It may be a bit early for tips and pointers, but I feel the need to reflect! This year marks the third year I’ve worked on an IGF student submission, and regardless of having gone through the process before, the same items often end up overlooked or underestimated. For the good of others who may submit in subsequent years, I’d like to go over the most commonly fumbled details.
Padding and Polish in the Schedule
Wiggle room in your schedule is epecially important if your project is volunteer-based (outside of your normal course work,) but all projects can benefit from some padding and polish time. Note that these are not the same thing.
Padding means taking your general estimate for completion of an item and giving it some extra breathing room for variances, problems, etc.
Example: if it takes an artist a week to complete one tile set, consider scheduling each set at a week and a half or two weeks. When a set is completed early, it’s a magnificent feat! If a particular set drags out and fills the full two weeks, it’s not a setback.
Polish time occurs after everything is essentially completed. No new features are going in and no placeholders remain. Setting aside extra time for polish allows the team to improve on various aspects and tighten up the presentation before submitting.
If everything has gone according to plan, polish time will not be devoured by fixes, etc., but in the worst-case scenario, it can also end up being a safety net. If all else fails, you can still push polish updates after the initial submission. While this isn’t the ideal situation to end up with, it’s something to be aware of.
Beyond actually completing your game, there are additional considerations to keep in mind.
Be forewarned that it’s extemely easy to get caught up in the production of your game and forget about extra details until the last minute. This, in turn, makes your initial impression with viewers and judges a bit less snappy. If you can delegate and schedule these items in addition to the main production, your presentation will relfect it.
To submit a game to IGF, you’ll also need a video trailer, in the form of a YouTube or Vimeo link.
To shoot a video trailer, your game needs to be pretty finished… which feeds back into the aforementioned importance of scheduling. If you’re still working on the game up until the last minute, the trailer video suffers for it, especially when you figure in editing, rendering, and upload time.
Your trailer should be more than a quiet video of game action. Check out game trailers from previously successful games for good examples of how trailers generally work. They tend to combine actual game footage with some degree of marketing or excitement, including either text or audio narration to guide the viewer.
If your video is the first impression people get after surfing YouTube or encountering your website, it’s going to be important that it not only represents your game, but also showcases what’s appealing and unique about it!
You will also need to provide a link to the game’s website. The complexity of the site design generally depends on the type of game, but any website will need hosting space and a domain lined up ahead of time. You may be able to talk to your school about obtaining these, or you will need to purchase them yourself.
Your website can also be used in the promotion of your game. Share that you entered and get some feedback. The earlier you can do this, the better.
The screenshot image of the game is shown on the IGF entry page for your submission. As it’s one of the first things people will see when browsing to your game, you’ll want it to be intriuging and representative of the type of game you’ve entered.
Keep in mind your screenshot must also meet the format requirements listed by IGF. Be sure to check the current entry form for details!
The description will also be published on your entry page, right under the screenshot, so take some time to draft up something appropriate and concise. It was limit 200 words for 2012 entries.
In all, being aware of the specific requirements for IGF, above and beyond simply completing your game, will certainly aid your entry process. Scheduling appropriately and taking additional requiments into consideration from the start of your project are just a couple of practices that will help you stay on track.
Each year the number of student entries increases. The importance of attention to detail and a polished presentation cannot be understated.
Put your best foot forward and good luck with your future submissions!