PILE OF UNFINISHED PROJECTS

10/4/2018 (Jestercraft Blog post #003)

What keeps you from finishing your game projects?

It’s that time again, you are starting to lose it. New “wonderful” and “much better” ideas are filling your mind and the project, which you’ve been working for a couple of weeks (or months) start to seem like a boring piece of junk. Or maybe it does not feel junk, the new idea(s) are just much better. And the current idea is also way too massive to be made by yourself (or your small team). So let’s start a new one!

The new project is started with passion, great planning, and design documents. But after a couple of weeks, or months have passed, you start to find yourself in the same situation yet again…

Know the feeling?

Because I do, and I’ve done it way too often with my projects. So what is keeping me (and you) from finishing the projects and releasing them? For sure, one of the main reason is the risk of “not making the game as great, as it was meant to” is one key issue, what makes project dropping so usual. You start to realize, that if I’m going to finish this, it will take months or years and it feels much better to just put it “on hold” and move to something “more simple, faster to create”.

This, of course, is great practice. Because in game development, the biggest enemy out there, is your project scope. It’s so easy to design a game, which is so massive, that it’s nearly impossible for you to finish it. When you find yourself thinking that “this project is way too massive” remember to praise yourself since you’ve learned to understand your scope better.

Having piles of an unfinished project is proof of your scope practicing, but at the same time, those can be a burden for yourself which keep you from designing future game projects from an empty, clean table. Sometimes it’s just better to let go, dump the project for good and move to the next one.

But you should always aim to finish your projects, by finishing I certainly don’t mean to make the polished, great game to be sold on Steam (or similar). What I mean, is that you should make the game into a condition, that everyone can play it. (use platforms like Itch.io, Game Jolt) Call it an early demo, alpha or beta or whatever you like, but release that and share it with the world! (In our community Discord channel for example https://discord.gg/hdZXeMJ )

Why should you release work-in-progress version, that won’t make the crowd rise up and praise you like the best game designer out there? No, it won’t. But what it will do, is start generating discussion around your project. Feedback, ideas, thoughts or maybe even a couple of claps on your back. This happens to cause (in most of us) HUGE motivation spike, to see people playing the game and commenting. It’s more likely that YOU will continue working with your game, finish it and release the final, polished version.

Don’t expect hundreds of enthusiastic playtesters (it’s possible though), but when you get your first people to comment, share feedback or thoughts, you should welcome this person with a warm handshake. Since he/she is the one, who’ve interested enough in spending multiple minutes of his/her time, to help you.

So in the end, what is the lesson in this? What keeps us from finishing our projects? My opinion is, that you’re lacking people, who support you. If you don’t have supporting family, friends or other relationships, you need to find your “support group” from online. Join communities like Game Dev Underground (https://gdu.io/) or join Jestercraft Discord (https://discord.gg/hdZXeMJ) to get started!

Find your support group, which keep you working with your project and help others to do it as well. Always remember that we’re all fighting with the same challenges!

Best regards,

Klaus ‘Kossad’ Kääriäinen

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YOU’VE MADE THE BEST GAME IN THE WORLD!

That’s great, you’re almost half way through!

Game development has become a big business globally and seems like the ride has only just begun. The big boom happened with mobile games and free-to-play, but also PC and console games are played more than ever. This is great! More money is available than ever before from players, investors, governments and such. What a time to be a game developer!

Also with game engines like Unity, Unreal, Game Maker, Construct and many other almost anyone can be a game developer even without programming skills, or graphic knowledge. Everyone, from anywhere can create games and also actually publish those on global level from home sofa in channels like Steam, Game Jolt, Itch.io, Indie DB and at various other channels. Oh boy, games truly are great and easy business nowadays!

Sadly, like always, everything comes with a price. Over saturation of thousands of daily released games, makes it almost impossible for one single developer to get their game enough volume and to gain sales. Even more sad is that there are still too many inspired game developers, who does not take this fact into account and develops game blindly for years without plan for marketing.

Of course you can develop games as an hobby, which is great way to express yourself! Within this and most likely in the coming blog posts, I’ll be looking into business aspect of game development. And when you’re doing business with games, you can not count your business into hands of pure luck by thinking that “players find good games”. Because the fact is, that stores are filled with good games and most likely games, which are even better than yours.

Things like planning your focus group, doing market research, understanding your competitors and things like these start to actually make sense, in order to find the best possible audience for your game. But in the end, any of these or other preparations does not give give you 100% success rate, but raises the odds radically.

So in the end, how are you supposed to build a sustainable game within highly competitive markets like game industry? The best advice I’ve come so far, is that you actually can not. The key is to build your business to be able to handle failures, which you will most likely face multiple times before finding the ‘blue ocean’ within the industry.

Be ready to discard games which does not get altitude or raise interest within players, be ready to fail and start over. Fail often and aim to fail fast, don’t stick into your dream idea for years just to see it fail next week after the launch.

By doing this, there is only one way to fail during your career and that is by not developing games anymore. Keep on going and remember to enjoy the ride, because reaching the goal might not even be as rewarding as you think.

Best regards,
Klaus ‘Kossad’ Kääriäinen

Don’t let luck decide your business

Increase your chances of success

There is no single recipe, to publish a game and succeed 100%. There are ways to increase your chances though! The more you do required actions, the higher the chances are.

Game development has already divided into different areas, where one marketing strategy can be a waste of time and money, but finding the right solutions to gain visibility for your product, can be time saving and/or cost efficient. Some areas require less money, but more time to do marketing efficiently. Right below, I’ll scratch the surface or ‘Mobile Game Marketing’ and ‘PC / Console Marketing’ from my past experiences.

MOBILE GAME MARKETING
When looking at the current mobile game field, the most efficient action you can perform right now, is the traditional UA (User Acquisiton) campaign. This means spending hundreds, thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands for ads campaign(s) in medias like Facebook, Google UAC, Chartboost, Instagram and so on. After spending enough money for the UA campaigns, you start to be able to see the lowest cost per install (CPI) for your game.

Testing out different creatives (ad images, videos, texts, focus groups) is also one of the key elements when doing UA. It can be surprising, what combination of ad video and focus group start to get players in with low cost as possible. It’s crucial to test out even the strangest videos and focus the ads for different user groups, to get the necessary analytics data out from the services. Most likely, it will take thousands of dollars to get the idea of your core user and what they prefer to see in the ad, to actually install the game.

It’s good to understand, that only getting the player to do actions after seeing your ad is only the beginning. Their next stop is the store page (Appstore, Google Play…), which needs to be from the same world than the ad was, which made them to start exploring more. And of course, same goes with the game itself. If the whole pipeline from seeing the ad, jumping to the store page and installing the actual game is seamless, you will most likely get more loyal users for your game.

By failing to do so, the pipeline cracks at some point. This can be noticed when looking at the analytics, and seeing that people do visit your store page, but don’t install the game. Or maybe they install the game, but leave/uninstall right after.

If you don’t have the budget for doing user acquisition campaigns (UA), your best chance is to make the store page and in-game content as polished as possible and reach out to stores (Google, Apple) for featuring your game.

PC / CONSOLE MARKETING

From my experience, PC and Console marketing leans more into press coverage, active community building and getting the message out for the right people. This might consume less money, but it sure consumes more time and effort.

Like in every game project, the whole design process should start from the marketing point of view. Who is the core user of your game? What kind of other games does he/she play? How do you differentiate from these games? And so on. By having the answer for these questions, it’s more easier to start reaching out for the medias, press sites, influencers and other necessary key players, who have already done coverage for these types of games. By randomly shouting to everyone of your awesome game, causes your message to look like ‘generic marketing text’ which won’t (most likely) cause any interest.

Always remember, you are not creating a game for everyone. Someone has to hate your game, if you want someone to love it.

Form a clear message of what you are about to create, how you are going to create it and for who you are about to create it for. Once this is done, you are more ready to start the actual development and start spreading the word from day one. Building a community and the necessary credibility for press is time consuming. You need to reserve months for this process, to be ready when the launch day comes.

Hopefully this wrapup brought you some new ideas when planning your game marketing and development! I’ve been writing a lot of marketing side of game development lately, maybe it’s time to dig into the actual development next time!

Best regards,
Klaus ‘Kossad’ Kääriäinen