How do you market a game with a mystery/plot twist without spoiling it?

Ailius

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The title question says it all. I'm working on a game with a big mystery plot.

I think the best comparison is something like The Matrix. It's something major on the 'reality isn't what the protagonist thinks it is' kind of level, but the big details are revealed in the opening act so that plot doesn't get too convoluted. The problem is unlike the Matrix I don't have a multi-million dollar special effects budget.

For starters I'd had to write a game description as per the games on this forum. If I reveal too little, it just looks like generic fantasy, but if I reveal too much I spoil it. How do I find a balance?
 

ShadowDragon

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depens on the story, and the demo endings, you can reveal something, but
you can let them lose track if it took another way like a twist, so it can be 2 ways,
will it be 1 or will it be 2.

if the demo extends, and went near plot 1, it can twist to option 2.

to make it balance might be hard, but you can bring a plot to think what could happen,
or what does not.

you can only balance it if you have a story of your game on paper, than you think
how to spoil something, or twist about the spoiling so you can let them use their brains :)

it also depends on gameplay, mechanic, story, features, npc's inisde the game,
their functions, who are in it, and who doesn't etc etc, unless we know them, you can
starting to make a balance.
 

Dororo

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Have the "normal" premise being exciting on his own.
No one was aware of the Sixth Sense plot twist, but the story of a boy haunted by ghosts was exciting enough to drag people in.
The Matrix had an exciting premise plot on his own, even before the revelation, and with some time more could have been even better (like the terrorists role, Neo subcon search for The Matrix and the agents).

If your "normal" plot can't stand on his own and you're forced to hint of a plot twist to incite fruition, your story is actually feeble.

In a word: have the normal plot be strong enough to stand on his own, describe and market this one, and leave the plot twist hidden for those that want to fully enjoy the experience - the surprise effect will be greater.
 

BENI_MARU

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Fully agree with Dororo. Plot twists aren't meant to be a feature that attracts people to the game.
 

Ailius

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Okay, this is a bit irritating. Maybe it's my fault for not being clear enough, but I stated in my first post that the big reveal occurs in the opening act, and two of out of the three responses I got could be summed up as "well, don't expect an ending plot twist to carry your story, dummy!"

To repeat the question, I'm asking how to handle a twist that occurs really early. I guess I should never have used the words "plot twist" because if it happens at the beginning, it is the plot and not the twist.

My takeaway from this is I have to put it in the "mystery story" category and treat it as such. So I should find an advertisement for a Nancy Drew book, find/replace my protagonist in for "Nancy Drew" and find/replace "magical apocalypse" in for "murder".
 

Tai_MT

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Simple answer?

Don't talk about the mystery at all in any of your marketing. Your premise is the premise of the game.

"Character goes to mansion to get closure after a family death and starts uncovering what really happened to that family member" isn't a good way to deal with mystery. Most people will guess what really happened about halfway through, or they won't... and your reveal of the answers to the mystery will be underwhelming.

But, if you make the premise: "Character was really close with recently deceased family member and seeks closure" and make your marketing the flashbacks between the two spending time together... and advertise the gameplay as simply trying to stop the mean and greedy relatives from ruining the funeral and stealing all the money... And then hit the player partway into the game with, "um... there's weird stuff going on, and it may be mundane or may be weird... you should investigate as it might help you stop the family from stealing all the money..." and then just send them slowly deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole.

Anytime you're "up front" with the mystery... your audience is going to guess what you're doing pretty quickly. They're going to guess your plot twists before you enact them.

To make a mystery effectively land, you bring your audience in for something else. A different reason. Then, you slowly feed them the mystery tangentially as it relates to the reason they're there. Slowly and slowly until eventually they've forgotten why they started the game and are just engrossed in the mystery and how interwoven it's been the whole time.

Then, you drop the twist.

Doesn't matter what the twist is. You just have to nail the moment of the twist.

What's that moment?

"Wait, how didn't I see that coming?"

Then, you've got them.

If you're looking for a great example of doing this in a video game, I suggest playing "Bioshock".

The mystery they give you in that game isn't the mystery you're meant to solve. It isn't until they hit you with the twist... that you realize the mystery all along. It isn't until they hit you with the flashbacks that the player says, "How didn't I notice?!"

That's how you market a game with a plot twist and never spoil it. You have two separate mysteries going on. You don't advertise the mystery.

If you want another good example of doing this... play the entire "Dead Space" series. Everything back in the first game suddenly makes an amazing amount of sense once you realize what is happening in the third game and once you're hit with the plot twist. Meanwhile, you've spent the first game figuring out that "Maker bad alien tech" and the second game going, "This how Marker do bad thing". It isn't until the third game when you realize, "Marker in first game good. All other Markers bad. Messages from first game suddenly have chilling connotations and connections to third game. Eldritch horrors in third game were hinted at in first two games! HORRORRRRRRRR!!!!"

The player is given a mystery to solve that isn't the mystery they're meant to be solving.

It's a magic trick.

When a magician says, "this is where the trick is happening", it's really happening anywhere else.
 

Ailius

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Thanks for the help. Sadly, it seems I need more. I posted the demo and it's received zero interest whatsoever, so I clearly need more help:


First, I need to redefine the problem because I asked the wrong question to begin with. The correct question is "How you you hype up the plot when your BBEG is magic weather?".

Specifically, it's a magic fog that changes the identity of whoever it touches. Generally cloud based bad guys suck, though in this case there will eventually be more corporeal beings causing the magic fog.

I'm putting the spoiler tag here just in case, but if I don't get feedback, the game won't be good enough to matter if it gets spoiled.

My "opening plot twist" is the demo starts with an old alchemist sending the adventurer on a quest to gather herbs, but it ends with the fake-out where the adventurer becomes a child playing and gathering flowers for her father.

The next day the girl is sent to go shopping around town, with small hints dropped along the way that things are wrong:

The map will reposition the shops and change the colors of the buildings every time the player enters and leaves a building.

The shopping list is produce, but everything else indicates she got sent to buy adventuring supplies. For example "Buy broccoli from the broccoli store" - well first off the fact that each item has it's own store indicates something's wrong. The "Broccoli Store" has the weapons shop sign on it, has weapons on display inside, and the "Broccoli Salesman" will refuse to sell broccoli to the child because "She'll shoot her eye out".

After that the player returns to the 'father', he finally figures out what's going on, grabs the herbs she gathered yesterday, makes a potion to protect against mind-affecting magic, they both drink it, in the next scene they encounter the fog that changes people, and it's off to the races from there.

I realize that's all a bit convoluted, but the purpose of the "it was all a child's imagination" into the "no it wasn't" fake-out is to establish the magic fog as a credible threat since it's going to need some reinforcement. And because this section is a bit convoluted, I'm keeping it short.

That being said, this is *after* the player already downloaded the game and after the player model changed 4 times in the tutorial, so the player already knows about the magic fog and it's the character that's catching up.
But my current problem is now I need to figure out how to hype up the magic fog before somebody has downloaded the game.
 

Elissiaro

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@Ailius
I'm gonna be honest here. Your game page looks boring. There's nothing to catch my attention.
Just some section boxes with text and 3 hidden screenshots.

I'm not an expert in how to get people interested or anything but imo... You need a tagline. And at least one good screenshot front and center under the title, that you don't need to click a box to see.
Something to get people interested enough to at least check the boxes.
And maybe take the first paragraph in the storyline section out of the box and put it front and center, that's the only thing that really made me a bit curious.
Like imagine that paragraph in a movie trailer voice. It's interesting! Don't hide it away.

Again, i'm not a marketing expert, I don't even play a ton of rpgmaker games. I just know I wouldn't give your page more than a glance before leaving normally.
 

Andar

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For starters I'd had to write a game description as per the games on this forum. If I reveal too little, it just looks like generic fantasy, but if I reveal too much I spoil it. How do I find a balance?
wrong question.

If the mystery plot twist is the only thing that exists you'll never get such a balance.

The game needs to have something that creates interest in addition to that plot twist, and that part is what you need to advertise. The plot twist can only be a later development, or the game will never work as intended.
That by the way is why there never was anything that could follow up on the Matrix - such plot twists only work once. And if they're all you have then that is not enough.
 

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