Friday, October 18, 2013

Necessary Selling Points For A Heartbreaker

So, this happened. A game company putting out a game called Mazith posted a Reddit, and it went about as well as can be expected. When people ask questions about a game that has been developed for 30 years in relative isolation, there's going to be difficult questions. Like "What resolution mechanic do you use?" Those answers are never easy, particularly when you're not sure what a resolution mechanic actually is.

I'm not going to pillory them too much, because other than surliness and a slip by their artist in using one of +Dyson Logos' maps as the background for an advertisement, they seem to be sincere. Plus, I can't snark it any better than the Kicksnarker community on G+ already has.

Instead I'm going to compile the absolutely necessary selling points for anyone wanting to market a heartbreaker. Please refer to this list as you prepare to publish your game.
  • Make a point of saying your game has been in development for (choose one):
    • 10 years 
    • 20 years
    • Some period of time that would make you a teenager at the time
    • Before you were born 
My rpg is at stake!
  • Specify exactly how many classes, races, skills, spells, items of equipment, monsters or plants that are in your game and how it's more than every other game ever published. Mention this, a lot, especially when answering questions about the system.
  • Universal systems are cool. What's even better is playing two or more games together. Smash everything you can into your game without regard for how it fits together. Who needs focus anyway?
  • Highlight the things you've just swapped out with something that is really the same. Like the d20, classes, hit points, armor class or experience points. No need to be creative, just use a thesaurus when renaming them.
  • Use some variation of the phrase, "For gamers, by gamers". This indicates that the game was not made by beekeepers for airline pilots.
  • Say your game is a "ROLE playing, not ROLL playing" game. And thereafter use the word "roll" incorrectly. 
  • Include the words "most realistic" or is "meticulously historically researched". Especially if the game deals with fantasy elements.
I may have just swiped this image from GnomeStew, too hard to tell!

  • Make sure you have at least a half-dozen different resolution mechanics, all inspired by games with completely different design goals. Even better, each subsystem should be written by a different person, at a different time.
  • Call out a single other game that you are "fixing". Be enthusiastically insistent about how your game is better than the other game.
  • Concentrate on something that your game does or has that no other game has. Like being able to "do anything", or "imagination being the limit", or having Morning Elves or Trash Dragons.
Bonus Points:
  • Primary sources are for chumps. A lot of people have already done a lot of creative hard work for you. Use only television shows, movies, Wikipedia and other games as sources for your own.
  • Include references to "real majick" and criticize other games for their magic implementations.
My lack of Satanic orgies in my youth was because D&D's magic doesn't have a "k" at the end

  • If you're going to be a boss, act like one. "Internet on a website", set up an 800 number, and call yourself a CEO. More people will take you seriously. Issue press releases and make it seem like you have an office full of developers, editors and artists.
  • Create as many different social profiles as possible, and sporadically update different ones with information. You need to keep your competition on its toes!
  • Speaking of competition, the roleplaying industry is notoriously cutthroat and full of thieves. Bigger companies than yours are always looking to steal your ideas. They know yours are better than anything they have, otherwise you wouldn't need to create your game in the first place. If you see one of your ideas in their product the only conclusion is that they stole it. 
  • But remember that if you find something on the Internet, it's totally okay to use it. When you do that, it's not stealing. It's a cost-cutting measure. When someone points out your sources, frantically remove all traces and act like it didn't happen., or insist that it was a coincidence. Make sure to point out every instance of something being similar that has ever happened.
  • Threatening to sue when someone says something mean about you is the best way to get them to be quiet, and is great PR.
  • Play up your personal accomplishments that have nothing to do with game design. Like how you played guitar for the Ramones and were a Navy SEAL. At the same time. Or you're a master of some unheard of martial art. Or you were a wandering homeless person bum guru.
  • Tie your game company to another existing enterprise like a thrift store, shoe importer or medical marijuana dispensary.
  • Arrange for a small army of friends and family (or just register a few extra accounts) to swoop into any discussions when things go south.
  • If someone asks a hard question (like "How is this game different from any number of games that are exactly the same?") call them a troll or unprofessional.
Please reference this article, as well as the above-mentioned Reddit, to see elements of this phenomenal marketing technique in action. Also, Dark Phoenix Publishing has employed many of these techniques very successfully. Just don't Google Byron Hall no matter what you do. That's a random table you don't want to roll on blindly.