Not your trailer, I don’t hate your trailer. I’m sure your trailer is lovely.
But fucking hell, let’s talk about indie game trailers, shall we? Trailers exist to show people who have been kind enough to click what your game is like to play, in the hopes that they will give their money to you.
Now look, things have changed. Have you SEEN how many games there are right now? There are – and this is a scientific term – a bollockton.
SO WHY DO ALL INDIE GAME TRAILERS LOOK LIKE THIS:
> 20-30 seconds of Logos for… whoever, I don’t care.
> A minute of moody ambience, with some bullshit floaty dramatic text on top telling me your “plot”
> Some concept art, scrolling gracefully across the screen
> 5 seconds of indiscernibly fast-cut gameplay montage
> End slate jammed with logos and text (I will not get this far)
I get it. There’s a format. You’re trying to make your game have that same vibe as movies or other games. There are tropes you feel you need to adhere to.
But be honest, when you click a trailer, you probably skip the first 20 seconds by default these days, don’t you? I know I do. No one cares who fucking made the game! We all just want to see what it is like to play. What. Does. The. Game. Actually. Play. Like. That’s all I care about.
Now, this has been annoying me for some time. So when it came time to cut the announcement trailer for Lair of the Clockwork God I was aware of two problems: 1/ how to get across how the genre-flipping mechanic works, 2/ I fucking hate that indie game trailer format
Fortunately, the solution was simple: there’s a long section in the tutorial that shows everything off really nicely. So making the trailer became about making that one section pretty, and just playing it through a bazillion times until I did it without fucking up a jump. The trailer’s FOUR MINUTES LONG which any grown-up or marketing professional will tell you is too long, and they’re probably right, but it was what I needed to show off that full section.
I don’t necessarily feel like the Clockwork God trailer was 100% the right approach in hindsight, but hey, at least it’s a bit different. It opens directly into gameplay, and how many trailers do that? Besides, judging by the YouTube Analytics thingy, it’s got a much MUCH higher retention rate than my other games’ fast-cut 1-minute-long trailers.
Obviously this way of doing things won’t necessarily work for any other games, but have a good hard think about the “format” for your game trailer because if it’s the same as everyone else’s I fucking hate it and I suspect a lot of other people do too.
You don’t have people’s eyeballs for very long these days. It can’t hurt things to get straight to the point.Dan and Ben Adventures, News, Stupid Idiot Comments Off
It’s been a busy few days down at #Rezzed2019, where Ben and I were delighted to announce a brand-new, standalone installment in the Dan and Ben Adventure series.
Lair of the Clockwork God sees Ben resolutely sticking to his point-‘n-click lifestyle, while Dan has decided there’s no money to be made in Adventure Games, and he’s going to be an indie darling platformer instead.
Switching between the two, you’re going to need to use their unique skills to teach an old computer what it means to be human, and in doing so prevent All the Apocalypses from happening.
My life is dictated-to by algorithms now. If you like the look of the game please please take a second to wishlist it on Steam. I’m super-keen for this to be a huge success.Dan and Ben Adventures, Development, News, Stupid Idiot Comments Off
KICKMEN IS OUT
Please buy a copy. Buy two? Review it on Steam if you like it, that’d be brilliant.
OKAY that’s the promo, here’s some meat:
Deciding what to charge for games is hard. I’m on record at being anti “race to the bottom” prices and I really am, and yet Kickmen is cheap. Very cheap. Which makes me a dirty hypocrite. When I asked Beta Testers what I should charge, they said £10-15, and a follow-up Twitter poll suggested £5-10. So why only £2.79?
“It must be rubbish” was one Twitter user’s line of reasoning but the reality is actually pretty simple: I knew all along that Kickmen as a concept is a very tough sell. The target market is people who don’t like football, they’re the ones who are going to get the most out of it. So it needs to be cheap enough to appeal to people who despise football games but are willing to purchase a football game, and that Venn Diagram leaves me with a very thin sliver of “potential customers”.
I read a thing recently. Quite an interesting article about ‘how to survive as a solo dev’, but it was written by someone who was releasing their first game (presumably as ‘marketing’) and “haaaaaaang on”, I thought. Yes that’s impressive well done but it’s not exactly advice from someone who has been doing it for a decade and WAIT WAIT WAIT I’ve been doing it for a decade! I wonder what MY advice is to survive as a Solo Dev beyond one or two games.
> Work from home:
I find it astonishing that startup indie devs pay out for an office, with all the extra bills that entails. Work from home, keep your overheads as close to zero as possible. Very rarely have I needed to be in the same room as an artist/ composer/ coder to get the job done.
> Know your Limits:
Yes you want to make a swishy 3D game about spaceships in outer space but maybe make a dirt-simple 2D adventure game with clunky graphics first? See how that goes? Build your way up to it through a series of games rather than lumbering in without really knowing what you’re doing.
> Don’t spend any money:
Do as much as you can yourself. If you can’t afford it, don’t pay someone to make assets that you could do yourself. What’s more, do you really need to hire a full time coder? Or can you just hire a freelancer for a month? If you don’t have money, make the sound effects yourself.
> If you do spend money, don’t spend it on nonsense bullshit:
If you’ve got £1000 to spend, look at it as money to spend it on a composer or an artist, or someone to do a job you can’t. Something that’ll enhance the game. Don’t spend it on printing out a big poster and a booth at a show, and a billion postcards and trinkets to give away. Yes, you’ll get lovely 1:1 time with players but if you want feedback on your game it’s the least-efficient way of going about it. Yes, you might get a thousand people playing your game, but you can get ten times that online for free. Think about where your money’s going. It’s probably better going on a decent launch trailer.
> Actually do some work:
Sit down and do some fucking work. Don’t go for a coffee, that’s not work and you know that’s not work, no you’re not ‘working from the cafe’ stop lying to yourself. Get up, get on and do some fucking work.
> Invest in Yourself:
When your game sells and makes some money, treat it in terms of how many years you’ve got until you’d have to get a ‘proper job’, and tone your next game to suit that budget. Say Game1 brings in £40,000: with rent and beer and socks that’s probably two years’ salary, even if it doesn’t continue to bring in money over the course of those two years. Assume the worst, assume that’s it and make the next game something you can get done within about a year and a half, don’t suddenly decide you can make a 3D space game because in 4 years’ time Game1 will still be bringing in money. Be pessimistic.
> GDC is a big fucking jolly:
And Develop. And all those things. You know it, it’s a big piss-up jolly fun time and it’s not really benefiting your project beyond ‘inspiration’ and maaaaybe some facetime with some journos. Absolutely brilliant to go if you can afford it, and do definitely go if you can, but don’t spend £2000 flying to GDC under the proviso of it being ‘good for business’ because it isn’t, it’s good for blowing off steam and having a jolly. Could that £2000 be better spent on a composer or an artist? Spend it on a composer or an artist, then. GDC-and-the-like are for when you have money.
> Have a proper job if you need one:
I’d released three games before I went ‘full time’, and my 4th was just about ready to launch. The first games were made in my spare time while my Real Job paid for my food and rent, because honestly fuck starving yourself, fuck living on beans and worrying about rent. Go Full Indie when you can afford to Go Full Indie, and not before. The thing here is your game will suffer. You’ll launch it early before it’s well-rounded and polished, and you’re doing yourself no favours and sales will suffer. Take your time and get a proper job if you need to.
> Be there at the beginning:
2006 was a rough time for selling indie games because (get this) people baulked at the very idea of buying games ‘digitally’ they all insisted on a box. It’s true. Getting on Steam was near impossible, to boot. But, it was easier to make a name for yourself so if possible be an indie dev in 2006 and ride that wave into the future, and be aware when writing smug list articles to acknowledge where you’re actually just fucking lucky.
> End articles with dirty promotional material, just in case it reaches the front page on Reddit or Twitter or whatever:
I mean, you never know, do you?
Hmmm there’s probably more. I’ll add to the list if I think of anything but the takeaway is this: don’t be a fucking idiot, be sensible.Posted in News Comments Off
I think one of the things I’ve learned from making Kickmen is to let other people have a go earlier on in the process. In-development games are dreadful for so long it’s difficult to let other people see what you’re doing in case they judge you too harshly and think you’re rubbish at making games. And I mean in-development games are bad bad bad: things don’t work, stuff isn’t implemented yet, so you can see why it’s difficult to let others in, but the result is you get so blinkered with your vision you can’t see where you’re making mistakes.
The ‘Beta’ version I put out for Kickmen was a bit iffy, but I got some great feedback and spent a week tinkering. Tinkering is the best bit of video game development – you don’t really have to create anything new per se, you’re just pushing pixels around, cleaning things up, and addressing problems.
So for the last week, Kickmen has been thoroughly scrubbed up. It’s the same game at its core, but these additions have done gone so far towards making it a rounded experience.
FEVER MODE - the game now employs a system whereby showing off cons money out of your fans. When you do ‘fancy shit’ the Fever Meter goes up and projected earnings rise – do a Goal and that cash is Banked and you can spend it upgrading your squad. Spending cash massively improves the Squad Management side, it helps it feel more tangiable, and also means even if you’re winning by a comfortable margin (17-0 for example) there’s still worth in playing because you can be pulling off cool passes to earn Fever.
GRAPHICS TUNE-UP – I’ve added some funky menu effects and new particles, that kind of thing, which helps give the game some extra sheen, but the main thing is Player Animations. Before, going overboard with animations felt a little pointless. Kickmen is so fast that you’d never really see a Kicking animation, but a little bounce here and there and some ‘tackle charging’ animations has really helped bring out the best in the controls, and added a lot of personality to the game.
GAMEPLAY TUNE-UP – This is the main bit. There have been a few interesting changes, notably to the AI and the goldkeepers – it’s now much harder to score (thanks in part to a smaller goalmouth) which I think ups the tension and satisfaction from scoring a lot. The other main change is a significant nerfing of player speed when you’re in control of the ball – you can now barely move and it adds so much to the game – you need to be thinking about kicking it or passing it away, you can’t really just jog up the pitch. Some people will hate that, but I think it really helps keep the pace of the game in check.
The game now also features a robust auto-levelling system, so if you’re playing against a team and utterly thrashing them, they’ll start to focus their skills and put up a bit more of a challenge. It’s reactive, so you’ll probably still win (because otherwise it’d be annoying) but it just means there’s games have less of a tendency to devolve into boring walkovers.
What’s next? Well, one of the more consistent bits of feedback was that people love the goofy Story Mode stuff, so I’ve asked Michael to bash out some more characters for me so I can take that in some new weird and wonderful directions. Once that’s done, I’ll open the Beta out again and get some more feedback, and do this whole process again.
It’s not ‘there’ yet, it’s increasingly a ‘good game’ and certainly not the embarrassing disaster it was a couple of months ago, so I guess the sensible thing to do it to keep sitting on it, keep tweaking, keep listening to feedback until it’s better than Sensible Soccer and people don’t laugh at me for making it.Posted in Behold The Kickmen, Development, HELP, News, Shilling, Stupid Idiot Comments Off
One of the things I’ve been thinking about making is a sort-of follow-up to The Swindle. Not a sequel, just the same concept done… differently. In order to differentiate it as not-a-sequel it needed a different art style, time period and vibe entirely, so I’ve been working with the exceptionally-talented Gareth Davies to put together some concept art for how a project might look.
Anyway, they’re rough mood pieces to sort of get a handle on how a hard sci-fi take on The Swindle‘s ‘break into buildings’ mechanic might work.
I’m not definitely making it, everything’s up in the air at the moment, but they came out so brilliantly I couldn’t just sit on them so thought I’d share. Enjoy, and do please let me know what you think!Development, News, The Swindle Comments Off
You’re probably wondering what’s happened to Kickmen. It was a silly little game that was supposed to be ‘done’ in a month and is now, what, where is it, even?
Well, people liked the look of it so I had to put effort into making it. It’s not quite there yet, and I’d rather it was there than release it and everyone just goes “yeah, this is fine” and ignores it. Wouldn’t it be better if it were a GREAT game? I took some time away from it, in the hopes I’d come back and go “OF COURSE! It needs a [$MysteryElement_X]!” but that didn’t happen.
So what’s wrong with it, exactly? Well… nothing. It’s fine. It’s just not set-the-world-alight brilliant. Part of that is because it’s a football game and as such boooooring but part of that is definitely that the core game needs a rethink and some more stuff piled onto it.
It’s with some selected Beta Testers right now – feedback so far is positive, it’s a better game than I thought it was, but it’s definitely missing something but no one can really nail what. It just needs more. More special moves, maybe? More team building RPG stuff? More Story? Who knows.
This is, of course, all very much against the idea of making a simple little football game, but there you go.
The plan is to keep adding to it, keep tweaking, keep bolstering it up over time, but it’s basically relegated to Side Project while feedback is chewed over and I work on something financially viable because – and this will stun you rigid – I need to keep the company afloat. There’s no need to hurry on this, I think that’s the point. There’s no big rush.
So there you have it: it’s being tested, it’s being worked on, it’s not ready for you yet.Posted in Behold The Kickmen, Development, HELP, Stupid Idiot Comments Off
Jesus Christ I can’t believe I’m still making this damned game. It started as a fun little diversion and then people liked the look of it and had expectations and eugh pressure.
The end’s in sight, though. The game’s been through a few testers, who all went “yep, it’s a football sort of game. It’s fine, here’s what I liked and didn’t like” so I’ve popped through and addressed the concerns I agree with.
I’ve spent a lot of time getting the core gameplay polished up and feeling nice, and I think that’s there now; it’s moved away from single-button retro Sensi style to something a bit more complex. The reason is because it all felt very ‘surface level’ with a single button doing everything, like there was no skill behind what you were doing.
I reasoned that any game of skill, like football, is actually centred around its players making mistakes, and adding more moves and more complex controls to that made sense: the ability to fluff a tackle by pressing the wrong button, or pausing for a beat to remember what button is Dash adds so much texture to the core gameplay. Added to that are the new Sprint moves and Lob ability, meaning there’s plenty of options at every turn. Plenty of ways to do something wrong, or to do something brilliant and satisfying.
I mention this because people will hate it. The liberating thing about making a football game is I don’t reeeeeally care.
The last thing I need to do is the Story Mode, which sees you progressing through the ranks of the British Football League to win the World Cup. Enemy teams are now generating nicely (in an organic, random, Roguelike way), and the Story stuff is in-and-working but hasn’t been written yet. I’m looking forward to that. The big headache is how I’ll handle the Player’s team stat progression… something I’m leaving till last because it’s a nightmare to get right (I want the player to have agency over decisions, but the core game doesn’t really lend itself to in-depth squad management… so we’ll see how that all comes out in the wash).
Anyway: I’m considering Early Access to get it ‘right’, but hesitant to extend development indefinitely. Whatever happens hopefully it’ll be at least ostensibly done by the end of the summer. So sorry this is dragging on, I didn’t expect it to either but there you go.Posted in Behold The Kickmen, Development, Stupid Idiot Comments Off