Pixelfest is a gaming festival that seeks to grow and develop future artists and programmers through a shared love of gaming. At the festival, Carl and Ross shared some wisdom about how essential quality branding can be for a game to thrive. For smaller indie developers looking to establish capital through crowdfunding campaigns, like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, your branding is integral to your success or failure.
(This striking image was designed for pixelfest by one of our artists here at Epic Made, Dylan Gwaltney)
The brief lessons outlined here can be applied, in some way, to all businesses and products. But, in the spirit of Pixelfest’s goal to foster indie gaming talent, we’ll present these lessons as they apply to a developer seeking to crowdfund a video game.
The vital question you need to ask is, “What is going to get my game noticed before the rest?”. As Carl succinctly puts it, “The answer is good branding”. Perhaps your game has an incredible combat system, an innovative inventory management system, or just looks that damn good. Ultimately, you still need to get noticed in a market with fierce competition. Think of branding as your game’s identity. What makes it stand out? What makes it memorable? Does it inspire confidence and support? The way you present your game can be as important as the game itself. So, What do you need?
This acts as the initial handshake with your target audience. This is your first impression. The logo’s for Indivisble and Darkest Dungeon (featured below) are great examples of stylish, distinct, and informative logo design. Each are successfully crowdfunded games that we’ll use as examples moving forward.
A Brief Elevator Pitch:
Ideally, you should be able to boil down the core idea of your game into a single sentence, and lead with that. A great example is Red Hook Studio’s successfully funded game, Darkest Dungeon. The Kickstarter page describes it as “a challenging gothic roguelike RPG about the psychological stresses of adventuring”. This gives insight into the game’s genre (rougelike RPG), its aesthetic (Gothic), and its unique spin on the genre (focused on the psychological stresses of adventuring). When combined with the rest of the visual elements we’ll discuss later, this single sentence delivers a strong impression of the game. The goal here isn’t to go into detail about every facet, instead you should interest someone enough to care about those details.
If logos can be seen as an initial handshake, thumbnails can be seen as a verbal introduction. Thumbnails can go into a bit more detail and communicate the general personality, purpose, and feel of the game. Whether these thumbnails highlight landscapes, characters, or situations, the goal should be all about capturing what makes your game unique, fleshing out its identity.
These are so significant that they deserve an entire post dedicated to them, which may come in the future. For now, know that most crowdfunding campaigns are unsuccessful without some sort of video lead in, and even if crowdfunding isn’t your ultimate goal, some sort of video trailer or advertisement should still be on your list of essentials. The other assets listed here can communicate the project itself, but this is a great place to showcase the developers and artists behind the game and, perhaps more importantly, the skills and passion they possess.
These snapshots of in game moments can often make or break the perception of a game. They reveal what the game will be like from moment to moment. A recently funded game, “Indivisible“, from developer Lab Zero, showcases how concept art and screenshots can be used to deliver validity, personality, and knowledge to potential players and supporters. Indivisible describes itself as “a side-scrolling RPG in the vein of Valkyrie Profile, spanning a huge fantasy world inspired by our own world’s various cultures and mythologies.” In these screenshots below, we can already see how the artists intend to draw inspiration from those various cultures and put their own artistic spin on them.
When developing all of these assets there are two things you need to keep in mind. First, you must understand your demographic. Know your people and connect with them. Impress the shit out of them! Don’t beg them to tell their friends and family, inspire and compel them to. Your core demographic can then spread the word to those who may be outside of your target audience.
Second, be consistent. Ensure that the colors, fonts, and assets are all consistent throughout your marketing. This unity in branding is essential. Make sure that people know your game when they see it, both in gameplay and in branding, and that they cannot make the mistake of thinking they’ve stumbled across the wrong title when refereed by a friend.
(Designed by Epic Made designer Dylan Gwaltney)
As Carl and Ross put it in their class at Pixelfest, “A strong brand presence can get your game funded, or even purchased, without anyone touching a controller or keyboard. A weak brand, or none at all, can prevent your game from ever being noticed. Your audience’s attention span is precious. Make sure that you give them a reason to use it on your creation.”