It feels like yesterday when 2024 started, but it’s already May, much like May Green. Today, I would like to share our news about the SPB x KAIST HAJE event that took place in Daejeon, Korea.

HAJE, a game production club in KAIST, Korea

< Source: KAIST HAJE >

'HAJE' is a game production club in KAIST(Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), one of the top universities of Science and Technology in Korea, where enthusiastic gamers come together to play a variety of games and focus on research to develop more engaging games. Even on the day I visited, before the event began, members of the club were gathering and holding a brief session on game production. The club room was as fascinating as it looked. It had several high-end computers that were capable of running the latest games, and a large TV and a huge blackboard connected to various consoles such as PS5, NS, and Xbox One were also noticeable. The bookshelf was full of board games that were considered masterpieces, and as time passed, the ones bought by seniors and left behind piled up, making space scarce. As a result, only the most excellent games remained! It was amazing and impressive to see university students studying games in such a space.

How South Pole Bebop met HAJE

South Pole Bebop (SPB) is set to be released this year, and its development and marketing are being accelerated. In order to find a target audience both domestically and internationally, a grand adventure has begun. The first step was to identify who among the Sentience teammates enjoyed SPB the most, and as a result, Sentience's captain Hyeyon and her husband were selected. Both of them are from KAIST, and it was thought that hearing stories from students with the same background might help in finding the target audience. Although it may seem like a one-dimensional and bizarre idea, there is no reason why it can't be done. Therefore, a search for a group within KAIST that could be interested in games was started, and through that connection, HAJE was met.

Initially, we discussed asking HAJE to "test the game," but we realized that approach wouldn't work for the event we were planning. “Testing” seemed more like a formal evaluation setting rather than a place for fun play. So, we decided to take a more natural approach, with the concept of HAJE enjoying a chicken and beer party playing SPB for fun. Luckily, the current HAJE Club president agreed to participate, and we scheduled the event for the day when the most students could attend. To ensure the event runs smoothly, we applied a temporary Korean patch to the game, which currently only has an English version.

We’ve Found the Right Place: How HAJE Plays SPB

The event started by allowing each player to get familiar with the game by playing against an AI bot. Although the game is a demo and there is still room for improvement, witnessing everyone quickly learn the rules made me feel satisfied that I had come to the right place. They continued to practice by asking questions about the game system from time to time, and then the full-scale PvP tournament began.

The game version used that day was adjusted to allow the use of all three additional characters and upgrades that cannot be experienced in the demo version uploaded to Steam. This version was used for in-house testing and has also been used in Sentience's own gaming leagues. Through internal competitions and tests, I already knew what strategies were strong, but I did not explain them. The game's balance will be revised even before release, and building their own deck and fighting strategically is the real appeal of South Pole Bebop.

While playing the game, members of the HAJE discussed which upgrades were strong and weak, and continued the game by sharing the information they found out with their opponents without hesitation. Just watching this made me feel rewarded for coming all the way to Daejeon. Due to limited time, we were not able to determine the final winner of the day's tournament, but small prizes were awarded to the participants who advanced to the semifinals.

How We Asked Reviews from HAJE: Referred to Steam System

After the PvP session, we decided to prepare a simple evaluation survey to gather feedback from the players. To ensure consistency, we followed the game review system of Steam, which uses a straightforward approach to collecting user ratings. Users are simply asked, "Do you recommend this game?", to which they can respond with a Yes or No. The platform then collects additional feedback about what users liked or disliked and whether they would recommend the game to others. This feedback is then used to generate an evaluation such as 'very positive' or 'mixed'. Since these evaluations are critical in helping Steam users make informed game purchase decisions, we decided to use a similar approach in our survey. We asked HAJE members to evaluate our game using the similar questions, so we could gather valuable feedback and insights.

< Source: Steam evaluation page >

Prior to beginning the evaluation, I made it clear to the Haje members that the evaluation should not be based on friendliness or kindness. It should be an honest evaluation that can predict how actual buyers would react. We don't want to hear answers filled with praise; instead, we want to see how the users who are our target audience would evaluate the game on Steam. I asked them to honestly answer the question, "If you found this game on Steam, how would you rate it?" After handing over the questionnaire, I said my final goodbyes and left  to avoid influencing the evaluation.

SPB Evaluation Summary: A Unique Brain-Powered Strategy Game

Upon compiling the evaluations sent by HAJE, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, which made me feel a bit embarrassed. While this shows that we have successfully targeted our audience, we are aware that the market's reaction will likely be more critical. As a gamer myself, I anticipate that there will be more criticism than praise for the current build. Despite this, I couldn't help but be intrigued by the reviews from HAJE. Our game's focus on brain fighting generated interesting feedback such as "A game where you play without using brain and end up getting beat up" as well as positive reviews such as "It was fun to predict the number of moves ahead like Gomok," and "It's a unique and therefore more attractive strategy game." Some reviewers also pointed out areas that needed improvement, such as the tutorial and motivation for repeated play. I was incredibly impressed by all of the comments, and we will work hard to incorporate the feedback into creating a better game for Early Access.

We are excited to announce that we will be organizing more offline and online global events following the success of our recent 'SPB x KAIST HAJE' event. In order to express our gratitude to those who participate in our events, we are planning to create a 'SPB Hall of Fame'! Additionally, we are pleased to let you know that we will be participating in 'Indie Arcade' corner at 2024 PlayX4 held at KINTEX, Korea at the end of May. We look forward to your continued interest and support. Thank you and see you soon at PlayX4.