Monday, 13 February 2012

How to make and sell a game

I've worked on lots of games over the years, console and handheld titles. Some of which I'm sure you have played. So I thought I'd write a few things about it, just in case you fancied trying your hand at it.
I won't hold anything back as it's a tough biz and you need to know the facts.
here we go....

1. Make sure you have a good idea.
Nothing worse than a mediocre idea that has been developed into a real full game that sucks. If you look at your idea and think 'meh!' then it's probably going to be a sucky game for everyone else.
A no brainer you might think, but sadly no. Some people will just push ahead without really thinking this through, the results are out there in their millions. Forgotten games that get lost in the sea of mediocrity.
So get a good idea first folks.

2. Make it look and sound nice.
Another no brainer, so you have that great idea, now get some good graphics and sounds. Take some time to get the feel and mood of the game right. Don't settle for first draft rough ideas, see where it can go to make it stand out from the crowd. Again, there are so many games that are clones of others that are clones of something else. Don't be dull, make it look real sharp. Get an artist if you don't have one, I've seen so many games that clearly has the artwork done by a coder or uses stock images . This is a massive no no, get an artist/animator and let him/her do his job, you'll be better off.
Also the sounds and music should fit in with the graphical style. Don't use annoying sounds and music. It will just, well...annoy people and they won't play the game. If you can't do it yourself, get a musician/sound engineer. And let them do their job, and voila....all wil be better.

3. Make the gameplay fun.
If it isn't fun, your game sucks. Simple as that. Defeats the whole point of making it really.
Spend some time tweaking and balancing. If you have a good idea then this shouldn't be too hard.
Level design can be quite simple as long as you have played games before and know why you like them. Really hard games don't do very well as they put people off. You don't see many hardcore games these days for this simple reason, people just don't like them any more. Times changed, people want simple fun.
But don't make things too easy either, as people feel cheated.
Just like the best songs, a good game will still be a good game when stripped down to it's bare bones. Don't faff with all the bells and whistles until you have this right. Too many things going on in a game is just annoying to pretty much everyone and will cost you valuable time in development. This brings me to coders, if you can't code for crap then you're probably going to need some help. There are millions of talented coders out there that do this for fun, try joining up with one. Work on it together. If it's complicated to code then maybe you've over complicated the gameplay, so take a step back and look at what can be done.

4. Test it
Test it A LOT. get as many people to test it as you can. Don't just give it to your family and friends. You'll never get any real feedback that you can rely on there.
Get as much of the feedback as you can, take it on board and make some changes. Learn to take bad feedback on the chin. There will be bad feedback, so get ready for it and listen hard , it is your friend.

5. Get it out
So if you've made a game or wanting to make a game, you probably want to make some money from it. It's quite easy to get a game out there on iTunes or android these days.
Overcrowded markets they are, but if you have something that stands out you may just get noticed. See point 1,2 and 3 for that!

6. Let the people know.
OK, so your game is out there and you need people to download it. Ask yourself how they will stumble upon your creation. How will they know it exists?
Get yourself a facebook page, twitter account, a blog....anything, as much as you can. Build relationships with your target audience. let people know what's going on in your game dev world.
Show them pictures and videos of progress as you make it. If no one knows about it how on earth do you expect any downloads? so get to it early on in development. Spread the word, no one's going to do that for you. And no one downloads a game they don't know exists.
Oh...and DO NOT SPAM! nothing worse than a spammer. Your twitter and facebook friends and followers will just ignore your posts if you do this. Resist temptation and you'll avoid looking like a spambot.

7. Expect the worst
Simple fact is, there are many many games released every day. Some poor and some great, and your game is just one of many. Now don't get me wrong, if you've checked all these points then chances are better for you, if you haven't then chances are you won't see much of a return for your efforts. It's just a cold hard fact that the market is over saturated and getting more crowded every day.
You could try the freemium option of course, but again, that market is becoming just as saturated as the paid. People don't want to settle for a mediocre game just because it's free.

It's a tough biz, so if you're going to bother, do it right. Don't blend into the crowd like so many failed games do. Make something you can be proud of and let people know about it. It can be very hard work but the reward of making something to be proud of should be worth it.

hope that helps : )