On Game Creation

What’s all this then?

I had a Twitter conversation the other day about game development processes. I’ve been making games, video and otherwise, since I was a kid. I’ve released two into the wild. The first is something I am not proud of so I buried it. The second is in alpha and I feel it’s been well received.

I wrote a list of game creation points. It was an unwieldy list, initially weighing in at 25 items. I chopped that down to eight. This was mostly for my own cathartic purposes. Your opinions and results will vary.

 

Hurl text at my face!

1 – What’s important to you may not be what’s important to the player.
When you create something you will have an emotional connection to it. Oftentimes it will be positive. Don’t let that blind you to its flaws. The way you play may not be the way other people play.

2 – Cut and edit. Go down to the bone.
People have a tendency to think more is better. It’s frequently not. Terseness has merit. Respect the player’s time.

3 – Internal consistency simplifies communication to the player.
If a player thinks “Oh, it should work this way” and it does, everything is good. Otherwise you need to explain yourself.

4 – The value of wasted effort is you can learn not to waste effort.
But learning isn’t applying, so always be aware of what value your efforts produce.

5 – Don’t shy away from criticism or wallow in praise.
Too little ego and you question everything. Too much ego and you question nothing. At either extreme you can’t properly assess anyone.

6 – Don’t despair when comparing your progress to finished works.
You are not seeing the arduous climb up the mountain – you’re just seeing the dance on the peak.

7 – “Build it and they will come” is a statistically unlikely hope at best.
Enthusiasm is infectious. So is boredom. So be enthusiastic about your game when interacting with people.

8 – Time is your most valuable resource. Do not squander it.
How many years will you make games? How long does it take you to make a game? How many game ideas do you have? Choose wisely.

 

In wallpaper format:

On Game Creation
On Game Creation

 

Thank you for reading,
Mister Bums

You can reach me via email or Twitter.

Contacting Press/YouTubers

 

Who are you and what do you want?

I’m Worthless Bums and I make video games. My current project, Steam Marines, launched for alpha sale on 4 September 2013. That’s 10% shameless promotion and 90% context for what this post is about.

I want to get the word out about my game! It’s doing well on sales so far and it’s currently ranked #54 on Greenlight so I’m pretty optimistic about its future. But it’d be pretty sweet if I could get a full court press going of YouTuber Let’s Players adding their two cents in!

Awesome. So what’s the problem?

Sometimes it’s hard to contact you guys and gals.

Wait, what?

There are two main metrics I use to determine if I send people a little snippet about Steam Marines and a key for them to try out:

  • Do they have a history of playing/writing about games like mine?
  • Can I contact them with info and a key?

The first should take more time. I need to look at what you’ve written/recorded and decide if you would even care about my game. If your channel is all Minecraft and Spelunky videos I’m not going to send you anything – it’s not relevant to you and it’d just be spam.

The second should not take a lot of time, but for a lot of people it does.

You’re talking about points of contact, aren’t you?

Yes!

The most straightforward method for me to contact you is email. I fire off something with a catchy subject line, a concise body with relevant information, and a unique key. If it interests you, you’ll follow up by clicking the links and maybe even downloading, installing, and playing my game. If not we’ve both wasted a little time but it’s a fairly frictionless exchange.

A lot of you do not have email listed anywhere. I know because I’ve found some of you on YouTube and you say you love indie games, you do Let’s Plays of games similar to mine but… no email. The YouTube about page is typically empty or has some really outdated self-deprecating comment.

If I really like your content and think you’d be interested in my game I’ll do more legwork. I’ll go to a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a personal website/blog and look for an email or just make contact directly via social media. Sometimes it works out. Very often it does not.

Beyond the fact that I can’t really fire off a unique key over a channel like Facebook or Twitter out of the blue (meaning it requires at least three points of contact – the initial message, your response, and finally sending the relevant information), it’s also a problem if I want to send pre-release information – stuff that I don’t want in the public eye just yet.

Hold up, YouTube has a message system!

Yes, it does. For the YouTubers I thought would be interested, but couldn’t find a better method of contact, I fired off YouTube messages. I don’t think anyone checks those. I can see which keys I’ve sent are active and so far no one has activated a Steam Marines key that was sent in that manner. It could be an issue of my message – maybe it was garbage or they just weren’t interested. However the response rate for the keys I’ve sent via email is much higher than zero percent.

Conversely there are some YouTubers who are extremely conscientious of email – they even email replies and Tweet at me. This is a good thing! I’m much more likely to contact them again just because they made an effort to engage with me, even on the level of “This is an automated response.”

Oh shi-!

It’s not just you.

It’s nearly as bad on more traditional style press where people use the written word to communicate ideas. The best sites have a Contact and Staff page complete with email addresses and, quite frequently, Twitter handles – this is a score.

But most don’t. In fact a lot of them have just Twitter handles and not even for all writers. I’m not just talking people who occasionally submit an article and so aren’t counted as staff. It is a terrible feeling to find that a writer on a site has actually written about your game (perhaps even favorably!) but there is no way to directly contact that person.

The worst ones have nothing. It’s literally a void like those YouTube About pages.

Sometimes there’s a contact form with no other information. This is passable but it would still be a lot more useful to be able to contact writers individually since the gaming world has a lot of genres. If I have to choose between a writer who reviewed Call of Duty and World of Warcraft versus a writer who reviewed XCOM and Space Hulk, I’ll take the second one without hesitation.

Email is outdated, like floppy disks and going inside banks!

I don’t think so, but until you find a better channel for, at a minimum:

  • One-way communication (e.g. doesn’t require followbacks like on Twitter)
  • Private information
  • Widely available
  • People actually check if they received anything

I think we’re stuck with email for the time being.

I’m not saying I can’t contact you via Twitter and Facebook. I’m saying email is a very valuable tool of communication and for many people it’s still a primary method of communication on the Internet.

I DISAGREE AND YOUR FACE LOOKS LIKE A BUTT

Well I’m a small fish, but this is a blog post so you had to have expected personal opinions! Also, Chwerking = twerking for cheeks.

You can contact me at [email protected] or on Twitter 🙂