HAVE YOU CONSIDERED BEING MORE INTERESTING?

Some thoughts on garnering an audience

  • kentona
  • 12/21/2017 06:01 PM
  • 9107 views
Remember when simply having a finished game was enough to propel you to Rockstar Status™ in the RPG Maker community? Don't worry if you don't. That hasn't been the case for years now, maybe even a decade. But I remember. I've been around for a very long long (long) time. Too long, perhaps. So long that my opinions and advice are dated and non-applicable. But here they are anyway.


"Hey everybody, an old man is talking!"




At one point or another, as you are working on your project you posted here on rpgmaker.net, you may have wondered...

"Why aren't I getting any attention?"



A valid question.

...and...


I don't have any definitive answer.




But I do have some thoughts on it. I am going to talk a bit about RMN as a website, as a community, and the things that you could try to improve the visibility of your games. First, I will dwell on RMN itself.


RMN isn't as big as you might think
As of this month, RMN has around 400 people posting about 3000 comments a month. There are 1774 games currently in production. Even if all of the comments were on gameprofiles (they aren't) and evenly distributed, that works out to less than 2 comments per game. (But then, not all games are actively being developed. The Top 25 games generating discussion ranged between 12 and 70 comments last month. This is a better metric to measure against). Furthermore, the actively posting memberbase is largely made up of developers, with projects of their own. They are supportive, willing to help where they can, provide critique and advice, and cheer you on, but that isn't their sole focus. The makeup of the active community here is that of hobbyist developers (or former developers past their prime, like me). Take that into account as you assess your game's buzz (or lack thereof).

RMN is bigger than you might think, but in ways you don't realize
RMN still gets about 7,000 to 9,000 unique visitors a day. A fly-by audience is here, but it is going to be a largely silent one. You will see this reflected in some of the other statistics, such as pageviews, downloads and "buzz score". Some games, for example, despite not getting any comments or reviews with any real frequency, constantly find themselves "buzzing" on the frontpage due to this large audience. You veteran members of RMN will have immediately thought of the viral hit game Pom Gets Wi-Fi. (That game made huge waves at RMN in the summer of 2013 after it was played by Pewdiepie on his Youtube channel.)

The point being is that there is a large transient population visiting RMN. You game may be getting attention, but it is silent. Make note of your pageviews and subscriber counts in addition to comments when assessing whether or not you are doing well in building an audience. If you are here reading this article with concerns about your game, then it is likely that this silent transient population is in fact looking for what you are making (an indie RPG, presumably). Or maybe not...

Maybe RMN isn't the right place for your project
The R is for RPG. And RPG maker network does sound a lot like that game engine RPG Maker. People navigating to this site are going to come here with certain expectations in their mind, and if your game does not fit that mold - and, let's be honest here, that mold being a 2D top-down retro RPG - you are going to find it all the more difficult to garner an audience.

RMN is a longstanding community built by hobbyist game developers in their spare time, and carries with it the hobbyist mindset (for good or for ill). Regardless, and this has been said since the very beginning by a lot of people, RMN shouldn't be the only home of your project. It can be a home; it can be your primary home; it shouldn't be your only home. There are many avenues and options out there today to showcase your game that didn't exist a decade ago - Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Youtube, ... - avail yourself of them. Build your audience. Build different kinds of audiences. Don't limit yourself to a single website.





"So, what can I do?"


Have you considered being more interesting?
Very few of us game developers truly understand what audience engagement really entails. To most of us, it simply means posting a short blurb when there is an update, occasionally asking for feedback, maybe tweeting some pixel art once in a while or posting a new screenshot. Essentially, just irregular, impersonal posting.


"Boring!"


First and foremost, when trying to garner attention, strive to be more interesting. Seriously.

This applies to both how you present your work, and the work itself. Having an interesting game is obviously a key component to being "more interesting". Identify things about your work that seperates it in some way from the plethora of other games. And I don't mean necessarily "better". I mean "different", "unique", "cool". Maybe it has custom art? Maybe it has a neat game mechanic? Maybe the story challenges perceptions? Maybe this is your first game and you are giving game-making a try? All of those things are interesting. So what's cool about your game?


"That's what makes you cool, right?"


...but that's not enough.

Players come in all forms. Some like to know more about the game. Some like to know more about how the game is developed. Some like to know more about the developers behind the game. That means posting about the game, about how the game is made, and about yourself. So what's cool about you and your development of the game?

We aren't faceless AAA-game monolithic corporations. We are people. And we have a real opportunity to connect with each other on a personal level. Break out of your shell, drop the facades, reach out to people, and share yourself along with your project. That would be cool.

If that makes you a little nervous, that's okay. You aren't alone. But you really should consider sharing a bit about yourself. Building that connection with your audience is a great way to strengthen friendships, gain valuable feedback, and even set the foundation for future projects.

...but it's still not enough.

You have to commit to engagement. Being an ambassador to your game is an aspect of a successful project, and you ought to make time for it just like you do for bug fixes, testing, programming, art, or other aspects of your work. Community engagement doesn't require you to spend hours each day trying to talk to people. A few minutes per week to post about updates and ask for player feedback is a good start. Take the time to reply. The idea is to start a conversation, and not toss statements into the void.

And you will also have to become a better writer.

Humans like stories.

Think of it like this: You aren't posting an update, you are telling a story about how your game has an update. What is the theme of the update? Who are the actors involved? What is the style and tone of this delivery? Where is the struggle, the conflict, the resolution? Really think about how this story is engaging to the reader. Remember, the idea is to start a conversation. A quick status update is a poor conversation starter. Write about not only the content of the update, but how it got made, some struggles it encountered, some feedback that it still needs, and about you and what you did.

And suddenly, the games you make aren't mere games anymore. They're passion projects made by (your name here), someone who thought of the idea (your game idea here), the process by which the game came about (fill in your story here) and decided to make something special for people to enjoy. It becomes a personal thing, rather than just another anonymous contribution.

Humans like looking at neat things.

We are shallow like that.

You are going to have expend effort making sure your game looks neat. Custom art and assets will go a long way in helping you stand out. Concept art, mockups, and drafts are also good for showcasing early project work. For RPG Maker specific projects, the RTP is a grand resource (and I love it), but you will have to work doubly-hard to make projects that make use of it stand out since it is so commonly used. Your mapping will have to be top-notch or uniquely constructed, or flourished with your own person touch.

In my opinion, what you write and what you show on your gameprofile are the two most important things to gaining and maintaining an interested audience. Other aspects, like music assets, videos, and even reviews - while useful - aren't as critical and aren't what people see and consume first. And, nearly as important, is how you show your content. And I am not just alluding to how RMN allows you to customize your gameprofile with CSS. The presentation of your game is affected by the formatting of your written content (whitespace, paragraphs, scale, etc...) and the order in which it is showcased. How you present your work matters.

For example, one giant block of text is visually intimidating and uninviting. It is very offputting and the eye glazes over it. Don't post like that.

Have you tried engaging with the community in other ways?

One way to raise the profile of your game is to raise the profile of yourself. An active and contributing member of the community is more likely to get noticed and garner interest for their works. You can:

  • Participate in community events
  • Play and review other people's games
  • Leave feedback
  • Write an article or tutorial
  • Make videos
  • Make assets and resources
  • Comment more in the forums
  • Join our Discord channel
  • Follow and respond to our Twitter account


One note: striking up controversy and being a shithead will garner you attention, but the attention will be negative and in the end people will care less about your projects and passion for them. Don't be a shithead.

Have you actively promoted your game?
I am talking about marketing.


"That's my name!"


"But promoting my game makes me feel like a whore!"


You are letting decency and integrity get in the way of being noticed! But seriously, creating something you are proud of and satisfied with doesn't mean it is automatically going to be popular. You will have to get the word out.

Fear #1: I am just being annoying
I know I roll my eyes at bad games being heavily promoted. My desire to avoid being annoying in exactly that way makes me reluctant to engage in all-out marketing. When people hear about marketing they think about lying, exaggerating and other dishonest stuff. It has a negative connotation.

  • Be confident in the strengths of your game
  • Be earnest
  • Believe in yourself


Hyping is a bad idea - marketing should be authentic and honest.

Fear #2: Rejection
If you have made a game, it means that you poured something personal about yourself into that game (not to mention time, effort and energy) and, consciously or unconsciously, when it is judged you feel that you are being judged.

You can't take it personally if someone smashes your game.

Know that it is not yourself that is being judged, but rather a work by you. There could be dozens of reason why someone doesn't like a game, and none of them could have to do with who you are as a person. (And if they are saying that, then that person is a shithead. Ignore them.) But don't let a fear of rejection stop you from putting your game out there.


"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."



So here are some things you can do:

  • Contact Reviewers and Lets Players. Believe it or not, there are people out there who want to play games. Check out RMN's Review Request or list of Reviewers/Feedbackers/LPers/etc. RMN also periodically hosts review drives - keep an eye out. There are also reams of LPs posted on RMN. Consider watching them and directly contacting an LPer you like and asking them to play your game.
  • Promote other people. If marketing yourself and your game still makes you feel icky, try instead to market and recommend other peoeple's game. The lack of a personal connection to the work makes it much easier to promote someone else's game. Perhaps others will return the favour to you?
  • Blog Consistently. Set up a schedule you think you can handle, and make a reminder in your calendar to do this. And curate a small backlog of posts. If there is ever an extraordinarily busy time, you will be glad that you had a good blog post on hand so that you are not falling behind or rushing something out. (Don't write too far ahead, though, lest you start writing dated content).
  • Create a Twitter/Facebook/Website/Social Media account(s) for your game. #gamedev and #ScreenshotSaturday are your friends. Look them up. Also, hit up @rpgmaker now and again. I hear the account manager is a total pushover and will retweet your work.
  • Consider linking in the IndieGaming subreddit. It is a good place to link your YouTube trailers, preview, reviews and game demos.
  • Keep things current. It's worse to have a grossly outdated Facebook page and website than none at all. Only make accounts that you think you can handle.
  • Start when you have something worth showing. Begin your marketing campaign the moment you have something that illustrates the fundamental mechanics and look of your game.



"How can RMN help?"



Review Request thread. Ask for reviews here.
Comprehensive List of Reviewers/Feedbackers/LPers/LTers/Play Testers/etc thread. Look for people to play your game.
Whatchu Workin' On? Tell us! thread, for posting quick updates.
Screenshot Survival 20XX thead, for posting and getting feedback on screenshots and videos.
What are you thinking about? (game development edition) thead, for posting general thoughts and ideas on game development and game mechanics.
New Developer Mapping Help Thread for making your RPG Maker maps look snazzy!
Let's work on your game descriptions! A thread for getting help and feedback on your gameprofile's game description.
CSS'ing Your RMN Game Profile An article on how to make a cool looking gameprofile using CSS.
@rpgmaker The official http://rpgmaker.net twitter account (unofficially awful)

If you don't think you can do it...


Also, I hear that if you ask kentona nicely, he will put a banner up on RMN for your commercial game's launch/kickstarter.


"Yes, yes. You are very wise. Anything else?"


First impressions can really affect how much attention your project gets.
It's probably not a good idea to create a gameprofile until you have enough content to keep your project buzzing. I am very guilty of posting a gameprofile early - I crave the attention and feedback. But it has inevitably backfired every time I posted too early. I didn't have the content or backlog of material to keep interest up and the projects fizzled and failed to reach their (even limited) potential.


A good title is good.
One underestimated aspect of marketing is the importance of a game's title. While first impressions of a game such as screenshots, descroptions, videos, reviews, scores, and so on are very important, it is likely that the very first way in which an audience will 'interact' with a game is via its title. When a person is simply browsing through games or forum posts, a catchy title or a well-formed title can make the difference between if that person decides to read up more on the game or to simply glance over it as one in a list of hundreds/thousands.

A separate article could be written on naming your game. (You should write one!)




Luck. So much fucking luck.
Getting noticed is a lot like a lottery. You can improve your odds of getting noticed, but that is not a guarantee. Sometimes you just get lucky and your project sparks something at the right time with the right people. And sometimes it doesn't.

Lastly, making games is something you are doing for you. Try not to get so hung up on popularity.



"Now let's all celebrate with a cool glass of turnip juice."



(Bonus round extra last point: I don't know what I am doing.)

Posts

Pages: first 123 next last
kentona
tired of toothy mimics. i want a mimic to just fucking deck me
20442
Why isn't this article getting any attention?
author=kentona
Why isn't this article getting any attention?


unity
You're magical to me.
10912
Wonderful article. :DDDD

A lot of these are things I have to take to heart because I'm terrible at anything resembling marketing XD
NeverSilent
If Gary Gygax could hear all these bad DnD puns we're making, he'd be rolling in his grave.
5307
This is actually a really good article. I'm very impressed. You should keep this writing routine up, master kentona. Us young padawans can still gain a lot from your wisdom. Thanks!
kentona
tired of toothy mimics. i want a mimic to just fucking deck me
20442
I see I failed to generate a conversation here...
Well said. I do silently pay attention to peoples progress as creators. I think it really means something when someone makes several under-looked games only for the much later one to really take off, but it takes accepting that your current project is unlikely to be your super magnum opus crowd pleaser. Too much stock in one big epic project to little fanfare gets people discouraged sometimes, (RPGs tend to be that).
Nice article. Lots of good advice for people looking to promote their games.


RMN is bigger than you might think, but in ways you don't realize
RMN still gets about 7,000 to 9,000 unique visitors a day. A fly-by audience is here, but it is going to be a largely silent one. You will see this reflected in some of the other statistics, such as pageviews, downloads and "buzz score". Some games, for example, despite not getting any comments or reviews with any real frequency, constantly find themselves "buzzing" on the frontpage due to this large audience. You veteran members of RMN will have immediately thought of the viral hit game Pom Gets Wi-Fi. (That game made huge waves at RMN in the summer of 2013 after it was played by Pewdiepie on his Youtube channel.)


I've always wondered, where do those other frontpage mainstays like Lisa, Pocket Mirror, Heartache 101, Oneshot, Dreaming Mary get their endless supply of large audiences from?


Maybe RMN isn't the right place for your project
The R is for RPG. And RPG maker network does sound a lot like that game engine RPG Maker. People navigating to this site are going to come here with certain expectations in their mind, and if your game does not fit that mold - and, let's be honest here, that mold being a 2D top-down retro RPG - you are going to find it all the more difficult to garner an audience.


Isn't it kind of weird though that so many of the games that stay on the main page or get featured / spotlighted tend to not be RPGs? I mean sure I guess every type of game deserves a chance too. But if most people really do come here looking for RPGs, then it kind of feels like the main page tends to get stuck in the middle of no man's land where neither the audience nor developers are getting what they came for.

Also, can the buzzing section just contain more slots? Most of the slots are usually taken by the same games that are always up there, leaving so few spots for other games to have a chance to rotate into. If space is an issue, the New and Notable section can go, because it's so redundant with New Downloads most of the time anyways.
the top hits (like the ones above mentioned) arent even rpg's, there usually vn's or horror adventure types. Really I think what propelled RPGmaker are those vgperson horror games and the big youtubers that played them
Tau
RMN sex symbol
3272
author=kentona
I see I failed to generate a conversation here...
Should probably just leave then, only reasonable thing to do. Just make sure to tell everyone first & why you're better.
It's been up less than a day. That is why. Lemme at least give it some spotlightage.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, thought it was pretty great.
kentona
tired of toothy mimics. i want a mimic to just fucking deck me
20442
author=Liberty
It's been up less than a day. That is why. Lemme at least give it some spotlightage.

You should know by now that I am just being facetious. (in particular,that the first few responses were just 'good jorb mang!' despite the article that I wrote stressing that, when you write, strive to start a conversation)
Great article, kentona. This stuff is really useful. *drinks turnip juice* *splutters*
Marrend
Guardian Angel of the Description Thread
16060
author=Dyluck
I've always wondered, where do those other frontpage mainstays like Lisa, Pocket Mirror, Heartache 101, Oneshot, Dreaming Mary get their endless supply of large audiences from?


Ditto. It's always bothered me that Heartache has this fairly constant buzz, and, to my knowledge, none of the devs listed on the gamepage are marketing that game in any way. Maybe it's a random fluke, or just plain more popular with this "silent audience"? I don't know.
author=Dyluck
I've always wondered, where do those other frontpage mainstays like Lisa, Pocket Mirror, Heartache 101, Oneshot, Dreaming Mary get their endless supply of large audiences from?

Mostly Tumblr/Twitter. There's definitely a large concentration of visibility on some of these mainstays. Fan art and other fan content for these games is still made on a regular basis, so a lot of folks come to this site to find those games specifically.

EDIT: It's also very likely that people are googling the game's title and find the game page. So I wonder how many people are seeing the front page at all?
This is a wonderfully written article. I was just going to repost the neeeeerd clip but it's a seriously good article. Gave me some good info.
This article is a God send. Thanks a lot for this! I also heavily agree about the advertisement bit. Sega fans this year were disappointed by a falsely advertised Sonic game. They got us all hyped up to see "this and that" but ultimately failed because they took our expectations and tossed them into a volcano. Like you mentioned, hype isn't a really good idea if you can't live up to what you're advertising.
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