genuinely curious to those who expose their games out to the world. how do you go about it?
any tips/life lessons to those aspiring developers who will one day do the same?
Submit your game to every videogame news website you can think of.
Make a blog for your game, or game development and make friends with other developers who will follow you, and share your games.
its really simple really, you just got to keep at it for a month or two, of course, posting your game in the community forums here also helps.
Early Access on Steam. My game isn't exactly suited for Early Access, it's a single player 2d platformer with a short Story Mode and an Endless Survival Mode. The types of games the succeed on Early Access tent to be FPS, Multiplayer, Sandbox games and Rouge-Likes. This is because they offer plenty of replay value.
Despite this, I think I've made the right decision to go Early Access for the following reasons:
1. You get to launch twice
I've released tons of free games on Flash portals like Newgrounds.com, sometimes the launch went bad and I wished I could turn back time. By launching into Early Access, if anything goes wrong it's not the end of the world because you can launch again! I've learned SO MUCH by launching my first Steam title into EA, I'll be applying these lessons to my full launch.
2. You get more time featuredNew Early Access games are featured in the Early Access section - sometimes as New release or in the Specials list. I think it's important to try and get featured/listed as much as possible
3. Chance to build a community before launch
Building a community of fans is hard, especially if your game is a new IP AND if you have limited marketing resources. I now have a larger community of players and fans thanks to Early Access. Had I not gone into EA, I would now be facing launch WITHOUT that strengthened community.
So there's my thoughts of Early Access as a strategy. As Kurdle mentioned, blog and send emails to every human :)
The SteamSpy guy seems to disagree with your comments about early access though, or at least the bits about popular genres in early access (FPS and rogue-like are far from popular if you check the tag cloud - fortunately for you, Survival seems more popular than both of these :-P) and there isn't really a "second launch". He wrote about it before too, but this article has the data to prove it - with the caveat that if you failed your first launch you *might* do better in the real one. I think you should wait until some time after you release your game to decide if it was a good idea or not :-P.
Personally i do not plan on using early access because, well, i don't like promising things while i'm taking money, mostly because i might not finish them :-P. Also i don't think it would make any difference if i built a community in early access stage vs in finished stage, if anything i'd expect the latter to be easier because people will see the final game not the patches, stitches and standins in the wip version.
And above all, i wont have whiny people complaining that i exited early access to early :-P
From what I've seen a lot of the orchestration around launching a game should be done before you launch the game. You should be building interest around the game a soon as you have something you can show. Steadily release teasers: screenshots, gifs, and videos. Sure you can get lucky and go viral, but chances are building your audience is going to take time. By starting well ahead of launch you're significantly increasing the time you have to promote your game.
In the case of itch.io, the best place I've seen for this type of this right now is Twitter. Most of the time you're creating small things like images and GIFs. It's incredibly easy to share something like that, and there's a low barrier for others to spread your tweet.
One of the goals of this forum is to be a place to promote your game as well. Looking for various game communities is a good way to find audiences as well.
I like the forum as a blog where one can post weekly or biweekly (or daily!) updates. For a developer it removes the pain of having to set up a blog or site, and it certainly gives you more freedom to post longer updates as well. Linking to a forum post I made on itch.io through Twitter didn't get me any new comments, but it got me follows both on Twitter and on itch.io.
What I do is to post in-development screenshots and GIFs that show what I'm working on, and how it's going. It works well, but only if you have something to visually share, of course; if it's just something like code, or a console window that shows what a generated map is based off of or something like that, people won't be as interested, understandably.
A lot of promotion is just getting people hyped and eager to play, and getting their feedback and implementing it into your game as you can. Also, though, people won't get as interested if you don't really communicate with them; if you just come off as kind of a robot, then you probably won't make too much progress in making acquaintances. I made a little video showing how people can effectively promote their game and be good social media users, actually. Check it out, if you feel like it.
Share, talk, and hug. That seems to be the best way we've been able to promote our games. Social media only takes you so far and it's always an uphill struggle to get attention. Showing your game off in person when you can? That ends up being huge, and you make a much more personal connection with your audience than you ever could on Twitter. Look into free events, or events well within your budget. There are more options than just PAX! Boston Festival of Indie Games, Indie Arcade: Coast to Coast, demo nights, local school happenings, all of these are great.
I also highly recommend podcasts, interviews, streams, anywhere you can talk and people can hear your voice. Like SolarLune said, you can come off as a robot, and that goes double for text IMO. The whole point is to always get new eyes and ears on your game and hit as wide a network as possible. There's an empathy that goes along with hearing from or seeing the dev that you don't get in text.
Hey, I just have done launched, and was looking for a few tips. I sent it every whichaway I could think of, but with no luck. I announced about 3 months out from Finnish. Mostly because I was not sure if my product would be polished enough to put out. itch sales have been a bit disappointing honesty, and I am not sure how to address that.
One thing I did do, that I thought was of interest to people was write a reallllly long medium post on making my game. For animators, (i come from the animation community). That way I was finding out more about process. Which some people do.
You can check that out here if your interested...http://tinyurl.com/j7orjy2
If you are only using itch.io, I suggest creating a devlog for your game. Every time you post a new feature, your topic moves to the top of the list again, so you won't just gain interested players within the first few days (like the Release Announcements page) and then have your topic buried in a place where no one will ever look at it again.
Consider translating your game into more languages, if you see many fans are abroad.
It's never too late to learn :P
A good first step might be brushing up on your english skills... you can not just write more convincing advertising material the more fluent you get, you also end up writing more professional-looking material. A lot of people can be really strict with typos and grammar errors and that can really hurt your first impression.
(I'm personally not a native english speaker either, and I still do some basic mistakes like mixing up 'was' and 'were', but I'm actively trying to improve all the time)
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.