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Submitting Lunch Bug to IndieCade

by Matt Hackett, 2012 Apr 15

If you follow us on Twitter, you've already seen some screenshots of our upcoming puzzle game Lunch Bug. Last night I submitted it to IndieCade (an international festival of independent games) and I thought sharing my experience might help other devs out there.

A Lunch Bug

Be prepared to write

The first thing I noticed is that they've got a huge form to fill out. I expected to be writing some information and maybe a description or something, but I wasn't prepared for this much. Their examples were helpful so I included ours:

Game description

I thought this was pretty straightforward so I just went with what we'd probably put up on the Chrome Web Store or similar places…

Lunch Bug is a unique puzzle game with gameplay similar to Othello, but with many new, distinct mechanics. Players engage in a deeply strategic puzzle game, aiming to feed the most fruit to the lunch bugs to get the highest score!

Artistic statement

You know, this one put me off a little at first because I hadn't put any thought into it. We've been in such a frenzy to get new games out, we haven't really thought about trying to make a statement.

Our first game was a very niche, extremely challenging design that only appealed to a small number of hardcore players. With Lunch Bug, we wanted to design a game that wouldn't alienate players as much, but still had something new to offer to pull them in. So we began with a design we knew and loved and added our own distinctive mechanics to the game.

Installation

A Lunch Bug Mushroom

IndieCade is interesting because it accepts games of any kind, including board games and paper designs. With so many differences and edge-cases, it's no wonder that terminology like "installation" gets used, even when largely irrelevant to games like Lunch Bug.

Lunch Bug can be played in any modern web browser. Please play Lunch Bug in the latest version of Google Chrome (currently 18.x) on Mac or Windows computers. Android, iPhone and iPad browsers are also supported, though some features may not be available and the experience is not ideal.

Gameplay

At first I approached this with step-by-step directions on how to play the game, but I defenestrated that idea and instead leaned heavily on our tutorial. The tutorial should be what teaches players how to play.

Since Lunch Bug is a new game design, we recommend players to follow the tutorial from the title screen to learn how to play. To get the full breadth of the game, players should play through the game until the board is full and the game is over. (New games typically only last ~5 minutes.) Lunch Bug was designed as a "slow burn" game, where players get dramatically higher scores as they improve at the game.

What's your story?

This step was unexpected too. Based on the examples, it sounded like more of a company/team culture aspect than about this particular game, so that's what I wrote:

We named our company Lost Decade because, as two web developers with ~10 years experience each, we felt like we'd somehow let a decade pass by without pursuing our dreams of making games. This is where HTML5 comes in. We're game lovers and designers at heart, but all we knew was JavaScript. With the emergence of HTML5, we could program games quickly and easily and make them instantly, widely available through the web. Lunch Bug is our first real game after quitting our jobs and jumping into the deep end to follow our dreams!

Team description

This was easy to write, especially since we've podcasted about it!

After meeting at a web job, Geoff and I quickly realized that we both were passionate about the very specific blend of games and JavaScript. We work from home M-W-F. Geoff comes to my place on Tuesdays, when we talk about goals for the coming week. Thursday I head to his place for gameplay testing and more conversation. Throughout the week we often Skype and IM.

A Lunch Bug Berry

Level of polish

This was somewhat difficult to say, as we have so many open tickets and big plans for the polish, and I had to express all of this in just a few sentences:

Lunch Bug is in active development and will be receiving weekly(ish) updates. We're redoing the title screen and user interface art and adding a new "store" feature.

Back up your data!

About halfway through taking extra care in writing decent stuff for this huge form, I somehow had the good sense to save what I was doing. I copy/pasted each of the seven text boxes into our Lost Decade Dropbox account and BOY am I glad I did, because they took so long to write that the website logged me out. I think the data actually saved into a draft, but having a backup saved me from a minor heart attack. Be wary!

Video required

I've written a guide to game development contests before, but it certainly needs updating now. My new piece of crucial advice is to go through the submission process early! If we had waited until the deadline for this step, we'd suddenly realize we have to produce a video, and may have been out of time!

This step actually wasn't too bad since I've randomly gotten some practice with iMovie recently. I started adding Lostcast to our YouTube page as well as some random time-lapse movies (because I really love those!). Anyway I've learned a lot recently so I was able to produce a video in less than an hour. And here it is:

Summary

Aside from the gigantic form and some bewildering usability problems (phone number is really buried!), the process of submitting to IndieCade wasn't too bad. The competition is stiff, but we're at the very least excited about getting some industry veterans playing our game. Why not submit your game?

Follow author @matthackedit

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