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The Spilt Milk Live Post-Mortem Week 5: Trailing Behind and Submission Holds

By on June 3, 2011

Presumptuous of me I know, so good morning or good day to you too. Andrew J Smith here, he of Spilt Milk Studios ‘infamy’, bringing you part 5 of the ongoing diary for my current passion – Hard Lines on iPhone, iPad and iTouch. This week we’re looking at the making of Hard Line’s trailer, even more PR beyond (and besides and behind) that, the submission of the game and what that means to myself and Nicoll – in terms of how we celebrate and what next, of course. Which, what with the unavoidable week’s delay, means it might even be out for you to buy now!

Making the trailer

As I touched upon in the last diary, the preview event we organised was originally concocted as a way to get footage for our trailer. I know – cynical, right? Well it was originally worse than that. We were simply going to head into London, lightly sizzled, and take the latest build around to similarly inebriated people, asking to film them while they play. Seemed a bit like begging, and a bit risky, but sod it, why not?

Then it hit me. Why should we beg people to play our game? If we changed the focus into a preview event for the game, made something interesting out of it, then people would surely come to us. Saves effort, possibly time, and makes us look all the more professional and in control then we originally were. So that was the genesis. After recording all day – a relatively puny 18 minutes of footage in total – I was ready to splice the rapturous expressions of members of the public into direct feed footage of our game, and create the instantly engaging and appealing trailer you saw last week. And here it is again, as a refresher!

The harder I work, the luckier I get

But trailers are not the only way to get your game noticed. All those emails and contacts and relationships I mentioned last week? They eventually began to pay off. Some of this is a bit lucky and some of it comes from unexpected directions, but all of it is made more effective (and more likely to happen) because of hard and committed work on my part. That may sound a bit cocky, but it’s true.

Pursuing leads pays off – it is solely through tweeting that I was able to talk to Keith Andrew at, and secure input on this article. While ‘only’ talking about publishers and the iPhone space, I hope I come across as knowledgeable, confident and up to date. Perhaps even forward thinking. This is directly associated to my studio, and hence the games I put out. It all adds up. A period of cold-call style emails to iPhone gaming sites resulted in 12 separate journalists and reviewers getting hold of the press build, and were the first to put up this wonderfully complimentary preview, while did so a few days later.

But the iPhone is a mass market device, we all know that. How do you get in touch with that? There’s the consumer-facing websites that I’ve had communication with like Touch Arcade, Slide to Play and the lovely chaps at Pocketgamer – but these are still the haunt of dedicated iOS gamers. The national and international tech websites cover a different sector of the market (and believe me I’ve been trying my damndest to get featured on them all). For me, one of the best places to get the really valuable kind of coverage is the traditional press. So when I was asked if I’d like to be part of a feature in an upcoming national newspaper’s Sunday supplement, I said yes so fast I nearly bit my tongue off.

As part of my previous game project, Crunch – The Game, the client was very eager to ‘PR the hell’ out of our story. I was young, striking out on my own in a time of financial uncertainty, I was using them (‘them’ being as my accountants, and we came together to create an iPhone to promote their company and their (very game-friendly) brand. I can only assume I made a good impression because, months after its initial release (and a few days after its 1st update was submitted to Apple) I was asked to be part of the aforementioned feature.

Lucky, true, but I wouldn’t have been asked if I hadn’t done a good job on the game, and if the client had been unhappy with my work. So it is that roughly 350,000 readers will hear my story, and be told the name of both my games so far, one out, one nearly released. Lucky me indeed, but the game needs to pass submission first! Having beaten it first time with Crunch – The Game I am hoping to do the same with Hard Lines.

So the day came – Thursday the 26th May, 2011. We were pretty sure we’d got a viable release candidate. It was stable, bug-free and polished. It was also pretty fun – and so I travelled to Nicoll’s London flat and we planned to spend the evening submitting, then chomping on some cigars and heading to the nearest bar to bask in that peculiar feeling of trepidation and excitement that any games developer worth their salt knows only too well. Thing was, we didn’t factor in the obscurity and downright arse-backwards-ness (new word, thanks) of Apple’s submission process. Admittedly a lot of the issue was our unfamiliarity with the process, and it all boiled down to permissions and certificates we didn’t fully understand, nor could we Google clarification of. So after a few more hours wrestling, searing, eating pizza and drinking beer than we had planned, the clock struck 11:30 and we finally managed to upload the binary. We celebrated with a bit more beer and the rather excellent comedy show Community. Best laid plans and all that!

Next week, release. Sweet, sweet release. We hope. We may still get refused. Got to love submission processes that are as clear as mud. Tune in next time for all the fun of the fair!

The Most Fun Facts:
Actual Hard Lines Trailer Length – 3:26
View so far on YouTube – 568
No. of Hard Lines Previews so far – 4
Ideal Hard Lines Trailer Length – 1:30

About Andrew Smith