Great - I was not aware of this but now will go through my projects one by one and add the relevant tags.
Recent community posts
The game development process relating to 'Miniature Multiverse' is taking longer than I'd hoped, for a litany of reasons.
I had hoped the Halloween stock media sale would generate more sales volume than it did, and though the handful of sales which did occur were greatly appreciated, they will not be sufficient to improve rate of development meaningfully on 'Miniature Multiverse' and in effect served to slow down production; the bonus pack and release on Itch.IO consumed a fair number of hours and sales amounted to below $0.50 per hour allocated to this side venture. I would be further along on Miniature Multiverse now if the stock media had been shelved and I'd instead done more transcription, since that at least earns me around $2/hr in practice.
I had also hoped some of the interactions and other tasks would be possible to finish more quickly, but that too is all going slower than I'd thought it would, and taking more hours in general. Even the bonus pack, while it's a cool concept, is going to involve some amount of time itself, and will effectively push back release of the complete game by a few days.
There are also issues with children underfoot [I'm an uncle of three toddlers and they're here at this house often] and that's an enormously adorable time sink and distraction that can be exhausting in itself. Thanksgiving and Christmas also will cause delays; due to family in town.
So while I had aimed for a release of the extras pack on November 12, 2018, and the full game on December 18th, 2018, I am now forced to push back both dates. The extras pack is now aiming for release on November 20th, 2018 [though possibly a bit sooner] and the full game probably January 10th-15th, 2019.
I wish this were not the case, but here we are, and I don't want to release a bug-ridden product.
This will be 'done when it's done' people. :/
My stock media collection contains 1000+ texture image files and 100+ video elements, all royalty-free, within a downloadable package that's the focus of a 30% off launch sale for the first 72 hours after release. Normal price is $3.99 and it's reduced to $2.79 during the sale.
I'm hopeful this will make a few sales early on to help me cover some remaining costs related to wrapping up some indie games I'm trying to complete.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this. I hope you find the contents of this collection useful.
Things usually go viral because they generate a strong reaction that provokes social sharing.
Often that is some sort of novelty/awe, laughter or anger/urgency.
People share things that amaze them or that are unique, beautiful or otherwise exceptional in quality. Personally I am a visual artist first & foremost so I try to draw attention with outstanding graphics and artwork, as I get the sense that's my best shot at standing out here.
But if you make people genuinely laugh with something hilarious that can work too.
And a lot of times when people are shocked or angry about something that is happening or about to happen, they'll tell others and mobilize against it, even when the thing that upset them in the first place turns out to be a total fabrication (i.e. phony clickbait political news stories spreading on Facebook)
Some other thoughts:
-- incentives. If there's an upside to sharing, then people will more likely share. (I.e. a discount for those who post about a game on social media).
-- time limits. People might buy, and spread the word, if a really good sale is available, and is not going to last long. I'm going with a discounted early access [just one dollar] and will keep the pricing as low as I can justify even after my game's fully finished, because I am hoping it'll provoke impulse buys and that the larger volume of sales will compensate for the small amount earned per sale.
-- low barriers to entry. That is, if the game's playable for very cheap or better yet, free it will be easier to access and more likely to spread. This is why 'freemium' and ad-supported games have become a common thing; they can be downloaded without spending any money. Of course, such game experiences are generally pretty flawed and low quality, but they tend to spread anyway. A limited but still fun and playable freeware game demo, though, can also potentially be an effective way to offer a tantalizing freebie without compromising the full game with broken freemium game mechanics. I am likely to release some small portion of my project 'Miniature Multiverse' for free at some point, in keeping with this concept.
Virality is not very predictable. Orchestrated, costly promotional campaigns, however, are [relatively] predictable.
You can do a lot right and still not get much attention simply because the indie game scene is so crowded... and big studios will likely drown your work out. Your odds are actually better if there's some traditional promotion in the mix to get the ball rolling. Posting on relevant gaming forums helps, and leveraging all your various social networks. You can also identify people you follow on social platforms who are popular and message them with information about your game. You can even give them a free copy of the game, or an exclusive bit of media [in advance of the game's release] that nobody's seen before, that they can post... it benefits them because they feel and look like they have an 'inside scoop' on your project, and you may benefit from the exposure. Paid advertising can also work but only if it's lean enough [well targeted, low cost per acquired customer] to be effective in generating more revenue than it costs.
I HATE when people ask if I'm going to make the next Angry Birds. I do not have a million dollar online ad campaign backing my launch like Rovio did. People think that game 'went viral' and to some degree it did. But really it became a phenomenon mainly due to a strong promotional campaign right out of the gate and good timing early on in the life of iOS when fewer than 100k apps existed on the platform. It was not indie, and it demonstrates how effectively big ad campaigns at launch can propel a game into a widespread hit. It also demonstrates how if you can force your way into some top 10 or top 20 list, like 'most downloaded'/'most popular'/'best selling' you can multiply the exposure generated by your ad campaign and make vast sums regardless of your game's real merit, if you have a studio with enough cash to make that happen.
That's about as much as I can think of about virality at the moment. If anyone else has suggestions I missed, feel free to add them to this thread.
Good advice, everyone. Thank you. I agree with pretty much everything you've all said. Well-written, error-free promotional text telling people what the game is and what the experience of playing it offers them, good visuals also are extremely helpful in drawing attention, especially visuals that move [GIFs, video]. I know Itch.IO lets you use GIFs, as a main game image, I am doing that for my new project and that's great because you can generally show a bit more actual gameplay, content in the game, more than you can with a still image.
As for things 'blowing up' that usually happens only when the game project is exceptional in some way [innovative or unusual game mechanics, a surprising/clever concept, an amazing storyline, really genuinely funny humor or just really stunning artistry/creativity in other ways] or has a head start due to intentional large scale promotion. Though there may be some exceptions, and some things might gain notoriety due to their sheer idiocy, usually I like to think that things take off due to actual merit and effort on the part of the developers. Sometimes, though, it's just a matter of having money and a big ad campaign, as much as I hate to acknowledge that.
I've always despised it when people ask if I could someday 'make the next Angry Birds'. Okay, reality check, Rovio had made dozens of games leading up to that, and they launched it initially with a sustained promotional campaign of close to a million dollars. I could make a game like that, I imagine, given enough time and effort, but A: that's not the sort of game I want to make and B: If I made something akin to it, most likely nobody would notice due to lack of promotion. Notice how the Myst devs [Cyan] launched a cheesy minigame 'Bug Chucker' which combined an 'Angry Birds' launching mechanic with variable circular gravity sources, but nobody in the broader public really noticed it, they only noticed AFTER the idea was grabbed, modified, and heavily marketed by Rovio as 'Angry Birds: Space'. There are actually many, many other examples of indie mobile titles getting ripped off [often by Rovio or Zynga or similar] and remade just different enough to avoid copyright violation, but basically stolen and relaunched with a giant marketing push so everyone knows the ripoff but nobody's aware of the original indie or small-studio title. If the indie dev is lucky, they get hired by the studio that wants to exploit their idea, instead of just having their ideas stolen from them. [like how Kim Swift got hired to expand the prototype 'narbuncular drop' into 'Portal'.]
So yeah, I just want to remind everyone that the business side of things often wins out over real imagination - and often indie devs will languish in obscurity as their ideas get co-opted. The worst part? I - like many indies - cannot realistically copyright/trademark all of my own work because the range of my work is too **** extensive, there are too many different projects. I can prove I made it all, sure, beyond any reasonable doubt, because I have all the raw unprocessed files, even miniatures and physical assets and designs written or drawn on paper, but the cost of litigation in court simply isn't worth it, it'd bankrupt me on my $150-200/month total development budget that I'm raising by doing sub-minimum-wage transcription and similar gigs. [I really appreciate the fact that places like Mturk exist so I can make $4-6/hr reliably. Because if they weren't there... I'd be making absolutely nothing at all.]. So yeah - I'm working about 8 hours a day on freelance gigs, made to order artworks for customers on eBay, stuff like that, and 8-9 hours on my own projects. I'd rather just let my work sometimes get stolen, or pirated, at least then somebody sees it. So that is kind of the reality for me. I imagine the same applies to many other shoestring-budget indies. As an indie, you just kind of have to accept your work that you put hundreds or thousands of hours into, will be exploited and someone else will make money off of your labor. It's not fair, but it's how things are. You have to believe in your idea, be so determined to see it become a realized thing, believe in what you're trying to create for its own sake and for the people who'll enjoy seeing it finished. But don't expect to make much money, maybe none at all, as an indie dev. It's almost 100% certain that a profitable project won't happen. You need a fallback to fund your indie dev work BTW because you'll only lose money developing indie games. And if it's about the money and not the love of the work it'll fail. Just make the best work you can, and accept beforehand that it won't take off and that it'll be stolen and a lot of people will hate it and trash you and troll you for no good reason. And do it anyway. Because if you don't realize your vision through your own sacrifice, it won't happen. And it absolutely MUST happen because the projects you're doing, they're an obsession, you cannot live with yourself not having them happen. That is key I think, it's the attitude any indie dev needs to have to keep going.
You've just got to be so focused, so determined to complete the work with no pay, only expenses and loss, no gain except for the fact that the work is done, that it borders on insanity. You need to be crazy to be an indie game dev. It's the only way you can sustain it IMO.
Depends on what you are trying to do with your project. The demoscene has made some amazing projects fit into insanely small filesize using procedural methods, including a full FPS [kkrieger] with procedurally generated textures running out of a 96kb executable, a 4kb landscape flyover with motion blur [Elevated], and a beautiful space flythrough in 64kb [Mercury - Fermi Paradox]. There's also a UDK level made with just a single 512x512 texture map.
So extremely efficient use of assets is possible.
But what these people are doing, is it recommended? I'd argue that it's unnecessary - interesting, sure, with a certain novelty factor, but most AAA games on Windows are in the 1GB range for a reason, namely that recent generations of PCs can handle that sort of file size. And if they can handle it nowadays, why not take advantage of that and push it for the best graphics quality possible?
The other argument, aside from hardware and download filesize limitations, that's been put forth in favor of procedural or highly minimalist graphics, is not needing to hire artists. That's questionable, however, as procedurally generated art rarely looks as good as intentional, artist-made art, and to generate procedural content isn't any cheaper given the extra time required in programming, that negates any efficiency gains made by less work for artists.
My take: this focus on efficiency in storage used is practical only up to a point; yes, it matters, and you certainly should aim for as low a filesize and as minimal hardware requirements as you can, unless that means severely compromising the quality of the finished project.
if nice graphics and animation are important to the appeal of your project, and the platforms you're aiming for are desktop platforms, it may be worth allowing for some more file size. I personally am an artist and not so much a programmer, so my projects will tend to emphasize the atmosphere and aesthetic style that are my strengths, and not so much complex interaction, especially early on without any other team members. So if the visuals are key to my project's success, and a strong asset for me, then it makes sense not to slash filesize to the point where that appeal is compromised. It's all about finding the right balance, and there are rarely real rules for this, mostly just guidelines.
Would I like to have my current project (Miniature Multiverse) under 10MB? Sure, there's an appeal to doing so, but IMO I'm more concerned about its quality than its efficiency, and it's important having some beautiful visuals to show on Itch.IO for promotional reasons if nothing else. If your project looks great, that absolutely gets you more attention, more views, clicks, downloads, sales. That matters more to me, than keeping it extremely lean and extremely efficient. Those sales could be vital to my ability to effectively expand not only that project but also a long list of others down the line. It could make it possible to even someday hire musicians, programmers, etc, on short-term tasks, to solve specific, particularly tricky things I want to do later, which couldn't do as well myself.
So I would say that keeping filesize down to tiny levels is good only to some extent, under some conditions for some developers and some platforms.
I use, among other game development tools, Unity, Construct 2, Lightwave, 3ds max, Blacksmith 3d, Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, and Premiere.
I'm making realtime 3d games in the Unity engine and 2d in Construct 2.
Lightwave and 3ds max are my main two 3d art tools, but I sometimes use Blacksmith 3d as a '3d paint' utility.
Photoshop I use for texture art and 2d graphics, sometimes I also use ShaderMap 2 to generate normal maps and such from photographed texture assets.
After Effects and Premiere are my go-to tools for compositing and video editing, respectively, but recently I've been using Resolve for color correction, and Fusion 8, sometimes, as it's a great video/VFX tool and it is available for free.
Currently I'm creating a little adventure game called Spiral Skies. It is days away from completion at this point.