Archive for January, 2011

Bastion Runes Brushset

Bastion makes liberal use of free art from many sources (a topic for a future blog post: it’s remarkable what great work one can access for free, and we want to give the folks who have helped us in this way as much exposure as possible). Given how important the free art community is to our game, it’s only fair that we make a small contribution back. With that, here is the Bastion Runes Brushset.

At some point, I’ll make one of those schmancy brushset titles that shows the runes off in the best possible way, but for now, you get this simple image of each of the ten runes in the set. The runes were drawn by our one and only Derek Bruneau, then processed by me to make them appropriate for use as brushes. There are many more runes in the Bastion world than this, so there’s a good chance another brushset will eventually be in the offing.

We use the runes many ways in the game, all of which you’ll see soon. Runes make their way into quest images, battlemaps, and more. Soon, we’ll teach you what each one means (hint: if you download the brushset, each rune has a label). All are free for your noncommercial use. Attributions and linkbacks are much appreciated!

Chrome Web Store: Chasing the short tail

Here at 10×10 Room, we were pretty excited about the recently-released Chrome Web Store, which takes core ideas from the iTunes Store and applies them to distributing web apps. CWS also holds out the promise of getting those same apps immediately in front of Chrome OS users once that operating system starts becoming available. That ought to be great news for web game developers like ourselves, and in fact we spent some time in the developer program for CWS before deciding our release schedule was too different from Google’s to make it worthwhile to launch within CWS.

Unfortunately, the reality of the Chrome Web Store, as it stands, is a little disappointing. The core problem: it’s really hard to find anything beyond a top tier of featured apps. Say, for example, you are interested in finding a new game. You click on Games, and see something like this:

Okay, this looks familiar… very iTunes-like. I think I want an action game. Let’s look at the Arcade & Action section. Well, none the first five games in this section look interesting, so I’ll dig deeper.

Uhm. How do I dig deeper? Where’s the “more” link, or pagination to the next 5 of 322 apps that might be classified as Arcade & Action? The answer: you can’t. The UI will not let you browse.

It gets worse. Say somebody tells me about a game called Lockmaster, but by the time I get home, I can’t for the life of me remember more than that it was “Lock”-something. But hey, there’s a handy search box on the front page of the CWS. Google is good at search, right?

As it turns out, not always. If I type in “Lock”, I get a bunch of results, but none of them are Lockmaster. In fact, the Google folks have stated in the forums that search takes place on whole words only! It looks to see if the search term you entered is in the title of the app, or in the short or long description you supplied. Better hope your game’s name is both really memorable, and easy to spell.

Whatever else is good or bad about the Google Web Store – and there’s plenty more to say on both sides of this one – they made two fundamental errors with their merchandising, both of which are attributable to an odd decision to discount the long tail. First, they made it impossible to browse deep into their store. If we feel like wandering around the store, well, too bad: there are many aisles, but each one is about a foot long. Second, if we have an idea of what we are looking for, and decide to use the search function, it behaves like search from the 1.0 days, incapable of grasping remarkably basic stuff like partial word matches. If we ask an associate to look for something in the warehouse, we’d better have an exact name and spelling ready! These would be important gripes with any web buying experience, but they are difficult to understand coming from Google, given that helping users find what they are looking is Google’s core competency.

The good news is that fixing these problems is nearly trivial, so I have high hopes that we will see fixes soon. It’s a shame they weren’t dealt with before launch, though, as they not only hurt the chances of most games (and apps) getting noticed, but also leave the user with a sense that the store is very shallow, which is surely not what Google has in mind. I hope we see improvement soon.

Execution is marketing

Tadhg Kelly of What Games Are recently posted about the need for games to have a marketing story. While his overall point is a good one, I have to quibble with a comment he made in a follow-up post:

The hard part isn’t execution. […] The hard part is creating and living a marketing story that makes people pay attention, because there is no list to tell you how to do that.

Duke Nukem Forever ... for real this time?

For real this time?

For one thing, execution is hard. Having good tools and developers is necessary but not sufficient; it also requires perseverance, effective communication, and high tolerances for risk, rejection, and criticism. But there’s another reason execution is challenging, and it relates to Tadhg’s second point: your execution is part of your marketing story.

If your execution is poor, you’re effectively marketing only to that subset of your audience willing and able to hear your story amid the cacophony of bad word of mouth. The near-mythical Duke Nukem Forever is one cautionary tale: its story at this point is almost entirely about its troubled execution. You could argue that its execution has been so bad that its story has garnered more attention than a successful game would have, but that’s not a result I’d try to reproduce.

Minecraft: Blocks all the way down

Blocks all the way down

Minecraft, on the other hand, demonstrates how execution can make a positive contribution to a marketing story. Part of what makes its story so compelling is that Notch was a one-man wrecking crew for much of its development; had it been a AAA title produced by a more conventional team, reactions to the game likely wouldn’t have been nearly as strong.

While those are extreme examples, execution matters to nearly any game’s marketing story. It’s not just the choice of indie or not, though our decision to build Bastion: Call to Arms as a three-person, self-funded team certainly influences how we talk about it. It’s that players will also construct their own stories based on their experience with a game. Whatever your intended narrative, players will create competing tales of woe if your game is sufficiently buggy, unbalanced, or user-unfriendly.

Executing well is one way to make it more likely that your game is the hero rather than the villain of those tales. That in turn makes it possible for your own marketing story to be heard, especially if it complements or amplifies the stories of your players.

Battlemap Preview 2, plus tokens

If you haven’t yet seen Battlemap Preview 1, you might want to check that out too.

Last time around, we gave you a look at some of our outdoor battlemaps. Let’s go underground for the next one, then take a look at some of the creature tokens that will be populating the maps.

At a certain point in your Bastion questing, you might learn of problems beneath the Bastion itself. Problems that can only lead to everybody’s favorite place…

…the sewer! But you’ll find that the sewer is far from the bottom of the Bastion underground.

What might you find in a sewer? Probably some rats:
Or perhaps some diseased rats: Or possibly even some unliving rats: Or how about a, well, whatever he is: Ewww. Let’s hope we don’t meet that one.

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