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  • Postmortem: Spaceslingers

    - Drew McIntosh


    As I said a lot of this stuff is easier to see in hindsight. Going through the process was 100% worth it for my personal growth as a developer because of how much I learned (and that was really my goal), but it definitely should have come at a lesser cost of time.

    So for all the indie devs reading this. My final points are:

    • Twitter isn't great for marketing, but it's ok at gauging interest in stuff. Reddit is pretty good for marketing, but there are some strict rules you need to follow about self-promotion which can hinder your advertising efforts. Don't do facebook, it's kinda useless.
    • In the same vein, twitter actively suppresses tweets with links to external websites, so don't use it to sell your game. Treat twitter like a gamedev conference, to find industry people who might be able to amplify your voice, not general gamers. A subreddit, a discord channel, or a mailing list (or better yet all three) is where you want to be trying to drive interested people.
    • Make a short, snappy, sweet game that you can pump out quickly for your first release. Don't make a bad game, but make a good game that isn't super-complex to make. Make it quick and price it accordingly, use it to learn how to navigate the steam ecosystem.
    • Marketing starts from before you even decide what project you should seriously commit to. Prototype heavily and post stuff on twitter to see what the interactions are like. Now is the time to use your fellow gamedevs for feedback on ideas. Once you find a prototype that seems to shine to other people, do some market research on the genre/hook. Use that to decide if it's worth pursuing or not.
    • No amount of marketing can make a really bad game sell well, but good marketing can make an average to good game sell better and can push an amazing game into stratospheric heights.
    • Once you have an idea that you are going to pursue, don't keep it secret. The earlier you start building an audience the better. Things tend to snowball and followers beget followers. You might be at 10 followers for three months, then at 50 for a month, then at 200 for a few weeks, etc, etc. It all depends on how active you are and how cool your stuff is. But no one can follow what they don't know about.
    • In correlation with the above, post as though you have an audience. It might feel weird, but no one cares. Talk into the void as though the void will talk back and eventually, it will.
    • Budget your time, it's worth more than you think it is. The quicker you can get something done, the quicker you can move on to the next project, and the more chances you have of making something that truly does well.
    • Don't become married to ideas, they are common and you should feel comfortable mutating them or dropping them.
    • Finally, ignore everything I've said. Or not. Each game is unique and requires unique strategies to make them sing to the public. There's some basic groundwork you can do to start the ball rolling, but after that, try to think outside the box. The more interesting and unique your marketing materials can be, the better your chance of standing out from the crowd (and boy howdy is there a crowd these days). Some games get by on their art, others on their premise (Baba Is You, as an example) but no two games follow the exact same steps for marketing, and you shouldn't either. You are you, and no-one else can lay claim to that. Make weird, great games that EA wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole. That's what our job is as indie developers, to make the interesting breakthroughs and experiments that help push the industry forward. Do your unique thing and do it well!

    If you've read this far, I commend you. You've definitely got something, even if it's just an attention span. I hope you've found all this info helpful!

    If you feel like it, follow me on twitter @refreshertowel to keep up with other stuff I post, check out Spaceslingers on Steam to see what all the fuss is about, or check out my latest project, Alchementalist, a spell-crafting roguelike dungeon crawler that allows you to manipulate the elements to create ever more crazy environmental effects!

    Until next time, adieu!


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