Promo Art for Steam, Part 1: Preparations

Last week on the Devblog we announced our intentions to finally prepare Secrets of Grindea for a Steam early access release. In order to do so, there's a bunch of stuff to finish, and one of those things is to create suitable promo art that can appear on Steam, which I'll be talking about today!

Planning how to make this piece of promotional art begins with browsing Steam and checking what other gamedevs do while asking yourself questions: Does this artwork catch my attention? Can I guess the game's genre solely based on it's promotional artwork? Are there any in-game graphics present? Add a "why/why not?" at the end of each of them, and keep going! While it's good to stand on your own, you also want to know how others handle stuff like this - for instance, if all Action RPGs use a similar kind of motif, the audience may associate Action RPGs with said imagery, and it might be a good idea to know so you can attract the correct audience. 

While browsing, I save certain artworks I find interesting and put them together in a document so I can analyze them more easily and discuss what makes them work (or not) with the others in the team:

The second step is to collect a bunch of images that resemble the feeling I want to portray within our own promo art. These images can be found all over the web, and I won't use any of them for specific reference of anything like that - I just want a collection of images giving off a certain vibe to help me stay on the right track and fuel my inspiration when creating something similar.

For this promo art moodboard, I collected a bunch of bright, happy-looking anime/manga-ish artworks, mostly from Pixiv:
Step three is to put these two boards together in my workspace, and prepare to make a ton of thumbnails:

A thumbnail is basically a super small, sketched version of an image that will give you an idea of what it'll look like in it's finished state. It's great for checking your composition, and should probably always be used before actually making a bigger image.

Here's a bunch of the thumbnails I made (these are very basic, typically thumbs can be as detailed as you like, but for this purpose I stuck with very basic ones):

One of the funny things with thumbnails is that when you start out, you often think your first idea will be the best, and that the rest of the thumbs you come up with will be bad versions of it and/or a waste of time because nothing could be better than the first one that came to your mind. However, more often than not, when you force yourself to come up with more than one version of an image, you'll realize that the one you thought was the best at first may not have been as nice as you thought. And such was definitely the case here!

Now, before I talk about which one we selected and why, I think it's time for a little break - this post is already pretty long, after all! 

Prepare for Part 2 later this week~ :)
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  1. My suggestion would be to convey what the biggest draw to your game is going to be: 1-4 player online co-op. Have four friends standing upon a pile of gold, various treasures and enemies from the game. One sword user, one 2-handed sword user, one holding up a flame and hold hugging the tier 1 snow buddy or cloud.

    If you're looking to draw in the RPG crowd, the slime is one of the most identifiable RPG enemies. Rabby's would draw the attention of Secret of Mana fans specifically, but they're a little niche these days. Brawler Bots and Season Knights would show variety beyond the typical rabble of enemies people expect from RPGs.

    Games with obvious co-op and variety sell bucket loads more than games without it.

    Source: Sales figures for Torchlight 1 and 2, Trine 1 and 2.

    I hope you guys launch on Steam with 2 and / or 4-pack options, just to emphasize the co-op. :)

    These are just my musing as someone who browses the Steam market and knows what I tend to keep an eye out for. All of your current options look pretty sweet too. :D

    1. All very great points, thank you for that! :D

      (Also, steamspy is like the best invention in 2015.. I'm spending way too much time checking out random games there.. XD)

  2. What I think is really important, is that you can easily identify the game by the cover even if you're not familiar with the game. Bastion, Shovel Knight Valkyria Chronicles manage either a good contrast between name and artwork or a good partition of the space.

    Littlewitch as an example has a really lovely cover, but i can't even properly read the game's name

    In the sketches you did, i think that that pictures 1/1 , 1/2 , 2/1 and 2/2 are just cluttered and have a rather "bad" contrast.
    And as the anonymus commenter said, I also think that emphasis on the game's strength is a good idea. (I really love the second row right image. The one with the big chest)

  3. Yes, I agree! We'll definitely keep that in mind regarding the game name :) I also second your opinion on Littlewitch, when I first saw their logo I was like 'wtf is that', took a while before I realized it was the title of the game.. :D

  4. My personal favorite is the 2/2 picture since it shows Arcade and Story mode which is a cool thing IMO. That mixed with 1/3 which has the green and blue colors that give off the feeling of both the game and the mood would make a good starting point if you're asking me. It also I agree with earlier comments about showing the strengths of the game which would be the lovely variety of enemies and the co-op. The art style of the game is what got me hooked and I think it's one of the big selling points for SoG. I'm not super good at analyzing images but that's at least the feedback I can provide. I hope it helps in some way unless you've already decided on something. :P

  5. Now all we need is a poll to gather what everyone has as the main selling point for themselves in SoG x)