Common Game Developer Questions (Part 1) – About Steam Greenlight

Just a little disclaimer, this FAQ was started before Steam announced they would be dropping the Greenlight program, but decided to finish it while it was still relevant.

Also note that given just how much I’ll be writing, the whole FAQ will NOT be completed right away, but instead given out in healthy chunks for others to read.

 

Over the past few months I have received several of e-mails of people interested in my projects, looking to do business with me, or as a grand majority, looking for a bit of advice for their own titles.

So much so, that I have actually answered MANY of questions on the several faces of game development (where on a side note, if you go to ME for advice, it means you ran out of options). Questions regarding the process of making, launching, selling, promoting, distributing and topics of the sort.

I am far from an expert on the topic, but hey, if it can help someone along the line, might as well talk about it. And also, I wish to expand this F.A.Q. to the point where I can be able to send these posts to whoever e-mails me some questions next.

And yes, I’m aware I have far from the largest audience and that hardly anyone will read this. But I say it is worth it if it helps at least one person.

Before we start I want to say one last thing. I mean it when I say there is A LOT to talk about, and so I decided to split this into several posts divided in topics, so if you are looking for answers on a specific area and you don’t find it, it will probably be in another post or I have yet to make a F.A.Q. about that topic, so please be patient. (Also, I will update each F.A.Q. as it is required.)

 

I will first begin with the topic I got the most questions about a little after I got my own title on Steam, Greenlight.

 

F.A.Q. About Steam Greenlight

Table of Contents

You can easily look the answer to the question of your interest by using CTRL+F and typing the code between the [BRACKETS].

  • What did you do to get Greenlit? – [GL1]
  • What are the requirements to upload at Greenlight? – [GL2]
  • Are there any things to consider about Greenlight? – [GL3]
  • How hard is to get Greenlit? – [GL4]
  • How many upvotes do we need to get Greenlit? – [GL5]
  • Is there a time limit to get past Greenlight? – [GL6]

If you don’t find the answer to a question yet, just be a little patient. Updates will be done and announced with dedicated posts. It is just that questions were planned ahead.

 

What did you do to get Greenlit? – [GL1]

Let’s get the biggest question out of the way first, this is by far the go-to question people ask when they send an e-mail.

My case is of those you can call lucky (yes, it is a common trend in this industry). In fact, I did A LOT of things wrong when it came to launching my game on Greenlight, so many that in retrospective should’ve straight up killed the project. However as I also did some things correctly, I like to think it evened out and it came down to that luck.

WHAT I DID RIGHT:

  • PICKING MY LAUNCH DAY / TIME MINDFULLY. Imagine you decide to put your game, and a couple of hours later you are already on the second page because there were just too many new projects posted. This wasn’t my case, as I waited until there was a “slow” submission period with not so good games to top it off. It is all about timing and paying close attention to the current front-paged submissions.
  • MAKING A GIF MY THUMBNAIL IMAGE. If there is something you can never get enough of while on Greenlight that would be attention. If you have the time to do so, you should really go for a GIF as a thumbnail, I did it and it really standed out from the titles my game was surrounded with. Needless to say, you should go for a pretty thumbnail over a horrible GIF if you can’t make one.
  • BEING POLITE TO THE COMMENTS. “But, that is a given.” Some of you might be saying. You would be surprised by how much good feedback you can get by making the right questions. Instead of defending your project from “harmful” comments, you should really be asking them what they, the potential customers, believe that needs to be corrected. You might actually add some vital functions that were missing from your game. I know at least that was my case with the “auto-select last piece” from KNIGHTS. And of course, don’t try to make everyone happy, you will never finish your game on that pacing, but cherry pick what you consider it is the best for the project.
  • KNOWING WHO THE GAME WAS FOR. “People like me” is a very good answer, but you should really think on the implications of that phrase. It is really hard to sell a game if it is just expected for people to “come and get it” once it is finished. What attracts people to the genre? Why should people play it? What does it make it stand out from similar titles? And most important of all, Do I really consider my game to be good? It is easy to be blinded by development time when it comes to judging what you just made. But if you aren’t completely sure if you even like your game, others won’t care for it either. Ask someone to test it, get feedback, really ask people you trust to help out and make your work better to know why it is relevant. In my case, I made a game that was similar to those puzzle games I enjoyed, and had over 50 in my phone and PC of. Taking out what I considered bad from the genre, and prioritizing on making someone feel smart. If you don’t have a target audience, it won’t appeal anyone, and those YES votes might as well be considered luck.HAVING A PRICE TAG FROM DAY 1. The Greenlight page ISN’T the official store page, so make use of it to tell the information that might be missing. And if you can, drop in the price tag right away. Just be mindful of the price you are putting it, in fact, you should under-price your product for its own benefit. Let’s say you want to upload a $10 game. If you REALLY think your project is worth the $10, make yourself the questions. Is it really as good as other $10 games? Would I pay that much for a similar amount and quality of content? Because those are the questions you will be getting you want it or not. In my case, after studying and comparing what I offered in KNIGHTS, I came to the conclusion that it was worth around $3 dollars. So I thought that under-pricing it would actually benefit the game’s reviews and sales, as it no longer was directly compared to other fantastic $3 puzzle games, but instead it standed out as an extraordinary $1 title. This is really up to you though.
  • KNOWING THE “GAME EXTRAS” FROM DAY 1. If you are going to launch a game on PlayStation, you should really make use of trophies, the same for Xbox, free themes and thumbnails if you have time. And in the case of Steam, make sure to make time to have artwork for trading cards and badges, to count with steam cloud, controller support and achievements. Of course, it isn’t mandatory, but if it isn’t a stretch to implement them, you should really go for it. You would be surprised how many people consider a deal breaker not having the ability to continue playing on different computers, or to craft a badge out of the game if they like it. It will only empower your product, so you should really take advantage of it.

WHAT I DID WRONG:

  • NOT COMPLETELY FINISHING MY GAME PAGE. Honestly this should’ve been my downfall, glad it wasn’t though. Consider your game page as your store page and think about who will see it. Is what you have really good to be considered marketable? Would you like to see more store pages like yours? My answer to both questions was no, and it was reflected by a lot of negative votes (that declined as I fixed it).
  • NOT HAVING A GOOD TRAILER. After the Greenlight thumbnail, the video will be the first and maybe last reaction of a potential voter, follower and customer so make those first seconds count. Really think about that potential “Pre-alpha-beta developer build incomplete gameplay footage” you may have planned out for the video section, if it wouldn’t attract you to see that on the games of your preference, it will definitely won’t attract anyone you might be aiming to appeal. In my case, I just had a little silent gameplay session… don’t do that… Really make your Greenlight page as commercial-like as you possible can, it will only help you.
  • USING PROMO ART WHILE IGNORING USING SCREENSHOTS. Screenshots are to show what your game looks like in-game, if you wish to have cinematic stills on your store page then that is up to you. But if you want people to vote on your Greenlight title, you should really give them an idea on what they are looking at, else there will be people skeptical about what exactly the game is and should do. If you don’t let others know right away what you are trying to sell or give away on Steam from the pictures, you should re-think those pictures.
  • NOT HAVING A WEBSITE / E-MAIL. Not mandatory, but it really denotes professionalism and a good overall image of you as a (uni-personal or otherwise) company. This is on the what I did wrong section given I did plan on having a website, but didn’t care and released my Greenlight submission anyway. Again, finish all of the content you need BEFORE submitting anything, don’t fall into my mistakes.
  • NOT HAVING A DEMO FROM DAY 1 (WHEN I PLANNED HAVING ONE). Self explanatory, if someone really was interested in your game and wanted to play at least a demo of it that you planned on releasing, it would be disappointing to find out there isn’t one. Their interest was in that moment, not the week later you finished the demo build.

Summed up, my case is FAR from a formula to Greenlight success, but knowing the good and bad is vital when you attempt to launch your next title.

 

What are the requirements to upload to Greenlight? – [GL2]

It is really just having the enough material to make up a PROFESSIONAL store page.

That is:

  • A general description of the game.
  • Trailer and gameplay videos uploaded to YouTube (preferably).
  • A collection of at least 5 screenshots of your title.
  • A thumnail image for greenlight search (512×512 pixels).
  • And other usual things, social media etc.

But if you want more concrete information, I took some screenshots of the requirements 😀

My suggestion, be sure to fill EVERYTHING, mandatory or not. It is really obvious who put some effort into their submission and who didn’t, and that does translate to upvotes believe it or not.

 

Are there any things to consider about Greenlight? – [GL3]

Well, I would say it is mostly that you should really consider your uploads to Greenlight as a single shot to make that game get Greenlit.

Believe it or not, there is an active amount of players that keep an eye on submissions (myself included) and when you notice a single thing fishy or wrong with a given submission, you can be pretty sure it is a common feeling. What I mean by this is that if during the first hours of your submitted title you don’t show a decent trailer, a good set of screenshots, a well thought out description page and so on, you would’ve lost most of your potential up-voters.

If you re-upload a project for a “second-chance” on Greenlight, believe me, it isn’t going to go as smoothly as you think. Those that vote on Greenlight, visit it regularly, and duplicate submissions quickly turn previous up-votes to down-votes.

So think of your first exposure as the only time most of the people are going to give a view to your game, so make sure your page is prepared to give up a pretty good first and maybe only impression.

 

How hard is to get Greenlit? – [GL4]

There isn’t a right answer to this one, and that comes down to the fact that the times in which the top games are selected is pretty volatile. The idea is that every month or two the top games on Greenlight are packed together as that period’s Greenlit batch. Needless to say, becoming part of that batch involves that a title had to compete with other games in terms of exposure, popularity and overall score before even being considered to be Greenlit.

That said, a good idea is to post your game right after a batch has been selected, in order to have the longest exposure time possible. But this is keeping in mind the time in which it is posted, as the longest exposure time isn’t as important as staying the longest time in the front page as possible.

Now, if you don’t want to take the time as a consideration for Greenlight difficulty, then let’s talk about votes:

 

How many upvotes do we need to get Greenlit? – [GL5]

Again, this has a lot to do with the moment in which the selection for a month’s or bimester’s Greenlit titles is made. Because if the next batch is selected too close in comparison to the last, it means that there was less time for voters to cast their up/downvotes, obviously meaning, that the amount of required upvotes would also be reduced.

Also, it is a good moment to say that the amount of downvotes is irrelevant to getting Greenlit or not, the question voters are asked is that if they are willing to buy your game, not how many aren’t. Generated money is obtained from sales and not failed sales after all. And before you feel down about the up and downvote ratio, keep in mind that it is normal to have something between 40-60% downvotes on your game (unless it is that spectacular of course), it is just a reminder that you can’t possibly please everyone at once.

Does the matter of votes matter then? Yes, it is just that you shouldn’t be aiming for a specific amount before being “done”, but rather attempting to get into the top 100 games ASAP, or at least, as close as possible.

 

Is there a time limit to get past Greenlight? – [GL6]

This is an interesting point, the short answer is no, there is no time limit for your game to get past Greenlight. HOWEVER, if your game didn’t make it to the Greenlit batch from the period it was submitted, it will be VERY difficult to get Greenlit. The moment a game reaches the second or greater page in the Greenlight section (or rather, gets pushed out of the front page) the exposure said project gets is drastically lower.

Greenlight is an implicit continuous countdown, you have a limited frontpage time in which you aim to get the greatest amount of upvotes as possible in order to get selected for a given period’s Greenlit batch. That is why you really should have all planned and ready, so the people that do get to see your page get impressed enough to upvote it, and so you can get as many impressions as fast as you can.

Again, there is no time limit, but at the same time, there kinda is.

 

Well that was quite the long post, and this was the first installment of the FAQ.

Make sure you check out the FAQ category in the blog for more interesting topics.

 

For now, that is all I have to say.

And as always, thank you very much for reading my blog :3

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