August had some interesting Kickstarter campaigns that have a few weeks left to meet their funding goals. Let’s check out some games!
Titan Arena: A Virtual Reality Shooter
Titan Arena is a VR battle arena where players have to jump and fly around using futuristic weapons to fight giant robots. The game was developed by Lightbound Studios, whose members have worked on AAA series like God of War, Medal of Honor, and Lord of the Rings: Conquest.
Titan Arena is set to release in late 2019 for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality if it can get funding. This game stood out to me because the gameplay looked more fast-paced than most VR games being developed currently. In future updates, this is a game I would love to see with some kind of multiplayer or high score ladder system. I think this would be an awesome game to see at an arcade.
Squarewave Maker: A Rhythm Game With a Sandbox Level Creation System
Rhythm games aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but Squarewave Maker might change some minds about the genre. Besides having pretty graphics and smooth gameplay, it has a sandbox style level creation system that allows players to make their own levels and share them with others.
Squarewave Maker was developed by Moshing Cat Studio with a goal of releasing on Steam in October 2019. Moshing Cat Studio had to make their own game engine in order to create their sandbox system, which they say was “inspired by Mario Maker and Ableton Live.” The editor looks actually does look a lot like Ableton and I’m especially interested to see if Squarewave Maker can help people learn about audio production.
Meeple Station: A Cooperative Space Station Simulator
In Meeple Station, players (up to 12 of them!) build and maintain a space station for their meeple, which are little cartoony people. While the game features some low pixel count retro graphics, the game itself is quite complex. Players have to mine resources in space, trade with other stations, manage crew morale and much more!
Meeple Station was developed by Vox Games, who also developed Regions of Ruin. Meeple Station is set to release in December 2018 on Steam if it can get funding! Also, Meeple Station has a demo!
What Were Your Favorite Kickstarter Campaigns This Summer?
There were a lot of awesome-looking campaigns this summer that I didn’t get to write about so I tried to focus on games that could use some help to meet their funding goals. Were there any Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns that caught your eye? Please share them in the comments!
Remember the good old days in the early 2000s, when flash games were becoming popular? The flash games were great because it gave gamers a platform to try lots of new games. It was also good for developers because it made publishing games much more accessible. The lucky developers made some money on ads, and some games became popular enough to build studios out of and move to other platforms. For example, the creators of Alien Hominid went on to make console games like Castle Crashers.
Another aspect of the lowered barrier of access created by flash games, for better or worse, was that developers could make very adult-themed games. These games ended up finding a home living in ads on porn sites and bootlegged streams of sporting events. I’m all for freedom of expression, so I’m not going to knock the creators of games like Ganguro Girl or Fap Titans (I LOL every time I read that title), but I don’t know if the indie game market for paid games has a market for games like those.
So without any further adieu, here are adult-themed, punny games running Kickstarter campaigns. I’ll leave whether or not they deserve funding to you readers…
DILDOS IN SPACE!
If you saw this game’s title and thought “Space Invaders with Dildos”, you’d be right. DILDOS IN SPACE! is being developed by BluePine Games and features procedurally generated levels so you and your friends can shoot down STDs from your dildo ships forever…
DILDOS IN SPACE! has raised $89 of their $2,000 goal with 9 days to go. Be sure to check out their Kickstarter campaign if you want to bring the dream of piloting pixel art dildos to life.
Neckbeardia is a pun-filled open world RPG based on the culture of cringy men’s online and offline personas. Players can equip an assortment of weapons, trench coats, cargo shorts, and fedoras while battling other nerds in turn-based combat, solving puzzles, and collecting cards.
Neckbeardia is being developed by Pixel Mayhem and is currently at $47 of their $4500 goal with 25 days to go. Games built around making fun of a subculture have been known to gain a cult-like following (The Emo Game comes to mind), so I wouldn’t write this game off just yet. If completed, the game is set to release on PC and Android.
I couldn’t find any more info about PixelMayhem, so if you have info on their website or social media profiles, let me know so I can add them!
Waifu Fight Dango Style
Waifu Fight is basically a mix between Pong and Ganguro Girl. The game seems to teeter between the comical and cringy parts of anime culture. Players bounce little gumdrop ghost creatures back and forth across a map with anime babes (Or as they say, “busty waifus”) between the players, and of course, your gumdrop critters can bounce on their boobs… and your pong paddles are sushi, I guess.
As cringy as I find the game’s title and premise, I will give Enso Entertainment credit for the amount of work they put into both the Kickstarter campaign and the game itself. The graphics and gameplay are smooth and the studio has a clear goal. Waifu Fight is currently at $1222 of their $30000 funding goal. If you want to bring the dream of bouncing gumdrop critters from sushi to sushi while “busty waifus” combat each other by bouncing said gumdrop critters off their titties, be sure to check out Waifu Fight’s Kickstarter page! I won’t judge, you weeaboos do you…
Waifu Fight Demo *I haven’t got to play it yet, but I’m curious to see if the controls are one-handed…
Waifu Fight on Twitter *It looks like votes are in favor of turning Waifu Fight into a full-blown hentai game, so we may see another crowdfunding push in the future. Now I’m really curious about those one-handed controls…
What Do You Think About Gag Games?
Do you think that there is a market and price point for games like these? Is there anything gag games can do to be taken more seriously as commercial games? Do you know how many hands the Waifu Fight controls require? Let us know in the comments!
It’s time for the monthly Kickstarter roundup! Here are the games with campaigns that started back in April that caught my eye!
Solar Warden is a six-degrees-of-freedom space fighter developed by Polar Zenith in Unreal Engine. Solar Warden isn’t just any space shooter, it’s also a fleet-based RTS with a campaign that forces the players to manage the expectations and egos of countries all around the world to secure funding for their fleet. The campaign is also full co-op!
What drew me to this game was how it combines so many different genres using a feature they call “telepresence”. Players have an entire world to protect and deploy on missions accordingly (Like XCOM), they then have control of a fleet (Kind of like EVE), and then they can take control of individual ships in combat (Like Colony Wars).
With 6 days left on their campaign and $15,000 to go, it’s going to be a photo finish for Polar Zenith and Solar Warden!
Some of my favorite games growing up were Balder’s Gate and Icewind Dale. Isometric graphics were a staple of PC games in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and I think that look always ages well. So of course, I got excited when Grape Ocean Technologies announced Black Geyser, which was developed in Unity and continues in that vein.
Although the graphics in Black Geyser don’t look much more modern than the classics, it’s what’s under the hood that counts. Black Geyser was developed to have NPCs whose alignment is constantly shifting due to a curse in the game world that causes characters to be seduced by greed — even within your own party!). This will hopefully make for a lot of unique playthrough experiences. As much as I loved making new party combos in Icewind Dale, the story and experience didn’t change much, so I’m excited to see what dynamic and shifting allegiances can bring to one of my favorite game genres!
Black Geyser has already met its funding goal and is set to release in August 2019! A small donation can still unlock some stretch goals and guarantees access to the Beta.
Forest of Liars was developed by Umesha Lovers, a dev team in France. Forest of Liars is a narrative driven game where players must traverse the treacherous forest of liars, where many have entered and few have returned. Players will encounter NPCs and new party members whose motivations are not always clear and have a good chance of betraying you. If you can traverse the politics and dangers of the forest, you’ll get a chance to solve its mysteries.
Narrative-adventure games are becoming quite common, but I was really drawn to the artwork in this game. Every frame looks like a painting. I’m a bit biased on this, but I love that CloZee, one of my favorite music producers, is doing the in-game soundtrack. Since there isn’t a demo, I can’t be sure of the gameplay itself, but the artistry alone should generate a lot of interest.
Forest of Liars has 15 days left on its campaign and is about one-third of the way to reaching its funding goal.
March brought us some interesting new games that build on old genres and feature some new art styles that caught my eye. One game absolutely crushed its funding goal, one made their funding goal with a photo finish, and the other came up just short. Let’s check out some games!
Iron Harvest – A Real-Time Strategy From KING Art Games
Iron Harvest more than doubled its funding of $450,000 as their campaign wraps up with over $1.1 million! Iron Harvest is KING Art Games’ fourth successful Kickstarter campaign. I usually harp about important it is to have a playable demo when seeking crowdfunding, but with four funded projects under their belt, KING Art Games can do whatever they want. Ok, that’s enough gushing over how much cheddar a small studio like KING Art is moving, what is this game about?
Iron Harvest takes place on an alternate Earth called “1920+”, which is essentially the World War 1 era with sweet steampunk machines. The game’s designers said that they wanted to get away from being an RTS focused on actions per minute and clicks per second. Instead, they’re focusing on map control, base building, and using the terrain for positional advantage. While those are still important aspects in faster RTS’s like Starcraft, KING ART wants this game to flow slower, probably like Age of Empires. The combat features a cover system as well as destructible environments. The game is also set to feature an extensive single-player campaign. After crushing its funding goal, Iron Harvest is set to release in December 2019 on PC, PS4, and XBox One.
CHOP – A Local Multiplayer Fighting Arena From Claws Up Games
CHOP barely squeaked by to reach their funding goal of $10,000, so we probably won’t see it come out on consoles soon (Those were stretch goals). CHOP has a playable demo, and I would say the gameplay reminds me of Brawlhala. This doesn’t mean that CHOP is simply a Brawlhala clone, it has several elements that make the game unique. For starters, instead of simply trying to get the best K/D ratio, the goal of the game is to escape the arena through a portal. The characters all have quirks that make their playstyles unique. Add in some ultra-violence, and this looks like a game with a lot of replay value!
We won’t have to wait very long to see the full release of this game, as it’s set to come out in June!
Tala – A Point and Click Explorational Puzzle Game By Matthew Petrak
Unfortunately, Tala fell just short of its funding goal, but I’m hoping Matthew Petrak tries another Kickstarter campaign or Indiegogo in the future. Tala is a cutely animated puzzle adventure (Kind of like Day of the Tentacle or Sam and Max). I haven’t had time to play the demo yet, but even if the gameplay was terrible, I would still be excited about this game.
This is the first game I’ve seen that is animated over real-life backgrounds, which gives it a unique look. I think there is a lot of potential in this development style. Using backdrops from nature saves animation time and, perhaps, more importantly, gets game developers outside more. This development style could be a great change of pace for devs who feel trapped in a dungeon for hours on end.
Tala was set to release in January 2019, but without the funding from Kickstarter, it could be delayed.
There have already been some interesting games announced and successfully crowdfunded this year, but I’d like to show some love to some games that didn’t meet their funding goals. Here are three games from January 2018 that caught my eye.
Wild Mage: Phantom Twilight
Wild Mage was developed by Luna Orion in Unreal Engine 4. Unfortunately, Wild Mage is likely to miss out on its funding goal, but the team at Luna Orion has already produced the framework for a beautiful looking game. If I had to guess why the game didn’t reach their funding goal, I would say it was because the team at Luna Orion was trying to raise money so they could quit their day jobs and focus on development for a year. While I think that the team likely would be able to deliver on their goal of a Winter 2019 release, very few crowdfunding campaigns with the goal of game developers quitting their day jobs tend to succeed.
Of all the Kickstarter campaigns for video games run in January, Wild Mage was the unfunded project that fits into the type of games that I like to play. Granted, it isn’t hard to suck me in with wizards and pretty colors. The game features fully destructible environments that are procedurally generated. Combine this with being a multiplayer game, and Wild Mage has a lot of potential for replayability. If Luna Orion implements player versus player later on, I could certainly find myself getting hooked.
Genesis Noir was developed by Feral Cat Den in Unreal Engine 4. The game features a minimalist noir look, an awesome interactive soundtrack, and a complex plot that gets very meta. With 8 days left, Genesis Noir is a little over halfway past their funding goal. Their marketing efforts have been on point, but I think a lot of gamers are hesitant to donate to a single player game that likely lacks replay value. That being said, I think that this game is something truly original and has the potential to disrupt an industry that has increasingly become a prisoner of corporate and consumer expectations.
AVARIAvs was developed in Unity by Andrew Linde. The game puts a new twist on the classic JRPG format by allowing players’ parties to compete in ranked PVP. Turn-based games aren’t getting the love that they used to on consoles, so a game like this can change the way competitive gamers view JRPGs. The game also boasts 2000 possible party combos, which will hopefully help eliminate the dreaded regression to cookie-cutter compositions in player versus player games.
With 7 days left in its campaign, AVARIAvs has $8,000 to raise in order to meet its funding goal. This is a game that I’m certainly rooting for because it has the potential to create a new genre in gaming.
In the Onus Helm, you play as a guy who wakes up with a magical helmet on his head that he can’t remove. He goes into a labyrinth to solve the Onus Helm’s mysteries and hopefully remove the helmet.
As for the gameplay, we can confront the elephant in the room… this game is very similar to the old Legend of Zelda games. Your health is displayed in hearts, rooms don’t open until you defeat all the enemies or solve a puzzle, and there is an assortment of not so original items such as the sword, bow and arrow, bombs, a boomerang… you get the picture. That being said, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I love the old-school Zelda games and would love to see more games with that classic style come out. Especially with Breath of the Wild being rumored to be the last Legend of Zelda game.
What The Onus Helm has that Legend of Zelda doesn’t, is procedurally generated levels for replayability. Often, when replaying classic games for SNES or Sega Genesis, there isn’t much to gain in terms of skills or entertainment because the fights are always scripted the same with no variation. This makes the games more of a test of memory than skills. Having procedurally generated levels allows players to have new experiences playing still playing in the same engine.
That’s so Zelda!
The Onus Helm’s Kickstarter Campaign
Unfortunately, the team at B-Cubed Labs is unlikely to meet their funding goal on Kickstarter. As far as their campaign and promotion they did a lot of things right. They set a modest goal of $5,500, had a playable demo, and made lots of cool gifs. The game was covered by a lot of big websites too. There are a few things that might have helped them reach their goal, although, running a Kickstarter campaign and failing is still good for promoting a game.
I think that a press kit would have helped them out a lot. I scoured the internet to find a decent featured image (Around 600x 400 pixels) and ended up having to resize an image anyway. This could have turned off a lot of media outlets from covering the game. I also would have liked to learn more about the story. Normally, I would advise not going too deep into lore on a Kickstarter campaign, but I wanted to learn more about. All you can really glean from the campaign is “Guy gets helmet stuck on his head and has to do Zelda stuff to remove it”. Lastly, I would have liked to see a longer demo. It didn’t take me long to beat the level, and although I enjoyed the gameplay, I had seen all there was to do in less than 10 minutes. Comparatively, I spent hours playing the demo for Broken Reality.
Fortunately, with crowdfunding, you can always run a new campaign later! I love the concept of the game and I think their stretch goal of making the game multiplayer will make it a unique gaming experience and distance The Onus Helm from stereotypes of being a lazy Zelda clone. If you check out B-Cubed Labs on Twitter and itch.io, you’ll see that there are actually a lot of cool fight mechanics a very fast gameplay style. Unfortunately, I don’t think the demo does what B-Cubed Labs is trying to build justice.
Xeno Crisis, a retro top-down shooter for Sega Genesis developed by Bitmap Bureau recently more than doubled its crowdfunding goal on Kickstarter. See how they did it!
A few months ago, I wrote about some of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to making a Kickstarter campaign for an indie game. Xeno Crisis, developed by Bitmap Bureau, stuck by most of the principles I recommended and even did some things I would have been too timid to try. Although Bitmap Bureau was founded in 2016, the development team behind the company has a lot of experience, some going back over 20 years and they have some great marketing tricks for studios with a small or non-existent budget.
A Simple Game Trailer
I’ve harped on about game developers over-diverting time and effort into making extravagant cinematic trailers in the development and crowd-funding page. Don’t get me wrong, I love a beautiful cinematic trailer as much as the next person, but I think that they fit in better for the release. When it comes to generating interest while the game is still under development, gamers want to get a feel for how the game plays more than anything. If you watch the trailer below, you’ll notice that the trailer is just gameplay and sweet retro synth metal.
Keeping it short and sweet.
Keeping the Content Focused on Gameplay
Even if a game has the greatest story ever told, plenty of games with great stories don’t have the gameplay to match it. When reading through Bitmap Bureau’s description of Xeno Crisis, they make practically no mention of the game’s plot in the description and instead go immediately into gameplay style comparisons. That being said, the game itself probably has a decently in-depth plot, but for crowdfunding purposes, viewers can simply gather that there is an alien infestation and some badass space marine has to shoot up a lot of xenomorphs to save the day.
This GIF illustrates the procedurally generated levels. Not the prettiest marketing material but it gets the job done.
When is the Best Time to Begin Crowdfunding an Indie Game?
Knowing the answer to this question can save developers a lot of redos when it comes to crowdfunding campaigns. Bitmap Bureau waiting until the frameworks of Xeno Crisis were completed before seeking funding. This ensured that their game would be playable when they began marketing it, even if they are still adding more levels and features between then and the release. The framework for gameplay, menus, and procedurally generated levels are already in the game, meaning that the odds of a catastrophic programming error delaying the game’s release are much lower. Xeno Crisis is already more complete than many EA releases lately…
Addressing Risks and Challenges
Bitmap Bureau was quick to address what they felt would be the primary concerns of backers. Since Xeno Crisis will have physical copies for Sega Genesis (Or MegaDrive in the UK) and Sega Dreamcast, the logistics become far more complex than a simple digital download. There is nothing worse for backers than funding a Kickstarter, having the project reach its funding goal, and still having to wait years to get your own copy or model. if it ever arrives at all… Reaching a crowdfunding goal and not delivering on your product is a good way to never get funding again.
Bitmap Bureau got ahead of the situation by noting that programming Sega Genesis cartridges can be troublesome and this could cause delays in the release. Bitmap Bureau’s solution was simple and effective, they included a digital download of the game for all backers and buyers. This ensures that even if there is a supply chain disaster or hardware difficulties, players will at least get to play the game!
Physical game copies can cause additional challenges to arise when releasing a game.
Bitmap Bureau does a lot of little things with their marketing that allow a small studio to have success on a small budget. This goes beyond their Kickstarter campaigns and applies to their websites as well, which I’ll get into at a later date. If you’re a developer who doesn’t have much experience with marketing, emulating Bitmap Bureau is a good place to start!
If you know any tricks that Bitmap Bureau did that I left out, or if you know of any other any indie developers who you think market their games well, please share in the comments!
More Indie Game Marketing Tricks and Tutorials
Be sure to check in for more marketing tutorials and tricks. If there’s something you’d like to learn more about, let us know in the comments!
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.
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.
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!