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Describe Your Game Better! Hook More Players! Make More Money!

By on June 26, 2013
How to Publish a Game
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This post was originally hosted on David Barnes‘s blog, and Nicholas liked it so much he included it in How to Publish A Game. David’s blog host shut down, and the post was no longer available, so I asked if we could publish it here, and he agreed.

If you are ever likely to launch a game on iOS, Android, Steam or pretty well anywhere where you will have to grab the attention of potential players with a fewer well chosen words, you should bookmark this post. You’ll thank us later


 

Make your game a success by giving it a kick ass description!

When you release a game you need to describe it — on the App Store, on Facebook, on your own site. Get the description right and you can expect to see a lot more players. Get it wrong, and people who’d probably LOVE your game will never even get to try it.
Can you improve your game describing skills? Read on and find out!

First of all, successful game descriptions follow a particular structure:

  • one sentence to sum up the game;
  • up to five sentences describing it;
  • the “snapper” that closes the deal and hooks the player;
  • and a list of features the persuade the uncertain.

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

One Sentence to Sum Up the Game

This sentence needs to be sharp as a knife. Its purpose is to get people who will like the game to read on, and get rid of people who won’t. You have to get the main “game fun” across in just one sentence.

Try to establish the key goal of the game, the theme of the game, and the main mechanic. You don’t need many words to do this. Here’s the one sentence description for Dynomite by PopCap:

“It’s prehistoric egg blasting fun!”

Theme — dinosaurs. Key goal — destroy eggs somehow. Mechanic — unclear, but involves blasting so there’s probably explosions. Oh, and it’s fun by the way. A brilliant one sentence summary that tells the player a lot in only five words.

The one sentence summary absolutely needs to end with an exclamation point. And it needs to earn that exclamation point too.

How can you sum up your game in just a few words?

Up To Five Sentences Giving a Fuller Description

This is where you tell your reader what it’ll be like to play the game. Dynomite needs only one sentence here:

Use your slingshot to match three or more dino eggs of the same color… and watch them explode!

Notice that this doesn’t describe the game. Instead, it describes what the player does. Use your slingshot. Match three or more. Watch them explode.

This is a crucial difference. Look at any of the top games on the App Store or Facebook or anywhere else. The game description text doesn’t describe the game, it describes what the player does when they play.

Most games can use about three sentences here. Some need more. Some fewer.

Tell the player what they get to DO in your game, in about three short sentences.

The Snapper — A Challenge or Call to Action

The snapper makes a brazen appeal to the reader to just play the game already. In Dynomite:

Can you blast all the eggs before Mama Brontosaurus tramples your game?

A challenge is just one way to do this. Another popular method is even more brazen. Look at Farmville’s snapper:

Come and see what everyone is hootin’ and hollerin’ about.

Play the game to find out why other people are playing the game. Bejewelled uses a similar technique:

Bejeweled is the first and only puzzle game since Tetris to be inducted into Computer Gaming World’s Hall of Fame. Play it yourself to find out why!

There are loads of ways to do this.

What’s the one thing you can say that’s going to compel the player to take action and play / buy / download your damn game?

The Feature List

The App Store has its own section where you list features as a set of bullet points. Treat this as a benefit list, not a feature list. For every feature you list, make it really obvious why it’ll make the game more fun. If you can’t figure out how to make the feature sound fun then don’t bother to mention it. Keep throwing in game-friendly words and phrases like “exciting”, “addictive”, “challenging” and so on. Words that will sell the game.

For each feature you want to list, how does it make the game better for players?

Game Copy Writing Tips

  1. Sell! Nobody is really interested in a description of your game. People are there because they want you to persuade them to buy / play it. Use the opportunity to sell your game directly to the player.
  2. Avoid “[title] is a…” in your description. It’s boring and is more suited to an encyclopaedia than a sales pitch for a game.
  3. Be sparing with techie and gamer words. They probably don’t mean as much to the reader as they do to you, and they carry no emotion for most people. MMO, RPG, persistent browser game — these words don’t mean much to most people, and will rarely close a sale.
  4. Do use “genre appropriate” words. Action games should include words like “action-packed”, “fast-paced”, “thrilling”. Hidden Object Games should include words like “discover”, “find”, “uncover”, “unlock”, “mysteries”. And so on.
  5. Every single thing you say must be a good reason to play. If you’ve put in a sentence or phrase that doesn’t give the player a reason to play, take it out.
  6. Start sentences with VERBS. Starting sentences with a verb puts the player into the action. “Fight your way to the top!” is better than, “A game where you must fight your way to the top” — and much better than “get to the top by fighting”. Serve up big, action packed verbs at the start of sentences.
  7. Say “you” and “your” a lot. Never “the player”. After all, you’re talking to people who you want to BE players. Right?
  8. Say “the” not “an”. “It’s the addictive puzzle game where you have to unblock the sewer” is better than “Pooper Scooper is an addictive puzzle game where the player has to unblock a sewer”.
  9. Don’t waste words. There are lots of phrases that you just don’t need, because the context makes it obvious. Phrases like “is a game”, “the backstory is”, and so on. We don’t need to be told this.
  10. Suspend disbelief. We know that there isn’t really an intergalactic war going on. We know that we won’t really be piloting a faster than light star ship. But it’s more fun and more compelling if the game description lets us forget reality and experience the game. That’s another reason for leaving out “is a game” and “the backstory is” type phrases.
  11. Keep sentences short. More than 20 words is really pushing it. Much less is best.

Case Study

Here’s the opening sentence for Solitaire Siege by Bad Bumble…

Solitaire Siege is an action based solitaire (Pyramid) style game where the player gets to use Grenades, Flame Throwers, Rocket Launchers, Snipers and even Air Strikes to help them clear the table of cards.

This describes the game, but it doesn’t sell the game. Let’s:

  • Get rid of “Siege Solitaire is an” and replace it with “it’s”.
  • Break it into two shorter sentences.
  • Use “the” instead of “an”, use “you” instead of “the player”.
  • Ditch the wasted words — particularly “gets to”
  • Find more powerful verbs than “use”

New opening sentence…

It’s the action-packed solitaire game where you fight against the nastiest playing cards you’ve ever seen!

And the left-over becomes the first part of the fuller description…

Hurl grenades, fire rocket launchers, and call in air strikes to help clear your cards in this thrilling take on pyramid solitaire!

About David Barnes

David Barnes is Packt's Publishing Product Manager.