Couple of Tricks To Get Traffic Your Game Deserves

I really shouldn’t be saying this, because I’m pratically helping my own game’s competitors to beat me, but I cannot help myself so here we go.

When I mention my zombie survival game, I don’t link to my site with a link that says “Dead Wake”. I link to my site saying “zombie survival game”. I do this here, on the forums and behind every other corner of the interne.

The second thing I do is that I ensure my game site’s TITLE tag to have keywords “zombie survival game” in it.

Now, how this affects:

  • When I go to google and type words “zombie survival game” in the search box… I don’t see “Left 4 Dead” there. But I can see my own game there. My game is ranking the second at the time of doing this blog post (and hopefully stays that way).
  • This of course means I get practically free search engine traffic to my site.

(Okay, there’s several other things that affect the rankings, but here’s 2 important parts of this for starters).

So… if you have a forum signature, and if you have a strategy game with sheeps… then you might want to consider using a signature that links to your game site using text “sheep strategy game” instead of “My Great Indie Company”.

I must add that there’s signs that the search engine traffic (for example Google) is replaced by social media site traffic (for example Twitter), but it’s worth doing the basics for search engines too.

This costs nothing and gets you visibility, so there’s really no point not to do this.

Randomness: Good Or Evil (The Shorter Version)

Just saw this blog post about randomness and thought to share my very short opinion:

There needs to be some randomness in the game or it sucks
Kind of.

  • No randomness: boring or “you have no control, the other guy always wins” (Think of playing game of chess with Kasparov: you’ll lose every time. Think of playing that over and over)
  • Total randomness: boring or “you have no control, some guy randomly wins. Might as go watch paint dry” (think of throwing a die with a friend of you – the one who gets higher number wins. Think of doing this for 2 hours.)
  • Some randomness: superb as in “the most skilled player wins in a long run, but everybody has a chance to win (and enjoy winning)” (Think of playing a game of Texas Hold’em with a poker professional: in a tournament, you have some chance of winning the guy and can even use your skills to beat the other!)

Then of course randomness can come from many sources. It doesn’t need to be just “weapons do 1-6 points damage”. The randomness can come from things such as people, or random placement of objects, or random encounters in game or… thousand other things (many tips mentioned in the other post).

I Kind of Hate Tutorials, Except When They’re Hidden

It might be just me, but I kind of dislike (hate) tutorials in game. I suppose the reason why I think this way is that tutorials are boring and don’t get me anywhere in the game. I’m the kind of player who wants “tutorials” to be “gentle tips for newbs” type of stuff. I guess I can sort of manage a tutorial that’s a quick one and has “skip” button available. But god heavens if there’s tutorial where I need to wait some voice to tell me “now you need to click there to move your unit and wait while I tell some story that took place seven thousand years ago and let’s order pizzas too and have a chit chat?” What’s this, I want play?!

I liked how Left 4 Dead does things: it gives you on-screen tips on what to do (pick up med kit, do this, do that). I like how Nation Red did this: they have separate tutorial but it teaches everything in 2 minutes.

I like how Zombie Panic has no tutorial, nor much hints at all. Instead, players ask each other “how you rotate the board”. In Zombie Master (for some reason I’m getting zombie game examples here) it’s cool how players ask each other “what to do next?” – sometimes the reply is “n000b!” but often time other people tell what to do. I think that’s tutorials in its greatest form: community interaction where everybody helps each other. People can enjoy the game in many different levels.

Of course there’s dangers in this type of no-much-help, no-tutorial approach as players can frustrate for not knowing what to do, but I think I must admit that the day when I learned how to rotate a board in Zombie Panic (you hit the reload button to rotate it, which goes against almost every piece of logic I can come up with, but that’s a story for another blog post) – thanks to fellow players – was much more rewarding to me than the day when I learned how to use medic in Left 4 Dead. Rotating the board required thinking, trying, effort and social communication to understand it. It required nothing to learn to use medic stuff in Left 4 Dead (since they told me how to do it). I guess the effort used to learn something can also affect to the amount of how much you appreciate that knowledge.

Of course this comes from a not-so casual game developer’s mouth, so take all this with a grain of salt.

Game Prices Just Dropped to $2.99 (Price Wars Here We Come Again?)

I just spotted that Big Fish Games has started using a $2.99 “daily deals” for those who download their toolbar. Probably all games aren’t affected, but some are. (Who knows if all games will be affected at some point…)

I don’t complain. I don’t develop casual games, I only sell them (as an affiliate) and Big Fish Games keep bringing me some bucks every month so my income from casual games hopefully remains unaffected (well, who knows – it’s not that big deal anyway). But… I would think that there’s a large group of casual game developers who grin when they see such announcements.

I’d imagine these daily deals don’t work for all games in the catalog (and my guess is that Big Fish Games would ask developers if they’d wish to participate – but that’s just my gut feeling, not necessarily true). Of course it might be that eventually all casual games are feeling the pressure. Who knows where this ends, and what kind of price wars this means. (Well, at least the customers should be pretty happy)

Wouldn’t be too surprised if casual games prices eventually land to around 0.99 dollars. As they are for iPhone apps.

And then we start to see “premium casual” games that sell for $9.99.

The 2nd Most Important Thing Needed For Finishing Your Game Project

Have absolutely clear idea about what you are doing.

This works in so many level. In higher perspective it’s a definite thing needed to finish a game. For example, having a solid answer to “what is this game all about?” is a must (I was working on certain feature today, and my game’s core values helped me decide how to approach that feature). There must be direction.

In lower level this works as well: two days ago I had a really clear and good specs for my work (and I finished good amount of stuff, was really pleased with the results). Yesterday… I had a pretty good day, but not as good as the day before. I must admit that some of the yesterday’s tasks were bit blurry (to some extent), and that’s probably the reason why I didn’t finish the things that I planned (and actually ended up working couple of hours on some feature that I had delayed for “to do in future versions”).

Do you know what you are doing today? Do you know what you are going to do next year?

How To Make Decisions

When you need to make a decision, and “don’t know which way to go”, then a really good idea is to talk with somebody whose opinion you trust, and somebody who knows what you are talking about.

Yesterday I had this decision to make about certain aspect of my game. I had planned 2 ways to go, and discussed this with friend of mine (3d artist). I explained him what I could do, and that I probably do this and then practically had made the decision without any help actually needed from him. All he did was to listen and made some comments (also gave one good tip), that helped me to decide.

In a way, it might have looked like he didn’t contribute more than 1% to the decision making, but I guess I was 99% done and needed that last 1% from somewhere.

I’m sure this has happened to you too – several times – but I thought to remind. It’s good to talk to people.

Sometimes people have come to me asking “can I help with something” to which I have said “yes” and the rest of the conversation has been “he saying, me nodding” and then (before I’ve had chance to say anything) the guy says he has made up his mind and thanks me for his time.

Advertise Or Cry And Advertise

I don’t really know what that phrase means, since 3 years ago I wrote that sentence in one private Finnish bulletin board. That was the thread headline. In the thread, I told my friends to visit my blog

As said, I don’t know what tha phrase means… but I guess the philosophy behind it is supposed to state that “you gotta advertise your own stuff (nobody else won’t)”.

That statement is so true: you gotta be bold enough to promote the hell out of your game. Or products.

Which reminds me… I’m going to re-open the Insiders membership for the public “pretty soon” (within this year at least), and there’s some cool stuff coming.

Instant Reward Is So Great (Especially When Dealing With Spammers)

One minute ago I was checking in my zombie game forums. There was one new post and I replied there and then clicked to see if there would be other new posts. There was some pill spam post which had appeared just after my own reply.

I banned the guy & deleted the post at 4:41 am forum time (that’s pretty much right now).

Then I clicked the spam user profile and saw “last activity, today at 4:40 am”.

Getting spam post removed within seconds of its appearance (and to ban the guy) was soooo rewarding. Totally different when you remove those spams days after their appearance (when it feels like work).

Instant rewards are good. Essential.

It’s going to be a great day today.