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Outline Shmoutline: How Prep Work Influences your Game

This post discussed the importance of outlining. Marketing strategies and voice should be integral to the game from the start.

Jonathan Epstein, Blogger

January 6, 2016

3 Min Read

Outline, Outline, Outline.

Perhaps this is my inner student coming out, but whenever I think of how I want to go about marketing a game I return to how I would write essays for my literature classes. Essays are, after all, nothing more than having an opinion that you want to sell to someone (in this case a rather old-school ex Yale professor, who hates everyone of your sentences…but who remembers all that?) and convince them that your product is good. But, you don’t just start to write an essay willy nilly. Or at least you shouldn’t.

Instead, you come up with your argument—your thesis—the points you want to bring up, the sources you want to use, etc. In plain English, you make an outline.

This same approach should be implemented when coming up with a marketing strategy for your indie game. If your game is atmospheric the marketing approach, copy, images uploaded, should reflect that tone. If it is meant to be a casual party game, make sure you have images of multiple people playing the game, include plural pronouns, and the like.

Most important, however, is to think of as much of this stuff before you even begin to make the game. I know I have probably already lost some of you right now. You’re probably thinking, “but I am creating a game. The marketing will come out of that.” And, to a certain degree you are absolutely correct. Do not let marketing and the business side of things interrupt the game. Furthermore, don’t let the goal of monetization turn your amazing indie game into shit (see my post about this, and how to avoid insidious IAP).

However, a game needs to have an overarching vision. This is not limited to just the game. When talking about the game, how do you want to tell people about it? Remember when you were 10, and you tried describing a game to your parents, or your friends described a game to you? It is this type of communication that dictated so much of how you felt when playing the game, and why you wanted to keep playing.

By outlining ahead of time what type of tone you want your copy to have, how the characters you’ve created will serve to sell your game, the color palette you use on the website, and more, you can actually create a better game that way.

Let’s look at an example. As I mention all the time, Valiant Hearts does a great job of incorporating their monetization method into the gestalt of the game. It’s a World War I game that is more like a short story than a pure shoot ‘em up war game. Thus, instead of IAP for more lives or ammo—which don’t ever come into play in the game—they sell you more chapters. This is brilliant because their monetization approach matches the type of game they have (which is episodic as seen by the 4 intertwining narratives). Furthermore, such IAP doesn’t affect the gameplay at all. Indeed, you need to purchase them to play, but you only do so because you want to find out what happens in the story (the first chapter is free).

This type of structure was planned out well in advanced. They used the type of system they wanted to make to help influence the game.

Lastly, can we really say planning ahead of time is a bad thing? (I am sure this is a quote from a mom somewhere out there). 

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