The 3 "That's" of Your Game's Look
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
You know that scene in some movie where the wave is so high, it's over the view of the camera, and it's going to crush the heroes? Well the players are the heroes, and that wave is made out of potential entertainment. Games, movies, TV, books. It's practically infinite, and you're trying to make money in the business. Good luck.
Yes of course. You do get some flash-moments in front of people's eyes. Here and there, you do get times to catch their eye. Someone's Retweet, Facebook share, Steam's recommendation. It's possible. That is what I'm working on improving for my game (and maybe you are too) so I wrote this for myself. It's a sort of an action-list. Or one-sided argument. So this is mostly for me, but if it helps others, that's groovy.
I'm getting Pig Eat Ball ready for Early Access on Steam. It's really scary. I know it needs more work and more polish. I've made other games on Steam. Somehow it seems to get harder rather than easier.
Here's what I figure someone should say when seeing my game.
"The 3 That's"
"What is that?"
Your game has to be instantly recognizable. The same of course goes for movies, children's books, comics, any visual medium. When you see my game, I want you to *know* for certain it is Pig Eat Ball. Not some other pixel-art retro looking game. It's very difficult to find a unique, intriguing style.
So far, the best way I've found is to enhance the qualities unique to your game, through gameplay, but also through your art. My game has lots of kinda-gross-funny barf. So I continue to find ways to "up the barf".
And if you see my game, and don't know the name, I want you to want to find out. You need a look for your game, such that if the viewer does not know the game's name, they'll still remember the look for next time that they see it. And hopefully they'll actually find out the name, and want to learn more.
Ask yourself: What is the thing in my game, that when player's see it, they'll know it's my game? Is there something unique? What exactly is it? Can it be improved or enhanced?
|The current 'barf situation', not perfect, still refining it.|
"I want to do that"
When someone sees your game, you want them to say: "I want to do that". It's a very simple goal for your trailer or gif. When they see a movie trailer, they should want to watch more. Games are different--people should want to do, to operate, the very thing they are watching in the trailer. It should get them excited to do the thing you are showing them. If you can't communicate that, you're doomed. At the end of the trailer, does the person know the cool thing to do in your game? Do they want to be in your game world?
"I have not done that"
*You* know your game is fun. You are taking for granted that they, the viewer, think it is fun. Meditate on this: The viewer does not think your game is fun. They have no idea. This is the hardest part--the ephemeral part. You have to communicate the fun parts of your game, to a cold person--someone who has no impression of your game.
I love running and shooting in games. I love shooting monsters. I love jumping on platforms. But I have played many of these. It's very common for me to see a game, that has these components, but the video has not convinced me that it has something unique to offer.
Is the game hiding something cool? Perhaps. But I will never know. If the game 'spoiled' a cool looking thing in the trailer, I may have gone for it, and played the game. But as it stands, I will never play that game. Maybe if it didn't hold back, and showed me the cool thing, I would be more interested.
"75% in the trailer"
Whenever I watch any game trailer, I assume the game only spoiled 75% of the cool parts in the trailer. If you showed me 3 really cool things, and I want to experience those 3 cool things, then I'll hope for one more hidden cool thing. If you show me only 1 thing that is half-way cool, I now assume you have one other thing that is only-sorta-barely cool that you are hiding. So if you spend your trailer only showing me something sorta-cool, but you are in fact hiding 3 amazing things from my view--I'll never know (or not for a very long time), because I've passed on your game.
"Not the last boss!"
No one wants the final cool thing to be spoiled in the trailer. Why? Well, obviously the surprise of the final boss/area/thing is ruined. But I think the real sadness would be, that it would mean your game doesn't have enough to show me--that instead only the final conflict--the thing most people will never get to it, had to be used in the trailer, in order to build up enough cool things to show me a single minute worth of your game. That would be sad.
"What else is there?"
But you may say, "but what if they only think there is barf (or whatever) in your game?" Well, now you have a good problem. The problem is, you have their attention, and you have to find "the rest" to tell them more. That's okay, you'll find more. But the first part is, getting their attention. This is about making sure, they even know about your game *at all*. Focus on that right now.