Friday, March 18, 2011

Propel: Looking Back Part 1

This is the first post about Abscure's colorful puzzle-platformer, Propel. In this first post I will discuss something different- I'll talk about the marketing effort me and Christian put together, to try and get this game noticed.

Something I've always struggled with is getting my games noticed. With Ruined, it was designed for YoYoGames' Competition05. Which meant that we'd automatically get the attention of that community. And that was what happened, even though it didn't win. It got attention, because of the competition alone.

Beyond Ruined, we just used different forums to promote our games. And when we were finish Propel, it was important to get it out there in the public. It was important because sometimes I feel like if no one plays the games we make, it's pointless. Maybe that's sad, maybe that's true. Anyway, we decided to make a mass email to publishers containing a PDF and a special download that has all of the levels and everything unlocked in the game.
Email we sent to reviewers:

Hello [insert name here],

[insert compliment here]. I'm an indie developer, and I have a game that I think you'd be interested to check out. Below is a link to a reviewer copy of the game, and some information. I hope you can find some time in your busy schedule to give that a download.

Download: [censored]
Username: [censored]
Password: [oh, totally censored. no way we'd let you see this]

Thanks in advance!
There you have it. Actually, "mass email" is the wrong way to say it. We each individually emailed each website. Sites like Jay Is Games, TIGSource, and many others. For each site, we added a special individualization. We used reciprocity. So, for example, here's how I would write to myself. "Hello Ethan and Christian, I'm a big fan of your website. Your game Ruined is awesome, and I love how you incorporated its art into the design of your site."

In my opinion, Propel looks good enough to get attention.

In my example, if I were reading this, I would immediately be attracted to this person. I mean... I'd think, "I'll bet this guy has great taste." And then I'd read on.

And then they'd download the file. The ZIP includes the EXE and PDF. The PDF was really cool. Christian put it all together and made it look pretty, and included graphics from the game and screenshots. I wrote all the text. The text was really stupid.
And the PDF went a little something like this:

Remember the old days of videogames? When you could only play games in arcades, shoveling quarter after quarter into a machine? Well, I don't. In fact I wasn't born then. But that doesn't mean I don't know what makes an arcade game a GOOD arcade game.

Let me introduce you to Propel, a new arcade-style game from Abscure Games, the guys who brought you… a lot of games you probably have never heard of. But pretty soon, we will be known because of this very game. Hopefully. Maybe. Sorry if that sounds cocky.

Okay, on to the good stuff. Propel is a game that is similar to a platformer. You move across a screen, left and right, up and down, to get to a goal. The catch? You can’t jump. That’s right. You must maneuver yourself by manipulating gravity. When you hit an arrow, you move in the direction of that arrow, and some arrows will change gravity. Others will give you the boost you need to compensate for lack of jumping.

That’s the basic gameplay of Propel. The game has 25 levels, and each has a collectable. Collectables, as well as beating levels, will unlock… unlockables. The unlockables are completely secret. But I’ll let you guys in on the secret. And in your version, everything is already unlocked. First, there’s the level editor. Then, there’s an arcade mode. And you can’t forget the inverted graphical mode.

You might also notice the cool graphics. People are really weird, and for some reason, they think games are more fun when they look cool. That’s weird because games are essentially behavioral psychology, just a sequence of rewards and punishments. The graphics don’t really have much to do with it.

Well, I’m honestly running out of things to say. I guess it’s time to reveal my intentions. I want you to give me… ONE BILLION DOLLARS. Just kidding.* It would actually be really cool if you guys could give Propel a review on your site. I know, I know. You get a ton of requests do this kind of stuff… yeah. I know. It’d be great if you could do my team and I the favor of responding to this by emailing back. Thanks. Oh, and thanks so much for taking the time to read this and play the game.

*The one billion dollar request is still an option.

That's it. It's a little cheesy, a little stupid. A lot of crap. I imagine people just looked at the pictures, or just played the game.

On to the fun part. Eventually, people actually responded. Let me tell you, getting an email back that is some sort of "yes" letter is the best feeling ever. I was so happy. I'm not going to break down all of the traffic and all of the places that reviewed the site. But it was awesome, and a total and complete success.

Here's what's we did right in our PR campaign thing:

• The reciprocal introduction. (Hello, [insert name here], [insert compliment here].)
• Not sending a mass email. (could get detected as SPAM)
• Unlocking everything.
• Sending it to a lot of review sites.
• Making the PDF look pretty. Appearance is everything!

In the future I plan on trying to duplicate this success. Should be fun.

Anyway, thanks for reading.


Anonymous said...

Nice article, but one thing i would add to "what's we did right in our PR campaign thing":

- short email (think that this is a good thing in your PR)

Ethan said...

That's a good point. They get a ton of emails, so if it's really long, I doubt they'd even bother to read it

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