So, you made an unpopular game

Thanks for saying this, but please don’t scare all the authors away from everything other that the trinity, I’m so sick of those dumpster fires of genres.

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Just a thing about genres (this is tangential).

With the amount of time it takes writing these, the trick with picking the genre is not just predicting what’s popular right now, but what might be in the future.

I picked between several genres when I choose what story to write. At the time, the most popular ones (at least to my eyes) were fantasy, zombies and superheroes. The current fan media at the time was dominated by the walking dead, game of thrones, and marvel movies. I had ideas in the historical, schi-fi/superhero, fantasy, urban fantasy and horror genres. My first and easiest option would be going for horror. I’m a horror writer, I had tons of stuff to adapt and explore. But I felt that the walking dead/zombie wave had been running for so long that it was getting tiresome. So that one was out. I had a really cool viking idea, but at the time that felt risky. Had it been a few years later when Vikings was starting out on the telly, I might have picked that instead. I had a fantasy story, but I was not sure I could pull that one off coding wise.

However, the marvel movies were going strong, and I saw no stopping them so that’s what I picked. The ideas I used were actually more cyberpunk/urban fantasy, but I melded three of them together and dressed it up as a superhero thing and it worked.

The thing is, that if you are an experienced writer who knows you write well, there is still a LOT that can be done to optimize the story. And if you have a story you worry about being in an “unpopular” genre, the cover and sales text can be tweaked. Often I feel that the thing that sinks stories in rarer genres is the fact that it’s harder to figure out what it is. If you market yourself as a superhero story, or a magical school, or a heroic fantasy story people know what they are buying. They have probably played/read several similar things, and wants a new fix dressed up slightly differently. If you have historical fiction, or pure sci-fi, the scope to what it can be is so much wider in the public consciousness. Note that this is not about what’s in the books, it is just what people perceive them as.

It’s worth thinking of how you want to be seen when people just scroll down in the app store clicking for new things to buy.

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This is a hard one to answer. Even my stat analysis was a bit mixed because historical games can be so different. Tin Star, Somme Trench and Tudor Intrigue all fit into that classification to some extent yet there’s little similar between them otherwise. I would say a 5, tentatively.

For your second question, that is much easier: short but branchy almost always does worse than long but streamlined. A lot of your players only go through once, so they want the most bang from that playthrough. Reviews saying “it’s too short” are a lot more common than “it’s too railroaded” or “it lacks choice variety”.

@0ccasionalNewb I can’t help but warn them, though. I am compelled to the their Barry Burton, shouting “Don’t open…that door!” before they get smashed by the crushing ceiling of unpopular genres.

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I think this is a really good point to highlight. Genre is just the costume your themes are wearing. You can explore class, or abuse of power, or medical ethics, or whatever else in pretty much any outfit, time period, or universe!

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To add to what both @malinryden and @PParrish are saying:

Popular labeling of games are both cyclical and malleable; this industry is a copy-cat industry, while every once in a while a break-out title will cause a ripple.

Tying your game to something your audience can relate to in their past is always a major hook in the initial labeling of your game.

Making a game that is genre-defining, while a dream of most (if not all) is like capturing lightning … even with all the stars aligning properly, Lady Luck still needs to smile upon you.

This is why many studios and developers often have more than one project ongoing at the same time.

With an independent author/developer, it means your fundamentals will need to be top-notch, no matter what you finally decide to develop.

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I feel you man, I’m just sick of what essentially amounts to cyoa youth novels in fantasy or “modern” supernatural, and I’ve never been a big fan of the whole superhero stuff.

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No one’s trying to scare anyone, but you have to go into it with your eyes open. Some genres do definitely have a bigger built in audience. Unfortunately if you want to write hard sci fi, comedy, real life historical, etc unless you’re lucky, they just wont do as well as if you had’ve written the same story with a popular genre bent. There are exceptions, but they are exceptions. Comedy in particular is notoriously hard as everyone has a different sense of humour. I’d be very leery of writing anything that’s heavily comedy based again TBH.

I guess you also need to consider what the authors themselves are happy writing. A lot of us seemed to have consumed large amounts of fantasy over the years. So not only is it popular, but it’s familiar territory to the author. But yeah, if you want alternative genres or game styles being written frequently, they need to be supported or it gets taken note of that they’re not popular and stop being made.

The branch and return method (otherwise known as branch and bottleneck) seems to be the favoured way of writing CSGs. Highly branching games is setting yourself up for failure unfortunately as it will dramatically reduce the total playthrough to total word count ratio, and a lot of people say they only read games once, maybe twice. (As someone with a highly branching game, I don’t think I’d do it again if I wanted something commercially viable.) It seems to be considered a lesser “sin” to have a game that’s too railroaded, than a game where the playthrough length is too short.

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I basically wrote CCH 2.5 as a comedy. I’m nervous about the reception. We’ll see! I was trying to soften up the audience before the gut punch, but yeah comedy is so subjective, and really tough without the acting, voice inflection, physical comedy, etc., that sitcoms get to lean on.

I’ll add this. Games without a fair amount of comedy are pretty much no-buys from me. I’ve played too many games that were too sterile/serious/dry for my taste. They put me to sleep. I think you need comedy to contrast with the serious bits, otherwise the entire thing is just so so…serious.

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Stay tuned for my next WIP, a Supernatural Superhero Fantasy Romance titled “Without a Soul”, because that’s how I’ll feel writing it.

just kidding

mostly

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The word count is a good tip

As a reader I generally skip over stories that are 100K and under because they tend to feel rushed

High word count definitely makes me more likely to give something a try

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I don’t understand why everyone only cares about popularity and the number of readers. I think authors should care about the quality of their games and be true to their universe and the world they are created. But that is me; probably it is because I know nobody likes my games, so I just don’t have to worry about people who likes my stuff.

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Well for some people who do this for a living, the difference between a popular and unpopular game might be keeping the lights on this month, or having some food on the table.

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Its so awesome seeing all these authors converse and give these tidbits of advice, thank you guys! This community is lucky to have trailblazers such as yourselves. The word count suggestion, the implications of how this industry is affected by the current and/or future “thing”, and powerful messages of having self confidence+self fortitude is all to be taken with thanks. I think the most precious thing community members consider here is your experience, dear authors. If I could offer my own predictions, I believe the Superhero phase is about to enter it’s descent from mainstream consciousness. Theres the Boys, Invincible, Marvel, DC, My Hero Academia, One Punch Man and etc saturating the mainstream.

But fantasy is somehow bloody king still! In the anime industry there is ALWAYS at least 3 isekai shows every season. But in western audiences, thanks to the somehow “lightening trapped in a bottle” show Game of Thrones ending the way it did (divisively) theres a thirst and market for fantasy/medieval media. Especially with the release of the House of the Dragon teaser trailer, there may be a sort of “struck oil!” phase for that genre. I wonder if the people in CoG have data that correlate with outside media influencing sales or view count of projects here.

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Because even artists have bills to pay…
But materlism aside it’s because knowing that people like what you are writing feels so good

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Yeah… but lets be real here. Unless you do get a run away success, for me at least, when I look at the amount of time I spend putting one of these games together, if it was purely for the money I’d be a lot better off picking up extra work hours if money was the deciding factor. If you have to make a lot of money out of something you’re writing in order to put food on the table or you’ll be in trouble, I’d recommend against writing games as the way to go because it’s just not reliable enough.

I’m not complaining about the pay at all from HG, so don’t get me wrong, (I wouldn’t be here if I thought it was unfair) but writing in general is not a reliably lucrative business. Basically the extra income helps me justify spending more time on something I already enjoy. If I earned more, I could probably justify more (so perhaps I should try for something commercially viable for a change), but it’s not the main reason why I’m here at least.

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If I wish become rich with writing I would write romance and porn and sell them to some TV/Film producer.

I’m aware that writing is not lucrative (best case scenario you’ll become wealthy and you can count the cases on your fingers), my points were:

1 the income are nice bonus, even if they are not great
2 (more important) there will be always present the wish for appreciation for your hard work

So, here is why I think writers and aspiring writers will always wish popularity

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Most people here don’t live from this. And I think that authors should be more focused on their craft and integrity of it. that in the number of likes.

If suddenly the only reason why you choose a genre or a topic is because X was voted more popular on X platform, you are not an artist anymore you become a trend catcher mercenary.

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I’m on the front line when it come to artistic integraty but sometimes you have to deal with compromises

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If the compromise is your soul and the soul of your universe, then you are a mercenary, not a writer.

Literature is an art that should move you inside and call your inner soul and passion. It is normal to worry if people like it after you write it, but you shouldnt let that other people and fear of not being appreciated dictate what your heart and your piece are.

Think for a moment, in all that masterpieces that were accused in their original time or even were misunderstood but nowadays they move thousands of people hearts and minds.

Literature and Video games are art; we shouldnt try to catch up with all new tendencies in searching for the public like they were socks and we a sock shop.

Art is vital by itself, and you never know what the public will appreciate at the end.

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Sometimes genres are not what’s vital to a story. I would never compromise what I want to tell with Fallen Hero, but let’s be fair, the story might have worked equally well as Science Fiction, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal horror, Noir, Thriller or yes, even Fantasy or Western. Some stories are vital to the genre they are in, some are not.

For me, genre is the clothes you dress your story in, not its heart and soul. I do understand that other authors might feel differently, we all approach creativity in our own ways.

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