Alix Stolzer was one of the first game developers to truly embrace the power of livestreaming. She's the feline half of independent studio Robot Loves Kitty (her husband, Calvin Goble, is the android), and she's been using Twitch as a marketing and communication tool since 2013. That year, she organized the inaugural Indie Dev Supershow, a weekend marathon on Twitch highlighting a handful of games trying to score spots on Steam.
Since then, the annual Indie Dev Supershow has garnered roughly 700,000 unique views. This year's show kicks off today at 11 AM EST, and it's poised to add a lot more viewers.
"I'm really happy with the number," Stolzer says. "My goal is to get other devs into the eyes of the public, and it's better than the turnout of a year's worth of expos like PAX and E3. That doesn't mean I'm not trying to grow what we have, though."
This year's Indie Dev Supershow is the largest yet, featuring more than 40 games and their developers over three days. Games include 20XX, Guns of Icarus, Ninja Pizza Girl, Catacomb Kids, Renowned Explorers, Brawlhalla and cake. Like, real cake. Stolzer and friends encourage their audience to enjoy a slice with them at the end of the show (and no, this isn't a lie -- it's a tradition). The live event ends on Sunday, February 28th at 4 PM EST.
One game missing from the lineup is Stolzer's own, Legend of Dungeon: Masters. It's a stylish, pixelated romp that utilizes Twitch in fascinating ways: If someone is streaming the game, viewers can boot up the Masters client and drop items into that streamer's game, live. Some items help, while others most certainly do not.
Stolzer and Goble will play Legend of Dungeon: Masters during the pre-show each day, but it's not on the official lineup and they don't want to draw attention to it.
"I've actually made a point of leaving our own games out of the Supershow," Stolzer says. "This year we'll be playing a bit of our stuff before the Supershow starts and even that feels a bit... dirty? I've always felt that it's a more meaningful show when I do it selflessly."
That's how the Supershow started, after all.
Back in the early days of Steam Greenlight, Valve's new system was incredibly frustrating for many independent developers. It was 2012 and Greenlight was supposed to streamline the submission process: Hordes of independent games were vying for spots on Steam, and Greenlight allowed the community to vote in the games they liked. If a title got enough votes, it would launch on Steam.
Valve accepted Greenlight games in batches at first, launching a handful every month or so. Then, that transformed into nearly 100 games every month. Then, Valve stopped announcing Greenlit games entirely and just started rolling out the titles at the top of the list with no announcements. The system drastically increased the number of games available on Steam, and it heightened competition among independent developers. Everyone was looking for a way to stand out in the crowd.
That's why Stolzer started the Supershow. She wanted to find a fun way of marketing Legend of Dungeon for the Greenlight voting audience. This was back when Valve was accepting just 10 games a month. The Supershow seemed like a perfect solution, and it might have been, had the Greenlight gods not intervened.
"I came up with the idea, but then Legend of Dungeon got greenlit days later," Stolzer says. "I decided to do the Supershow anyhow because it was something I wanted to see, and I thought the idea could help other devs connect with the community."
The Supershow is a huge undertaking and it's only getting bigger. Stolzer estimates she'll have spent about 200 hours planning this year's run.
"The most stressful part of organizing the Supershow is the sheer size of it and the fact that I'm organizing it alone while also trying to make my own games," she says. "I play every game that gets submitted (100-plus) and am in frequent contact with the devs in the show, guest streamers and all kinds of planning things."
However, planning the Supershow isn't the hardest part.
"The most harrowing part is having to inform the devs who I couldn't fit in the show that they aren't in the show," Stolzer says. "It breaks my heart, even though I know curation makes the show better."
Stolzer knows how to run a live event, make a game, live in a tree (yes, really) and how to use streaming to boost her brand. At the core of all these things, Stolzer is driven to have fun and help people at the same time.
"Robot Loves Kitty is one of the studios that jumped into streaming really early on, pretty much as soon as we knew it was possible," she says. "It's definitely affected everything we do. We think of it as a great way to stay in touch with our community and fans."