I wrote this a few days ago for the Ludum-Dare-Compo, where I meant to give some gamemaking-advice to newcomers. But the points turn out to apply to every game out there, so I might aswell use them here:
During the last Ludum Dare 600 games were developed. The one before it was 380 games.
I played them all.
And after witnessing the same “setup-choices” over and over again I decided ato write this assortment of DOs and DON’Ts, which will hopefully make your game more appealing to other players and judges.
These things are important. The games who are easy to start and play get more votes, plays, word-of mouth and ultimately publicity. If a game is a puzzle in itself to start, we will have to move on, so that we at least may sample more of the (probably) 600+ games available.
DO make a webbuild. If that isn’t possible, a windows-standalone is fine. Mac + Linux-versions are a nice bonus, but shouldn’t be the only versions available. While mobile-versions (iOS, android, windows-phone) are nice too, installing them is (compared to the others) a hassle and only few people have the devices and/or know how to install custom apps.
DON’T require extensive framework-tools to start your game. XNA is acceptable, as many people already have it and many games are made with it. I guess JAVA is too. The same goes for “only in browser X”-games, which require me to download/install/start an unknown program. Many people will also pass over your game if it requires and installer, or a registry-update.
DO call the executable of your game something other than “LD22.exe” or “the_theme.exe”. After a while I have 20 of these on my desktop, which makes it difficult to locate a file, should I want to play again, or give a better rating. “kitten_simulator_2” will do.
DON’T hide the executable of your standalone in the_game/the_game_unzipped/binaries/system/system64/exe/1182772/localized/the_game.exe. The longer it takes to slog through your files, the higher the chance of me rage-quitting gets.
DO use an easy-to-access download-service. Dropbox is fine. Please no “wait 60 seconds, then enter undecifferable captcha, then close 3 pop-ups with forced audio”-hosting-sites.
DON’T keep me from playing the game once I started it. Hampering the start-up with more than one tutorial-screens or lengthy videos/credits is tiresome (you’re making a /game/, not a movie or a book).
DO actually end the executable when quitting. I have encountered several games which don’t “unplug” after quitting them, and still show up in the task-manager where they slow down my system.
DON’T require players to read instructions or a manual outside the game to understand it. Put vital instructions right inside it. NOBODY reads readme-files, unless of course they’re called something like “WHY WOULD YOU READ THIS ANYWAY”, which might peak my interest.
DO have international-keyboard-layouts in mind. German and French keyboards have different key-locations, and when the keys don’t react people have to find find the replacement-key, and distort their fingers. Or alternatively mess around with keyboard-layouts.
Following keys are taboo (on qwerty-layout): Y Q Z. These are the major swapped ones internationally and the most used ones in games. EVERY symbol (% & * + – > | § # ?) has a different international location. Stay away from them. Games which have their controls on Y+X <- bad. Move them one key to the right on X+C however, and you just made your players from two major language-zones happy.
DON’T use the caps-lock-key in your game. Refrain from using the shift-key, as hammering it will cause a popup in windows. Everything around the landmine that is the windows-key should also be approached carefully.
DO play other games and give a vote. And don’t restrict yourself to the popular ones.
DON’T make the kitty sad.
I hope this helps :-)