Common submission mistakes

December 15, 2009

Gilligan's IslandImage via Wikipedia
I'm not sure what it is about me, but several times in my career I have been given the task of reviewing and responding to game submissions.

It all started with Sludge Master at Broderbund. I'm not sure if I was plucked from the crowd or maybe I raised my hand to volunteer, something I was later reprimanded for doing too often, but somehow I got a pile of submissions on my desk.

The first one, was SludgeMaster.  A nice gentleman who worked at a water treatment plant thought his job would make a great game.  You take sludge in, and pure water comes out the other end. That's if you did everything right... if you did something wrong, other less tasteful liquids were produced.  When asked about it, I said I could only reccomend the game if it came with a scratch N sniff card.

So over the last 28 years I have seen many many titles.  Some were prototypes, others were crayon written letters. But they all had some failings in common.

1) Poor presentation - They all start with "This is the best game".  Trust me, its not the best game, it might not even be a good game.  And really, you send it to me so I can make up MY mind and that statement doesn't help either way.  Rarely am I given real graphics to look at before I am told what it WILL look like.  I'd rather see stick figures than read about a game screen. Show me with pictures, don't tell me with words.

2) Stops short.  Usually the game is related to an existing product.  This is actually a good thing.  My habit is to explain the game in two sentences.  The best example I have is from TV: "Star Trek Voyager is a mix between the original Star Trek and Gilligan's Island".  Where most fail, is that they don't take it far enough.  They recognize the competition, but only out do it by a little, not a LOT.  If the other product has 10 levels, don't think I'll be impressed with 15.  I'll be impressed with 50 or 100. Does your game expand on the premise?

3) Nothing new.  This is the same game only now its sci-fi instead of fantasy.  When the boys came to me with Majesty I knew it was a hit when they changed SimCity to a fantasy setting AND gave you clear reason to build a city.  How is your game different?

4) Bad controls. The only real prototype that I want to play involves the controls.  If it doesn't FEEL right, then all the good graphics are lost.  The great level design is gone too, right down the drain. the controls have to be easy to use, without reading the instructions.  If your mom can't play the game right out of the box, then most likely the target audience won't either. Is your game easy to play and understand?

OK, that's 4 big ones that most of the submissions I see fail on. There are others, but if you get past these 4 then you're well on your way to getting my suggestions which leads to acceptance. And really, that's what you're going for isn't it?

Your thoughts?


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]