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  • Lessons Learned From Steam NextFest

    [07.15.21]
    - Laura Tallardy
  • We did it!  We made it through our first Steam festival.  We always wanted to take part in one, and we finally did.

    Our game is "Paranormal Detective: Escape from the 90's", a VR escape room game set in a mall arcade.  It's a sequel to "Paranormal Detective: Escape from the 80's".

    We're a two-person studio, LunaBeat (follow us on twitter! @lunabeatgames).  The festival was Steam's NextFest for June 2021.

    I'm going to go rapid fire here since I have a lot of things to share!


    Timing

    -The Steam festivals operate on a specific timeline.  Your game's development needs to align with that timeline.  You need to publish a game page before the fest, publish a demo for the fest, and release the game within 6 months after the fest.

    -Supposedly it's ideal to participate in the fest closest to your game's launch (whoops).  There are 2 fests a year at this time.

    -The deadlines are absolutely inflexible.  If you've been on an indie timeline, it may take some getting used to.

    Sneaky Steam timing

    -Steam requires you to hit two milestones with deadlines: publishing your page and opting in to the festival, then submitting and publishing your demo.

    -You want to hit these milestones as soon as you can, and here's why:

    -These milestones have mini deadlines within them.  Your page must be published by X date to opt in, but Steam takes 3-5 days to approve a page (if things go smoothly).  So to hit X date, you need to submit your page at least 5 days before X.

    -Same with the demo, you need to submit your build at least several days before the fest so it'll be approved on time.  You don't need to release the demo immediately, and you can make changes to it later, so it's key to get your build submitted asap.

    -There's an optional Press deadline which allows journalists early access to your demo, which must be submitted and approved.  The journalists were ready to go and started downloading immediately.  We hoped we'd have some time, but they dove in right away.

    -I kept all these dates and their sneaky extra deadlines on a shared Google calendar so we could both stay apprised of the deadlines.  I added email reminders too- didn't want any surprises for this strict schedule.

    Demo page & app ID

    -When you go to set up your new game on Steam, not only do you need to set up your full game's app ID, but you'll need a second app ID just for the demo.  We did not know this, now we do, and now you do too.

    Workload

    -Typically I make a game's initial metadata, and then more polished metadata for launch.  For the fest, I had to make more metadata since the demo looks different than the game.  It's time consuming to record and edit footage.  It was worth it for marketing, but it was an extra task.

    -Above everything, the demo must function.  We cut features from our demo because of the deadline- the game had to work more than it had to have a lot of stuff.  Testing and bug fixing always takes more time than you like, so we had to seriously plan for that time and focus just on the baseline features.  Nothing superfluous.

    -In our previous game, we added a solutions guide to Steam.  We didn't think of that this time, and spent some time helping players through puzzles.  NBD, but it would have been nice to have.

    Take care of yourself

    -This festival seemed to be a bigger workload for us than usual.  On the one hand, we were able to really push ourselves to come out with a functional, polished demo in 6 mos.  On the other hand, we were both pretty worn out by the end.  With so much to do and so little time, I just didn't hit everything on my list, and I was too tired to promote as much as I wanted to during the festival.

    -We both took a few days off before and during the fest, and while it bugged me to not be working 100% of the time, we needed some breaks.  We're only human.

    -I'd really encourage trying to take a few days off before the fest begins if you can to recharge and get ready to pound those drums for the festival week.

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