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Gamedev isn't just games! A Guide on Advertising
#1
SO YOU ARE a great programmer. A seasoned artist. Unparalleled creativity. This seems like everything needed for a good game development. But actually, there is something missing in the equation.

This is a guide on how to extract the best from your game, and show it to the potential customers. All of the contents here are personal experiences and empirical observation however, so take them with a grain of salt. Without further ado, let's get started!

1. Game Planning

PLANNING a game is a very time consuming task. After all, you have an idea but then you have to put it in motion. Chances are, you're in a group - a person makes music, another person makes art, and the programmer glues everything up to make a nice game. That's usually how things go.

This being said, it's great if everyone knows what the game is about. Your ideas should be clear for everyone - this will make their lives easier! A way to start discussing about the game is writing its key elements. Mario games, for example, could be described as adventurous, platformer, colorful, joyful, simple controls, jump controls... Notice that not only gameplay elements are there, but the words "colorful", "adventurous" and "joyful" figure in the list. This ensures that everyone will know the mood of the game and how it should look to the player.

Also, if you can get ahold of voice chats, do it frequently if you can. Exchanging ideas and communicating is the 1st step to everything, and will avoid a lot of hassle in the long run.

Of course, if you're doing everything yourself, it's still good to keep the key element in your hands! Writing them down will prevent you from straying too far from the main concepts and ideas.

A good site for dev management is Hack n' Plan. It keeps track of all elements in the game and what you did and you need to do. Being organized is not difficult if you are organized from the very start!

2. Asset Making

ONCE you define the key elements in your game, it's time to make the assets! Try setting up a reasonable deadline for everyone to work on - like assets for a single scene, or a single level, it's your call - and work on it. Everyone should work together and exchange ideas together as you work, regardless of the given task. Sometimes the composer can have a good idea for the visual scene, or the programmer may even suggest a type of music. It's always good to be open to suggestions from your team, and they'll feel more engaged to work with you, too.

Remember to always discuss it thoroughly! Only add the ideas if they do enhance the final aspect of the game. Repeat this process a couple times - set deadlines, work and finish them - to build a sense of responsibility and momentum.

A good site for videochats is Google Hangouts. All you need is your google account - once set, you can share your screen display and show your team your progress.

3. Getting Started

AFTER finishing a couple deadlines, it's time to start showing it to people! Check out if you have enough asset items to start a Twitter account: you don't want to start something only to stall because of lack of things to show!

For independent developers, Twitter is a great tool for advertisement. Since it's like a "microblog" where everyone is in, you don't need to attract viewers manually - you just need to use the right #hashtags for a better showcase.

Another good site worth mentioning is IndieDB, a site focused on independent game development. There you can talk about your team, your project and see how well you'll fare as you develop your project.

Consider opening up a devblog too, if you can. Those can be used for more insightful posts regarding development, and gamers love development stories! Twitter only allows 140 characters, which is minuscle depending on what you want to show.

HOWEVER, have in mind that it's better to have NO showcase sites if you are unable to keep them up to date. Keeping your publicity sites up to date and with constant activity is a must for gamedev, and if people see that your site hasn't been updated since last year, they'll think that your project has died and will move on.

If possible, designate a person to do all the Public Relations stuff for you. Dividing the workload will streamline productivity, but make sure the PR-guy knows what the game is about so they can be relevant to the game! He is a dev member, after all.

4. A Blue Bird Told Me...

FOR STARTERS, Twitter is a very handy tool to start your showcase. The huge userbase and the ease of posting makes it very effective - but only that is not enough to get enough momentum. As my team worked on Vier Legend, we noticed that doing some things will boost your awareness ratings more than normal:
  • Spend your time on your account! Don't just create an e-mail, register it at Twitter and call it a day. Most game Twitters personalize the visuals with game art, custom colors and avatar. Those seem unimportant compared to actual programming and assets, but this is what will draw people in. It's important to attract potential gamers by using pretty art - no one likes to follow accounts whose avatar is the default "egg" thumbnail;
  • Define how the posts should look like! Be sure to match the way you post with the feel of the game - a lighthearted game should use simple and quick to understand vocabulary, while a game set on the Middle Ages could use some flourish. This allows people to have an early "taste" of what's to expect from your game! However, you're still posting in a 21st century social media site, so don't go overboard with this. The more people understand your text, the better;
  • Images speak more than words. Especially when you only have 140 characters per post. Use images and movies frequently to showcase parts of your game, your progress at programming and anything that draws attention. Try to keep the images with high enough resolution so it doesn't look like shit, and square images tend to look better and not be cropped by Twitter's algorithm;
  • Pay attention at the time you post. I have noticed that my post activities are higher when I post at lunch time - this is because people are on free time, eating lunch and probably spending time on Twitter. Of course, most of the hits come from USA so pay attention to your time zone;
  • #Hashtags are your main weapon! This is what will propel your posts to stardom!... Maybe. An unwritten rule on how to use them is to never use more than 3 Hashtags at once - Not only this will eat up some of the 140 character limit if you go overboard, but no one really likes seeing Hashtags on posts. The actual post is still important. Some famous Hashtags include, but are not limited to #gamedev, #indiedev and #pixelart (in case you're making pixelart for your games);
  • Participate in seasonal tweets. There are a bunch of "weekly" Hashtags in circulation (in gamedev circles, #ScreenShotSaturday is the most used one). Try using it when the time comes - just try it!
  • Inventing your own tags is ok, but it will serve little to no purpose if no one uses it. Just a heads-up in case you're wondering. If your project is small, using already made tags is more than enough;
  • Be always active. Post at least once per day, but avoid not posting for a long time. People associate activity with project life, so if you don't show it, people will assume your project's been canned. Even if the "update" isn't all that cool in your opinion, post a sneak peek anyway - just enough for people to see you're alive and keep them interested!
  • Speak the truth - always. Don't be a No Man's Sky 2, people like to know the truth. So if you aren't sure if an asset will be used, tell it - and if people ask you things, answer them politely and quickly. Being trusty is extremely important for advertising!

At first those points can be daunting, but as you post more and more, you'll get the hang of it. #Hashtags aren't just for memes after all, they can really make a difference in the long run.

As a bonus, here's a link to Twitter's banner template! Use it to ensure the art will look as hi-def as possible in all devices!

5. The Basics Of Advertisement

NOW YOU KNOW how Twitter works internally, and you'll probably start making your first posts. That's alright! We all start somewhere. Though when you spend a whole lifetime making posts on casual forums with threads like "why did you change your avatar" and "what did you eat today", chances are you never had to sound convincing to someone, at least not to the point of making people you don't even know pay some bucks to you.

Even I, pixelartist, digital artist, musician and designer, didn't have the skills to be very convincing at first. Now this would be a great time to pull one of those "motivational lectures" but I'll do it better by sharing my findings about this field.

5.1 The Concept Of Need

YOUR GAME is completed, greenlit and ready to put on Steam. And you do it, with a couple paragraphs about it attached to it. Now you wait patiently until someone sends you some cash. That's usually how it goes, right? It's a very promising field and because of that, many people try it. Just browse Steam for a while, and see how many developers are there. It's insane!

However, the sheer amount of games also mean that the percentage of shit games are quite high, too. And while you can showcase your assets, trailers and gameplay elements in the text and videos, there is a way to do it even more efficiently: let's talk about "need".

Need is an inherent feeling of mankind and possibly all lifeforms in general. Primitive lifeforms such as bacteriae and plants, for example, seek for optimal conditions for growth and food, and advanced lifeforms like crows and gorillas can be very smart to the point of solving situational problems.

Humans work via need too, but on top of fulfilling our physical needs such as eating and sleeping, we also have to deal with psychological needs. That's to say, when your favorite developer announces a sequel of your favorite game, you'll go nuts over it. You'll want it as if it were essential to your life (protip: it really isn't). And that's what you, as a developer, should aim for.

In order for people to "need" something, they must feel it's essential for life. For example, Coca-Cola ads are never about how the beverage is delicious, even if it is. It always focus on concepts such as family, friendship, happiness and that warmth you get with the people you love. Just give a check on these ads:

[Image: Coca-Cola-open-happiness1.jpg.jpg][Image: coca-cola-just-launched-a-massive-new-ad...drinks.jpg]

"Open a Coke, Open Happiness" and "Taste the Feeling" are powerful one liners that focus on the psychological desire, instead of actual, physical desire of a Coke. This is why it works so well. Once you are aware of this "concept of need", you'll be able to see how other companies also resort to this method.

So, when you talk about your game, try hitting the psychological part of the customers. Talk about how your game is refreshing, or thrilling, or even nostalgic, with use of chiptunes and pixelart. Your game has a reason for existing, so use those reasons as tools!

Check out my newest gamedev project "Stargazer" to see how this strategy translates to gamedev-specific fields! (I think I did a good job on the text myself, but you're free to point out any oddities).

5.2 The Concept of Visuals

WRITING ABOUT your game is already a beast on its own, as seen above. However, more important than words, are images. As I said before, images are more interesting to the eye than plain text, and also will save you from typing a lot on Twitter. This versatility of images make for a very strong and effective tool of advertisement.

And as with any tool, you have to be extra responsible when using it. A hammer in the hand of someone can either be constructive or destructive, depending on their skills and intentions... For this paragraph, I'll assume you already decided on your game's artstyle and sprites, and are now making ad-oriented graphics, such as logos, icons and banners.

LOGOTYPES are small images that represent something. Usually employed in company logos or daily products, a well-placed logo can also have its way on a game. This image can then be used extensively throughout your sites for quick referencing. Some tips on making logos are:
  • Always make them in a square canvas image. This greatly improves the readability and can also be used as avatars in many sites, for example;
  • After finishing your drawing, zoom out a lot. When I make a logo, I try making it work both on 100% zoom and 6% zoom. This is because you'll probably need to shrink the logo on sites and computer icons, and you should make it look good on all sizes;
  • Pay attention to the shapes and what it tries to convey. Do the black and white test: if your logo still looks good in monochrome, chances are the colored version will look great too;
  • This may seem like a joke, but I'm being dead serious. Double, triple, and quadruple-check if your logo doesn't look like a genital. As funny as this sounds, this problem is a very common one for unaware/novice graphic designers and this can ruin your reputation big time. If possible, discuss with your team and even people outside your team to look at your logo.
ADVERTISEMENT one-liners in images are also a quick and great way to add some extra flavoring on a plain image. As seen above, the Coca-Cola logo has one-liners that combine with the image, forming a single entity that is easy to interpret.

Ease of interpretation is a must on advertisements! After all, all ads are an attempt to explain something to the reader, and if you increase the chances of something to be understood, the better it will be for you.

If your game's mood allows for it, be funny and witty, play along and write fun one-liners. However, try discussing with your team if the posts do fit the game or not. In the modern gaming industry era, a single misplaced word can be problematic to the entire project so it's always better to be safe than sorry.

Finally, avoid racist, hateful or controversial themes in your ads at all costs. I mean,

[Image: pubdaikatana.jpg]

not only this doesn't tell anything about the game, I am pretty sure no one likes to be called a bitch this casually. Remember that hate speech on internet is like a cinder over a haystack - fire will spread quickly and you won't be able to contain it.

It actually makes me wonder how the fuck those ads and logos were allowed to exist, but at least they serve as examples of what NOT to do for your game!

6. Branding

BRANDING a game is actually both the easiest and the hardest part of game making. easiest because once you are satisfied with the brand, you can use this same art over and over like a stamp, effortlessly. The hardest part is actually being satisfied with the work. As stated before, you don't want to be hateful, nor base your brand around an accidental penis. But there are some other interesting points before starting.

Try searching your potential game name on Google and Steam Search, for a start. This is to check if the game has chances of standing out, making it easier for people to find your game. If you find a game or a brand that already bears a similar name to what you wanted, or exactly the same name, avoid it, because people will only get unrelated hits instead of your creation.

This also means, avoid a heavily stylized naming either, as Google will ignore it. For example, the arcade game Q*Bert was going to be named @!#?@!. How are you supposed to read it!? Even the asterisk in the final name caused regret to the developer. According to Wikipedia article about the game, "Art director Richard Tracy changed the name to "Q-bert", and the hyphen was later changed to an asterisk. In retrospect, Davis (the designer) expressed regret for the asterisk, because he felt it prevented the name from becoming a common crossword term and it is a wildcard character for search engines."

CREATING a logo for your game should be a cohesive process too. While considering the advices in the past chapter, try representing your game with a simple image, the quintessential part of what your game is supposed to be. Do your game feature hexagonal grids? Try using a hexagon based symbol! Do your game use gravity as a gimmick? Try representing it somehow! Remember that logotypes are most effective when no other logotype is similar to yours.
Spriter Gors】【Bandcamp】【Twitter】【YouTube】【Tumblr】【Portifolio
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#2
Thank you, Gors! Really informative! Genki ^_^
Developer of Super Smash Bros. Feud, and I like to consider myself a pretty decent, approachable guy! I will also call out BS and set you straight if you spread it. Rolleyes

I'm a Pepsiholic since 2010.
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#3
Good morning everyone, I updated the first post with Chapter 4, which focuses on Twitter usage. Ideal if you're wondering on how to take out the best of this lil' nifty social media site.
Spriter Gors】【Bandcamp】【Twitter】【YouTube】【Tumblr】【Portifolio
If you like my C+C, please rate me up. It helps me know I'm helping!
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#4
Dude all of your tutorials are full of detail. I look forward to more whenever you make them.
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Anonymous Wrote:...the world is so much simpler if you just dont give a FUCK...
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#5
Update! Chapter "5. The Basics Of Advertisement" is now done! Have a fun read~♥
Spriter Gors】【Bandcamp】【Twitter】【YouTube】【Tumblr】【Portifolio
If you like my C+C, please rate me up. It helps me know I'm helping!
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Thanked by: puggsoy, Filler
#6
This is a great tutorial, and very helpful (and inspirational!) to aspiring developers. It'd be the bee's knees if we could have more threads like this for the programmers and graphic designers of tomorrow.

Gonna
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if you don't mind
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shoutouts to cutesu for the new av!
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#7
thanks for the pin my friend

I added chapter 5.2 to the post. the thread is getting big big BIG
Spriter Gors】【Bandcamp】【Twitter】【YouTube】【Tumblr】【Portifolio
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#8
This thread is amazing for gamedevs.

One thing I think should be added as that nobody starts big, it takes time for things to become a big name in the indie scene, and showing it off as if it's the hit new thing before planning isn't a good idea at all, as you could possibly lose motivation when you're not getting the attention you wanted while working on it.
I like to make models in my free time. I also make weird games, too.
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#9
Added a sixth chapter dedicated to the basics of branding. This is something people forget to do and i'd say it's the most regretted part.
Spriter Gors】【Bandcamp】【Twitter】【YouTube】【Tumblr】【Portifolio
If you like my C+C, please rate me up. It helps me know I'm helping!
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#10
Glad I'm not the only person who cross-references project names on google (and sometimes character names), just to ensure they don't mean something...uh...unlikable.
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