I recently came across a contact form asking to give three reasons why people should pay attention or check your game. It seems like a pretty easy question to answer and no dev should have any trouble to give at least three reasons … But I found that finding the right words to communicate something enthusiastic ain’t so easy after all. Or maybe it’s just me.

It’s true honestly. I check other released games and I’m not even sure how I’d describe them if I were to pitch them. For example I don’t remember exactly what I first read about FTL but I think it was something like “be the captain of your own ship” which was somehow nice but still could mean anything. It’s only when I saw a gameplay video that the game really caught my attention. By seeing the video I knew I wanted to play that and no simple catchphrase made the trick.

I know it’s a terrible weakness of mine so I thought I’d brainstorm a bit here for Human Extinction Simulator.

“It’s fun”

Don’t laugh. The point of this exercise is to actually communicate that it’s fun without saying something as simple as “it’s fun” … That’s the whole problem. Nobody will pitch his game by saying “it’s not fun” but the right catchphrase you find actually means that.

“Innovative tactical gameplay”

Technically yes but that really doesn’t tell anything. Does it? I haven’t seen another game with the exact same mechanic of movements/weapons reach that seems to make Human Extinction Simulator unique but the word “innovative” just seems so cheap. Maybe it is innovative after all but … That seems like an empty catch phrase.

When I see a game pitch with the word “innovative” in it that doesn’t do anything on me. It could be innovative yet terribly boring so …

“Easy to learn, hard to master”

That one I like though I’m not sure how well it really sells the game. There’s not a lot to learn to be able to play the game so you can quickly get a feel of what it’s about but at the same time it can become incredibly complex to successfully complete a mission when there are many ships on the screen.

But again here I think we can say the same of many games. HES is really damn simple to learn compared to other games but I’m not sure how to tell that “yes, it’s even simpler than that game you have in mind but it will still challenge you more than that other game at the same time”. The game can be complex while being easy to figure out … Something like this.

 “Not an RTS”

Negative form is to be avoided because it only tells what the game isn’t. A better way to say this would be “goes straight to spaceships exploding in no time” … Well, even there I used a negative.

The point I’m trying to make here is that people with little can get into big battles right away without having to grind anything or wait to research anything. For someone like me for example it’s important. That’s the reason I like FTL so much is that I get my dose of space action without waiting for the computer to tell me that I can move on to the next step.

“Moddable”

While interesting to know this won’t sell the game. People first need to be interested in the game to care about mods.

“Turn-based large-scale battles”

It doesn’t seems like much but I’ve seen more than once people looking for this. The question here is “is it enough for someone who is not primarily focused on turn-based space games?”. Maybe it does the trick for the targeted market but here we’re talking about how to approach the press and YouTubers.

It’s more than a catchphrase

That what’s bugging me a bit here. I want badly to find the perfect catchphrase that might bring more eyes to the game but maybe it’s something else. A good example is Crypt of the Necrodancer. If I just read it’s a roguelike rhythm game then I’m already gone before knowing more about the game. Seeing a gameplay video of it on the other hand really captivated me. The game is so out of this world that seeing it is just what you need.

For a more “traditional” game it’s not that easy. If I try to sell you the next Civilization game with gameplay video I can guarantee it won’t sell one bit … Well, actually it will because it’s a very well-known franchise but you get the point.

Maybe something just amusing?

Adam Smith on Rock, Paper, Shotgun came up with some nice and amusing ways to describe the game:

“Turn-Based End Times: Human Extinction Simulator”

“Endings Game: Human Extinction Simulator”

“chess turn based human extinction simulator space” (that one is actually the URL of the 2nd article)

And some less amusing but still nice … but stuff better said by others:

“HES has one of the smartest concepts for tactical space biffing that I can remember seeing”

“A well-designed interface means that the complexity is in the tactics rather than attempts to implement basic maneuvers. “

What about you?

Have you done this exercise for your game? Does it come naturally or are you facing the same “challenge” as me? Have some concrete examples of how to avoid this by doing something else (amazing video for example)?

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