Getting the word out is challenging for indies -- are live promotions a good avenue? UK indie developer Mode 7 Games decided to give it a go, and today's Gamasutra feature
documents their unique approach.
Part of their idea involved developing a game mode specifically for the festival setting at GameCity, explains Mode 7's Paul Taylor:
"I asked our lead designer Ian Hardingham how he came up with the mode which we eventually used - you can see our tutorial video for it here.
"A lot has been written recently about how games are too hard. But when you have to keep someone playing for a short amount of time, difficulty is actually one of the best tools at your disposal. I wanted to create an experience with a clear goal, but one that was actually very difficult at first to achieve. Rather than putting people off, this challenged them, and they suddenly became invested: they wanted to win.
"It was important that the goal be very simple. I started off with 'kill the enemy', but Frozen Synapse has some pretty complicated combat mechanics -- I didn't want people to think that they were failing because they just didn't know the game well enough.
"So I moved to an even simpler goal: 'get to these locations'. This has a really great benefit in that your first attempt is very obvious -- place a waypoint where you want to go and see what happens. The first thing that players do in your game must be very obvious. The rest will then emerge -- they will see how their first attempt failed and they'll start tweaking."
"We started an art push to make sure that we had some coverage of everything (no missing animations, no horrible glitches etc.) and also began work on this new mode."
The team managed their festival game mode, but there were numerous logistical issues along the way. Taylor warns of just a few of them here:
"It pays to discuss literally all of your plans, to the point of boredom, with the organizers. You need to know the details of all of the above as soon as possible, even if you're doing a small-scale event: you will always have to solve short-term problems when you get there, but don't ever leave a decision until then. We still had to run out and buy cables 30 minutes before the start (something to do with the projector, which we didn't have access to beforehand and were told would come with appropriate cables) despite all of my planning!
"There might be some unexpected issues. For example, we planned to have flyers printed and distribute these on the days before the event. Shortly after we'd paid for them to be printed, we were told that we might need a license from the local council to distribute them, which would have been prohibitively expensive. This confusion was eventually straightened out by the GameCity organizers, who worked very hard to ensure that we could do everything we wanted, but it could have been a real problem.
"Similarly, cars needed special passes to be allowed onto the market square -- due to our advance planning in securing these we were allowed to bring in our vehicles when one of the vans actually affiliated with the festival was turned away! It's always worth checking if there are any arcane local bylaws you might be in danger of violating..."
The full Gamasutra feature
offers a useful and interesting story of an unusual approach to marketing for indies.