Twitter Marketing: How to Use the Analytics Platform

By Tim Youngblood

Twitter’s analytics platform collects an impressive amount of data for a free tool. Before we dive in, let’s define the metrics that Twitter uses on their platform. Luckily, these metrics are fairly universal and are defined the same way on other platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Also, if this is your first time visiting Game Borough, check out the previous posts in our Twitter marketing series to get caught up!

Indie Game Twitter Marketing Series

Impressions Versus Conversions

What is an Impression?

An impression is simply a tweet (Or post if you’re on Facebook) that comes onto a user’s feed. This doesn’t mean that the user clicked the link, liked or retweeted, or even looked at your tweet. It does mean that users had the opportunity to so, however, and users who do things such as liking, retweeting, visiting your profile, following you, or visiting a web page you’ve shared.

 

 

If you look at the screenshot above, you’ll notice that the number of impressions is way higher than the other metric. If you focus on increasing the other metrics like followers, mentions, and profile visits; the impressions will rise on their own. Essentially, impressions are just a byproduct of success with more important metrics. These metrics are often referred to as conversions.

 

What is a Conversion?

In sales, conversions usually refer to somebody buying your product. For marketing on Twitter, I use the term conversions more loosely because, as I said earlier in the series,  Twitter is not a good platform for sales conversions. In the case of Twitter, getting likes, retweets, follows, website visits, and profile visits are all considered conversions. To track website visits, you can either create a website tag to track visits on Twitter’s end using their conversion tracking tool or just track them from your website’s CMS or Google Analytics. I do the latter because Twitter isn’t a large source of traffic for GameBorough and I spend more time on the site’s CMS than on Twitter. Should you decide to use Twitter ads at some point, then conversion tracking will be necessary. Twitter has a Link Visits variable that it tracks, but your website will do a better job of tracking the users’ activity on your site.

 

What Else Does Twitter Analytics Track?

From the screenshot above, you can see that the Twitter Analytics homepage collects the metrics I talked about previously. The other tabs are Tweets, Audiences, and Events.

 

Using the Tweets Tab

The Tweets tab shows the aforementioned stats like impressions, engagements, retweets, and link clicks for individual tweets so you can compare their performance. Here’s a screenshot of ours below.

 

This is the Tweets dashboard showing the top 3 tweets from last month. You can click on each individual tweet to get more information. And of course, they try to sell tweet promotion on pretty much every page.

 

Using the Audiences Tab

The Audiences tab shows what kind of people follow you, and more importantly, what kind of people show up in your organic audience. Your organic audience is users that don’t follow you on Twitter but are likely to see your tweets in their feeds occasionally due to a shared interest in subject matter. Using hashtags in your tweets makes it easier for Twitter’s algorithm to put your tweets in your organic audience’s feeds. Below is a screenshot of Game Borough’s organic audience.

 

From our organic audience screen, you can see that our audience speaks English, likes games and technology, and is quite the sausage-fest. 

 

Using the Events Tab

If you spend a lot of time on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that every day is “National Something Day” like “National Donut Day” or something. The Events tab keeps track of upcoming obscure holidays as well as events happening in pop culture so people can find excuses to make new tweets. The Recurring Trends tab also shows common weekly hashtag themes so you make an excuse for a new tweet every day! Some examples of this are #ScreenShotSaturaday, #ThrowbackThursday, and #FlashbackFriday. The screenshot below is of our Overview tab.

 

This shows some upcoming holidays and events. Brace yourself for Father’s Day, we’re going to see an obnoxious amount of God of War themed tweets.

 

Putting Twitter Analytics to Use

I usually start by looking at which tweets performed well and which did not. For tweets that performed well, I can try to replicate those factors in future tweets. For example, the time of the tweet, the hashtags, subject matter, and the overall look of a tweet are all variables in a tweet’s success or failure.

For a tweet that isn’t performing well, I also look at the same factors. Let’s use one of Game Borough’s least popular tweets as an example. This particular tweet was a bit perplexing for me at first because it is one of the most popular articles on the site (It’s about indie game marketing tricks). Here’s a screenshot of the tweet, after everything we’ve covered in this tutorial series, you can probably notice some issues.

 

I can’t even read this tweet and I made it…

 

This tweet has some major issues. For one, the text is all crammed together, making it hard to read and making the link very difficult to find. The image I used doesn’t make any sense without the context of reading the article, which is a bad featured image choice when considering that the goal of this tweet is to get somebody who hasn’t read the article to read it. Audiences are also more likely to read an article if they know what it’s about. Personally, I’ve noticed success just using the article’s title in the tweet.

Knowing this, I can make a new version of the post for this article that is easier to read, says the title, and has a featured image that better illustrates the purpose of the article. Here’s what I came up with:

 

This tweet is much cleaner and has a more clear purpose. I’ll come back later to see how it performs.

 

Now that you know the basics of Twitter Analytics, you can start playing with it! Not sure where to start? Are there features that I left out? Leave your questions in the comments section and we’ll help you out!

 

How To Write A Game Design Document (GDD)

By Bolaji Rasheed

What is the best way to handle the development process of a game? This is a common and important question among all indie game developers. Not to worry, the answer to this question is quite simple!   

In order to manage your indie game development process effectively, having detailed documentation is a must, and the famous game design document (GDD) is the best way to do this.   

But first, you need to understand why it is so important for the completion of your project. 

A GDD is a highly descriptive design document that is created from the collaboration of designers, programmers, and artists. This document serves as a guide throughout the game development process. Indie game development processes are often hampered by placeholder arts, malfunctioning code, and clashing mechanics among others. In times like this, having a good GDD will serve as your lifeline.

 

Tips for Writing a Good Game Design Document (GDD)

Write in Stages

Normally, your mind is filled up with different ideas and concepts when starting a GDD. The best thing to do at this stage is to create a comprehensive template for your document. This template should contain Backgrounds, intros, and major descriptions. Each phase of your development process should follow this template. This will help to keep your GDD organized as the development process becomes more bulky and complex. Having a complete GDD before starting the development process is not compulsory, however, the GDD should be at least two weeks ahead of your team’s current state of work.

Make Room for Changes

During the different stages of indie game development and sometimes in the final days before release, several changes and modifications will have to be made to the GDD. Always have discussions with your team members and never discourage them from submitting new ideas even if most of it won’t make it into the game – who knows what idea will be best for the game. That’s why it is important to make your GDD flexible enough to accommodate changes and new ideas.

However, only one person should be in charge of making changes to the GDD itself. This person should focus on including only the key ideas and cutting the less important ones.

Pay Attention to Readability and Language

Readability is a very important factor that can determine how good your GDD will be. Your headers, font style, formatting, indentation, and punctuation should be uniform and consistent. Using keys and legends to explain some technical or complex parts of the GDD will help reduce confusion.

Also, your GDD should be written in simple, concise, and clear language. The simpler it is, the easier it will be for everyone to read and understand it. Your GDD should reflect your team’s culture and team members should give feedbacks about the readability and clarity of the GDD.

Use Visual Aids

The GDD is a very important document and everyone should be able to fully understand its contents. You should take advantage of visual aids such as concept arts or graphs to quickly explain some very technical or difficult concepts in the GDD. With this, every member of your team will fully understand the information conveyed to them and the development process will move a lot faster.

 

Online document editors like Google Docs are great for GDDs because you can add links to visual aids and other documents!

 

Set Priorities and Realistic Goals

When building indie games, you can’t implement all the ideas you or your team members will propose; you’ll have to cut some. Then, you need to set the priorities of the remaining ideas and come up with a reasonable deadline for the implementation of these ideas.

Complex enemies, mechanics, level behaviors, all look good and exciting on paper, but you should have it in mind that making them a reality can disintegrate the greatness of some game elements. Always play new ideas in your mind before putting it in the GDD. This will greatly help to keep your goals embedded in reality.  

Conclusion

In the course of your indie game development, there would be lots of difficult things to do and a lot that can go wrong. Having a good GDD means you have something to fall back on when something goes wrong or some mechanics just don’t work out.

The GDD is a detailed journal of all your struggles and victories and some sort of behind-the-scenes of a complex and rigorous process to produce a game to be enjoyed by all. The GDD says a lot about your game, and it is a testament to your hard work, so you should put a lot of passion into it. Good luck!  

Get Started on Your Own Game Design Document

If you’re not sure where to get started, there are plenty of templates online! Here is one made by Benjamin Stanley. If you know of any resources that can help developers make their own GDDs, please share them in the comments!

Twitter Marketing: How Do Hashtags Work and How Should Game Devs Use Them?

By Tim Youngblood

In this part of our Twitter Tutorial Series, we’ll discuss how hashtags work on Twitter and how to use them.

What is a Hashtag?

Pretty much everyone knows what a hashtag is these days, but it helps to delve in and understand their purpose within Twitter. Twitter receives millions of new tweets every day, making the task of categorizing all these tweets impossible for Twitter’s employees to handle themselves. Instead, they crowd-sourced categorization by using hashtags, which essentially function as keyword groups. They are simply Twitter’s best solution to categorization and indexation, similar to how meta keywords were used for SEO before Google’s algorithm became more sophisticated.

 

How Should Indie Game Developers Use Hashtags?

People usually fall somewhere between two opposing schools of thought on how to use hashtags in marketing campaigns. One school of thought is that users should use as many hashtags as possible (As long as they’re relevant). The other school of thought is that popular hashtags become oversaturated, and promoters are better off making up new ones for more specific audiences. Each strategy has its own merits, but which is better lean toward? The answer really depends on your industry.

Larger brands are more likely to try using their own hashtags because they have to compete with other brands in their own space. These hashtags often correspond with TV commercials and marketing campaigns. Creating and popularizing a new hashtag takes an entire marketing team, and isn’t really feasible for solo devs and small teams. So in the case of indie games, I think that throwing in as many relevant hashtags is a better option for teams that are short on time and money.

 

These are the types of companies that have to care about hashtag campaigns. Graph courtesy of Talkwalker.

 

How Are Indie Games Different From Other Niches on Twitter?

Indie games are not large brands, they are not like blockbuster games that release at certain times of the year (Like Christmas). Indie Games aren’t bound to fiscal quarters and they don’t compete with each other the same way that large game publishers do. In fact, I’ll even argue that indie games aren’t really competing with each other at all.

Most indie games are significantly less expensive than big studio games. We’re talking about conversion goals of $5-$25 (In game sales or crowdfunding donations) versus $50-$60 for a big name game. For the price of the new God of War game, I could buy or help fund up to 10 indie games. The markets are completely different. Indie developers aren’t really competing with each other, they’re competing with the ever-dwindling human attention span, which currently averages 8 seconds. This is why giant corporations are willing to spend millions on commercials during the Super Bowl just to promote a new branded hashtag.

 

You can squeeze a lot of Hashtags into Twitter’s new 280 character limit. Just make sure people can still read it! Legit Games did a nice job with this simple screenshot.

 

How to Add Hashtags to Your Tweet

Since the indie game scene is much more community-oriented and collaborative than corporate marketing, I say go nuts with those hashtags! Personally, I don’t think you can have too many, but make sure they are positioned in a that doesn’t make your tweet unreadable. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to try making some new and unique hashtags. For example, it never hurts to make the title of your game into a hashtag.

As I’ve said in other articles, the indie game community is very open and supportive. Try all the hashtag combinations you can, and don’t be afraid to keep trying new hashtag combinations on the same content. Most of Twitter is reused content, so don’t feel bad about rehashing old stuff, that’s pretty much all social media is these days anyway.

 

hashtags data by hashtagify.me

Not sure where to start with Hashtags? Try using a tool like HashtagifyMe!

 

Twitter Tutorial Series

Now that you understand the reasoning behind why indie studios use hashtags the way they do, next time, we’ll get into using Twitter’s analytics tools to get the most exposure possible! Please feel free to reach out in the comments if you have any questions!

Why Should Indie Game Developers Use Twitter For Marketing?

By Tim Youngblood

In part one of our Twitter tutorial series, we’ll delve into the aspects of marketing that Twitter is good and not-so-good for.

What Should Marketers Know About Twitter?

Twitter is an interesting platform because it allows users to generate enormous amounts of reach. On the flipside, however, it has the lowest chance of meaningful conversions of the more popular social media platforms (a conversion goal might be having somebody buy your game, download your demo, or contribute to a crowdfunding platform. Sidenote: I’m leaving things like Instagram, SnapChat, and Tinder out of this… yes, people do use Tinder for marketing…)

So what exactly does this mean? The TL:DR version is that if you want to use Twitter as your primary platform for sales leads, you’re going to have a bad time. So what is Twitter good for? Twitter is great for exposure and engagement.

 

Exposure normally gets a bad rap (and rightfully so), but when you’re marketing a product instead of your services, it’s a necessity. (Comic courtesy of The Oatmeal)

 

What Do Exposure and Engagement Really Mean?

These terms both sound like generic marketing garbage you see marketing professionals blab about on LinkedIn, so let’s break these concepts down. (10x! Growth hacking! )

Exposure is simply the act of getting more eyes on a certain page, product, or project (Like your game!). Exposure is great for spreading the word about your game and gathering support. It doesn’t, however, guarantee that these new eyes on your project are the right kind of viewers (In this case, people willing to provide some kind of meaningful support, like buying or sharing).

Engagement is simply connecting with a relevant audience in a meaningful way. This can be getting feedback from people interested in buying or helping crowdfund your game. It can also mean support from other studios or a publication writing about or retweeting your game. For example, I hear about a lot of games that I end up writing about for the first time through Twitter.

 

The team developingWild Mage took to Twitter after their first crowdfunding campaign fell short. After stepping up their Twitter game and using a program called Thunderclap, they reached their funding goal in 13 hours!

 

This doesn’t mean that Twitter doesn’t provide exposure to meaningful users and transactions, it’s just much harder to quantify. Twitter is a gamble with no real risks because the platform is free and with the right hashtags, your tweet can be seen by thousands more people than networks with gatekeeping systems like Facebook and Reddit. Twitter is the best social media platform for something to “go viral” on (Although, Reddit is a close contender). So in a sense, Twitter is kind of like the lottery for social media marketing. It will never be a consistent avenue for conversions, but it’s worth doing because it takes little effort and can have a big payout.

 

Twitter Marketing Tutorials Series

In upcoming tutorials, we’ll get into some tricks for analyzing your data and optimizing your tagging to get the most out of your Twitter efforts! In the meantime, if you need any specific Twitter advice, please reach out in the comments!

Should You Make a Website for Your Game?

By Tim Youngblood

Spoiler alert: the answer is yes. Here is why and some tips to get your own site started! A lot of game developers are using Facebook, Twitter, and platforms like itch.io to host the information about their studio and their games. While platforms like Facebook and Twitter will track referrals, there is a lot of data that they don’t include.

 

Why Analytics Data is Important

When people view your game, do you know which website referred them to your page? What part of the world is that viewer from? Do you know what time they viewed your game? Do you know if they downloaded your demo?

Having your own website where you can implement Google Analytics is the best way to keep track of your data. Often times, you won’t know what data points are the most important for your site, so it’s good to track everything until you know you need it. Google Analytics tracks just about every variable you can imagine and you can track more complex goals as you go along. I recommend starting with the basics, which are already set up to be tracked. These include, pages visited, times of visits, referrals, time visited, and the location of visitors. Once, you start noticing patterns with these, you can change the time of things like social media posting to get more eyes on your game.

 

This is the basic page of Google Analytics. From here, you can track just about any variable you can imagine!

 

Making a Website on a Budget 

A lot of developers don’t make a website for their game or studio because they don’t have the money or time. Building a website that ranks for a lot of keywords in search engines can take months and even years. I’ll get into whether or not it’s worth your time to do things like SEO for your site in a later article. For now, the important thing to keep in mind is that your website isn’t there to rank for keywords (Seriously, PC Gamer writes one article about your game and you’ll never rank 1st for it). It’s there to monitor the behavior of people who are interested in your game to get more eyes on your game and to increase your sales or downloads. If you’re serious about making money on a game, you need analytics data.

 

WordPress’ analytics platform isn’t perfect, but it’s great for beginners!

 

Fortunately, web design has become much easier in recent years with templates and services like WordPress and Blogspot. Both of these services are free and easy to use, I have more experience with WordPress, however, so I will focus on that. I do not recommend using Wix because you have to wait a day or two to make even basic updates on your site. Having a .wordpress.com or .blogspot.com domain doesn’t look very sexy, but they’re free and you can implement Google Analytics. Should you decide to focus more on your website in the future, you can easily convert your site to a normal .com domain. If you think a WordPress can’t look professional enough, you’re hurting my feelings, because you’re visiting one right now…

 

A WordPress theme can make your Dev blog look professional for cheap or free. This is the dev blog for Origin Story (Colors have been reversed)

 

As always, this is not a comprehensive list of reasons to make a website or platforms to make a website on. If you’re not sure where to start with making a site for your game or studio, feel free to contact us or post your game in the comments!

Also, be sure to check out our marketing section for more Indie Game Marketing Tutorials and Resources!

 

Benefits of Using Unity for 3D Game Development

By Sunny Chawla

As a game developer, you have a ton of options in regards to picking a game engine. The determination runs the range from straightforward 2D engines to completely highlighted 3D powerhouses. With such huge numbers of choices, it can be hard to pick the engine that is appropriate for your venture. Mike Geig clarifies why he thinks the Unity game engine is the best decision.

The video game industry is a behemoth chugging along at full throttle and shows no signs backing off. I will disclose to you something that you most likely know already: Making video games takes a ton of work, aptitude, and commitment. It isn’t all fun circumstances and gatherings like in the films (I’m looking at you, Grandma’s Boy). As a game developer, you have a considerable measure of choices with regards to picking a game engine. Game engines’ expenses can quickly add up to a great many dollars. With many alternatives, it can be hard to pick the engine that is ideal for your undertaking. Here is why I think you should utilize the Unity game engine.

What is the Unity Game Engine?

It was made by Unity Technologies in 2004 as an improvement tool for their game, GooBall. It was later propelled in 2005 at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Today, the Unity game engine flies under the flag of “democratizing game advancement and empowering everybody to make rich intelligent 3D content,” as indicated on Unity’s  website. It is evaluated that there are more than 1.3 million enrolled Unity developers (do names like Cartoon Network, Coca-Cola, Disney, LEGO, or NASA ring a bell?) and that there is more than 300,000 dynamic developers month to month. A 2012 review led by video game magazine Game Developer expresses that 53.1% of portable developers detailed utilizing Unity to make games. Whether you’re an indie developer or looking for a development job, development Unity is a valuable skill to learn.

 

Unity’s Ease of Use

The principal thing you will see when you make an undertaking in Unity is how visual everything is. This is an engine that concentrates a great deal on improving the game advancement work process, and no place is that more clear than with the Unity Editor.

 

Screenshot of the Unity interface. Courtesy of Unity.

 

If you’ve never worked with a game engine with a visual editorial manager, you’ll be astounded at how quickly it enables you to fabricate and alter your tasks. Need to move a thing a little to one side? You can click in the scene and drag your question. Done! Need to perceive how this question acts with new properties? Simply look to the investigator window. Shazam! The Unity editorial manager even goes so far as to run the game itself in the game window for quick testing.

Believe me when I say that the capacity to run your game while seeing the properties and areas of all articles in the scene is an intense and efficient element. You may ponder internally: “No canned arrangement can be utilized for my work process. It is exceptional and one of a kind simply like me!” Well, Negative Nancy, let me disclose to you that the Unity supervisor can be effectively stretched out to incorporate exclusively specific tools and modules. These tools and modules can be incorporated into the Unity interface.

 

The Power of Scripting

There are a considerable number game engines that have a visual manager. However, many of these engines do not have the power required to manufacture huge or complex games because of their canned way to deal with practices. With Unity, question practices aren’t constrained to work in modules that come bundled with the engine. Rather, Unity takes into consideration effective practices written in any of three powerful dialects: JavaScript, C#, and Boo. Each of the three languages can be utilized inside of an undertaking to permit individuals of various innovation foundations to add to a venture. The way that the languages are utilized as contents takes into account quick assembly times, snappy cycles, and adaptability of the plan.

 

 

One Source to Rule Them All!

Perhaps the greatest component of the Unity engine is the capacity to construct your ventures throughout various stages on multiple systems with minimal difficulty. With simple and straightforward determination of a drop-down menu, Unity can work for Windows PC, Linux (new with form 4), iOS (with module), Mac, Android (with module), Web Browser, Flash (with module), PS3, Xbox, and Wii U. This allows developers to invest more energy into enhancing the nature of their tasks and take less time on porting it to various gadgets.

 

Unity 5 works on 21 different platforms. Courtesy of Hexus.

I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

No matter how easy an interface is to use, inevitably, developers will get stuck somewhere. Fortunately, Unity has a dynamic and bolstered community. Unity’s forums are an incredible place to make inquiries, get direction, examine best practices, help other people, and even hotshot a bit. Searching for a more organized way to deal with taking an interest in the community? Unity Answers is an administration that honors “karma” and identifications for good inquiries asked and replied. It is a more social approach than your common Q&A site.

There is also the Unity resource store, which is completely coordinated into the proofreader and gives a way to individuals to share or even offer their uniquely designed substance. This enables you to procure visual assets without having to make them yourself.

 

 

Evaluating and Licenses

Numerous engines today accompany extraordinary sticker prices or muddled installment designs. Numerous engines don’t have any costs recorded and long quote exchanges must occur to decide real figures. Unity doesn’t do any of that and rather just comes in two fundamental flavors: Unity Free and Unity Pro. Unity Free is obviously free (my favorite number) and isn’t some diluted, gimped form of the engine. It accompanies the greater part of the highlights you would need to make games that can sell commercially.

In the event that you might want a portion of the more expert highlights like LOD Support, Path-finding, or IK Rigs. You can buy the Unity Pro permit for $1,500. This may appear like a great deal to an individual simply getting into the field, but the upfront cost pays off in the long run by avoiding paying a percentage of profits like with the Unreal Engine.

 

Let’s Talk Games

At this point, you may ponder who is utilizing Unity and what precisely they are utilizing it for. As specified above, Unity has a fairly extensive enrolled client base. Numerous expansive organizations and non-mainstream players alike have found the power and flexibility of the Unity engine. What you may not know is that there are non-gaming organizations that utilize the engine too. Unity is being utilized for research, recreation, and exhibition by organizations everywhere throughout the world. In the event that you go to Unity’s game exhibition, you can see a portion of the astonishing games effectively made with the Unity game engine. 

About the Author

Sunny Chawla is a Marketing Manager at Alliance International IT – a Web design and Development Company. Helping global businesses with unique and engaging tools for their business. He would love to share thoughts on Unity 3d Game Development, Digital Marketing Services, Web Designing, and mobile app development.

 

*Editor’s Note: The opinions of guest posters are their own and not the official opinion of Game Borough. In fact, we don’t have an official opinion, we’re more interested in yours!

Tips and Tricks for Free Indie Game Marketing and Promotion

By Tim Youngblood

Every year, hundreds of games go unnoticed and developers abandon them because they either couldn’t make it profitable or nobody downloaded them. Whether you’re hoping to turn your game development into a full-time job or you’re just doing it for fun, inevitably, you will need to promote it.

I won’t be doing a traditional step by step guide, pretty much every “indie game marketing guide” ever will tell you that it’s a good idea to have a website, a trailer, and use social media. Instead, I’m focusing on some lesser known tricks as well as some things I learned not to do when promoting video games. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but hopefully, you can glean some information that marketing bloggers won’t tell you!

 

Make Sure Your Game Has a Playable Demo

A few years ago, I was helping my friends develop a game called Steve the Alright Knight. The game had an amazing trailer and generated a lot of buzz early on, but people ended up losing interest because we didn’t have a playable demo when we started promoting the game. At this point, game review sites lost interest because there was no game to play and pulled out of investing in the Kickstarter campaign without some tangible evidence that the game would ever be finished. I would say if there’s an order of operations for promoting video games, having a playable demo should come before any other marketing activity.

 

People loved the trailer and concept but got bored when there was no demo to go along with it.
 

Prepare a Media Kit

People are lazy by nature and gamers are probably even lazier. Some game review sites get hundreds of requests for games to be reviewed or covered every day. A great way for your game to stand out in the crowd is to do that staff writer’s job for them. In this case, I’m talking about having a media kit that has everything they need to write an article. This means having a synopsis of your game, media assets like screenshots and GIFs, as well as a cinematic or gameplay trailer. The best place to keep your media kit is on your website, that way you can just link to it instead of having to upload a bunch of files into every email you send to prospective coverage. Having a press kit page on your website will also make filling out contact and submission forms on websites go faster.

At this point, you have all of your media assets in one place and can proceed to send an ass-load of emails. This is all pretty straightforward and easy to do but there are few things you can do to make the game reviewer’s job even easier. Image size, file type, and file size are actually very important for online content. As someone who’s been an editor for a few websites, I can tell you that reformatting and resizing images are some of the most tedious tasks for people publishing articles online. Generally speaking, most websites prefer JPEGs over PNGs and try to keep their images under 200 kilobytes. Most featured images are 600 x 400 pixels (this is the image that shows up on a website’s blogroll, in Google search results, and on social media feeds when an article is shared). I also recommend uploading your trailer to YouTube because YouTube videos are the easiest to embed in an article. Reviewers won’t know how good a game is until they play it, and there’s a good chance that they’ll never play it if the pertinent information and media assets for your game are too difficult to find or format.

 

This is the daily life of an online editor. 

 

Should You Run a Kickstarter or Indiegogo?

If you think you can run a crowdfunding campaign to raise enough money to quit your job and go into full-time game development, you’re going to have a bad time. I tried that a few years ago and it did not go well. However, even though our game came nowhere near meeting its funding goal, I would still do it again (Although with a much lower funding goal). Kickstarter and Indiegogo are websites that get a ton of traffic. Even better, both websites have very little editorial oversight, meaning that it is easier to get your game shown on these websites than it is to get your game covered on a game review or news site.

 

We jumped the shark a little trying to upgrade our simple survival game (Defend Your Dojo) into an MMO.

 

That being said, the money certainly doesn’t hurt. I recommend setting a very low funding goal (like less than $2,000) to get something that will end up being crucial for the release. For example, if you’re making a multiplayer game, there’s a good chance that you will need server space. Even simple HTML games hosted on a website take additional server space beyond the bare minimum hosting package (We cheaped out on hosting for Defend your Dojo and that game crashes all the time). Maybe there’s a tool that will allow you to complete your game faster. You can even use this money to hire an agency to help with game promotion. If you are seeking money, it’s important to itemize where exactly this money is going. Don’t just say “we’re making a game please give us money.”

 

Make a Trailer but Don’t Overthink It

Earlier I said that people are naturally lazy. This also applies to people who are previewing games. Your game’s trailer is likely going to be the first thing that an internet user sees, and will likely be the determining factor and whether or not they want to learn more about your game. You may have the best game ever made and equally good documentation for it in written text, but the unfortunate reality of the situation is that video is currently the preferred form of content for internet users.

That being said, spending a ton of time making a trailer cuts into time spent developing your game. Most websites are more concerned with whether or not you have a trailer than the quality of trailer itself. What they’re really looking for is a Youtube video that they can lazily embed in an article. They aren’t expecting a blockbuster cinematic trailer while your game is still in development. They just want to get a feel for how the game plays. The gameplay trailer below was just some gameplay footage with various items shown that was screen captured through a mobile device to show how the touch controls work. It only took a few hours to put it all together.

 

This trailer was no Citizen Kane, but it did its job. (Look how easy it is to embed a Youtube video!)
 

Social Media Tricks

Even if you loathe social media, it’s pretty much impossible to market something on a low budget without it. Fortunately, the indie game community is probably one of the best and most supportive online communities in social media. On Twitter, you will be amazed at how much support you get when you use hashtags like IndieGame and IndieDev (#indiegame #indiedev). There are also several Facebook groups for indie game development and promotion!

There are a lot of nuances to social media, but one general rule is more posts will eventually net a bigger following. Fortunately, you can make an ass-load of posts without having to be glued to your computer or phone. I highly recommend using a tool like HootSuite, which allows you to schedule social media posts to go out at a later time over multiple social media platforms.

 

hashtags data by hashtagify.me

 

Prepare to Send Lots of Emails

Seriously, we are talking hundreds of emails. Sending the emails is the easy part, you can use a mail merge or a tool like MailChimp to make a nice template that can be distributed to hundreds of email addresses. The harder part is finding said hundreds of email addresses. There are marketing Services who already have collected hundreds of emails and can do a mail merge for you, but if you’re on a tight budget there’s a good chance you’ll have to find them yourself.

 

Search modifiers will become your new best friend

 

If you want to collect email addresses yourself, you’re going to need to learn how to use search modifiers in Google. Fortunately, we have a Google search modifiers tutorial. I’ll go into that deeper in the tutorial, but the basic concept is to use a Google sheet or Excel spreadsheet and copy/paste the email addresses you find on websites that review and cover games. One common search string/modifier is “video games inurl: submit”. This means that you’re looking for a website about video games and the specific page you’re looking for has the word submit in its URL. This will usually lead you to a contact form or an email address that lets you submit content (That press kit page on your website will help with those contact forms). There are a lot of different ways to modify your Google searches to find exactly what you’re looking for.

*This is by no means a comprehensive list so if you have any tips and tricks to help out the community please leave them in the comments!

*Featured image from Wikimedia Commons

Best Free Productivity Software and Tools for Game Development and Promotion

By Tim Youngblood

Whether you’re on a team or designing a game by yourself, staying organized and managing your time is essential. I’m a very unorganized person, I misplace things all the time in my hard drive and even my house. Since I’ve been working online the past few years, I learned how to essentially “idiot proof” everything I work on so I can’t lose it. Since you probably don’t have much of a budget, free tools are essential as software licenses for game development tools you might need can get very expensive. Here are some free tools that I used to make what used to be a weakness of mine into a strength.

Google Docs

Most people are familiar with Google Docs these days so I won’t talk too much about the basics. I prefer Google Docs over Microsoft Office for several reasons. Obviously, Google Docs is free, unlike Microsoft Office, but I would still prefer Google Docs even if Microsoft Office was free. Google Docs allows you to share documents with your team so you can all collaborate on them since it’s cloud-based. It also works on just about any device with an internet connection, this is really nice because I read a lot of documents on my phone.

Google Flowcharts are also great for laying out things like skill trees, item progression, and story arcs before you add them to your game. I’ve also noticed that Google Docs tend to have less formatting issues when you copy and paste them into a CMS (Content management system). My favorite feature, though, is that you can use voice to text on your smartphone to dictate writing. That’s how I wrote this article. Obviously, voice to text doesn’t transcribe your words perfectly, so you’ll need to come back and edit it when you get to a computer. But it’s great for capturing your word vomit so you can come back and edit it later. Like they say in writing classes, great papers aren’t written, they’re rewritten.

 

A very early screenshot of Origin Story‘s spell tree

Trello

Trello is another nice organizational tool that’s cloud-based. It allows multiple users to share and access it on any device with an internet connection. Of any task management tool I’ve ever used, Trello has the easiest interface to use and probably the only interface that works really well on a smartphone. The system itself is pretty simple, users can make boards and put as many columns on these boards to slide cards across. You can put hyperlinks inside of cards for easy access and you can send alerts to other users to let them know when you’re done with your task.

The free version will allow you to do anything you need and pretty much all the Trello Gold version will add is the ability to upload bigger files. The free version allows users to upload files up to two megabytes, which probably isn’t enough if you’re dealing with Graphics assets or video files. Tools like Asana and Jira allow users to upload large files, but you can get around that in Trello if you just add a link to Dropbox on a Trello card. You can make as many Trello boards and cards as you want.

 

Here’s a screenshot of the Trello board we used to develop the Game Borough website

 

Hootsuite

Editors Note: You can schedule posts inside of Facebook for free now!

Even if you hate social media, if you’re trying to promote your game, you will eventually have to join the fray. Ever wonder how larger social media profiles post so damn much at all times during the day? It’s actually much easier than it looks. You don’t have to be glued to a device 24/7, constantly posting things in order to get the number of posts you want out on social media. Pretty much every professional social media manager uses delayed posting tools like HootSuite. While HootSuite doesn’t work very well on mobile devices, I can’t really complain because it’s the best free program that I’ve used for social media.

HootSuite allows you to schedule posts up to months and even years in advance. This way, you can schedule a month’s worth of social media posts in one sitting. It also makes posting the same piece of content on multiple Networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin much easier. Whether you’re promoting your game or just reposting evergreen content, this will save you a lot of time.

 

You can add just about any social network to Hootsuite.

Grammarly

Grammarly is basically spellcheck on crack. It’s great for making sure that you use proper grammar when you’re writing emails in a hurry. It can also help you keep typos out of your game dialogue. It works inside of most content Management systems and social media platforms. It might not sound like a very significant boost to your productivity, but you’d be amazed how much time you save when you don’t have to read things three or four times before sending them. I’m a professional copy editor with two writing degrees and Grammarly still saves my ass all the time.

 

Scott Allen, a novelist, loves Grammarly as much as I do. Image courtesy of ScottAllen.com

 

Stopwatch Extension  (Online or Offline)

Even if you don’t have employee hours to monitor, being aware of how much time on average it takes you to complete a task will help you manage your time better and set more realistic deadlines. I don’t really have a favorite stopwatch tool because most of them work just fine because it’s a relatively simple program. I usually use a browser-based web extension because most of the work I do is online. Some stopwatch extensions allow you to categorize and log your time which can be helpful if you do a lot of different tasks. I’m not an expert on stopwatch apps by any means so if you have a favorite program, let us know in the comments.

*What are your favorite free productivity tools? If you think there’s one we left out that you’re not getting kickbacks for as a sales representative, let us know in the comments!

Growing List of Game Development Tools and Resources

If you’re like us, we had no clue where to start in the 3D game development world. For that reason, we compiled a list of useful tools, assets, and resources for your game development needs. Suited for the tenured developer to the beginner, there is something in this list for everyone. We tried to steer clear of the same cliche “Top 10 game engine” spam you’d usually read about, and focused more on resources that you could utilize regardless of what engine you’re using. Let’s dig in!

Listed in Alphabetical order:

3DRT – You can find characters, vehicles, environments, and buildings. at 3DRT. Both for purchase and for free!

arteria3d – 3D Model and Audio asset packs can be found here, consisting of Adobe/Mixamo FUSE, Unity, and Unreal 4 assets. Beautifully created and applicable to fantasy, sci-fi and your other various projects.

Blender – Thinking about making your own 3D assets? Look no further. Blender is a FREE 3D asset creation software. it has a fairly broad user base, consisting of more than just game developers. Blender also has its own store to purchase assets. (Note: Check out BlendSwap while you are at it. This is a HUGE Blender community).

BFXR – Sound generation software built into your browser! Produces an “8 bit” type sound, which could be cool if you are going for that old school feel. It’s also free!

Coherent Labs – These guys provide professional solutions for User Interfaces (UI). Create a stunning and high-performance user interface for your game based on the HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. Not free, but you can request a demo!

FreeSFXThey have more than 250,000 royalty free music files and sound effects. This site can also work for you if you have audio production/sound design experience, you can create your own profile and gain a following through it.

Nanentine – More royalty free music.

Freesound.org – This is quite literally free sounds. More than just for game development, this is one of the largest communities for royalty-free sounds.

FroGames – Looking for wizard, warrior, or commoner type character models for your RPG, RTS, or MMO? FroGames has em! This is a great asset for indie developers looking to produce something set in the medieval times, as they are reasonably priced.

Game Icons – Nearly 3000 icons for your game can be found here. These can be downloaded in SVG and PNG format. Icons are a simple way to help your users understand how to play your game! These could be used in menu systems and other various UI’s.

Game Textures –  a MASSIVE library of textures for your game development needs. Plans start at $10/month which includes 300 downloads, reasonable for an indie developer or team.

Houdini – A great Unreal plugin that allows you to use node-based workflows (Node-based workflows are ideal for linking media objects and effects in a procedural map) within the Unreal engine itself.

IKinema – Here to help you “achieve stunningly realistic animation during gameplay”. AAA games like Guitar Hero and Scalebound were made with this professional animation software. They offer a free 14-day trial for some of their products as well.

Incompetech – This site is more focused on royalty-free music, especially helpful if your game needs a little background noise or something to really place the player in the action.

Inkscape – This is a great free SVG / PNG editor. This tool is extremely useful for quickly designing UI assets like menus and health bars.

Make Human – One of our favorite tools that we’ve come across, Make Human is a free and open source software for making 3D human models. Boasting 1170 Morphings for effective parametric modeling. This tool allows you to manipulate age, gender, height, weight, facial features and more.

Map Editor – A free tiled map editor (mostly for 2d projects).It supports orthogonal, isometric and hexagonal maps and has a fairly active forum community.

Open Game Art – One of the biggest online forums for free game art and assets. You can find 2D and 3D art, textures, music, sound effects plus more!

Share CG – A free to join community where you can find tutorials, videos, and 3D models. They also have a pretty decent sized repository of software and plugins for 3D model and game development.

Simplygon  Professional grade 3D graphics software for optimization. This software was used for Warhammer: End Times and has been deemed the “gold standard” for Professional 3D projects.

SpeedTree – Another industry standard in the world of 3D renders and animation. Compatible with Unity and Unreal. Its pro tools were used to make Star Wars – The Force Awakens and newly release Destiny 2. SpeedTree is ideal for vegetation modeling animation and priced well enough for an indie developer to afford.

Substance Share – Free to download textures. This is also a place where you can exchange your textures with other designers. You can find materials, meshes, plugins, shaders and more here.

Free3D (Formerly TF3DM) –  Free 3D is a great place to share the 3D models you’ve designed yourself. They allow you to build your own portfolio and show off your skills. FIf you’re looking for it, this site can also help with getting more freelance design work. They have nearly 16,000 models available.

TurboSquid  These guys have a great repository of high-res models. You can find cars, characters, buildings, chairs, landscapes and everything in between. They also hold 3D art competitions!

Vanishing Point –  Here you can purchase 3D models (not just for Unity or Unreal 4). If you are building a game set in the 21st century, and need military, architecture or vehicle models, I would check these guys out.

World Machine – Standalone procedural terrain creator. This means you can quickly create simulations of nature, with interactive editing for realistic looking terrain.  You can integrate this with the Unreal and Unity engines in a combination of ways, allowing you to develop heightmaps, meshes, and textures.

Yobi 3D – A 3D model search engine/repository. Quick access to thousands of 3D models and a super useful 3D file converter tool.

Have any other Resources we are not aware of? Contact us and let us know!