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Steam Suggestions

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by StarvingIndieDeveloper, Dec 28, 2018.

  1. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    right ^

    AAA characters begin first as tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of quick sketches (and so does every other aspect of game art). Really rough and loose stuff. When it comes to art, it's suicide to try and get it right on the first go. You want to create as many possibilities as time allows and really focus in on nailing the essential feeling you want observer to get when they see your art/character. Only then do you put time into finishing the piece out.

    and really, really avoid that tendency to look through a magnifying glass. The details don't matter, especially with a little thumbnail image that's meant to grab attention.
     
  2. StarvingIndieDeveloper

    StarvingIndieDeveloper

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    I thought the new image would stand out reasonably well among all the brightly colored capsule images in Steam's search listings, since (at least for me) it's the muted, dark, or grayscale images that stand out the most.

    As for your idea of using the female body to sell it; right now, the only adult female in the game is a 19th century woman (ghost) who is barely visible in normal light but shows up well as a silhouette in infrared. Not much skin there, but maybe she has a sexy infrared profile despite wearing a long dress. I suppose the Spook Inspectors team members have fantasy girlfriends who they wish they had, so maybe those count as well. Eventually there will be an early 20th century woman (ghost) hanging around a coffee shop that used to be a nightclub, in an alley visible from the player's tiny studio apartment. She won't be as primly dressed, but won't have any skin to show either, just ectoplasm.
     
  3. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    that's just a thought -- a suggestion. i mean if it doesn't work it doesnt work. But the idea is, this is war. Bring everything you got and go for the kill shot. if you can get some boobies in there, get boobies in there. :)

    seriously though, if at all possbile try and get an artist to help you out. not me, I am not selling myself here and that's not exactly my forte' anyhow. even if it cost a little money, this is the first impression we are talking about -- i don't think it's importance can be overstated.

    you want somebody who has a feel for composition, color, just a good artistic sense. Then you want them to present you with like 50 different options, put all those options up against everything else, and just go with the feels. If you can get a broad consensus from many people, even better.

    The thing about a non-artist trying to do art is that you'll waste massive amounts of time. It's a different kind of work that requires a lot of self-restraint. You don't really learn this specific kind of restraint until you've screwed up majorly many times and thus learn the hard way how to keep yourself from getting obsessed under the microscope.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019
  4. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    I think the way you graphically represent the ghost is cool, but there is nothing about it that looks sinister or intriguing.

    For one thing, why is it directly under the lights? If it is to appear sinister, it might be better for it to be partially emerging from some kind of shadowy area, maybe from the left.

    Is the ghost a malevolent killer? A friendly electrician who got electrocuted while maintaining the lights? Extroverted party animal or quiet introvert? What is its relationship to the player? What kind of interactions will the player have with it? What kind of drama will unfold?

    And where are any of these questions being answered with the picture?
     
  5. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Don't think. Don't guess. Confirm. Confirm. Confirm.

    Make the composition and look with your own eyes. or just have a thumbnail sized image of your shot and hold it up while clicking through the steam suggestions. Get everybody you can to look as well. No reason to take chance at all. This is what will set you apart.

    If you aren't confident that you've got the best sense for it, go to an artist forum and just ask for general feedback. Some people may be really generous and even offer draw-overs. Short of hiring an artist, this will probably be the biggest help.
     
  6. StarvingIndieDeveloper

    StarvingIndieDeveloper

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    The ghosts in the game have no relation to the player at all. The player is just investigating places and coming across random ghosts, except for some permanent local ghosts that are unique to each place.
     
  7. StarvingIndieDeveloper

    StarvingIndieDeveloper

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    For most games on Steam, especially horror games (which do not have a large fanbase except on Youtube), the vast majority of sales will come from coverage on Youtube or Twitch, in which case the customer will already have seen extensive actual gameplay (not just one image) and will only search for it on Steam if they have already decided to buy it. I previously gave the example of "Slay the Spire", which belongs to a much more popular genre than horror and yet it still had virtually no sales during its first two weeks on Steam until a Chinese Youtuber made a video about it and it gradually went viral. It has good capsule images but very few people bought it because of that: 99% of them bought it after seeing actual gameplay. I suppose the capsule image might influence Youtubers to decide to play it, but I already have 163 key requests for my game on KeyMailer, mostly from Youtubers, so evidently they are willing to look at it in spite of any poor quality of my capsule images.

    Note that I'm not claiming the capsule images mean nothing; but I can't spend weeks making 50 images or spend money I don't have hiring a professional to do it. I have to focus on other things, like sending free keys to Youtubers and improving the gameplay so it doesn't flop on Youtube.
     
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  8. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    I don't mean relationship as in family or intimate relationship.

    I mean, what do the ghosts mean to the player? Are they friends, enemies, incarnations of the player's Jungian shadow...do they have some kind of interest value at all?

    If this question cannot be answered, you will have a difficult time making players care about the ghosts - and, subsequently, the game itself.
     
  9. StarvingIndieDeveloper

    StarvingIndieDeveloper

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    The player is trying to gather verifiable information that the ghost is there (by detecting them in infrared - their heat signature in other words - or detecting an EMF or temperature fluctuation that shouldn't occur, or similarly using other devices to find evidence). If the player gathers enough evidence, he'll be promoted upwards in the Spook Inspectors Paranormal Society and receive "rewards" such as a Hobo Hat beanie with the Spook Inspectors logo on it.
     
  10. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    fair enough. sounds like you have a good plan.
     
  11. Billy4184

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    OK this is cool but the question is, why would the player want to go through a lot of meaninglessness to get something that represents a meaningless achievement?

    I think the problem you are having is that you have identified and implemented the ladder for progression, but you haven't really got a story to tell players about why they should climb it at all.

    If you developed a basic story at least of why the ghosts are there, how they came to be there, why you are trying to detect them, what being a spook detective means as a status symbol, and so on, many things will fall into place. You will then intuitively know how to present the game because everything has a reason and a character.
     
  12. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    Okay, dude, for real, what is your imagined pathway from store listing to streamer/youtuber because it 100% starts with somebody looking at your game before bothering with it.
     
  13. StarvingIndieDeveloper

    StarvingIndieDeveloper

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    Some of the ghosts do have a "backstory" that the player will be able to figure out from various clues. Re: why players would want to investigate: I think many players might like the game for the same reason many Youtubers liked "Sylvio", which allowed players to find ghostly voices in audio recordings (which hadn't really been done before in a horror game) or for the same reason they liked "Welcome to the Game II", which allowed players to gradually obtain more equipment while investigating a disappearance. You have to remember that most horror games are just a matter of wandering around reading notes and getting jump-scared occasionally, so any progression ladder or investigative tools will seem like something beyond the norm. There have been only a handful of paranormal investigation games in recent years, and they don't seem to have featured many devices or locations.

    Re: the central character's motives for joining the group: the rest of his life consists of washing dishes at the local "Happy Spoon Diner", which allows him to rent a tiny apartment, eat 25-cent Generic Instant Ramen noodles, and drive a rusty beater of a car. Joining the Spook Inspectors is the closest he will ever come to doing anything remotely meaningful at all. The game is partly a parody.
     
  14. StarvingIndieDeveloper

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    I already have 165 requests for keys, in some cases from Youtubers with hundreds of thousands of subscribers and in some cases around a million. In any event, I think most Youtubers are going to look at screenshots or a description of the gameplay, not just the capsule image; and I doubt they're going to demand an "exciting" capsule image for a game that's designed to be only subtly creepy (which many horror-oriented Youtubers have said they prefer). Here's the header image for "Limbo", which is just a grayscale image of a child walking toward sunlight, and yet the game made millions: https://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/steam/apps/48000/header.jpg?t=1478090357

    Here's the header image for "Little Nightmares", which is just a child in a raincoat gesturing toward a door in front of a pile of dirty dishes, but the game did extremely well: https://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/steam/apps/424840/header.jpg?t=1544028863

    The image doesn't need to look like an ad for a shooter, and it doesn't need to be over-the-top colorful. Since most of the images in Steam's search listings look like that, the only images that will stand out are the ones that buck the trend. Whenever I look through Steam's search listings, the ones which stand out for me tend to have either muted colors or atmospheric lighting effects on a mostly dark background. The colorful, "exciting" ones don't stand out because there are so many of those.
     
  15. BIGTIMEMASTER

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    both of those images have something yours doesn't.

    I understand if you don't think the thumbnail is your biggest fish, and I haven't followed the discussion about whether or not you are best portraying your game with the image, but in terms of just sheer quality, those two successful games you referenced have drastically better thumbnails than yours.

    If you can't see the difference, that's when you need an artist.... and you can ask for free and people will most likely give you some good pointers.
     
  16. StarvingIndieDeveloper

    StarvingIndieDeveloper

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    In college, I took quite a few years of art classes and I used to do a lot of oil painting, so I know something about the subject. Your comments are undoubtedly referring mainly to the composition: the "Little Nightmares" image uses diagonal "lines of force" (as art textbooks call it) to draw the eye upward and focus the viewer on the child, making a bunch of cabinets and dishes seem more dramatic than they otherwise would be. The "Limbo" image uses the curve of the ground and the bright sunlight contrasted against the darkness on the other side of the image to draw the eye in that direction, making it seem more dynamic that it otherwise would be. I understand that, but : 1) I used those images only to make a point about content, not composition, since some people thought the content had to be more exciting. These two images do not have exciting content, regardless of their good composition and use of lighting; and yet the games sold extremely well. 2) Players aren't focused on what you're referring to here. 3) A few years ago everything may well have depended on drawing customers from the Steam search listings within the first week after launch, but today most games receive hardly any sales from that. 4) Very few people are even going to pay much attention to these images since they'll focus either on the screenshots or gameplay issues, or will come to Steam only once they've already seen extensive gameplay videos on Youtube. 5) If I had unlimited time or some money, I could spend more effort on these images, but I have to focus on more important things. Making 50 images and submitting them to people for comment just isn't feasible.

    I could redo them yet again (for the fourth or fifth time) with better composition and lighting (maybe an angled view of the ghost down a hallway so the diagonal lines focus the eye there, combined with more contrast between darkness and light and more atmospheric effects?) but it's just a matter of how much time I can afford to spend on this.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019
  17. BIGTIMEMASTER

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    yeah I would say just post a thread on some forum or reddit where there is tons of artist and just ask for general suggestions, let it sit for a week, and then take in those suggestions and redo it another time or two. This would be a pretty efficient use of time as you can just forget the thing for a moment, let other people more versed in the subject help you out, and it won't cost anything.

    IMO, the composition and lighting are the weak points. Also notice in the other two games you referenced how the perspective and lighting gives some clue as to the general feel of the games. Limbo's coming out of the dark, heading into the light suggest a moody game of exploration. The other game really pushes the "little" aspect with the almost fish eye angle, and I haven't heard of the game but I get a sense it's probably something a bit wild and hectic? When I look at your image, I don't get much from it. Just a dude standing in a big room. Doesn't suggest anything to me. Also the font is lifeless and just kind of tacked on.

    Anyway, the point is, an artist eye will be the biggest boon. You can break art down to the type of things they'll teach in college, but just knowing the jargon isn't the same as somebody whose put years into the craft. There is a difference between knowing the function of all the tools in the toolbelt, and using the tools to create something worthy. So working, professional artist are the people I'd look to for guidance. Like you said, maybe this image isn't so important and you cant waste tons of time on it. That's why I think my suggestion above ^ may be a good way to get it done as well as possible but not waste too much time on it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2019
  18. ShilohGames

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    The header image for both Limbo and Little Nightmares are awesome. Those images give us very good sense of what each game is about, and show case the unique art style choices of each game. Those two header images definitely helped those games sell well.
     
  19. GarBenjamin

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    For what it's worth your game image did stand out to me. A couple days or so ago for another thread I checked new releases on Steam. I was just counting games released esch day but a few games stood out as I did that and yours was absolutely one of them.

    It didn't have that common cartoony look. It also didn't look like some aaa wannabe. It kind of looked like some spectral being just standing there and was interesting in sort of syfy movie or book way.

    I don't think the others are wrong but I also don't think every person looks at things through the eyes of an artist or even the same way in general period.

    I'd just test it. Have an artist create a cover image for you. Don't say a word to anyone on a forum etc and use it for a week and see what the results are. That will telll how you much difference it makes.
     
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  20. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    bingo. a single persons opinion can only be worth so much, and general theories as well. Got to test and see.
     
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  21. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    Absolutely. I'm a huge fan of testing. I kind of view my whole life in all areas as a series of experiments. Lol

    I completely get @StarvingIndieDeveloper's point about how much time can they afford to spend on this stuff. I enjoy doing tests running experiments like a mad professor but am always aware it adds to the cost of a project. Just need to try to find balance in everything I think. :)
     
  22. StarvingIndieDeveloper

    StarvingIndieDeveloper

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    I wasn't criticizing those images; I was just responding to someone who said my image isn't exciting, by pointing out that these games had images that weren't exactly exciting either. Both games did well largely because they were innovative, had a unique graphic style and were extremely weird, which those images don't really show (they show the graphic style but not the quirky strangeness of the characters and environments, although I think some promotional images of "Little Nightmares" showed the Twin Chefs).
     
  23. StarvingIndieDeveloper

    StarvingIndieDeveloper

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    My game remained at the top for Early Access games for over a day, which I thought was surprising given how many new games come out each day. It has now been supplanted by "Attack of the Giant Mutant Lizard".
     
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  24. StarvingIndieDeveloper

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    How about if I put the ghost at the top of a dimly-lit staircase, with the camera looking upwards (a more dramatic camera angle, more diagonal "lines of force", and the feeling of looking into the darkness toward something potentially sinister) ?
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
  25. BIGTIMEMASTER

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    without knowing the game in full detail, I'd hesitate to give real specific suggestions, but just based on general theory I might have the camera perspective looking from the safe, well-lit area into a dark void where something spooky is spookily existing. That would seem to suggest, IMO, that it's more about player going into the "scary basement" to discover what's there.

    Better yet, how about we are looking through a magnifying glass or whatever kind of device suits the game, looking down on some ghastly footprints (slimey or whatever), and those footprints are leading down some stairs into a dark room. Something along those lines. This almost literally tells the player, "its a game where you do detective work to find ghost." And also, you aren't giving away the "monster" before player even plays the game. Let there be mystery.

    You could also play around with the title as well. Maybe it can follow along the footprints, or be stretched with perspective distortion along the floor, and should probably have some kind of whispy, wavey font that immediately suggest "ghost" to the viewer. This might be more interesting, more eye catching, but also suggestive of other-worldiness, mystery, or paranormality.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
  26. BIGTIMEMASTER

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    nevermind the S***tiness of the art, this is just a sketch to demonstrate a few key ideas. you'll need to use your imagination to turn it into something more realistic and professional looking, but hopefully this helps.

    1, eye catching colors. The red "beep" of the device indicating "danger!" mixed with the green or yellow "ghoul smoke." It's a small image so you really got to push the colors and pack a lot of action in there. Imagine the image done well with a lot more realism in the lights and perspective and it could be a pretty cool and suggestive image.

    2. the dynamic title gives a sense of style, character, fun, etc.

    3. the composition suggest action and adventure. We aren't looking at a still life painting. We are in the midst of action. Something is happening. There is a story unfolding. It may be hard to tell, but in the dark spooky doorway we might see the faintest clue of a ghost. A foot walking away, maybe a pair of glowing eyes, whatever. I like the idea of a humanoid ghost scurring away and we just see the back of the foot and ghastly whisp trailing behind. Also a faint glow that lets the different colors bleed together into something spooky and surreal. Obviously red and green may be a bit generic, but you can change it up how you see fit or maybe the game already has it's own palette you should match. But you definitely want that dynamic, eye catching range of hues and values.

    Obviously more care needs to be put into it but the basic idea is there. The perspective is all F***ed up and there should probably be a trail of footprints in the scanner, but I am sure you get the gist, right? Dynamic action that informs us what the player will be doing. Exciting and eye catching colors. Title helps to set the mood and really tell player, "the developer spared no expense and really nailed all the little details."
    spook inspectors.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
  27. StarvingIndieDeveloper

    StarvingIndieDeveloper

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    I understand your point: make it look like a purposefully-designed title image rather than something that looks like an in-game screenshot. The game doesn't currently include ghost footprints but I was thinking of adding those as another way for players to actively hunt down ghosts rather than just hoping they get lucky (footprints might conceivably show up in infrared - TAPS sometimes says they find visible footprints left on a dusty floor, so maybe a lingering infrared signature would be left behind as well.) But yes, I understand you're saying to forget about realism / in-game features and make something designed to symbolically convey ideas to customers.
     
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  28. StarvingIndieDeveloper

    StarvingIndieDeveloper

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    BTW, does anyone know how Steam calculates placement in its search listings? One person on Steam said it's based partly on wishlist numbers, but it clearly must be based on things like reviews and sales because my game is still near the top of the list, even under "Action", after almost two days. A few hours ago it was edged out by "Anti-Grav Bamboo Copter" and "Attack of the Giant Mutant Lizard" under "Action"; still in 2nd under "Early Access" (behind the Giant Mutant Lizard game). Its wishlist number is only in the hundreds (people recommend many thousands) so that can't be the factor in my case. It has three reviews, all positive (which seems relatively large for new games but well under the number of plenty of other games); and has had more purchases than I expected (am I allowed to give sales figures?) Maybe that's relatively large, I don't know.
     
  29. BIGTIMEMASTER

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    "designed to symbolically convey ideas to customers."


    great way to put it ^^^
     
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