Congratulations! You are building a great game, and you’ve decided to enter it into an indie prize competition! Before you apply, it’s important to remember that you’ll be one of hundreds of games that will be evaluated by judges. Your goal is to be noticed, to stand out, and reduce any friction for the judges playing your game.
Getting and keeping my attention as a judge actually starts with how you fill in the application form. Let’s take a look at some common aspects of an indie prize application form.
Almost always, one question relates to the platforms for which you’ll have a build for judges.
When I decide to play your game, it would be great if it were available on the hardware I have in front of me at the time. At any given time, I—and the rest of the judges—will have access to the web, a Mac or Windows machine and an Android or an iOS device. Unfortunately, we won’t necessarily have access to all of these platforms at the same time. For example, I may take my lunch break outside of my office to play indie games. At the office I have a Mac and all kinds of Android devices. That means the PC and iOS games have to wait until I find time at home. If you want my attention when I have time, please be on both iOS and Android; and/or on PC and Mac, or online.
Making your game easy to download is the next step. Some contests ask you to submit a build for every supported platform, and the organizers make the builds available to judges. Other competitions ask you for instructions on how to download your game, and these instructions will be shown to the judges.
If you are supplying download instructions, remember to make this easy for me and the other judges; I’ll download easy to get games before I’m willing to jump through a lot of hoops. In some competitions, I’ll need to get through 300 games, and making it hard for me to get your game is not in your best interest. There have been games that have run out of steam codes by the time I get to them, and new codes didn’t get to me by the deadline. I had wanted to play your game… Oh well.
Adding a Video
Many indie competitions will ask you for a video, and this part is incredibly important to me.
The video you submit will often be the first thing I look at after reading the title of your game. The video will often be what determines which games I try to play first. And at least in my case, sometimes which games I’ll even play at all.
Your video should communicate one thing: how much fun your game is! Your personal journey in building the game is not relevant to judges. We want to get straight to the gameplay.
Here are some tips that I appreciate when watching game video:
- Keep trailers short. Remember, trailers are nice, but they aren’t judged. All trailer and no gameplay translates into: you have no game.
- Show gameplay. (See first example video below.)
- Use voiceovers and/or annotations to give context to the action you’re showing. (See second example below.)
- Show what makes the game unique. (See second example below.)
This video has a good demonstration of gameplay.
This video uses annotations to describe what’s going on in the gameplay.
It also shows what makes this game unique among its competitors!
The Game Description
If you have to enter a description, think of it as the dating profile for your game: the first line sells, so make it count. Next, highlight the stand-out features of your game. What makes it fun? How does it stand up to the competition? Showcase what is good, but don’t lie or embellish (we’ll find out soon enough after we play the game). After reading your description, I should know what makes your game different from all the rest and why your game is fun to play.
About Your Game
Okay, now you have my attention, and I’ve downloaded your game! Give me something amazing to play. I’d offer you some tips on building the next blockbuster game, but if I knew, I’d be running my own AAA game studio! What I can tell you is that if you’ve just built another match-3 game, it had better have some aspect or feature in the gameplay mechanic that really sets it apart. Just using different graphics and crafting a different backstory doesn’t change the fact that it’s just another match-3 game. (Buy me a beer at the next conference and I’ll tell you all about how many match-3 games I’ve played in the last several years.)
If your game is still in development, I am perfectly willing to excuse bugs and incomplete levels, particularly if they’re declared ahead of time. But do make sure at least one level is really well put together for a gameplay experience. It’s the only way I know what the end product will look and play like.
The games I remember most—and the ones I voted for—are the ones that broke the rules or combined traditional mechanics in a way I never imagined; they are the games that delighted me and tickled my imagination. They sounded great, and looked polished and clean.
So be bold! Be creative! Take risks! Remember to pay attention to detail, capture my interest and keep it. You’ll likely get my vote and the vote of a lot of other judges.
For more tips on making a good first impression with judges and users alike, check out our new guide: 8 Tips for Marketing Your App on the Amazon Appstore.