Developer Blog

Polishing and testing – Luminaut Dev Log #19

One of the things I love about showing my game off to a crowd is that it acts as an amazing, live QA session. We’ve been able to fix a lot of different bugs thanks to events like Playcrafting. Just recently we went to MAGFest to show off The Painter’s Apprentice and we found even more items that need some fine tuning. Some we were already aware of. Others, were a bit of a surprise. We’ve made notes on all of the comments and while we can’t implement all of the cool ideas in this game, we may consider it for a sequel or prequel (yes we’re already looking at a franchise of sorts).

We’re thankful for everyone who has taken the time to play the game and provide us with feedback. I also know we’re doing something right when multiple people spend the time to play the entire demo all the way through. It’s exciting and always great to see. It means we’re doing something right.

We can’t really show too much of what we’ve been up to because it’s mainly just been small tweaks to the code here and there to make it run smoother. But believe me, even from last year to now, there’s a huge difference in the way the game looks and feels. For starters, we’ve switched gears to focus on PC first so you can play with a controller versus touch screen. While our mobile version works well, there’s just something about playing the game with a gamepad in hand. And of course, there’s the coloring effect. It definitely adds a whole new element to the game. People loved it and it was a joy watching gamers jump around and color everything in.

Here’s what our MAGFest 2016 trailer submission looked like:


Here’s what our latest trailer looks like:


Pretty huge difference right?

Upcoming Changes

With that said, there will be some huge changes in the future. We’re updating the art to fit both the art movement AND the character a bit better. We want people to be able to look at the backgrounds and immediately realize they’ve switched to a different art style. So we’ve brought on an art director who has extensive knowledge of the various time periods who’ll help out. We’re hoping to still stay on track with our planned release date…at least that’s what we hope! If you’d like to see some of the changes, then subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll be updating you on all of that and more!

We’re really excited for how everything is shaping up. If you’d like to try out the game, head on over to our downloads section to try it out.




Game Development Resolutions

game development


There’s nothing quite like a new year to really turn over a new leaf. There’s a lot we weren’t so great about in 2016, but 2017 is the year to take a step forward and make some changes. While you don’t need to wait a full year to up your game, it certainly does help to have a fresh 12 months ahead of you. So here are a few of our resolutions for 2017:

Game Development Resolutions

  • More consistent blog posts – we plan on posting twice a week. One of those posts will be a game development blog.
  • Finish up The Painter’s Apprentice this year! We’re pretty excited with how things are going and while we’re certainly looking for ways to improve, we’re also pushing ourselves to get the game out. Finger crossed!
  • Prototype faster. Hopefully we can actually get a steady game development cycle in place so it doesn’t take us so long to produce games.
  • Maybe take part in a game jam. I’ve been looking at the 1 game a month jam for a while now. No better time to start like the present.
  • Contract work. It’s something we’ve been looking into for a while and we actually got our first last month. If it goes well, we can go on to take on more work of this kind. Not only will it increase our repertoire, it also will help us fund future events and keep our company rolling.
  • Get our game through Steam Greenlight! (Hint, hint: vote for us)

That’s pretty much it for us. What are your new year’s resolutions for your game or company? Let us know in the comments below!



How to Stay Motivated When You’re Burnt Out

image via Pixabay

Burn out is a real thing. Especially for indie game developers. I see a lot of people on the developer groups wondering what the point of it all is. They’ve worked hard for 5 years and haven’t seen any returns on their time or money investments. The same could be said about us. We’ve been working on The Painter’s Apprentice for the past two years after our day jobs.

Our Story

There have been a lot of changes (and more to come) that have delayed the release of the game. People are burnt out on working on the same thing. A game that could have been completed in a couple months if done full-time has taken much longer than anticipated. It’s the same issue we had with Once Upon a Runner. As the months go by, it can be incredibly disheartening that the game still is not released. There’s the temptation to just put it out on the market because hey, no game will every be perfect. We did it with Once Upon a Runner and now we had to go back and redo the entire game because it just wasn’t up to par with other games on the market. I don’t want to make the same mistake with The Painter’s Apprentice.

It’s been a hard road. We’ve had artists and programmers leave mid-game so the project was put on hold for months while we searched for someone else to fill in the gaps. When we launched on Greenlight we had mostly negative comments surrounding our art. As it stands, we only have a couple hundred votes. All that work and our current product isn’t enough to get on Greenlight. It’s especially heartbreaking when you hear other people comment that any half-decent game will get Greenlit. It makes us pause and think – Is our game just not any good?

Battling Burn Out

So how do we stay motivated despite burning out and generally feeling pessimistic about our future? We look forward and backwards.

Forward to see where we want to be.

We have a clear deadline and goal to reach. There are some great highlights coming up that legitimize our company such as being accepted into MAGFest and being selected to showcase at the PAX Rising Booth in San Antonio. It shows us the potential that our game company has to reach a wider audience. There’s also the other game we’re working on (if you want to learn more, subscribe to our newsletter!) and potential partnerships that we may be able to leverage in the future if we play our cards right.

Thinking this way makes me realize that while two years is certainly long for a platformer it means we spent time to polish it. Are there going to be changes in the near future? Yes. We’re already looking into some options to make the game even better. It may mean we take longer to release, but I’d rather release a polished and amazing looking game than something that’s “good enough.” Striving for excellence takes a lot of time and work, but in the end it is worth it.

Backwards to see how far we’ve come.

I love Thursdays because that’s when I use the hashtag Throwback Thursdays. It’s a nice way to remind myself how far we’ve really come with the game. Our animation is much smoother, our gameplay is improving and everything is slowly coming together. When I compare our current build to the first time we demo-ed the game at PGConnects, there’s a world of difference. It’s hard to see the changes when you focus just on the past week or even month. It seems so incremental. But when you look at everything as a whole, there’s absolutely huge changes.

It’s also nice to look back at the positive feedback we’ve gotten at the various events we’ve showcased at. People love the idea and love the game. We’ve improved overall gameplay thanks to people who’ve tried our game these past two years and it’s better because of it. Many of the people who we’ve met have become supporters and even helped out our Kickstarter. For that we’re eternally grateful. Over the past two years, we’ve grown our mailing list by 200% and increased our follower count from 0 to 400+ on Twitter. It might not be the explosive growth many others see, but it continues to steadily rise.

In the end

We’ll continue to polish and hone The Painter’s Apprentice until we’re satisfied with how to it looks and feels. We want to provide the best experience for everyone. It’s challenging, absolutely. Some days are harder than others to really get into the game development mood. Some days I don’t even want to look at the game. But on those days, I remind myself what we have accomplished and what we plan on accomplishing. Then I get to work.

Developer Blog

Parallaxing, Platforms and Cons – Luminaut Dev Log #18

Luminaut Dev Log #18

As you may have guessed, we’ve been working super hard on improving The Painter’s Apprentice. We’ve demo-ed at some great places such as GaymerX East and we’re headed for our second year at MAGFest. Even more exciting, we were selected to show off the game at PAX South at the PAX Rising booth! How cool is that?

Since our last development blog, we’ve gone through a lot of changes. We’re releasing first on PC (hurray!) so we’ve been tweaking the controls to fit the keyboard and mouse as well as the controller. You can actually download the demo we show off at these conventions to try it out yourself at home. And if you like it, vote for us on Steam Greenlight.

So what’s changed since the last time? We’ve added an amazing parallax effect that you can see a gif of here:

Sped up 3X

We also added in some platforms that now don’t just move in a linear line but can go around in a box.

Sped up 3X

We’ve also updated the animation for the little blob so it stands out more. Here’s what it looks like now:



We’ve also cleaned up a couple items on the backend that makes the game run much smoother. You might not see it, but there’s a whole lot that goes on behind the scenes.

We’ll be updating this blog more often as things heat up. Of course feel free to follow us on Twitter and Facebook. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter as you’ll be the first to get access to our builds and learn about some cool news.



Developer Blog

We’re on Kickstarter and Greenlight!!!

If you haven’t been following our social media, we’ve finally launched the Painter’s Apprentice on Kickstarter and Steam. To be honest it’s a pretty nerve-wracking experience opening up The Painter’s Apprentice to public scrutiny. Still, we’re quite proud of the game and can’t wait to get it to you guys so you can experience it as well. With that said we need your help in bringing it to life.

Why Kickstarter

We were a bit hesitant to go on Kickstarter at first. After all, we’re not a big name and over the years we feel like there’s been some crowdfunding fatigue. Still, we’re hoping to raise some money so we can offset the costs of the various events we go to, materials we purchase for the company and of course to compensate everyone on their time. $2,000 might not seem like a lot, but it’s a way to legitimize what we’ve been doing and hopefully show others that there’s enough people interested. With that said, even if we don’t reach our goal, we’ll still work on the project. It might just mean we can’t do too much travel to other parts of the country. Please head on over to our site and support our campaign! Even $1 helps

Why Steam

Steam is the biggest platform for indie game developers on PC. It’s therefore extremely over saturated – kind of like the app stores. It has over 100 million active subscribers, making it a perfect place to hopefully gain some new fans. Still, there are so many games released every day on the platform it’s easy to get buried. We’re hoping that with a lot of hard work and little bit of luck we’ll get our game on there. You can help with that as well by heading on over and voting!

We really want the game to be successful not just for us but for you as well. If we get on Greenlight we can reach even more people and it also means the game will be much more accessible to almost everyone. Of course we’ll still release for iOS and Android later on down the line.

Any questions or comments? Let us know in the comments. Please be sure to share to your friends as well when you vote and/or pledge!



How To Pitch Your Game – A Beginner’s Guide

pitch your game

At some point or another as a game developer, you’ll need to pitch your game. Whether you intend to sell it or not, at some point you’ll have to explain it to someone. This could be an investor or maybe just your mom. Whoever it is, a good pitch can spark their interest and lead to a new fan.

What Makes a Good Pitch?

Pitching a project isn’t easy. It seems like it should be, especially if you’re the one who came up with the idea and designed it. The problem is that we get so caught up in the details of our game and explaining every little thing that we often lose a person’s interest. Of course, enthusiasm is a requirement for a pitch. If you don’t care about your game, no one else will.

So what are the elements of a good pitch?

  • It provides the listener with a clear explanation of your game.
  • It highlights key features that separates your game from others in the same genre
  • It’s short!
  • It invites them to perform a desired action (download the game, invest money, etc).

Sound simple? A great pitch requires a lot of trial and error. When we released our first game Once Upon a Runner (which you can download for Android and iOS) it took some time to draft a good pitch. At events, it’s also boring to say the same lines over and over so I had to come up with different variations of the pitch. For social media and our tag-line I had to come up with yet another, shorter one to immediately catch people’s interest. That one ended up being “Run, jump and burn your way through six different fairy tale worlds as Ella in Once Upon a Runner.”

Our regular pitch is a bit expanded, “Once Upon a Runner is a 2D, side-scrolling runner game where you control Ella, a young fire mage who finds herself transported to strange worlds. Avoid dangerous obstacles and face off against fearsome enemies based off of familiar fairy tales to return home. The game features six different story levels, endless mode, in-game comic panels and a fire-wielding heroine. Download/play the game now on iOS and Android!”

For The Painter’s Apprentice we’re still working on a good pitch for the game that will excite people. So far, however, we’ve been going with “The Painter’s Apprentice is a 2D platformer that draws inspiration from art. You play as the Apprentice who mysteriously finds himself inside of paintings. In order to return to the real world you must platform your way through eight different art styles, defeat sentient paint blobs and bring back order and color back to the paintings. The game features 8 worlds each with their own art styles, boss fights that will keep you on your toes, a range of paint blob enemies and bonus levels. Try it out.”

How to Pitch Your Game

Of course, in order to first pitch the game to a person, you need to get their attention. At shows this can be difficult because there are hundreds of games on display. Make eye contact with everyone who walks by and invite them to play your game. It can be a huge hurdle for shy people (like me), but if you want the best results you really have to put yourself out there.

Most importantly of all, remember to ABC (always be closing). Tell them what you want them to do whether that’s download the game, vote for you on greenlight or support your Kickstarter. If you don’t tell them, they won’t know. It feels like you’re putting a lot of pressure on the other person, but it’s something you need to do. Always ask. Always prompt them to perform an action and you’ll definitely see results.

If you want more detail on how to pitch your game Pocket Gamer wrote a great article on how to succeed at their Very Big Indie Pitch.

What are some other tips you have for a great game pitch? Let us know in the comments below.



Of Money and Indie Game Developers

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Through the years, I’ve noticed a trend among indie game developers. I imagine it’s the same for many creatives in their respective scene. When you start talking about how to make money on your craft a lot of people jump in and ask, “Why does it have to be about money?” or “If you expect to make money, you’ll be disappointed.” It’s almost as if they are encouraging the idea that you shouldn’t make money as an indie.

The problem is that they then say you need to pay your artists and programmers a decent wage. Something I agree with. However, if you don’t make money on your games, how can you pay?

What Defines an Indie

There’s a question of what makes an indie game. For the most part, indie games are smaller in scope than AAA, have less of a budget, but ultimately allows for greater freedom of expression and innovative gameplay elements. With that said, not all indie games follow this pattern. Many offer conventional mechanics. Some studios might even have large budgets. And while most indies don’t receive funding from publishers for their work, there are a few who do. In fact, there’s a burgeoning indie publisher market. These companies help on the marketing end, but much more also provide some funding for development.

When you look at all of the exceptions, the term indie doesn’t seem to define anything. Perhaps the most consistent factor, however, is the size of the team. For the most part, indie studios are small ranging from a single individual to around thirty. Most raise money on their own or via crowdsourcing to get it off the ground. And many, many more do not make back the money they have put it.

The Plight of Indies

It’s a sad fact that most indie game developers don’t make enough money to work there full-time. Many work day jobs to fund their dream (like us). Thanks to game engines and free art assets, it’s getting easier to make games and this leads to a flooded market. That means it’s very likely many people won’t even see your game. Take Steam for example. It has over 125 million active users, yet the average game only sells around 32,000 copies. And you can bet most of those sales are when the developer reduces the price or when it’s part of a Humble Bundle. You can imagine on iTunes or Google Play that number is much lower.

Since most indies can’t make a living off their earnings, it’s become almost an in-joke. Many people on these Facebook group post how much their game has made on ad revenue. These range from $0.01 to $1.45. It’s funny and sad at the same time.

Indie’s Relationship With Money

All that to say indies have a very mixed relationship with money and earnings. For the most part, they want to make a living off of what they love, but with so much competition and general lack of marketing savvy and influence, it’s a tough road.

Eventually, many indies seem to give up on making money. They resign themselves to creating games for no profit and believe that’s just the way the industry is. With so many other developers in the same boat, it’s almost comforting not to make money because you can be part of the crowd and sympathize. It’s easy to give in to a certain amount of complacency. I’ve certainly been guilty of it. Why even bother sending a note to some large game press? They receive thousands of emails and they won’t cover the game for one reason or another. This sort of thinking leads to another – a love-hate relationship with money. Indies want it, but because most won’t make any they hate talking or even thinking about it.

Selling Out

This isn’t a new idea. In fact, for most creative outlets there’s this romanticization of being a struggling independent. Fans and other indies are the ones who spread this idea. You’ll often hear people say, “I liked this group before they went mainstream.” It’s a mark of pride for fans. For indies, I believe it’s a means of protection. Seeing another indie make it big-time, whether it’s scoring a record label or making billions on a game like Notch, reminds them they haven’t reached that level yet. It’s a hard pill to swallow so many simply brush it aside as the other group selling out. Is it truly, though? What indie wouldn’t make the same decision if offered the same thing?

Talking Money

All this to say, indies need to improve their relationship around money. In fact, it should be something you think about if you plan on making a living off your games. After all, if you don’t think about it how you will know what price to make it on release, how to implement in-game purchases or ads if you decide to go free-to-play, how to localize payments for other countries and so forth?

It isn’t as though game developers discourage each other. Most are more than happy to share their expertise and experiences with newcomers. When it comes to money, though, many clam up or argue that game development isn’t about the money, man. Maybe this reluctance to talk about it comes from a social faux pas surrounding money in general. Hardly anyone talks about personal finance. If you mention the cost of an item, many will consider you tactless or cheap. Perhaps it’s the same with game development. Talking about how much you’ve made or the best way to implement ads, IAP in a game to make money seems taboo. If you say you’re making a game to make money, you’ll get plenty of comments to look into a different field.

With that said it isn’t easy to make money on games. It is hard, and it takes a lot of time to build up a community of people who will play it. However, you shouldn’t just accept the fact your game didn’t do well. Analyze your failure and success, understand how to avoid it in the future and then inform other developers. Talk about money and finances. Get creative with how you raise it. Think about how your game can succeed instead of worrying about its failure. There’s more than one way to make money in games. Some may take more time than others, but if you want to follow your passion and work full-time on games, there’s no way around it. You have to put making money on the same level as making a great experience.

What are your thoughts? Did I totally miss the mark? Let me know in the comments!

Cover image: Source



How to Make a Game with Little or No Money

image via Pixabay
image via Pixabay

An indie developer’s life is far from glamorous. What the public perceives as a developer’s life and reality is very different. More often than not, indie developers have full-time jobs to fund their passion. Others might have someone supporting them whether it’s through a family member or crowdfunding. It’s not an easy job and so many aspiring developers give up because they lack the budget to create the game of their dreams let alone market it.

So the question becomes, how can you make games without little to no money?


Thanks to demand, many engines are free-to-use, with caveats. You don’t need to pay a dime into Unreal or Unity unless you actually start making money ($100,000 for Unity and $3,000 for Unreal). These free editions do have some limitations to them, but if you’re fine with it then you might as well jump on one of them. If you want something completely free then check out Godot Engine. It’s an open source software that allows you to make 2D and 3D games. While it uses its own proprietary language, if you know python you should be able to get the hang of it quickly.


There are several places you can download free assets but one of the most popular is You can download almost everything from 2D sprites to 3D textures. While free, you’ll want to check out the licenses attached to the artwork before you make any changes as not all of artists allow  you to modify their work. If you do end up using an asset from the site, make sure to properly attribute the artist in your game. You can also check out this article for more sites that offer free game art.

For music, there are a handful of options, but one of the best is Free Music Archive. You can browse hundreds of songs in 15 different genres. You’ll need to be careful when choosing which song to use as not all have the same licenses. If you intend on using the song for commercial use for your game, you’ll want to avoid CC-BY-NC-SA and CC-BY-NC-ND songs. These are meant for noncommercial use only. Like the art assets, you’ll need to properly attribute the artist of the song if you intend on using it for your game.

Sound effects can be a bit trickier to find. There are dozens of sites with amazing sound effects, but many of them require you to pay to actually download and use them. Freesound is a great resource if you don’t mind spending some time sifting through all of the user uploads. Look for sounds that have a Creative Commons 0 license as this means the creator waives all rights to the work and you can modify or use it as you please. It’s possible you won’t find exactly what you need here, but you might find something that is close enough.

If you want to try your hand at creating your own music, you can use tools like Tracktion 4, a powerful digital audio workstation (DAW). It allows you to mix or remix your music. This is a full DAW so you don’t have to worry about missing out on any features. If you’ve got the money, you can upgrade to the newest version which only costs $60.


If you’re an artist with no coding skill it might be a bit harder for you to find snippets of code to make your game. In that case, you might look into engines that have a drag-and-drop interface like GameMaker. The problem is that the free version of these engines usually don’t have as many features as the Pro versions. If you’re okay with these limitations then try it out. You might end up liking it so much you pay into it. Luckily many of these engines end up having a sale on the paid versions at least once a year. If you decide you want more features, keep a look out on Steam and the engine’s site for announcements.

If you’re not in any rush to push out your game, you can find plenty of free tutorials on YouTube that can teach you the basics of different engines. Unity and Unreal have great beginner tutorial series and even walks you through making your own games. If you can spare a few dollars, Udemy has some amazing online game programming courses that walk you through the basics from explaining the syntax of the code to how different code can provide the same outcome. Udemy often has discounts on their classes almost every month so jump on one during these times.

Art Software

Adobe might be the industry standard for creating digital artists, but there are some free options you can check out. GIMP is the open source answer to Photoshop. If you’re familiar with Photoshop it might take some time to get used to GIMP’s interface. Once you do, however, you’ll realize it is every bit as powerful.

Inkscape is the answer to Adobe Illustrator. It’s a great tool for creating vector drawings and especially useful if you want to make create a voxel style game.

For 2D animation the Spriter free version has plenty of features to get you started. Rather than animate every frame by hand, Spriter allows you to rig up different parts of your character onto a basic skeleton and then move them via pivot points. It reduces the time you need to create a professional-looking animation. Just remember, you need to divide up your sprite into different parts in order to get the smoothest animation.

If you’re a 3D animator, there’s no better free tool than Blender. It’s powerful enough to create ultra-realistic renders and can do everything you can do in Maya such as: fast rigging, UV unwrapping, full compositor and more. It even has a full game engine, though you probably don’t want to publish anything you’ve actually made in there. With that said, it’s great for prototyping. The best part about Blender, besides being free, is its cross platform on Mac, PC and Linux.


Of all the necessary steps needed to successfully launch a game, marketing is by far the most time-consuming and hardest. This is especially true if whether you’re s solo developer or have a small team. Marketing requires forethought into your market and consistent, but friendly communication with them. You need to post something everyday on the right social media networks and interact not only with people who comment, like or follow you but with thought leaders and influencers. It’s a full-time job. The problem is most indie studios just don’t have the money to bring on a marketing firm or even consultant. If this sounds like you, there’s still hope.

The best way to stay organized and in the loop is to have one place where you can keep an eye on most, if not all, of your social media profiles. Hootsuite is a great service where you can do just that and the basic version is free. You can follow keywords that interest you, keep an eye on your feed and even respond to comments. Besides this, you can also automate your posts, which will save you a ton of time in the long run. If you don’t like Hootsuite, you can also check out Buffer, which offers the same service but also adds the ability to create your own image, complete with typography.

Besides social media, there are a few basics you should set up. These might cost you some money, but you’ll ultimately get much more by implementing them:

  • A website: this sounds so basic, but there are still many developers who do not have one. You can get a domain and hosted server for under $20 a month.
  • Business cards: you’ll want to carry some around to hand out. You don’t have to keep it limited to events. Hand it out to anyone you chat with. You never know what might come of it.
  • Development fees: whether you’re submitting to Android or Steam, each one requires you pay a fee upon submitting your game. There are places you can submit for free like gamejolt or

So if you’ve been interested in creating your own games, but were worried about the cost, take heart! Creating a game doesn’t necessarily require a ton of money. However, if you do end up going the budget route, it will take you much more time.





Getting Your Game Out There – Marketing 101

When you talk to game developers about marketing or community building, you’ll often be met with glazed eyes. So many of us are so busy concentrating on making a good game that we forget that we also need to let people know about it (I fall into the same trap). Otherwise, who will play it?

That doesn’t mean we think marketing, PR, and community building is unimportant. Quite the opposite actually. Many of us know that it’s important, but so many of us don’t know really know how to do it. Instead we kind of dabble around on social media, post developer blogs because we see other people do it and kind of float around in this marketing limbo. We read up on some tactics, but we don’t really get it. Of course, not all of us are like that. Some developers understand the secret sauce behind successful marketing campaigns. On the surface, it seems like they’re doing exactly the same thing you might be doing, but if you dig a little deeper you’ll start seeing the differences. Here’s a little marketing 101 on what successful game developers do to spread the word.

They Know Their Target Audience

marketing 101 pax east

Do you know who will play your game? Does your game appeal to casual or hard core gamers? Is it for mobile, PC or console? 2D or 3D? VR integration? All of these questions can help narrow down your target market i.e. your audience. You don’t need to change your game to suit a demographic, but you should be able to pinpoint people who would want to play your game. From there, you can then find out where they go to hang out online. Maybe it’s Twitter or Reddit. Maybe it’s Twitch. Either way, the more targeted your audience, the better your chances of getting noticed. The more you learn about them the better you can tailor your message by knowing exactly where they are and their preferred method of consuming content whether it’s through text, video or images.

The developers behind Punch Club (tinyBuild Games) is a great example. Rather than go to review sites, they went directly to Twitch to utilize the Twitch Plays crowdsourcing experiment. This allowed users to “play” the game by simply typing in commands. It was a genius stroke of marketing that brought in quite a bit of downloads. Will this work for your game? That depends on if your audience is on Twitch or not.

So how do you find your target audience? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What does your game offer to the audience that would interest them? Great art, music, new type of gameplay?
  • Who are your competitors and how do you stack up against them? How are you different?
  • What are the characteristics of your ideal customer? Make a customer profile and go beyond the standard demographics. Get into hobbies, likes and dislikes, etc. for a more realized vision of your audience.
  • What is the cost of your product? Will it be free or premium? How do similar games on the platform of your choice stack up in terms of pricing?
  • Who are your current customers? Even social media sites provide basic demographics on your followers so look to those to see who is already interested in what you offer.
  • Who are your competitors’ customers? Is there significant overlap? Are you noticing their customers are complaining about some features that you can provide?
  • Have you done your research? There are a lot of sources out there on video games. It might take a bit to go through them all, but it should be easier when you narrow down your platform and region. You can also do conduct your own through surveys though this part might be better for when you have a larger audience.

They Start Early


Image: Source

Most successful indie developers start building up hype long before the actual release of their game. This could mean showing of concept artwork or just sharing prototype ideas. Heck, you can even share ideas that didn’t quite make the cut and why they didn’t work. The point is, you want to get your company and game on people’s radar early on because you can build up your audience. The earlier you start, the more likely you will be to grab people’s attention and really stick in their memory. They’ll be waiting for screenshot updates or developer blog updates because they’re invested in your game. After all, they’ve been following you for 6 months or more.

The trick here is to only start promoting the game when you have something worthwhile to show. That means all of your screenshots or demos should be very polished. Google doesn’t remove old images and having some low quality images or videos can negatively affect your game. So what do you need for your game?

  • A website: something simple is fine that shows off some captivating screenshots, fun gameplay videos and general overview of the game itself.
  • Social media profile: It’s a must as it’s one of the best ways to connect with people and show off your assets.
  • A developer blog: while you don’t need to have one, it is a great way to keep people up-to-date and humanize your team.
  • Trailers: this comes later on, but trailers are a great way to get people excited. Make some teaser trailers in the beginning and then move on to some gameplay.

They Hustle


Most game developers, whether AAA or indie, understand the importance of getting out your game in front of people when it’s in a playable state. While social media can certainly do a lot, the best thing is to actually get in front of live people and have them try out your game. Not only can you talk at length about it, you can also see people’s reactions to it and even see potential pitfalls you can fix in the future. While smaller conferences are a great place to get started, you really want to save up the money for the big conventions like PAX. These can cost well over $10,000 but you’ll not only be meeting with gamers but also media outlets and even representatives from Steam, Apple and Google.

Even if you can’t afford to exhibit (or perhaps your game gets rejected) it’s still a great idea to go anyway. Besides speaking to other indie developers, you can also hand out flyers, buttons or CDs for your own game to other attendees (though this might be considered suitcasing so be sure to look into the guidelines for each convention before doing this).

But it isn’t just about conventions. You need to think outside the box when marketing your game. Look at other ways you can promote your game outside of the virtual sphere. Is your game about zombies? You can probably find events in a city near you that feature them. What about an escape the room game? A lot of cities now have real life escape the room events, so why not work with them to promote your game? Got an endless runner? Maybe you can hand out your flyer to the audience at marathons. There are a lot of options to choose from. Of course, they require research and stepping outside of your comfort zone. With that said, people will more likely remember your game and company if you do these kind of guerrilla marketing tactics.

They Know How to Social


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Hey, I shuddered too just using the term ‘social,’ but it’s true. The best game developers understand the nuances of each platform and tailor their messages to fit each one. It isn’t just about the text but the attached images or videos that accompany it. They know exactly what hashtags to use (#gamedev, #screenshotsaturday, #indiegame) and of course interact on a personal level with both their followers and potential followers. By keeping it personal, they’re building a strong relationship with their audience, which of course leads to better results once they release their game. Of course, some companies already have such brand recognition they don’t and can’t respond to everyone individually. That’s one of the main benefits of being an indie studio – you can reach out to everyone personally. It takes a heck of a lot of time, but you reap the benefits in the form of a loyal gamer…so long as your game is good of course. One of the best things to do is to use a social media manager like hootsuite. Not only can you manage most of your profiles, you can also schedule your posts and keep track of targeted keywords.

Of course, being good at social media management is much more than just posting a tweet or Facebook post. It’s about understanding the analytics. You’ll need to be able to look at the data on each of your post and not only see which posts are doing well, but also understand why. The why is the tricky part as the analytics don’t necessarily tell you. It just gives you the numbers so you’ll need to figure out why one tweet is doing better than another. Maybe it’s the use of a certain image or gif or maybe it’s because a larger company shared your post. Either way, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the numbers. It can show you what you are doing right and, when put together with your customer profile, can even predict behavior for future posts.

They Have an Email List

email symbol on row of colourful envelopes

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Email marketing is not dead. In fact it still remains the most successful marketing tool in your arsenal. People who have already signed up for your email list are already interested in your game and company. That means when you send out information on an update or release, these are the people who are most likely to click through and make that purchase. So build up your subscriber list stat! Email marketing services like mailchimp make it super easy to create different lists, see open/click through rates and even make an eye-catching email.

Sounds easy right? Well, it’s not quite that simple. You have to convince people to sign up for it by providing value to them. So what will they get in exchange for being a subscriber? Is it beta testing? Or perhaps a discount code for when the game is released? Maybe it’s free wallpapers? Whatever it is, you want to reward your subscribers with the idea of exclusivity. They’re getting something that other people won’t get. So come up with some kind of reward. It doesn’t have to cost you any money and you don’t have to do it for every email you send out.

Speaking of emails, how many should you send out? You want to make sure your subscribers don’t forget about you, but you also don’t want to spam them with nonsense. A good rule of thumb is once a month, but  you can always do less if you don’t think you have enough information to create a newsletter every month. Just keep it consistent. Make sure your social media profiles are on each email you send out. And if you want to increase your base, reward people who refer their friends with some kind of prize. Again, keep it simple. It could be an amazing wallpaper or a percentage discount for every x amount of people they refer. Get creative! (By the way, sign up for our newsletter as well!)


They Get Lucky


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Yes, there is some luck involved to having a successful game. Sometimes the game idea you have aligns perfectly to what a huge portion of the gaming population wants. Sometimes technology comes along that allows the game you wanted to make a reality. Or sometimes a new platform appears that has hardly any competitors. Look at Angry Birds. They became hugely successful because they were one of the first games that really utilized the touch screen on the iPhone. And really, they were one of the first original games available. Of course, we can’t all be the first one to jump on a new platform. So what can we do to increase our odds in such a saturated market? In essence, we need to have a little luck on our side. While we cannot completely control it, we can increase our odds of having a successful game by researching our genre, playing our competitor’s games, listening to the complaints of current gamers and then seeing how our game addresses these issues. Once you find that hook push forward with it and illustrate why your game is different from all the others available and tell your audience in as many ways as you can. And if you’re lucky, they’ll start noticing.

At the end of the day, marketing is an entire full-time job by itself as is community management. For small teams, this list might sound daunting, but if you do one thing on this list then I suggest really understanding your audience. This doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your vision of the game to suit them, but you should have an general idea of who you want to play your game. After you have a strong image in your mind, the rest – social, video and blog creation, etc – should come more naturally.





Getting Started With Game Dev – What Engine Should I Use

image via Pixel Prospector
image via Pixel Prospector

This post has been edited to remove references to UE.

I’m part of a few Indie Game Developer groups on Facebook and the number one most common question is: I have no experience with programming or game development. What game engine do I use?

This question gets a lot of ire in these groups because it gets asked at least once a day. Still, I can also understand why these groups get the same questions. A lot of posts get buried underneath others and with thousands of people in each group, often these questions get pushed down. And who really wants to sift through dozens if not hundreds of posts on Facebook. For those who don’t want to deal with Facebook, hopefully this article can answer some of your questions.

The question of what game engine to use/is the best is layered because it requires you to answer questions such as:

  • Do you want to make a 2D or 3D game?
  • What kind of game do you want to make?
  • Do you have a PC or Mac or something else?
  • How powerful is your setup?
  • Do you want to make mobile games or do you want to go cross platform?
  • Are you willing to learn a programming language?
  • How quickly do you want to push out a game?

Your answers to these questions will determine which engine, if any, you choose. Below is a quick breakdown of the different options and the reason you should consider them.

Swift/Android IDE

If you’re just planning on releasing for mobile and don’t mind learning code, your best bet is to make your games natively for iOS and Android. Why? You can take advantage of all the new features the mobile OS has to offer, making it more likely that your game will be featured in these app stores. Besides that, your file size will also be smaller because there’s no game engine taking up space. Both Apple and Google offer pretty good documentation on how to use their frameworks and you can always find answers by simply searching for issues you have.


Image: Source
Image: Source

If you’re looking to make a 2D game and want the simplicity of a drag-and-drop interface but the flexibility of tweaking things with code, then GameMaker is absolutely the best option. It is a pure 2D engine and allows you to customize as much as you want. It uses its own proprietary language – GameMaker Language – but it is fairly easy to pick up. There are also dozens of video tutorials that can walk you through making a complete game. The basic set is free, but if you want to port to Android or iOS you’ll need to shell out some serious cash on top of the developer fees. In fact, each “module” costs you around $149 on top of the $149 you pay for cross-functionality. Of course if you want all the modules you can pay a lump sum of $480. You can then export to iOS, Android, Xbox, Playstation and more. This is a great option if you just plan on making 2D games.



There’s an ongoing debate about which is the best engine – Unity, Unreal or CryEngine. Unity is probably the most popular as it has been available to use for free the longest. Unity has an incredibly supportive community and a forum full of common answers and questions in case you run into any problems. Can you see that I’m a bit biased? We use Unity for our own projects and while we’re predominantly 2D, we like the free aspect of the engine though now that all three engines are free this isn’t really a roadblock for people just starting out now. While you’ll need to learn programming for this, there are plenty of video tutorials and online courses available to get you started. Plus there’s a ton of plugins you can use to make it a little easier. Want to do an online multiplayer game? Yep, there’s a plugin for that. The Unity asset store is also pretty great for people who do not have time or talent in art or music. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which one works the best for you.



If all you want is text adventures, Twine is a great option. It basically allows you to create clickable words in your story that take readers to another section of your story. It’s pretty simple to use and, best of all, you can simply upload it as an HTML game. If you know basic HTML and CSS, you’ll get the hang of Twine quickly.



If you’re new to programming and are intimidated by learning all of the conventions, Scratch is an excellent place to start. It might look simple (almost childish) but it really teaches you the building blocks of programming logic. Best of all it’s free! One of the best things about Scratch is that it is completely visual. You drag-and-drop certain “modules” or bits of code into a section and add in your statements to make the characters/program perform how you want. It’s a perfect introduction to the logic and conventions of programming without being too intimidating. You won’t be able to export this to consoles, but it’s a great program to use if you’re just getting started.

RPG Maker

image: source

Created by Degica, RPG Maker is the best option if you’re looking to create only pixel, top down RPGs. With that said, there’s plenty of flexibility here. You can create your own sprites (it’s highly suggested you do) and really customize the levelling system, items, upgrades, etc. that all RPGs have. It’s not cheap, but you’ll often find it on sale on Steam for less than $20. If you want to make RPGs, then snap it up! While you can do a lot with the basic interface, if you learn Javascript you can really control every aspect of your game. You can also make games for Mac, PC, iOS, Android and HTML.


There are literally dozens of other options you can choose from like Marmalade, Construct 2, Cocos2D, Corona, GameSalad, Stencyl and more. If you want to get into game design, first answer the questions above and then do research on game engines. Maybe you’ll find one I haven’t listed that suits your needs better. The point is to shop around and find ones that has the features and system requirements that fit what you need. Don’t be afraid to try something new. More importantly, make sure you don’t get the dreaded analysis paralysis. Choose one. If it doesn’t work, move on to the next. You don’t want to spend too much time looking for one because it will eat up time you could spend making your game. So make your choice and then get started!