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