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Game Development Checklist

Often when developing games we find ourselves in a bubble of development. We trick ourselves into thinking things are set in stone when they aren’t. We start believing that we have to do things a certain way. Everyone does it eventually. So I created a series of questions to ask yourself while in different stages of development. Did I miss any important ones? Send them to me on Twitter or Discord!

Before Starting a Game

What genre(s) will this be?

These might change as the game and story develops, but try to have an idea of what you’d like the genres to be in the beginning.

What’s the core mechanics?

Establish core mechanics early. This guides you towards what engine you’ll want to use- different engines are better for different mechanics.

How long will the game be?

Obviously you won’t know for certain what the scope of the project will be upfront, but try to estimate it. Outline it on pen and paper, get a general feel for it. Will it be 2 hours? 10 hours? 30? Will it have only a handful of characters or 20+? How many levels are you thinking of?

Will it be commercial?

As soon as you have an idea, set this part in stone. Don’t change it later on unless you’re absolutely certain. Making a free game is extremely different than a commercial one. When you decide to charge for your game, you have to worry about licensing fees, marketing, paying teammates, taxes, distribution, etc.

It’s a lot easier to turn a commercial game in progress free / freemium than turning a free game in progress commercial.

Will I need funding?

Similar to figuring out if the game will be free or paid, you should figure out very early on how development will be paid for. Will it be all volunteer? Revshare? Maybe you’ll seek crowdfunding like Kickstarter or Indiegogo once you have a demo done? Or maybe you’ll self fund the game? Will you seek investors or business grants? There’s a lot of ways to fund a game.

Side note: check out my talk here on getting business grants for game studios.

Will I need help making this?

Again, just like with the previous question, you’ll need to figure this out very soon. Can you do it all on your own, or at least learn how to? Is the scope too big for one person to feasibly make? Do you want to just focus on some areas?


During Development

Focus- how can I get this game from concept to final product?

Is the scope too large for my team?

Reevaluate the scope at every stage of development, at every team meeting. An overgrown scope is one of the most silent and deadliest killers for projects. Talk things out with your teammates or with friends, if you’re working alone.

Do we really need this feature?

Evaluating scope can be hard- so here’s some pointers! Go through your features list (including mechanics, levels, abilities, etc.) and ask which ones you actually need.

Who is doing what?

Define jobs not only by titles but also by outlining what they’ll be doing. One person might think an editor should proofread and rearrange sentence structures while another person might think they should just read through it for consistency. I’ve had people not know that a marketer should have access to basic assets for the game like summaries, character art, screenshots, etc.

Be clear both in the hiring / volunteering stage and once they start on what you expect from them. Will your PR person be responsible for managing social media, sending newsletters, contacting press, or doing community management? Will your artist do just background linearts, character art, GUI, or something else? Set these mostly in stone quick and make sure they’re clear.

How often will I communicate with my team (and where)?

If you’re not going solo, how will you talk to your teammates? Where will you have meetings and how frequently will they be? Keep in mind that meetings should be both updates on progress and planning ahead. Check in on your teammates to see how they’re doing and take notes of anything that might hurt future progress (like excusing a lack of progress on the same thing over and over such as school).

What platforms will we release on?

Nowadays it’s not too hard to change ports after the game is near finished or finished, but it’s still good to plan ahead. Will you release on just Steam & Itch.io or will you go for mobile as well? Google Play is a one-time $25 fee, Amazon is free, and the Apple App Store is $100 yearly. Does you engine support console ports if you choose to go to console?

Where will you post updates?

Where will people be able to see updates for you game? Will it mostly be through a website, a Twitter account, a Discord server, a newsletter, or something else? How often will you be able to post updates so you don’t go months without any news?

Who is the target audience for this?

First off: your target audience/market is not everyone.

Your target audience is the niche that will most likely love your game. The target market for a $30 otome on Steam is not going to be men in their 30s who play FPS games- it’s most likely going to be women in their 20-30s who play games on Steam and like romance visual novels. This of course is just an example and not a refined target audience. Your actual target market should be more specific- age range, gender, disposable income, platforms, aesthetics, preferred social media, etc.

When you think you have it figured out, test it! Go to where these players are, do some research on similar games and ask around. Ask who’d be interested in your game. Research, research, research!

When should I announce the game?

Once you announce a game you’re kickstarting the marketing process. If you announce too early then you’ll run out of updates and progress to show or features will change during development and you’ll have to pivot the marketing. If you announce too late then you might run out of time to grow awareness of the product before launch- and launch is a very big day nowadays.

You should feel comfortable with the idea of the project and have a fair amount of progress built up with a steady stream of more assets to come in the future. Have a clear logline and know what the core of the project is about. Don’t show everything on announcement day, save some for the next week and such.

And when you announce a game, make sure you have a marketing funnel to bring players in!

How long will the project take?

If you think a project will take you a year, plan for two. If you think a project will take you two months but you don’t cut back on scope at all… plan for a year. It can be hard to envision how long a project will take when you’re first starting out, but this becomes easier with each release as you gain experience.


Near Release

Caution- the end is in sight but don’t lose focus just yet.

Do we have enough wishlists and interest?

If you’re releasing on Steam then wishlists are a good indicator of how well the game will sell. Are there enough eyes on your game that it should sell well?

Has the game been playtested enough?

Be honest with yourself- has the game been tested thoroughly? Have you received enough feedback from players and fixed any issues? Are there any areas that still need some work?

Do I have to release on X day?

Is there something forcing you to release on a certain day, or do you have tunnel vision after a long road of development? Sit back and really think about if your game is ready to launch- you can’t fix a bad launch day. I’ve learned this the hard way- don’t force yourself into thinking you have to launch if there’s nothing forcing you to. Get those extra eyes on your game, ask for more feedback, type up a few more press emails, etc.

What does my pre-launch & launch campaign look like?

How does your marketing plan look leading up to launch? What am I going to do on launch day? Plan these things out in advance to save a lot of headache.

Do I have all of my credits in order?

Check back over your list of team members or anyone you have to credit for creative commons assets and such.


Post Release

Reflect- what went wrong and what went right?

What are some things I could have improved?

Get some feedback from early adopters and make a mental (or physical) list of notes. What are some things that need updating right now? What are some things that I could have improved in the game as a whole? How can I improve future games with my new experience?

Did I get the right target audience?

Was your marketing spot on or was it off to the side a bit? Reflect on how your marketing was- were you not posting enough to social media? Did you contact enough press, or did you contact them too late? Was your call to action in your demo strong? Did you even have an effective call to action?

What’s next?

This is completely up to you. Do you already have an idea for your next game? Are you done making games? Will you make a bigger or smaller game next time?


I hope this sorta-article helps you think about some things in game dev you weren’t currently conscious of. Reframing our view and making sure we’re on track is an important part of making anything.

If you liked this post, consider checking out my other articles, I like to write about game development philosophies and marketing. You can also talk to me about marketing on Twitter or in my marketing Discord channel here. My visual novel & RPG development studio is Crystal Game Works.

P.S. If you want to use the cute Rimia thinking image as an emoji along with other cute ones, join my studio’s Discord server.

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4 Things to do Right Now to Kickstart Your New Game Dev Twitter/Instagram

Thought I’d make a quick post this week on a list of things you can do right now to kickstart your brand new social media account. I got the inspiration for this when someone in Devtalk+ was asking me for advice on their game dev / art Twitter that they hadn’t used for years so they were looking for a fresh start.

This guide is primarily for game dev and art accounts. However, other types of accounts can take some ideas and implement them as well. If you find any of these helpful or something I missed, please let me know!

Before we start… decide what your account will focus on. Will it be for your studio? Or promoting your graphic design to game devs? Or sharing your art to the world? This will make it much easier moving forward.

Note: for personal accounts (such as my own) they can have multiple aspects but can have 1 primary focus. For my personal account, I’ll RT fanart from anime and games I like and post about my chihuahua Leroy, but the primary focus is game development ideas and philosophies (i.e. not sharing my game dev progress but rather talking about game dev concepts like marketing).

1. Profile

It’s the most obvious but also one of the most important features- your icon, your bio, and your header! I’m constantly editing mine to keep it up to date and the best it can be.

My studio Twitter, currently averaging anywhere from 1-4 new followers a day
My personal Twitter
My studio Instagram- it’s a lot younger than my studio Twitter!

You want a clear profile image, good banner, descriptive bio, and a clean handle.

Profile Image

A clear profile image that best describes you or what you’re working on:

  • On Crystal Game Works I typically have it as the protagonist from my current game
  • On my personal I keep it between my two mascots, Mikomi and Rimia (Rimia is my current icon)

For game developers, I recommend an icon of your current game in development, perhaps the protagonist. If your game doesn’t really have a “main character” then a logo can be used.

For artists, I recommend your own art as your icon. While I am an artist, my personal Twitter isn’t just for my art, so I’ll sometimes have it be other people’s art (and credit them).

Banner

A banner if on Twitter, possibly with a logo:

  • On Crystal Game Works I used to have a banner of the key art for Asterism + the logo, but right now it’s a banner artwork of Enamored Risks, my most recent release
  • On my personal it’s a drawing I did, I typically make it an artwork of mine

Keep in mind that on Twitter your icon will cover some of your banner. You can be more descriptive like indie authors and have banners promoting your next launch with descriptive words. Or, you can go for a simpler banner that’s just your key art and a logo.

For artists, like the icon, I recommend you use your own art.

Bio

A descriptive but easy to digest bio:

  • On Crystal Game Works’ Twitter I have multiple points in my bio:
    • It’s female-owned
    • We make visual novels and RPGs
    • We focus on romance and otome games
    • A small list of our finished games
  • On my personal I use a more bullet-point style and go over:
    • My nickname, Miko
    • My pronouns
    • What I primarily do (I’m an anime artist, freelance marketer, and visual novel developer)
    • The company I own (including an @)
    • Credit for my icon

I’m not a big fan of the more classic bullet point style “Father. Developer. 34. Video game fan for life.” but it depends on your style. Ironically, my studio bio might read more personal than my personal bio! It’s 2 sentences with exclamation marks, and highlighting it’s female-ran makes it even more personal and potentially relatable.

Make sure you also add a link to the link field! A link to your website or portfolio is perfect. For both of my accounts I link to my websites for each.

Handle

A clean handle:

  • On Crystal Game Works I ran out of characters on Twitter and could only get @crystalgamework, but it still is quite clear. (Twitter, please, just give me 1 more letter!)
  • On my personal it’s simply my username, @MikomiKisomi.

While you might not be able to get the best handle in the world, try to make it as clean as you can. Underscores and other special characters can be fine but we’re not working with MySpace usernames from 2000 anymore.

Note about icons / banners: feel free to change them up with a new release or event! The Steam Game Festival started before I released this article so I changed the icon, banner, and username (not handle) for Crystal Game Works to reflect the Asterism demo being a part of it.

2. First Tweets / Posts

Before you get people looking at your account, you need to have stuff on it! Whether this is a brand new account or a dead one you’re refurbishing, make a few posts that are on brand for your new outlook. Here’s some ideas for your first few posts.

Game Studio accounts:

  • Introduce your studio and team members
  • Introduce your project(s)
  • Post concept art, programmings/writing snippets, works in progress things
  • Link any finished games, demos, devlogs, etc.
  • Post a screenshot of your current game(s)

Art accounts:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Post an image of your workspace / tools you use
  • Share your older art and a newer art
  • Post a piece you’re proud of
  • Post WIPs of a future art piece
  • Create a video/gif showing an art piece go from sketch -> finished

Personal accounts:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Talk about something you’re passionate about
  • Post an image (maybe your animal!)
  • Link an article you like
  • Introduce a project you’ve worked on or talk about what kind of projects you’d like to work on

Do something to fill the empty space on your page. If you’d like more ideas on things you can post, you can check out my article on social media post ideas.

3. Follow People

Finally, you’re ready to share your account to the world! So, let’s follow some people!

Follow people in the area you’re making the account for. For game dev studio accounts, follow other game dev studios in your field- if you make visual novels follow other visual novel devs, if you make platformers follow other platformer developers, etc. If you’re an artist, follow other smaller artists.

Note: don’t treat this like a follow-for-follow. Follow accounts you’re interested in and don’t expect to be followed back.

If you don’t know where to look… then look no further than hashtags! For visual novel development on Twitter we have #vndev and #vnlink. For general indie games you can look through #indiegame, #indiedev, #indiegamedev, #gamedev, and more.

Try to follow around 20-50 accounts in your first run. Twitter and Instagram both have daily follower limits but they change from time to time.

4. Engagement

Last but not least, it’s something you’ll find preached again and again- engage first if you want engagement. You’ve followed a group of people, so now interact with them!

It can be as simple as liking a post of theirs that you like, or commenting on a post.

You can also interact with people you’re not following but who are posting in the tags you searched through- on Instagram, the default search area is customized to show popular posts from tags you’re following and similar posts from people you’re following. If you’re on Discord, share you account around and ask for other people’s accounts.


Thank you guys for reading, hope this small article helped! If you want to read more of my marketing ramblings, here’s a few hand-picked articles:

Making Twitter Painless for Game Dev Marketing

Game Dev Social Media Calendar

Game Dev Social Media Post Ideas

If you have an idea for a future article, feel free to @ me on Twitter or request it in my marketing channel in Devtalk+, a community for visual novel and story-heavy developers. If you’d like to support me, consider sharing these articles around or wishlisting my games on Steam!

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0 to 100 Instagram Followers Speedrun

It started when my friend (who requests to be unnamed) posted this in my marketing channel.

This friend has about 1k followers on their main art Instagram. One day they decided to make a new side account and just posted old art to it with good tags. Over the course of around 15 hours, they went from 0 to 20 followers.

As a marketer (but an artist first and foremost) this intrigued me. At this time I was only on Instagram with my company’s account (@CrystalGameWorks), but I didn’t fully understand it. However, this made me want to try something…

I’ve been drawing for, come November, an entire decade. I have a lot of art finished. Sure, a lot of it isn’t great, but there’s a fair amount of pieces from the past few years that are serviceable. While some of the pieces might not look great to me, someone else might think it looks fine. So, I started digging them up and created a challenge for myself.

On May 6th, I decided to create an art Instagram for myself and upload once or twice every day until my birthday, May 30th, or until I reached 100 followers. How quickly could a new account reach 100 followers? What’s the best ways to increase engagement? How do you get people to even notice you? These questions and more will be, er, somewhat answered…

Click page 2 to continue!

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Boys Love Media Survey Results

A few months ago foleso and I were sitting around as usual trying to answer the 2930809384 questions we have about marketing and target audience and whatnot. We were talking about boys love / yaoi media—namely, who the target audience for all ages games were. Most of the boys love games we see are 18+, while both of us would rather make all ages games.

As marketers, we come up with assumptions and then try to prove them wrong. Marketing ≠ advertising. Marketing is about trying to find who can benefit from your product/service and how to better build it for them. We had a lot of assumptions about yaoi fans and what they enjoy, so the only next step was to test those. I started a survey.

Some terms, before we get started:

  • Yaoi: a term in ENG fandoms typically to mean boy x boy gay content, though not used often in JP fandoms
  • Boys love (BL): a term meant for boy x boy gay content
  • Boy x boy (BxB): two gay guys. Guys who like each other romantically. Don’t know how else to phrase this.
  • Male/male or Men loving men (MLM): this doesn’t mean multi-level marketing scheme. It’s basically the same as BxB except some people use this term to refer to character who are older.

As I mentioned before, foleso and I are both fans of boys love media, but we know our tastes don’t represent the majority. Our assumptions at the beginning were:

  • People who use the term “yaoi” want 18+ content and are typically younger
  • People who use the term “boys love” are fans who have liked BL content for years, are more into gay content in general, and are typically older
  • A majority of BL fans want fandom content and got into BL media through fandom
  • A majority of BL fans identify as women

The survey we conducted ended with 222 responses and was posted on Discord, Twitter, Amino, deviantArt, Facebook, and more. We asked people to share it around, especially other BL game developers, since our reach is only so big.

Click page 2 to get started! (Warning: very long)

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Enamored Risks Postmortem

Enamored Risks was my / Crystal Game Works’ NaNoRenO 2020 entry. At the time of writing this (or at least, starting), we released it a couple days ago and are currently working on the Steam build.

A few stats on the game:

  • It’s a little over 52,000 words
  • It has 3 routes- 2 male (Finn & Paxton) and 1 female (Zaina)
  • 10 artists submitted promo art
  • Started accepting team member applications in mid February
  • Over 100 people applied for various positions
  • We required Discord for communication
  • Currently has almost 1,000 downloads on day 3 of Itchio

So, where to begin? I suppose the beginning…

Click page 2 to begin!