research and post-mortem’s are always important to a companies success. We hope to bring more updates to Dash Hounds soon, and thank you for taking the time to read our studios small, but very beneficial postmortem.

Talk soon!

-Gregg Lawson