How to Write a Good Game Thread (and synopsis)

Discussion in 'Non-Maker Specific Tutorials' started by Alkorri, Jan 29, 2016.

  1. Alkorri

    Alkorri Proofreading Penguin Veteran

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    [​IMG]


    (Special thanks to the forum users who allowed me to use their game threads to cite examples)


    Hi there, everyone! I've looked through the threads of a great many game projects, and can't help but notice that some users don't seem to know how to write a game thread that is Fun, Informative, and best of all, Short and Sweet. This bothers me a lot, because I feel many can do so much better.


    Why should you – as a game developer or casual hobbyist - care about this? Well, you want others to be excited for your game, don't you? You want them to try out your demo, or post in your thread offering tips and encouragement, or otherwise show the slightest bit of interest in something you poured your heart and soul. (Or hard-earned cash)


    Well, worry no more! Here are MY tips on what makes for an appealing game thread. Others are free to disagree, but these are the elements I feel would guarantee that someone will give your thread a few precious minutes of their time. I refer specifically to those projects posted in the Early Project Feedback, but this can apply to games in any stage of completion. (But not for games in places like Steam. That's another story)


    HOW TO START


    • Put some kind of Picture, Graphic, or Logo at the top of your game thread. Doesn't matter what it is. If you don't have money to commission an artist, draw it yourself! I argue that something you drew – no matter how 'sucky' - is 1000% better and has more charm than the boring wall of text that greets the visitor who gave your thread a chance.

    • The reason for the graphic is that human beings are mostly visual creatures. As the game developer, you must think of your game like a product in a commercial. Your goal is to market your product to the public, to hook the attention of a visitor and pique their interest in the first vital few seconds before they click away. A picture or graphic is thus an easy way to draw the eye. What you include next – and don't include – keeps them reading.

    • One good example is in Indrah's game thread Subject. Notice that she has not only put a graphic at the top, but added a two-line hook that tells you what the game is about, enticing people to find out more: You wake up in a dark room covered in bandages. Will you make it out safely?

    • Tip – If you don't have art or logo to display, show off map screenshots! Or even just the title screen. User jwideman illustrates this well by posting the title screen at the top of their game thread, Lemuria.



    NEXT, THE PLOT / SUMMARY / STORY


    Otherwise known as a synopsis. What is this exactly? I would argue that a good game summary is all the necessary information a player needs to decide whether to check out a game. This is different from Lore / World-building (which is covered further down)


    Ready to know what the perfect game summary is for me? The perfect summary is no more than FIVE LINES OF TEXT, or EIGHT SENTENCES LONG. That's all you really need. Why five lines? Because anything longer risks becoming the Dreaded Wall of Text, where most people either skim, click away or doze off.


    [​IMG]


    Boredom is your enemy. Never let a reader be bored!


    What should be in your synopsis? 

    Spoiler





    1. WHERE / WHEN? One line about your world setting to give an idea of genre / tone of game:

    • In a post-apocalyptic world ruled by elephants, Stacy struggles to catch enough mice for the Jumbo King's banquet.

    • Cornelius Aravian is the greatest magician of his time – pity the Salem witch hunters don't seem to appreciate his chosen profession.

    1. WHO? Name and identify your main character(s) in the first sentence of your synopsis, or at least by the second sentence. This establishes someone or some issue for the reader to quickly relate to.

    2. CONFLICT - Next, mention what is wrong with the world, or what threat the main character is facing. Without conflict, there can be no growth nor character development. What is disrupting the status quo? A world-consuming darkness? Aliens? Dragons? A tyrannical mother?

    3. WHAT NOW? What does the hero / heroine do to react to that threat? What powers does he have? What makes him special? He/she has super powers, Magic Gloves of Perfect Baking, super hacking skills, courage, idiot blind luck, true love, badass friends etc.

    4. OH NO! What are the stakes? What happens if the hero fails?
    • Bubba the vigilante cyberhacker must succeed at all costs, or watch the evil mega-corporation wipe out the slums full of refugees.
    • Stacy must overcome her fear of animals, before the Jumbo King engulfs the world in a cloud of pachyderm flatulence.



    That's it. Short and sweet. Taking one example, I argue that RPGcrafter07 wrote an ideal synopsis that's just three lines long in his game thread Blackened Souls.


    For eons the Dark Jewel has spread throughout the universe devouring one world after another with it's darkness. Now it has fallen to Earth Realm, as Nyla and Shyma, The Guardians, descend to Earth behind it, in hopes of finding their mystery hero. Sadly, the jewel is discovered by Demons who plan to use it's power to take back Earth Realm. Little do these foolish devils know, the jewel has an agenda and a mind of it's own.


    Grammar niggles aside, RPGcrafter07 quickly established the players, the conflict and the stakes. All this in four sentences. Not bad!


    Here's another good synopsis example from Makio-Kuta's thread, Punch Bears:


    After hours toiling away in the dredge of reality, Ulrika retreats in on herself and caves in to an overwhelming need to punch many bears. Luckily, there are many bears to be punched. Only Ulrika can punch all these bears and find true peace in her mind and soul. But, is there enough bears in existance to truly calm the raging heart of our heroine? Or will the bears run short and she will be forever stuck in a never ending loop of unsatisfactory levels of bear punching. There is only one way to know - Punch Bears until the end.


    The best game summary never outstays their welcome, and leave you wanting to know more.





    CAST OF CHARACTERS (OPTIONAL)


    Know what I think? You don't need a list of characters in a game thread. You can skip this part entirely. After all, you already talked about your main characters in your synopsis right?


    No? Alright then, if you HAVE to list your beloved characters:


    • Make sure for the love of humanity to include pictures or portraits. Don't just list names, ages and profession without a face to go with it! If you don't care enough to put a face to your characters, why should your readers care? Use placeholder graphics if you have to, but don't leave it empty.

    • Keep your character descriptions short. Do not write essays about each character's backstory, height, favourite colours, the name of their dogs or what they ate for breakfast. Unless it's someone or something really unusual, most readers won't care.

    • User tlbearer did a good example of this in their game thread, Of Man and Machine. One-line description. Another sentence couldn't hurt, but short and simple:

    [​IMG]


    • Tip: If the pictures are small enough, I argue that you do NOT need to hide them in a spoiler. This is your game thread. If you have beautiful art to show off, DO NOT hide them in spoilers.

    • Tip: The exception for the above is if you have lots of art and screenshots. Don't overwhelm the reader with huge screenshots or maps. Be selective. Scale down large portraits if you must.

    SCREENSHOTS (Woohoo)


    At last we come to the meat of the game thread. There are arguably only two things I look at when I visit a game thread, to decide if I want to read further – the first few lines of a synopsis, and the screenshots. That's just me. I want to see the pretty pictures first ;)


    • Choose no more than 5 to 6 screenshots. Show maps of at least a few areas, UI menu, an example of dialogue between characters, and - if any - at least one of the combat.

    • Make sure the chosen screenshots are relevant, and communicate the tone and atmosphere of your game. (I'm still not sure why people show save screens – what exactly does that tell about your game? The windowskin?)

    • This is your game thread. This is the chance to show off your baby. Do NOT hide your pictures in spoilers.

    • Do not post screenshots so tiny that people have to squint to see anything.

    • Do not post links of your screenshots telling people to go to another external site. In other words, do not make finding your screenshots like a rage game of hide and seek. Be proud of your screenshots and flaunt it! (Unless your maps are bad, but this is a post about making good game threads, not good maps ;P)

    • If you have 10+ maps or concept art you want to show off, put these EXTRAS under Spoilers. Visitors who want to know more will definitely be interested enough to check these out.

    • Again, do not overwhelm the reader with too many screenshots / maps / art. That's why I said no more than 5 to 6 screenshots. If I see 10 plus maps without spoilers, it just tells me that you didn't put any effort into choosing your BEST work.

    • What happens if your game is too early to have screenshots yet? Try to post concept art, even if it's your own sketches. Or even placeholder art from existing resources. Give people something to see.

    • Tip – Try not to use screenshots of maps as shown in the Map Editor, like the example below. I personally find the gridlines and the events make for unattractive maps. You can't see details that well either. Use a script or plugin if you need to take good screenshots of big maps.



    [​IMG]


    LIST OF FEATURES


    You made a short and concise synopsis, hurray! Now list the other cool gameplay elements that will be in your game. This includes:


    • Genre – Epic Fantasy, Modern, Futuristic, Dark Fantasy, Psychological Thriller, Horror, Mystery etc

    • Main Concept / Premise – This is a good place to list your game's Unique Selling Premise. What makes your game unique, if any? For example:
    • Puzzle-based game featuring slimes.
    • You are a zombie in a post-apocalyptic world – hunt down good quality brains to win.
    • Dinosaur dating sim. Date ten different dinos and take them home to your mom. (Hey, if Hatoful Boyfriend could do pigeons...)

    • Engine - 2K, Ace, MV, Unity, etc

    • Type of Combat, if any – Turn-based, ATB, CTB, so on

    • Number of Characters

    • Maturity Level/Warnings – PG13, Mature, Violence, Blood, Gore, Kid-safe etc

    • Estimated Hours of Play

    • Expected Date of Demo/Completion (if relevant)


    • List your features in bullet points. This is a good way to convey a lot of information in easy-to-skim chunks.
    • If you have a long feature list, put this under Spoilers.
    • To cite one example, user firelad did a rather nice feature list in his game thread, The Life of Amarante. Each point is relevant and touches all the important questions about gameplay, the characters and the player's ability to interact with the game. Make a promise. Tease your reader's curiosity.





    [​IMG]






    LORE/ WORLD-BUILDING (Go home, you're drunk)


    Oh boy. This is the main reason I'm writing this post. I see this in game threads so many times that I cry a little inside each time sigh.


    I get it, truly. You're proud of your game and the world you created for it, and you should be! You probably spent hours thinking up all of the exciting details. But I personally feel that a game thread is NOT the place to tell people how the universe was created/destroyed/abandoned by God/Celestial Moon Goddess/Demon King/Burning Yellow Monkey. It especially does NOT belong in a game synopsis.


    • If you must tell us about the origin story of your game setting, put them under Spoilers. If you pique someone's interest through screenshots or your fantastic synopsis etc, then your reader will bother to investigate further.

    • Yes, yes, there are exceptions. But most times, all that shining lore belongs in your development notes or website, not your game thread. Put it away. Please.



    LINKS TO DEMO / GAME


    You've finally got a game for them to try out? Congratulations! Now link people to it! This is the only time I suggest making the font size bigger, and perhaps a different colour, so that it's easy to spot.

    • Do not make readers hunt up and down to find the link to your game.
    • Do not include the entire RTP in your download. Not only does that smack of laziness, but the bigger the filesize, the less likely someone is willing to give your game a chance. Just take a few minutes to remove unused content from your game, and make sure to playtest your game with these resources removed to guard against crashes.
    • If you are linking people to a demo, it's a good idea to add a list of issues you are aware of. This is so that people playtesting your game don't repeat things you already know of, and can concentrate on other areas that need improvement.
    • Iliketea did this quite well in her game thread, Pali: Chapters of Resistence





    [​IMG]






    THE CALL TO ACTION (Fight for me!)


    Now that you're written a stellar game thread and kept it short and sweet, and teased and intrigued your readers... don't leave them hanging. I've seen game threads that end abruptly, like a dinner date who just stood up in a restaurant and left you at the table without so much as a goodbye.


    Puzzling! You need to end with a call to action. Ask for feedback and critiques. Thank people for taking the time to read. Be humble, be friendly, be earnest. Your game thread is like a love note to the world. People need to see the heart you put into your project.


    CREDITS (I want to thank my Mom, my dog...)


    Almost everyone gets this right in a game thread, mostly because someone will likely tear you limb from limb if you forget to credit them for something. But yes, please, credit the fantastic artists, musicians and scripters that helped you make your game.

    • If the amount of people to list is huge, put this under Spoilers.
    • Extra points if you take the time to credit people under categories like Music, Tiles, Sprites, and so on. But not necessary.



    AFTERWORD (OPTIONAL)


    I've seen some people do this in Completed games. This is not a bad place to mention if this is your first game, or how long it took you to develop your game, and the reasons you did this project. Use this also to thank people who especially inspired you, or meant something to you. Really, anything goes.


    Again, if it's long, put it under Spoilers.


    TIPS AND TRICKS

    Spoiler


    • Want a good way to snag reader interest? Write your descriptions with humour and wit. Make a reader laugh, and chances are they will keep reading. I said Wit, not fart jokes every other sentence. (Unless they are good fart jokes)
    • Avoid huge font sizes all over the page. It gives the impression you are shouting.
    • Avoid rainbow-coloured text colours all over the page – not only is it painful to the eyes, it sends rookie signals. Stick to black, and if you must, one other colour.
    • Use bulletpoints, number points, paragraph breaks to make long sentences easier to read.
    • Bold your subject titles ie Synopsis, List of Features, Demo, Credit. Better yet, make them one text size bigger for easier reading.
    • Updating your game thread title – If you have a demo or new version, update the title of your thread! Even better if you include a date. For example:

    Sins of Dalph (Demo now uploaded!).


    The Secret Life of Caz (new update! 25/12/2020)

    • If you have a game-related website and/or twitter, Facebook accounts, list them at the bottom of your thread. This gives people the impression that you are active and dynamic, and serious about your game. (Not always true, but impressions are important)
    • Goals / Deadlines / Future Features – Entirely optional. People like it if you have a clear plan or timeline of when you plan to finish your project, but talk is cheap. Keep them under Spoilers. Don't let them make your game thread too long.
    • Be professional – No l33t speak. Punctuate. Capitalise. Have someone check the grammar and spelling of your game thread. The more professionalism you show, the higher the chances of impressing a reader, and the more likely you will earn respect as a game developer.
    • Remember, Boredom is the enemy of your game thread!





    I hope this helps someone. Thank you for reading this far! I must emphasize that these are MY tips on how to make a good game thread. Me, Alkorri aka Chris. There are likely some points I missed or forgot about, so feel free to leave your thoughts, dislikes (Ha!) and other feedback.


    I couldn't have done this post without the forum users who kindly allowed me to cite their game threads: jwideman, iliketea, RPGcrafter07, tlbearer, firelad. Thank you, Indrah, for first teaching me how to write a good game thread when I first released Tinkles Must Die, and to Maki for encouraging me to write this after I whinged about awful game threads, time and again ;)  


    Thank you, Maki, also for the chibi art!


    Think this topic is worth sharing? Here is a banner for anyone who wants it! (And thank YOU)


    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Makio-Kuta

    Makio-Kuta Canadian Goose Veteran

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    Great thread! I hope everyone takes the time to read it.


    I gotta disagree on one thing though: Characters.


    To me, that's the most important thing in a game thread. If there's no spot for the characters, I typically close the thread right off the bat. I can't play a game where I don't like the characters; it's a hard programmed error in me. So if I can't see them ahead of time, I'm out. (Also if a character has glasses there's a 90% chance I will look at more of the thread. But that's a personal thing heh


    Other than that, people! Internalize this! It's very important! Rather than making posts like "Why is no one playing my demo?" (posts I have seen) read this and let it TELL you why no one is playing your demo. Then - Fix It.
     
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  3. Alexander Amnell

    Alexander Amnell Jaded Optimist Veteran

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    Really nice thread Alkorri, favorited for later use. (which I'll need, since my first instinct for getting information out there is wall of text/long winded rant)


    Note: Tried to like the thread, for some reason got the message "you are not allowed to give reputation to this user" so.


    Pretend Like!
     
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  4. Alkorri

    Alkorri Proofreading Penguin Veteran

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    @Alexander - I appreciate the Pretend Like, anyway! And hope it's useful to you later :)


    @Maki - That's a really interesting point about characters, Maki! And you do have a good point. I notice that different people prioritize different things when it comes to deciding whether to try out a game. People either pay attention more to the setting and premise first (like me), or check out what the characters are like, probably because they want someone to relate to. (For those who want to read more on this interesting phenomena, Orson Scott Card wrote an insightful article about the Four Story Structures here)


    None of that is wrong. I did say the List of Characters was optional. If you did do your synopsis right, however, and paint an interesting enough picture of your main characters, then I would argue that you could escape a Character List.


    But the one thing that is almost always a given is that people are instinctively drawn to the pictures (portraits, maps, screenshots etc) first :)  Thank you for your vote of confidence~
     
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  5. Makio-Kuta

    Makio-Kuta Canadian Goose Veteran

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    I am also being told I am not allowed to give reputation to Alkorri's posts (yet it works). Time to go make a ticket. 


    I think my favourite part of this is the tips and tricks section~
     
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  6. firelad

    firelad Veteran Veteran

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    This is amazing! I'll be sure to use this reference later when I'm back working on my project. Adding that signature by the way!
     
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  7. Alkorri

    Alkorri Proofreading Penguin Veteran

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    Happy to hear that! Thank you for your support :)
     
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  8. RPGcrafter07

    RPGcrafter07 Veteran Veteran

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    Great job, buddy! Turned out, great I loved reading every line of it! :p
     
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  9. NarikoStudios

    NarikoStudios Lover of Catgirls Veteran

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    I've updated my topic following this thanks for posting this and let me know what you think of it
     
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  10. Indrah

    Indrah Megane Berserker Veteran

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    [​IMG]



    Wait. When did that even happen? o_O (Tinkles?) I totally can't remember XD BUT YEAH SURE ILL TAKE CREDIT BWHAHAHA CALL ME SENSEI


    Great topic. I'll definitely come back to refresh when I have to make new game pages, I always flounder with them. Hoping others will also follow the advice (and I may even actually play more games if the pages aren't so bad, who knows XD)
     
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  11. Alkorri

    Alkorri Proofreading Penguin Veteran

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    But Indrah, this might actually mean more work for you ;)  And yes, you gave me advice when I first released Tinkles. I find it ironic that you would come back here when it was you who told me years ago how to made a game thread XD Thank you for reading!


    @DragonSoftware - Sure! I will take a look.
     
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  12. aliensalmon

    aliensalmon Veteran Veteran

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    Hmm...I'll try to keep this in mind. Thanks for the advice!
     
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  13. Bonkers

    Bonkers Bioware, do you need a nap? Restaff

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    Very good advice!  I'd welcome your critique, or if you wish to use mine as an example please feel free when you want to expand on this more.
     
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  14. nio kasgami

    nio kasgami VampCat Veteran

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    what a nice tutorial O3O I like it I will use it for build my game thread lol...and obviously get a spellchecker before ;A;
     
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  15. Alkorri

    Alkorri Proofreading Penguin Veteran

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    @aliensalmon - Thank you! I hope it helps.


    @Hallowthug - Sure! I'll take a look, and hopefully after they fix the spoiler tags :)


    @nio kasgami - Thanks for dropping by! Let me know if you need someone to take a look, nio. Although if you ask me, your English has improved a lot over the years ;)
     
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  16. Milennin

    Milennin "With a bang and a boom!" Veteran

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    I agree that lore sections are generally a huge turn-off for me since they tend to be walls of text and make me just want to skip over the entire post or hit backspace.
     
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  17. Alkorri

    Alkorri Proofreading Penguin Veteran

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    Yes. I know some people read them, but I would highly prefer they be tucked under Spoiler Tags rather than force the rest of us to go through it. Cynical, I know, but I don't usually care how well the Lore is written ;)  If you're subjecting people to a mini-novel, you are not presenting your game thread effectively.
     
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  18. Candacis

    Candacis Pixel Pusher Restaff

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    Very well written, thanks!


    I totally agree that screenshots and the synopsis are the first (and often) only things I look at. I know, it is not fair to a game to only glance over it, but think about how many hundreds of game threads exist in this forum alone. Potential players have a huuuuge wealth of games to chose from. Free time is limited, so they can be picky what they want to spend their free time on it. To comb through so many games, screenshots or trailers  and a synopsis are the quickest and easiest way to determine, if you are interested in a game.


    I also agree that a world/background section is not always necessary. If you have a truly unique world and the synopsis/screenshots spoke to me, I might read about the world. However I'm not interested in a mythology origin story or a name/info dump, more like if you have anything unique, quirky that stands out and is memorable. If you can get potential players remember that your game is the one where pigs can fly, all the better. They will probably not remember, that god XY has created the world on day XY and nation X is in a war with nation Y.


    I hope, this tutorial becomes the first starting point to everyone who wants to make a project thread! :)
     
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  19. Alkorri

    Alkorri Proofreading Penguin Veteran

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    Thank you, Candacis! I'm flattered you took the time to read that loooong post XD


    Free time is indeed limited, and I think with just a little preparation, developers can make it easier to attract potential players to their games. It's a kind of advertising, if you were to think about it. No one really wants to know how the pizza got made, they want to see how delicious it is and imagine how it will 'taste'.


    Now I think I made myself hungry. 
     
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  20. Marquise*

    Marquise* Veteran Veteran

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    :3 Nice! I always wondered up what how to present a game in here!
     
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